ELSPA chief lays into UK censor over games ratings
Leave classification to the games industry
The British Board of Film Classification isn’t fit for purpose when it comes to videogame classification, the bigwig of a rival game classification body has told the government. Again.
Speaking at the Labour Party conference today, the notoriously hard-talking Director General of the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), Paul Jackson, said that his organisation's scheme is the only ratings classification with the power to prevent publishers from distributing unsuitable content to kids.
It’s worth noting that ELSPA is both voluntary and run by videogame publishers, whereas the BBFC remains the only ratings body with any legal backing. It's also independent of content producers.
Jackson launched the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) criticism to further hammer home his message that a single classification organisation – called the Pan European Game Information (Pegi) system – run exclusively by ELSPA, would be the best way of classifying games both in the UK and across Europe.
“The film ratings board continually downgrades games classified 18 by Pegi. They go to BBFC 15 or even BBFC 12,” claimed Jackson. He alleged that the UK would be left “out of step” with classifications in the rest of Europe.
Although the BBFC has already taken steps to handle the increase in online videogame sales, by launching BBFC Online, Jackson told Labour supporters that Pegi would still be the most suitable system for handling such content.
Last week, videogame giant Atari told gaming website MCV that 90 per cent of its games be will be “online-only in a few years”.
From working in stores which sell age restricted items - booze, cigarettes, movies, games etc; Game seem to be breaking good practice guidelines as well as the law which states/implies that anyone suspected of supplying an age related product to a minor should be refused service. (Though in reality and from experience properly enforcing this leads to a talk with HR and threats of job loss for "upsetting the customers (who are friends with the chavvy manageress *rolls eyes* so I'm not surprised if Game staff are told to ignore the law to avoid "upsetting customers and lowering sales")
Over here both movie and game ratings are handled by industry associations without any legal force, although since no theater I've ever seen would let a kid into an R rated film(as a matter of fact, they may have to sign off on things like that to get any films rated by the MPAA). Few stores will sell M rated games to minors.
Of course, like has been said it doesn't work when parents ignore the big 'M' and buy the game for their kids anyway. I like the idea of a "I know this isn't recommended for kids under 17" waiver, though; it prevents the idiots from having any possibility of being taken seriously in court.
My own belief is that (a) I totally agree with the above where PEGI is described as an industry body just trying to look out for its own interests rather than any constructive position and (b) some parents would rather abdicate their responsibility for their children to bodies such as the BBFC and PEGI rather than make an informed decision on what their children can do.
The "C" in BBFC stands for "classification" and, though there are legal reasons why a shop or company cannot sell a video or game to a person under the age that it has been classified for, the rating is meant to inform everyone of its contents, hence a parent should exercise control and deny a title that is unsuitable rather than gripe about it to the media when their neglected child is hauled up because of any antisocial behaviour caused, allegedly, by exposure to a video or game.
That's why I always viewed the blue-rinse folk as hypocrites of the highest order.
Showing my age now...
I happened to come across a video on youtube the other day c/o StumbleUpon (called something like "top 10 disturbing game scenes"), and I have to admit even I was a little shocked about the level of violence in some games - I think one was CoD4, showing a kidnap and street violence, prior to the character being shot in the head. Another clip showed two anime characters, where a boy stabbed a girl and watched her slump to the floor.
The capability of modern computer hardware to show violence so graphically and accurately now needs to be reigned in IMO.
re: There's no point in games ratings
"When the member of staff pointed out that he wasn't able to sell the game to the child the mother said "It's OK, I'm buying it for him"
And this will continue to be a problem, no matter how much publicity about the drugs, sex and violence contained in them, to the parents they are still games and games are for kids.
Aside from telling the parent that the game contains graphic violence (with examples, GTA has a few good ones you can rattle off), sex and swearing, are you really sure you want to buy this for a child? There's not much more you can do, I suppose you could knock up some waivers and get the parent to sign one to say they were aware they were buying a game that was classified as unsuitable* for children, that might make them think twice.
*Just because the child is 12 doesn't neccesarily mean it is completely unsuitable, it's up to the parent to decide, it's all about making sure they can't complain later when they realise they made a mistake.