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ESRB launches iPhone app

NEW YORK (AP) -- Video games come with ratings similar to movies, but plenty of parents buy games rated M for Mature for their
kids under 17.

To give them more information
about what's in the games their children are asking for, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board updated its free mobile app Tuesday to let users snap photos of the boxes of video games and find out what the ratings mean. For newer games they will also get vivid descriptions and examples of content that could be unsuitable to children.

The nonprofit industry group is responsible for assigning the ratings on
every video game sold in stores. The ratings range from EC for Early
Childhood to AO for Adults Only, though the latter is rare and major
retailers don't stock games with that rating. The most popular shooters,
such as Call of Duty (Buy | Search) and Grand Theft Auto (Buy | Search), are rated M.

For games rated before July 1, 2008, the app will bring what each letter
rating means. For games that were assigned a rating after that date, it
will fetch information about why they received that rating. For Call of Duty: Black Ops (Buy | Search), for example, this includes combat that "can generate
pools of blood and dismembered limbs." On the other hand, Kirby's Epic Yarn (Buy | Search), rated E for Everyone, is a safer bet for young kids. In it,
"enemies lose feathers, yarn or beads when hit (and) Kirby reacts to
damage with an 'Ow!' sound effect," according to the ESRB.

The video game industry expects a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court next
year on the constitutionality of a California ban on the sale of
ultra-violent games to children. Parents' groups and politicians say
games should be regulated like firearms and tobacco rather than like
books and movies. The industry believes that its ratings system works
well and negates the need for government regulation.

The app is available on the iPhone and on Android devices by searching for ESRB.

To use the photo feature, tap "Search by photo" on the app's yellow home
screen. This should bring up your smart phone's camera feature. Use this
to snap a photo of the video game's box, making sure it's centered in
the screen. Tap "use" if you'd like to use the photo.

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