Minister urges end to videogame rating feud
Think of the children, pleads Hodge
The government has called on the UK’s two videogame classification bodies to stop their slanging match over which of their age-suitability rating systems is best.
Speaking at a game industry conference in London this morning, Margaret Hodge, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism, said that arguments between the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) won’t help efforts to work out how best to implement the Byron Review's recommendations.
“Try and avoid this becoming a battle between two regulatory bodies, so we can create a solution that everyone can believe in,” she pleaded.
The government-ordered Byron Review, published back in March, explored ways to protect children from videogame violence. It recommended that the BBFC system be used alongside the Pan European Game Information (Pegi) labelling style - which is backed by the ELSPA - to create a twin labelling system.
The BBFC and ELSPA have argued about whose classification system is best ever since.
The BBFC uses its film-oriented age ratings - U, PG, 12, 15, 18 and so on - for games. Its ratings are legally enforceable. Pegi uses pictogram labelling, such as a spider to signify scary content, and is a voluntary code.
Hodge’s demand didn’t stop representatives from both bodies from launching into a war of words at the conference.
Paul Jackson, Director General of ELSPA, admitted that Pegi isn’t perfect. However, he claimed that it still represents the “gold standard” for videogame classification, and that it’s the best solution for the future. He also said it is “the best and only system to protect children”.
Peter Johnson, Head of Policy and Business Development at the BBFC, bit back, claiming that the games industry only prefers Pegi’s classification system because they’re the ones controlling it.
Both bodies recognised that the classification of online games is one of the toughest issues facing the industry at present, but Johnson claimed that “no one’s got the classification [of online games] right yet, least of all Pegi”.
Jackson went on to question the BBFC’s ability to cope with an increase in the volume of videogame classifications, which would occur if online games were brought under the censor's remit.
“The BBFC isn’t capable of reviewing the tens of thousands of games and accessories launched each year,” he said. The BBFC rejects that claim.
Hodge has promised that the government will publish a consultation document on the back of the Byron Review.
Register Hardware wants your classification thoughts. Should the BBFC be the UK’s sole videogame classification body? Should the Pegi system be merged into the BBFC’s method? Or, perhaps parents are the problem and they should take more responsibility for what videogames children play?
lots of my staff also get very frustrated when parents buy 18 games for kids.
I think its because they have been filled with all sorts of dark warnings of what will happen if they sell an 18 game to someone underage.
It actually doesn't bother me if a parent buy an 18 game for a kid. the BBFC is clear and they are making an informed decision. all kids are different and at the end of the day parents should have a choice. If they are "bad " parents we cant really legislate for that directly.
If little Jhonny is pulling the wool over their parents eyes then retailers should bring it to their attention, but we should not have an opinion on their decision.
@ "not everyone's scared of spiders"
"not everyone's scared of spiders"
True - not least my 20-month old daughter. She spots a box with one of her favourite animals on it, points her finger and starts on a five-minute recital of "Pidah!" overandoverandoverandover...
until she than spots one with a sheep on it, at which point the word swaps for "Bahbah!", or a Finding Nemo game etc etc
PEGI is a cartoon, BBFC is clear as day.
It's so frustrating being an anonymous till monkey for a medium sized chain knowing full well that the copy of Devil May Cry 4 or Jericho mummy just bought is going straight into the hands of little "psycho-in-training" just to keep the little reprobate quiet for a couple of hours.
The BBFC classifications are fine, and when we enforce them that's great... but if you end up selling some 18 title to someone and then before they even get out of the store they hand it off to their kid who yells "cool! you can cut off heads!" you just wish you were allowed to walk up take it back and refund the cash saying "you're a moron".
@BBFC all the way
As a parent mainly agree ... film classifications are familiar and easy to understand so having similar system to that for video games should be an obvious choice. The PEGI system sounds rather like ideas for TV/video classification from around a decade ago which, I seem to recall, were believed to be designed to (i) satisfy US legislators demanding a classification system be used and (ii) be so complicated to understand that no-one would actually use them to control access!
From my point of view "18" is a clear indication that a game is not suitable of my children (12 & 8!) .... however for "12" and possibly "15" now I have some issues ... Rome Total War is a "12" yet both my sons have enjoyed this for a couple of years ... yes it involves killing but it also has introduced them to a lot of info about the ancient world. Looks like its the usual "protect the kiddies for killing" mantra at work (and if there's dead bodies you can have blood until they are 15). My older son also greatly enjoys the "Roman Mysteries" books and has been watching the version on BBC ... however same rules apply - first series was abruptly cut in mid series in case a storyline about a child being abducted was "inappropriate" just after the McCann "disappearance" and latest series seems to have skipped a book where several people died and had no-one being eaten by crocodiles int eh Colosseum!
BTW, son also got DVD of "The Longest Day" recently as had seen parts of it on school trip to Normandy battlefields ... BBFC warn that it contains "scenes of battle violence" :-)
Legally you are required to refuse to sell the game to the parent as well as you know or at least suspect that they are buying it for a minor. If you sell it to them knowing they are buying it for a minor you are still liable as if you'd sold it to the child directly.
Its the same principle as Tobacco and Alcohol laws.