Sure, you play the games. Maybe you've even noticed the rating on the packaging. But what do these ratings mean and what goes into creating them? Find out just how much you know about the ESRB's game rating system by taking this quiz.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board is a self-regulatory agency that rates video games submitted for review.
The ratings are based on the minimum playing age, but the ratings are suggestions. You probably won't be able to buy the game if you're underage, but it's not illegal if you do.
Games rate T are meant for ages 13 and older. They might contain some crude humor, but not nudity. Any strong language will be infrequent.
Of 1,638 ratings assigned by the ESRB in 2010, only 1 percent were rated EC.
This might surprise you, but the average gamer is 37 years old. Just 18 percent of gamers are under the age of 18.
Fantasy violence involves human or non-human characters, but it's easily distinguishable from real life. Cartoon violence, on the other hand, often includes violence where the character is left unharmed.
Simulated gambling does not involve using any real money or currency -- including credits.
Even though the ratings process is voluntary, a contract is signed when a company submits a game for rating stating that they will disclose and display that rating.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is the winner, with Madden NFL '11 in second place and Halo: Reach in third. Three of the top five games were rated M for mature audiences.
In most cases (82 percent of the time) , parents agreed with the assigned ratings. In 5 percent of cases, parents thought the ratings were too strict.
When a game is rated, the game maker is contractually obligated to display the rating according to ESRB guidelines. The ESRB reviews final packaging to make sure the rating is displayed as agreed.
The ESRB website maintains information about the games they've rated, and you can search by title or publisher. They also have a mobile app for checking game ratings on the go.
Shooting games were the third-largest category (15.9 percent) of games sold, topped by action games and sports games.
The ESRB handles ratings for video games and computer games. Music and movie ratings are assigned by other groups.
The vast majority of parents (90 percent)say they're aware of the content of the games their kids play, according to the ESRB.
There isn't time for raters to play a game in its entirety, let alone the fact that they could easily miss something. So the ESRB relies on the game company to provide a video showing all content that might influence the game's rating.
The ESRB keeps information about its raters confidential to ensure they're not influenced in any way by the game companies (i.e., bribes or threats).
The biggest category of games sold in 2010, 44 percent, were rated E for Everyone.
Games for kids under age 6 are rated EC for Early Childhood. Games rated E might still contain mild cartoon or fantasy violence.
Though the ESRB can't enforce the age appropriateness ratings it assigns, retailers do a pretty good job of ensuring kids don't buy games they shouldn't. Eighty-seven percent of kids under 17 were turned away when trying to buy an M-rated game.