Italians mull computer games sales ban to kids

Adult games, that is

Italian MPs today debated if computer games featuring sex and violence are sending their country's children berserk.

The meeting was convened after the proposed release of Rule of Rose, a computer game some fear will corrupt Italian children, erupted into an international tizz - within the computer games industry and some corridors in Brussels, at least.

Speeches made at a meeting convened today by Anna Serafini the president of the Italian Commission on Children, were mostly in agreement that industry, parents, schools and government should all act to prevent children turning feral after too many hours hacking one another to pieces in cyberspace.

A consensus emerged that retailers should be made legally answerable to PEGI, the European ratings system for computer games, set up in 2003. Even retailers are warming to the idea.

Of course it should be illegal to sell adult-rated computer games to children, Michela Teribile, a lawyer for Italian retailers' association Conf Comercio, told The Register after the meeting.

However, she said that producers should take more responsibility. Conf Comercio's 800,000 members should not alone be held responsible: "The most important thing for retailers is that they must be [just] one of the subjects of this legal framework - not the scapegoat."

Retailers have been quick to say producers should do more to prevent children from playing games, but today's meeting left participants feeling that everyone should be shouldering responsibility. That should please games producers, who after setting up PEGI, feel they could do with more help from all quarters, especially retailers.

Thalita Malago, secretary general of the Italian Entertainment Software Publishers Association (AESVI), asked the meeting why - if Italy is so concerned about the computer-games content - hadn't it put a representative on the advisory board of PEGI? The Italian government should get a representative on there quickly, and then retailers had to do their bit, she said.

The debate in Italy is so broad, however, that the issue of what might be done to prevent kids from obtaining access to adult computer games, just as adult movies are kept from them, is in danger of being drowned.

Unione Nazionale Consumatori, a consumers association that takes a liberal view of censorship, said it was not sufficient to make it illegal to sell adult games to children. Parents and society have to educate children about the adult world, said Elana Venditti, who represented the association at the meeting.

Minors are likely to get access to adult material through other medium anyway, she said, so prepare them properly for the adult so they get a shock when it lands on them. This, from the screen shots at least, sounds like it might be one of the themes of Rule of Rose, a game PEGI directed should not be sold to anyone below the age of 16.®

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