Tag Archives: PEGI

The Byron Review

“Hardly a day goes by without a news report about children being brutalised and abused in the real world or its virtual counterpart. Some make links between what happens online or in a game, and what happens on the streets or at home.  

“These headlines have contributed to the climate of anxiety that surrounds new technology and created a fiercely polarised debate in which panic and fear often drown out evidence. The resultant clamour distracts from the real issue and leads to children being cast as victims rather than participants in these new, interactive technologies.

“It quickly became apparent that there was a big difference between what concerned parents understand and what their technologically savvy children know. […] Put bluntly, the world of video games has come a long way since the early days of Pac Man. And while change and innovation are undoubtedly exciting, they can also be challenging or just plain scary.”

Tanya ByronDo my eyes deceive me? Am I reading a report about games and the Internet that not only doesn’t immediately vilify the industry as corruptor of our youth or blame it for the collapse of Western society, but blames the media-led moral panics and goes on to say that risk-taking is an essential component of growing up? And this quote was taking from the first page!?

The Byron Review, summarised here or available in its entirety here, is shocking in that it is an independent look at how children can be protected from the dangers presented in games and online that doesn’t assume that gaming is a childish pursuit – as it says, games are no longer just Pac-Man – and doesn’t recommend clamping down on the industry and removing responsibility from where it should lie.

It recognises that children are raised by their parents, not games, and that if the opposite is true then it is the fault of the parents. The fact that the majority of parents couldn’t tell Facebook and Xbox Live apart doesn’t mean that we should descend into Luddism and ban the whole lot. We should look forward and recognise that today’s kids are tomorrow’s parents, and that letting them learn from their mistakes, as a kid who fell out of a tree one too many times would tell his kids that climbing trees can be dangerous, is how we’ve always done things and will mean that the next generation is ready to face a digital future.

As for the recommendation that all games carry BBFC ratings, I wouldn’t disagree. I think it’s been coming for a while, and it makes sense to use the same ratings for all entertainment. I actually like the clear iconography of the PEGI ratings, which are much better at describing the content than the BBFC ones, but it’s counterproductive to want parents to take an interest in what their children are playing but then make it difficult by using something other than the well-known film ratings. Most games with any objectionable content use both anyway.

Still, it hasn’t taken long for more exposés that – shock! – some games are violent from the usual sources, so some things never change. But at least we can’t complain that nobody’s given our digital entertainment a fair look. The difference here is that people are taking interest.

BBFC Ratings for Games

Sonic Gems Collection

Giving a handful of games BBFC ratings is nothing new as any games with significant violent or sexual content will usually lead to the publisher paying to get one by choice, both to protect themselves from angry right-wing newspapers and because it’s something of a badge of honour to anyone under 18 to get their smelly little hands on them. Obviously the Manhunts and Grand Theft Autos of the world get those big red 18 ratings on the front covers but the kiddie platformers stuck with the unenforced PEGI ratings (the European equivalent of the American ELSPA ratings). Over the last few weeks, however, I’ve seen this changing.

You can probably see from the attached picture that Sonic Gems Collection, obviously not the most adult game in the world (although Sonic is clearly punching violently and Metal Sonic is gesturing aggressively with his frightening claws), has the big green “U” triangle, the same as a “G” rating. It obviously wouldn’t require it since it’s exempt from classification, so why would Sega pay to get it rated when they don’t need to?

I should also point out that Sonic Gems Collection isn’t the only game to do this, but it’s the only one I could find with its cover art on Amazon. I know that today I saw a new classic arcade compilation (I forget which one since they’re all identical and similarly overpriced) which carried a “U” rating, and although I can’t remember specifics there were several more which had “U” and “PG” ratings, neither of which would have warranted a BBFC rating.

A game can actually be as violent and depraved as it wants without being forced to get a rating (video games are exempt from classification under the Video Recordings Act 1984, as amended in 1993, at the moment), but the companies go for them anyway to cover their ass in case a kid gets hold of it and does something stupid. That way they can say that the 18 rating makes it illegal for someone under 18 to buy it and so it wasn’t their fault since they did everything they could have legally done to keep it out of underage hands.

The reason for this odd phenomenon with games aimed at a younger audience is almost certainly the same reason that they choose to go for the ratings on adult games – parents don’t know what PEGI is but they’ve grown up with BBFC ratings, and having them on some games and not others just seems to devalue them. By slapping those ratings (and oversized ones at that) on there they’re hoping that people will actually take notice and not be confused by them. If the industry is to stop people jumping on them whenever a kid does something bad, it’s important that they do what they can to help people understand that games aren’t a thing only for kids to play anymore and that nowadays your wholesome platform hero is just as likely to swear profusely and pull out a bazooka as he is to pick up magic flowers on his way to rescue the princess. Until the public get this into their thick skulls it’s important that the industry does what it can to raise awareness.