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won’t somebody think of the children

I’ve spoken about this a number of times over the last few months and my views a fairly well known, but considering the industry I work in and the importance of this change to it, it would be odd not to at least post some kind of comment.

As of the 30th July the PEGI age rating has now become legally enforceable in the UK. PEGI stands for Pan European Game Information and works pretty much like the BBFC does for films.  Previously a game would be rated by either body leading to a somewhat interesting situation where one title could be rated a 15 and title containing similar themes and depictions of violence or sexual content would be a 16.

The significant change is that until this the PEGI rating has essentially been a recommendation with no legal standing, however I would like to point out that a majority of retailers have treated the two the same for many many years, so the fact that this is now legally enforceable really will make little or no difference to who can or cannot by a game.

I have no problem with this becoming law, from someone who has worked in retail and sold these products having one unified method of identifying the content of a game is most defiantly a good thing, although I do have a problem with both the way that it was reported and the comments of both the Media and those people that they interviewed.

It baffled me how many parents they spoke to who raved about how this made everything so much clearer and was going to change the way they purchased video games, using my own anecdotal evidence I know that nine times out of ten they couldn’t care less about the rating of the game, but on a most basic level who rates the game, or whether it is a 12/15/16/18 really shouldn’t make it that hard to understand.

It’s pretty simple, is your child at or above the age of the rating on the box, no? Then it’s not suitable, yes? Then purchase away.

For me one of the most useful features of the PEGI system is the inclusion of symbols to represent the reasoning behind said rating, whilst BBFC rating did often include a brief summary of the reason for a titles classification such as “contains strong language and sexual content” it seems that for most people this isn’t simple enough and perhaps having it in picture form aid them to understand.

 

 

What does baffle me slightly is the way in which these age ratings are classified.

 

12 – 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.

 

Now that seems somewhat ambiguous to me, significant nudity for example, first of all what exactly is significant and what exactly is “bad language”? Where do you draw the line?

 

16 -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.

 

So Nudity and bad language is perfectly fine for a 12, but get your character to spark up in your otherwise wholesome game and bang a huge chunk of your audience is gone.

 

18 – 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.

 

Now this is the one that really make me chuckle, based on this in total across the last decade there is less than a handful of titles that would ever be rated an 18, I mean there are a lot of games out there with significant levels of violence, but I find it hard to believe that there are that many that are likely to make the average viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

Realistically as I have said many times before the only way to stop children getting hold of unsuitable titles is to punish the parents, I agree 100% with punishing retailers who fail to adhere to the rules and allow minors to purchase games that they are not legally allowed to own, at the same time I believe that much in the same way as purchasing a Alcohol for a minor will get you a £5k fine and a potential criminal record the same should apply to Games.

I don’t remotely buy into the idea that games leave any kind of lasting psychological effect on a child or affect their behaviour in any way, I grew up playing computer games and I have never once jumped on turtle and I hate mushrooms.

However I do believe that the current generation of parent’s inability to say no when something is unsuitable and the ever increasing use of the game console as a babysitting device very much does have an effect on the future development of said child into a fully functioning adult.

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