In addition to the age classification process in accordance with the relevant law (the Children and Young Persons Protection Act – or “JuSchG”) the USK also provides classifications for online games and apps. This is realized using the IARC system (“International Age Rating Coalition”). USK age rating logos are available for all storefronts affiliated to this system. To this date, the licensed storefronts are: Google Play Store, Nintendo eShop, Microsoft Windows Store and Xbox Store.
The respective classification of games and apps results from an IARC questionnaire that is being filled out by the developer. To guarantee a consistent quality the USK is constantly monitoring these classifications using procedure-specific means.
1. How IARC works
The International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) represents the worldwide coalition of age rating organizations of computer and video games. Since its official founding in 2013 IARC provides a framework that is being implemented by technical platforms such as mobile app stores for the purpose of youth protection. This system enables developers to rate their games and apps using a complex questionnaire. Resulting from the information provided in the questionnaire an age classification along the guidelines of the respective rating authority (for Germany the USK) is being issued.
The USK is monitoring these classifications on a regular basis to guarantee its quality. Also external complaints can trigger a review. With this system, the USK works in the range of the legal parameters of the Youth Media Protection State Agreement (“JMStV") according to which the USK is recognized as self-regulation body since 2011.
Age classifications according to the Children and Young Persons Protection Act (“JuSchG”) result from a separate rating procedure in which governmental representatives issue the binding classification. These age ratings are primarily used for games distributed in stationary retail.
2. The age ratings explained
USK age ratings inform about a potential developmental impairment for children and young persons. Therefore they do not imply if a certain content deemed „USK ab 0 Jahren“ (all ages) can be understood or controlled by younger users. The age ratings and content descriptors give information about youth protection relevant aspects contained.
USK ab 0 Jahren (all ages)
Games and apps without age restriction feature contents without youth protection relevance. They can be directly aimed at children and young persons but also at an adult audience. For instance, utility programs, product catalogues or tool apps fall into this category. In the field of games this includes family-friendly games such as skill, board and card games, sports simulations, platformers or simulations; all of which without content that must be deemed as impairing for children from a youth protection standpoint.
USK ab 6 Jahren (ages 6 and above)
Games and apps in this category can contain elements that may not be appropriate for pre-school children. They may contain occasional scary moments, a low accumulation of mild cursing or subtle erotic innuendo. If violent imageries are present they remain abstract and are not decisive for the overall product. Games in this age category involve more intense and competitive aspects (e.g. through faster game speeds and more complex tasks) such as racers, simulations, platformers and RPGs.
USK ab 12 Jahren (ages 12 and above)
Games and apps in this category can have an impairing effect on younger children through the inclusion of scary elements, shock effects, some explicit language, sexual contents or occasional violent imageries. Games in this category can feature much more of a competitive edge. The scenarios often remain very fictional which enables a certain level of distance for the recipient. Arcade games, strategy games, RPGs as well as some military simulations can be found in this category. Please keep in mind that social networks or apps with a focus on user-generated content might generally contribute to the youth protection relevance.
USK ab 16 Jahren (ages 16 and above)
Some realistically designed displays of violence, an accumulation of shock and horror elements, consistently explicit language or games and apps with an erotic or sexual focus are summarized in this category. This means that adults are part of the recipient group as well. Games frequently feature armed combat, a framework story and military missions. The genres in this categorization include, among others, action adventures, military strategy games and first person shooter.
USK ab 18 Jahren (ages 18 and above)
Among other aspects such as the unquestioned display of drug use for example, realistic and explicit violence is the most common reason for the 18+ classification of these apps. Games in this age category virtually always involve violent game concepts that are prominent in the majority of game objectives. The genres include first person shooters, action adventures and open world games.
3. Additional content information
Besides the classification itself the system displays additional information about youth protection relevant contents. The following terms are being used:
- Gewalt (Violence) & Krieg (war)
The game/ app contains depictions of violence. Those depictions can be realized in different graphical styles spanning from comic-like and abstract to realistic. The intensity and contextual conflict situation of said violent displays varies dependent from the age category.
Descriptors: Abstrakte Gewalt (abstract violence), Gewalt (violence), Explizite Gewalt (explicit violence), Kriegsthematik (war themes)
- Ängstigende Inhalte (Fear)
The game/ app creates a sinister atmosphere or tension that could trigger anxiety especially in younger children.
Descriptors: Seltene Schreckensmomente (occasional scary contents), Ängstigende Inhalte (scary contents), Grusel/ Horror (scary and/ or horror contents)
- Erotik/ Sexuelle Inhalte (Sexual Content)
The game/ app contains themes or visualizations of erotic or sexual nature. The sexualized depictions or sexual references must always stay below the level of actual pornography.
Descriptors: Nacktheit/ Erotik (nudity/ eroticism), Sexuelle Andeutungen (sexual innuendo), Sex/ Erotik (sex/ eroticism), Andeutungen sexueller Gewalt (referenced sexual violence), Sexuelle Gewalt (sexual violence)
- Explizite Sprache (Language)
The game/ app contains coarse, vulgar or generally crude language and expressions.
Descriptors: Gelegentliches Fluchen (occasional swearing), Explizite Sprache (explicit language)
- Drogen (Drugs)
The game/ app contains references, themes or depictions of drug use. This includes legal, medicinal and illegal drugs equally.
Descriptors: Tabakkonsum (tobacco use), Alkoholkonsum (alcohol use), Drogenkonsum (drug use)
- Diskriminierung (Discrimination)
The game/ app contains visual, textual or contextual references to discrimination of social, sexual, religious or ethnical groups.
Descriptors: Diskriminierung (discrimination)
- Glücksspiel (Gambling)
The game/ app contains gambling using real currency and cash payouts/ losses.
Descriptors: Glücksspiel mit Geldeinsatz (Gambling with Cash Payouts)
The following descriptors can be displayed for information regarding interactive elements:
- Nutzerinteraktion (Users Interact)
The app enables communication, data exchange or general interactivity between users.
- Standortweitergabe (Shares Location)
The app shares the location of its users.
- Onlinekäufe (Digital Purchases)
The app allows purchasing additional content or items.
- Uneingeschränkter Internetzugriff (Unrestricted Internet Access)
The app allows unrestricted access to the internet.
- Inhalte für verschiedene Altersgruppen (contents for different age groups)
The app is a Streaming service or online shop featuring dynamic contents.
4. Frequently asked questions
How come many online and browser games do not display any age rating?
The IARC system is only available for licensed platforms that have integrated the procedure into their on-boarding process. We are expecting further platforms to adapt the system in the very near future. Information about new platforms can then be found on our homepage as well.
How can I control which contents can be seen or downloaded by my child?
Many platforms offer the possibility to activate and use filters (parental controls). They usually come pre-installed on mobile or stationary platforms. We therefore recommend to always performing the initial setup of any given device by yourself rather than letting your children do it. As a parent this gives you the possibility to restrict certain contents that might not be suitable for the age group of your child.
You can find instructions for parental control and family account settings using the following links:
Why has the age rating of a certain app changed recently?
When a developer missed to indicate certain contents of his game or app it is possible that the rating is incorrect as a result. If the USK finds that the information given in the questionnaire does not match the content of a specific game or app the resulting review might change the age classification after the game or app has been published.
Where can I complain about an app or its age classification?
If you find a concrete game or app on a licensed IARC storefront that displays inappropriate content or has a classification you do not agree with, you can contact us using our complaints form. For any other questions on IARC, its functionality and the resulting classifications please use our contact form. For more information on IARC please visit www.globalratings.com
Where do I get more information for developers and storefronts?
You will find those in our publisher section.