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Minister urges end to videogame rating feud

Think of the children, pleads Hodge

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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?

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