What are the age categories?

Approved without age restriction

Game contents and genres:

Games without age restriction can be aimed at all ages. These include family-friendly games such as skill-based games, board and card games, sports games, platforms, as well as all games which do not pose any inherent child protection risks of any kind (e.g. simulations, management games or adventure games).

Criteria for the age category “USK 0″

Most computer and video games are released with the age rating “Approved without age restriction”. They do not include depictions of violence and do not confront children with any situations producing sustained anxiety.

The atmosphere of children’s games often features friendly and colourful graphics. The more relaxed structure of the game does not put even young children under too much pressure to act. Game tasks are also appropriate for children.

The age rating symbol does not, however, provide any information as to whether the game is suitable for pre-school children or is educationally valuable. Neither does it indicate whether pre-school children will be able to master the technology and content of the game, whether the game tasks and graphics are always presented in a manner suitable for children or whether text displays and spoken language will be understood.
Tip for parents: Find out about game content before buying any game (e.g. on the Internet or in game magazines) and seek the advice of sales staff.

Approved for children aged 6 and above

Game contents and genres:

These games mostly involve family-friendly games which may be more exciting and competitive (e.g. via faster game speed and more complex tasks), such as racers, simulations, platforms and role-playing games.

Criteria for the age category “USK 6”

Children aged between 6 and 11 develop a capability for differentiated and distanced perception of media representations and content. Their ability to tell the difference between the game world and reality improves increasingly with age. They acquire their first differentiated media experiences and are able to withstand short time spans of excitement and pressure. Game tasks are faster-paced and require basic hand-eye coordination skills.

Many game concepts for this age group are based on sporting competition or skill and revolve around fantasy and fairy-tale worlds with well-known comic or cartoon heroes as game characters. The structure and dynamics of the games enable even younger primary school children to distance themselves from the events.

If fight scenes are included, they tend to be presented in a fairy tale or abstract form, so they can hardly be confused with reality. The fight scenes are not likely to make children feel insecure, nor do they impart socially damaging role models. This category does not include games which subject 6-year old children to unreasonable stress, cause them lasting anxiety, overburden them emotionally or excite them unduly, either acoustically or visually.

Approved for children aged 12 and above

Game contents and genres:

These games feature much more of a competitive edge. Game scenarios are set within a historical, futuristic or mythical fairy-tale context, enabling players to distance themselves sufficiently from events. This categorisation includes arcade games, strategy games and role-playing games as well as some military simulations.

Criteria for the age category “USK 12”

12 to 15-year olds are considered more capable of adopting a distanced perspective and differentiating between the game world and reality than younger children. They continue to gain multifarious and complex media experiences and are able to cope with longer periods of excitement and greater pressure to act when fulfilling game tasks. Any fight sequences or scenes of conflict presented in the game are staged in a way clearly recognisable as fiction for 12-year-olds. Game tasks are structured in a more complex manner and require a capacity for abstract and logical thought.

Many game concepts made accessible to this age group focus on a fascination with technology (historical fighting scenes or science fiction scenarios) or on the motivation to take on heroic roles in complex fantasy and mythological worlds. Although dark and threatening conflict situations may be integrated into the storyline, they do not dominate the overall game. If representations of violence are included, they remain recognisably unrealistic for the given age group at all times. Such representations are not capable of being transferred into everyday life and do not offer any kind of model for conflict resolutions.

Approved for children aged 16 and above

Game contents and genres:

Games with an age rating of 16 years and older may already have a higher risk of violence, which is why they are clearly no longer suitable for children. However, fights and violent conflicts always remain framed by the plot or story. In multiplayer games, this framing can also take place through teamwork or sporting competition, for example. The most common genres include action adventures, shooters, open-world games, role-playing games, beat ’em ups and military strategy games.

Criteria for the age category “USK 16”

16 to 17-year olds are already in possession of wide-ranging and systematic media experiences. They have knowledge of media production and are able to cope with longer periods of excitement and greater pressure to act when fullling game tasks without being adversely affected in terms of the development of their character.

Although games with this age rating may also feature violent content, neither the storyline nor the gameplay impart any kind of socially damaging messages or role models. Conflicts and fighting sequences remain recognisable as fictional for this age group. Game success essentially requires strategic and tactical thought.

While games with this age rating may put 16 to 17-year olds into emotionally demanding or stressful situations, non-violent game components and unrealistic elements enable young persons to distance themselves from game events, ensuring that there are no lasting detrimental effects on their development.

Not approved for young persons aged under 18

Game contents and genres:

These games virtually always involve violent game concepts and frequently generate a dark and threatening atmosphere. This makes them suitable for adults only. The genres in this categorisation include first-person shooters and action adventures.

Criteria for the age category “USK 18”

This category is for games which are not generally approved for those aged under 18 due to the fact that they are considered detrimental to young persons. The aim is to protect minors from the vehemence of the images and the violent concepts and from any possible identification with game characters whose actions may run contrary to ethical and moral norms.

The atmospheric intensity and authenticity of gameplay make it difficult for players to distance themselves from the depicted events. The nature of these games and the way in which they are presented require a degree of social maturity not generally found in 16 to 17-year olds. The category “Not suitable for young persons aged under 18” does, however, indicate the possibility of a negative impact on minors but excludes the likeliness to corrupt young persons in terms of Art. 18 Sec. 1 German Youth Protection Act (JuSchG).

The JuSchG furthermore regulates that games on data carriers must not be issued with a USK rating if the indexing criteria of the Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM) are fulfilled. It must be examined whether games mentioned contain for instance “a dominance of violence and violent depictions throughout the whole gameplay” or if “the violence depicted only serves an autotelic purpose”. All indexing criteria can be found here: www.bundespruefstelle.de.