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Smarter Living: Paying attention to video game ratings

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Children may find it easy to acquire games like GTA V depending on where they shop. Children may find it easy to acquire games like GTA V depending on where they shop.
CARY, N.C. -

With the holidays upon us, the latest gaming devices and games are about to be released. With that in mind, it's important to make sure you pay close attention to video game ratings, the subject of this week's "Smarter Living."

It's no secret that video games are popular and they're only becoming more popular every year.

John O'Neill, president of Spark Plug Games based in Cary, says there's a very good reason why.
  
"Gaming has always been very popular because it's an escape from reality," he says. "There's a tremendous amount of content that's designed for adults or for mature children, teenagers and not for kids."

That's why it's important parents monitor which games their children play. Even though there's a rating system, there's no law that says a child can't play an adult video game.

O'Neill says it's up to parents to understand that what they're buying could potentially be disturbing for their child.

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board has a rating system that ranges from "EC" (early childhood) to "AO" (adults only).

There are few games that are rated "AO," but there are plenty that are rated "M" for mature. 

"[Mature is] more of an R rating," O'Neill says. "You're seeing potential nudity, you're seeing more violence, more language."

O'Neill says that although many video game-specific stores won't sell mature games to younger kids, big box department stores have cashiers who don't necessarily know what the ratings mean and it's much easier for a young child to get their hands on a game not recommended for their age group.

There are certain potential dangers that come with allowing a young child or teenager to play a game meant for a mature audience.

"Adults and teenagers should understand the separation between right and wrong, understand the separation between what you're doing in real life [and] what's acceptable and what you're doing in a game and [that] it's play," O'Neill says.
 
Watch Thursday's "Smarter Living" to learn more about video games and the rating system.

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