Zombies, guitarists and aliens, oh my!

Lawton_Killer zombies, guitar players and alien invasions are themes of the hottest sellers this Christmas season.  They're all video games that are flying off the shelves and according the Entertainment Software Rating Board, more than half of the video games sold all year are bought during the holidays.  It makes it especially important that parents be on the lookout for age appropriate content when purchasing these gifts for their kids - and, there's a way to find out.

Counter Strike is one of the most popular video games today - it's also one of the most controversial.  It pits terrorists against counter terrorist groups - that might already cause some concern.  But, the rating sticker should lead you down the right path and make all the difference for adults when shopping for kids.

Video games are more lifelike today than they were ten years ago, and they're definitely more graphic.  It's exactly what some kids are asking for this Christmas.  So, how do you find out what the games are all about?  One tip - ask the salesperson, they may be able to steer you in the right direction.  But, when you're in a rush - check the sticker.

The video game companies have posted ratings on their games.  "It keeps parents from buying a game that maybe way too violent for little kids they don't want playing," says Hasting's Assistant Manager Jeremy Gluck.  There are ratings for every game scenario - suitable for everyone, mature, violence, language, and even sexual content.

Gluck says he answers parent's questions with his own.  "'Do you want your kid playing that?'", he asks.  "Because I play a lot of these games myself so I know what's over the top violence.  And I'll check it and say, 'Hey, this is got that going on.  Are you sure you want to get that?'"  And, even then, sometimes the ratings aren't enough.  "It's the parents that don't understand them," says Gluck.  You know, the parents, they just hear, 'Oh my kids wants this' and they go out and get it for them without even looking at them, you know, the violence or even the words that they use."

Another customer says it's better to actually get involved with your kid's gaming habits.  "If they are interested in what their kids like, then they need to get interested in it.  It's just as if you're taking your kid to football practice, if you're going to his game on Friday.  You're there, you're with your kids, you're understanding what's going on."

And, the gaming ratings for purchased video games don't apply to online games - parents will have to monitor those separately.  Anyone purchasing a video game for a child this season can check out www.esrb.org to check out the Entertainment Software Rating Board.  You can type in the name of any game and the site will detail the rating and content of each game.