Online gaming can be a fun way for kids to connect with others, but it’s important for them to understand the risks and know how to handle certain situations. For example, kids should avoid posting pictures of themselves or releasing other personal information to their fellow gamers and know what to do if another player starts harassing them.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board, which assigns the familiar age and content ratings for video games and mobile apps, gives a breakdown of the various types of games:
- Boxed games: Games that come on a disc or cartridge that are purchased from a store or online and played on a game device like a console, handheld or PC.
- Digital download: These are downloaded directly to the console, PC or handheld device. Most consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii) have their own online marketplaces where games can be downloaded. Some are full-length feature titles while many others are more casual in nature, like puzzle and word games.
- Mobile storefronts: Smartphones and tablets let users download apps from online marketplaces linked to a credit card, e-wallet or your mobile phone account. Games are the most popular category of mobile apps. Like all games, their content can vary in terms of age-appropriateness.
- Subscription: Online games or arcades in which players sign up for accounts that let them play games for set amounts of time and fees. Subscription services typically eliminate the need to physically possess a game at all by streaming the gameplay experience right to the device or accessing it from the service’s own servers (or cloud gaming).
- “Free-to-play” and “freemium”: These games are typically supported by ads instead of purchase or subscription fees; a “freemium” game lets you play a limited portion for free but requires that you pay to access new content or features. Mobile apps, browser-based games and other types of casual games will often use these business models.
- Social networking games: Played from within a social network like Facebook, these games encourage users to share content and updates with others in their social network. These games often include the opportunity to buy in-game items with real money, reward players for recruiting their friends to join the game and may leverage some of a user’s personal information (included in their social media profile) to tailor the game experience or advertisements to their interests.
Check out the Entertainment Software Rating Board – Family Discussion Guide for more information and tips.