A friend sent me this message today and I thought it was a great question that others might be able to benefit from hearing.

Q: “Gabe (her son) is trying to convince me that Halo 5 is totally ok because it’s rated T. Do you think it’s appropriate for a 9 year old? I’m not convinced by his argument.”

A: In short, no, Halo 5 is not appropriate for Gabe as it was not built for a 9 year old.

 I love to make sure parents can make educated decisions, though, so I thought I’d give you some context for my answer.

A quick disclaimer:

Halo 5 is due to come out on October 27th, so just about three weeks from now. Since it hasn’t been officially released I can tell you what I know from the series, with a specific focus on Halo 4 (same company that is making Halo 5). I’ve done some research on what others who have been able to play through the game have seen and experienced, just keep in mind I can’t speak to all the nuance and little details that will occur in this specific installment. Yet.

Look at Past Experience: Review of Halo 4halo 4 - gameplay

Since I don’t have the actual game to review yet I’ve done the next best think: a Halo 4 review. Both games are made by the same company, so there is certain to be some overlap.

Halo 4 is very violent. It includes more adult themes that are pretty dark emotionally including the pending extermination of humanity, alien invasions, and killing as the one solution to all problems. There is some swearing that wouldn’t be appropriate for a 9 year old but no f-bombs or anything overtly sexual in nature (which changes in Halo 5).

Questionable “Teen” rating for Halo 5

The “Teen” rating for Halo 5 seems to be due to a slackening of our expectations more than an accurate reflection of any lessening of the content from Halo 4, which earned a “Mature”. My reasoning for this statement?

  • The official rating agency, the ESRB, rated Halo 4 Mature for Blood and Violence. Their full synopsis reads:
    • This is a first-person shooter in which players control futuristic super-soldiers who engage in military campaigns against alien forces. Players use pistols, scoped rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, and futuristic weaponry to kill enemies in ranged combat; battles are highlighted by cries of pain, realistic gunfire, and large explosions. Stealth moves (i.e., “assassinations”) can also be used to attack enemies from behind (e.g., snapping their necks or stabbing/impaling them with bladed weapons). During one cutscene, a human character cries out as her body disintegrates, exposing layers of muscle tissue. Large blood-splatter effects occur when humans are shot; some sequences depict bloodstained environments. http://www.esrb.org/ratings/search.aspx
  • For Halo 5 they rated it a teen game for Blood, Mild Language, Violence. Basically they added some crude sexual references to the game and kept all the other stuff, then got a lower rating. I think this would be an interesting area to look into on how they managed that one. Maybe because it came out after Grand Theft Auto 5 so everything seems safe now?
    • halo 5 - game play 4Their official review says: This is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of a super soldier (Locke) searching for a missing character. Players use pistols, machine guns, grenade launchers, and futuristic weapons to kill alien and human enemies in frenetic combat. Battles are highlighted by realistic gunfire, explosions, and occasional blood-splatter effects. Characters can also use “assassinations” to kill characters by snapping their necks, or by stabbing them with bladed weapons. The word “a*s” appears in the dialogue, as well as occasional taunts/insults (e.g., “I have copulated…with your genetic progenitors!”; “Your father was a filthy colo and your mother was a hole in the wall!”). http://www.esrb.org/ratings/search.aspx

With that being said, there is certainly reason to not fully trust the Teen rating. It is possible there will be less blood spattering as you blast your enemies into pieces.

 

The Draw

Halo 5 will undoubtedly have a compelling story line and incredible graphics. It will feature some heart-pounding, sweat-inducing multiplayer. I’m certain the designers of Halo 5 find a way to yet again change the way we see first person shooters. In short: I’m certain it’ll be awesome for people who are into this kind of game. Gabe will certainly see it when he’s with friends and probably hear about it at school.

To get a feel for it you should watch the trailer,

 

It’s not for kidshalo 5 - game play 2

Despite its teen rating, Halo 5 is not for kids. If we’re just going off pure comparison,
Halo 5 is better than letting him play a game like Grand Theft Auto 5, Mortal Kombat X, or even Call of Duty Advanced Warfare (which has more gore and swearing than Halo). Yet I don’t think pure-comparison is a fair way to gauge whether we’re on the right track. We need to look at what the game has it in it and ask if it is appropriate for Gabe as a 9 year old.

 

Teachable Moment

I totally get why a 9 year old boy would think this game is awesome. There are some really cool aspects to it.

You need to have a conversation with him about why the game isn’t appropriate. He probably won’t be surprised. Then discuss what games would be a better fit for his interest and the family expectations.

I would encourage him to play games that still allow him to be an epic hero, play with friends and have an awesome adventure, but that don’t go to such extremes that are targeted for a more mature audience (and yes, I would even challenge mature audiences about some of those choices).