PEGI is now an enforceable law! Beware!
PEGI, or the Pan-European Game Information ratings system, is now to be legally enforced in the United Kingdom, meaning that any retailer who sell titles that have ratings of PEGI 12, PEGI 16 or PEGI 18 to children below the labelled age limit may be prosecuted. This replaces the previous system of ratings managed by the British Board of Film Classification.
There will be a lot of new things for parents to take note of with this ratings system, beyond the age restrictions, all packaging and boxes will also have diagrams that tells what the specific title includes – be it bad language, discrimination, drugs, fear, sex, violence, gambling and online gameplay including other players. That last bit may sound harmless compared to the others, but the online environment is something outside the control of the game makers, and warnings must be given that other players may not be so nice.
The BBFC system was first put in motion by the UK’s previous government as an outcome of the Digital Britain Report in June 2009, which reviewed the Bryon Report into Safer Children in a Digital World. This report highlighted:
Having a dual classification system and two sets of symbols often made things confusing for the consumer
and concluding that it is critical to change to a more uniform system. It was also clear that PEGI system often led to stricter age ratings than the BBFC.
With the move to a single ratings system, the aptly named GRA (Games Ratings Authority) – part of the Video Standards Council based in Hertfordshire – will be the responsible authority for rating game titles using the PEGI’s criteria:
- Games are rated for 12-years and over if they include non-graphic violence to human or animal characters, a slightly higher threshold of violence to fantasy characters or significant nudity or bad language.
- Games are rated 16-years and over if the depiction of violence or sexual activity looks the same as it would do in normal life. Drug and tobacco references also trigger the age limit.
- Games are rated 18-years and over if there is a “gross” level of violence likely to make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.
PEGI Banned Titles
The GRA will also have the power to ban a title if necessary, however it has said it expects to only do this “very unique and rare situations”.
So far only two game titles have ever been put through a ban in the UK – Rockstar Games Manhunter 2 and SCi‘s Carmageddon. Both decisions were however overturned later. The GRA can also advise if titles are not suitable for younger children, but these are not legally enforceable – the restrictions being age 3 and age 6.
To publicise the move, the group has relaunched its Ask About Games website with information to aid parents in making informed choices. The launch comes in the wake of editorials published by websites, Cnet, PCWorld and Rock Paper Shotgun that criticised the level of violence in some of the titles shown at last month’s E3 video games conference.
Game and Video Trailers also affected
The trailers for titles including, Far Cry 3, The Last of Us and Splinter Cell: Blacklist - in which the main character was shown shooting another person in the face at point-blank range with a shotgun – were highlighted as being instances where the level of violence had been “shocking”. The issue may become even more acute next year when Sony and Microsoft are rumoured to unveil next-generation versions of their consoles, which are capable of more detailed graphics.
Prof Tanya Byron, a consultant clinical psychologist and author of the report which led to the change in law, has stressed the positive benefits of the technology.
Video games can be a great educational resource that can also fuel children’s creativity,
It would be great to see parents taking an interest in their children’s video game playing. This can involve taking direct control of what games their children play at home, how they play them and for how long, through taking note of the PEGI ratings.
I’ve always considered that the judgement should be with the parents, as most of us grownup know that a birthday is just another day and you are certainly not any wiser, safer or smarter going from 17 to 18 than you were going from 11 to 12 or even 20 to 21. That said a 7 year old child should probably not be playing a PEGI 18 or even a PEGI 16 game.
What are your thoughts on this; is it a good move by the government to unify the ratings system so that it will be easier to classify content, or does it just represent stronger control over censorship and further restriction of freedom of choice and speech?
Let us know in the comments below.