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The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings, enforces industry-adopted advertising guidelines, and ensures responsible online privacy principles for computer and video games in Canada and the United States. The ESRB was established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association, in response to criticism of violent content found in video games such as Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Lethal Enforcers, Doom, and other controversial video games portraying excessively violent or intense sexual situations. The board assigns ratings to games based on their content, using judgment similar to the motion picture rating systems used in many countries. In addition, content descriptors explain specific types of content present in games. The ratings are intended to aid consumers in determining a game’s content and suitability. A game’s rating is generally displayed on its box, in its media, in advertisements, and on the game’s website. By July 2012 it had assigned more than 22,000 ratings to titles submitted by more than 350 publishers.
Many retail stores prohibit the sale of unrated video games, and major console manufacturers will not license games for their systems unless they carry ESRB ratings.