The USK age ratings are an important orientation aid in the selection of digital games. Since January 2023, all rated games provide parents with additional information on the reasons for the rating as well as information on available functions in the game, such as purchase or communication options. This creates transparency and supports parents in making an informed decision when choosing a game and in adjusting game settings on the devices accordingly.
Here we explain the composition of the age ratings as well as each individual descriptor and give tips for the correct handling of games.
These usually indicate the main reasons for the USK age rating of a game. This makes the reasons that have led to the age rating of a game transparently apparent.
The information is available on the back of the game packaging and in the USK’s title database. Online game platforms that are connected to the IARC system also provide information on the content and features included in the game in addition to the USK age rating.
The depictions of fighting or violence in the game appear abstract and not realistic. In fights, there is no physical contact between the characters. If an opponent is hit, neither damage nor injuries are visible.
Fights between opponent figures or depictions of violence take place in an artificial environment. Comic elements such as unrealistic weapons, exaggerated effects and enemy figures that evaporate characterise the fighting.
The depictions of violence are characterised by a magical, fairytale or futuristic environment and are clearly distinguishable from reality.
The game contains violent depictions that can appear realistic or are a prominent theme of the game.
The violence contained in the game is clearly visualised or overly focused.
There are clear indications of violence with a sexualised reference in the game.
The setting of this game is a war scene. Weapon use and scenes of violence are an integral part of the game.
The game contains creepy elements that can disturb and/or frighten. These include, for example, a dark mood, scare effects or a psychologically stressful setting.
The game contains relevant horror and/or disgust effects.
Emotionally stressful topics are portrayed in the game, such as death, bullying or addiction.
There are sexual gestures and linguistic insinuations in the game.
The theme of the game is sex or the game contains depictions or suggestions of explicit sexual acts.
Swear words are used in the game.
The game contains harsh or particularly vulgar language.
Tobacco use is portrayed positively or frequently in the game.
Drugs or drug use are portrayed positively or frequently in the game.
Alcohol or alcohol consumption is portrayed positively or frequently in the game.
The game contains elements and designs similar to gambling or conveys an atmosphere typical of a gambling hall. Depending on the design, the game content can promote a positive attitude towards real gambling and therefore represent a developmental impairment.
The game directly or indirectly builds up strong pressure to take action: Countdowns, timers and stressful game sequences such as boss fights or a high density of game opponents can lead to stressful situations. Mechanisms integrated into the game that encourage certain actions “outside the game world” can thus also be taken into account. These include, for example, comeback gifts or indications that an offer is about to expire.
These are often smaller additional items that add variety to the gameplay, such as “bonus levels”, “skins” (outfits for game characters), virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions and upgrades (e.g. to disable advertising). In-game purchases are mostly optional and thus usually not required to progress in the game.
There are many ways to communicate with other players: integrated (voice) chats, direct messages, group chats. This does not include fixed response options or reactions that are integrated into the game by the game provider, such as “emotes”, “dances” or “smileys”.
Usually, in these cases, the players are not aware of the specific digital items or rewards they will receive prior to the purchase. These purchases are, for example, so-called “loot boxes”, “item packs” or “mystery awards”.