As of today, video game ratings using the PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) system have become legally enforceable in the UK, with retailers who sell titles to under-age children subject to prosecution, and possible jail terms. The move comes as the government decided to drop an alternative ratings system run by the BBFC, and looked to help families “make informed decisions” about the games their children are playing.
In addition to the three-level age rating system – 12, 16 and 18 – packaging will also feature diagrams warning if the title includes bad language, drugs, discrimination, fear, gambling, sex, violence or online gameplay with other people.
Here’s a handy video guide from PEGI, illustrating the warnings:
And here’s a run-down of exactly what the PEGI symbols mean…
Bad LanguageGame contains bad language
Game contains depictions of, or material which may encourage, discrimination
Game refers to or depicts the use of drugs
Game may be frightening or scary for young children
Games that encourage or teach gambling
Game depicts nudity and/or sexual behaviour or sexual references
Game contains depictions of violence
Game can be played online
The move to the PEGI system alone was first announced in Labour’s 2009 Digital Britain Report following the Bryon Review into Safer Children in a Digital World, which noted that “having a dual classification system and two sets of symbols often made things confusing for the consumer”, adding that it was vital to switch to a single system and that PEGI’s system often led to stricter age ratings than the BBFC system.
Under the new system the Games Ratings Authority (GRA) will be responsible for rating titles using Pegi’s criteria:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The GRA will also be able to ban games if necessary, though this apparently will only happen “very rarely,” as has been the case in the past when only Manhunter 2 and Carmageddon have been banned (and both subsequently unbanned) in the UK for graphic violence.
As an extension of the system, the GRA will also be able to suggest games that should not be available to children under three and six-years-old, though at this stage they will not be legally enforceable.
The PEGi website outlines exactly how they use their own system to choose the right classification for games:
PEGI uses a combination of content declaration and game review to determine the appropriate PEGI rating for each game. Initially, the publisher of a game will complete an online declaration form that is sent to the administrator of the system. The completed form is then reviewed and used as a basis for checking the content of the game. The content declaration aspect of PEGI is a significant strength as only the developer/publisher of a game has a complete overview of the content in the game. The overview allows the administrator to focus on sections or aspects of the game that will most likely to affect the rating. This is more efficient and reliable than the administrators attempting a full play through (assuming it was possible) as the only basis for the rating.
It is hoped that the rating system will not only help parents in deciding which games to buy for their children, but also aid developers in deciding what content is deemed suitable per the restrictions, so adjustments to content can be made before release. That comes after the level of violence of games unveiled at last month’s E3 conference was widely criticised.
The AskAboutGames website has also launched with information for parents and gamers alike to help clear up any questions surrounding the new ratings.
Click next to reveal some of the most controversial games of all time which could have probably done with this PEGI system’s restrictions…