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Darren Waters

Classifying the classifiers

  • Darren Waters
  • 27 Mar 08, 10:40 GMT

You have to feel a bit sorry for the video games industry.

It's a vibrant, creative industry that employs thousands of people in the UK and contributes hundreds of millions of pounds to the British economy but tends to get vilified by the media as a corrupter of children.

It is well regulated - currently through two systems - and adheres to strict marketing and advertising laws yet feels the brunt of recommendations by the Byron Review.

Dr Tanya Byron's recommendation that the BBFC's role in classifying games be expanded is designed to reassure parents and to make video games ratings easier to understand.Still from the game Manhunt 2

But it means more legislation for an industry that feels it is already doing more than any other to ensure its products find their way into the right hands.

Contrast this with the online world: the internet is indeed a sprawling, unregulated morass of media in which responsibility for content is pretty much given over to individuals.

Social networks and video sharing sites are littered with examples of inappropriate content; sex videos, happy slapping videos, pornographic pictures etc.

The government and Tanya Byron know full well that regulating the internet is a non-starter and so education, awareness and advice are the keywords of the Review.

But the games industry must now accept a new tier of regulation.

Some in industry were lobbying for Pegi, the European self-regulatory system, to take over ratings for all games and there will be a certain amount of consternation about what the new classification system means.

On the face of it the new system is straightforward - all games designed for children 12 and over will now need to be reviewed and classified by the BBFC.

In reality it means the BBFC will shift from debating the age rating of about 100 titles each year to many, many hundreds.

It's a dramatic increase in workload.

No-one is doubting the ability of the BBFC to make those decisions - it's been called the gold standard in some quarters - but there is a certain amount of disappointment that Byron has not taken the opportunity to fundamentally re-examine how games are rated.

There is the suspicion that the BBFC has been retained in part, and had its role potentially expanded, because there is widespread familiarity with the age rating logos on the front of DVDs and on film posters.

But there is a danger that collapsing film and video game ratings into one symbolic system will actually cause more problems. Because games and films are not alike.

And the Pegi ratings will continue, except they will now appear on the back of boxes and not the front.

So to be clear – the two systems will continue to operate, except one will appear on the front of a box and one will appear on the back.

The word "fudge" has already been used by some to describe the thinking.

Some parts of the media are describing the Byron Review as a clampdown on violent video games and titles which feature sex, which is utter nonsense.

Those games - and they are few in number - have always been given 15 or 18 certificates.

The games industry has been saying for years that games are not films - but no-one seems to be listening.

So how does the BBFC rate games and what will the extra responsibility mean?

Currently the BBFC requires developers to submit titles for classification if a title contains any of the following:

• Gross acts of violence towards humans or animals
• Horrific behaviour or incidents
• Human sexual activity
• Criminal behaviour

The developer then has to fill in a form to inform the BBFC where in the game the most contentious issues appear.

The classifiers also have to provide a complete version of the game and developers are recommended to supply gameplay footage of where the contentious scenes appear.

The BBFC also requires viewing of cut scenes in the game.

But games are not linear media and it's not realistic to expect the BBFC to play and complete a game before delivering a rating.

"Examiners are required to sample game play throughout the game, not just at the beginning," the BBFC website explains.

What's more complex is the changing nature of games, and their increasingly open-ended nature.

For example, it's not unreasonable to suggest that games in the near future will allow gamers to play in a wide variety of ways, including never firing a gun, or wielding a weapon while other gamers will indulge in mindless violence.

The game will be the same but the manner it is played will be different.

So how does that affect a rating? Will the potential for violence be rated?

What happens in virtual worlds when two gamers decide they want their avatars to have virtual sex?

It may sound like a ludicrous scenario but it's the future and it's debatable if the ratings system that is being put into place can cope.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 11:24 AM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Al wrote:

Parents have ignored the video games rating system(s) for years. There is no need for a new system; just better parenting.

  • 2.
  • At 11:46 AM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

To be honest, nothing surprised me in the report.

It's just a desperate ploy by a weak government and an unpopular prime minister.

The whole thing seems like a stunt designed to please Daily Mail readers.

If i buy a game, its got a HUGE rating on the front. In this day and age, why are we still not asking the parents, why are you letting them play the game?

  • 3.
  • At 11:46 AM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Gift wrote:

There's more than a suspicion that the BBFC got the nod because people recognise the symbols. On the Today programme this morning I got the distinct impression that was exactly Dr. Byron's reasoning. It's a real let down given all the effort the games industry has put into the PEGI system, especially when the BBFC has not exactly covered itself in glory lately (i.e. Bully/Manhunt 2).

Even so, I was pleased to hear Dr. Byron talk about informing parents rather than going on a censorship drive. (I hope the BBFC takes note, their new director doesn't seem as progressive cf. the last). Informing is definitely the better option here, as people brought up on video games are starting families of their own now (I'm entering my third decade) and it'd have been a great shame if oppressive measures where brought in to combat a short term lack of understanding. At least this way those who don't know can be educated and those of us more familiar with video games than Dr. Byron can get on with our lives.

Gift.

How on earth could the ratings system be difficult to understand? Games carry a BBFC rating, just as films do. Most games also carry the PEGI system, which breaks down what is and isn't present in the game in an easily understood way.

The real issue is that it currently is easy for children to watch films that are rated way above their age, because parents are either too lazy, too callous, or too careless to stop them. My 11-year-old nephew has played Grand Theft Auto, he's watched Robocop and Terminator, and all under the purview of his (separated) mother. The poor boy then doesn't understand when his father tells him he's not to play or watch certain things due to their rating, because mother lets him do it.

We live in a society where it's far easier to blame others for our own idleness. Parents, don't complain that these very simple ratings are "too complicated". They aren't. Take some responsibility for raising your own children, and have the balls to say no once in a while.

  • 5.
  • At 11:57 AM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Mal wrote:

I so glad taxpayers money was spent for this predictable report.

The more violent games have had perfectly legible ratings on them for ages, yet the parents choose to ignore them and give their precious 10 year olds titles like Grand Theft Auto.

  • 6.
  • At 12:02 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • nemarsde wrote:

I think your last six paragraphs are most relevant to this issue, Darren.

The Byron Review appears to be a solution to a problem that existed circa 2000, but has now been superseded by the more complex problem of rating simulation.

For example, how would you rate your week? Has it been an 18 certificate week? Or perhaps a 12? What rating should life have, and what rating should virtual life have?

Mentioning the 12 certificate, I'm a little perplexed by the Byron Review's findings.

Currently any game with questionable content is passed to the BBFC for rating (in addition to its PEGI rating).

So why exactly do games without questionable content need to be passed to the BBFC as well?

Therefore, won't this new legislation be achieving exactly nothing?

  • 7.
  • At 12:26 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Clemens wrote:


The BBFC ratings on films may be more familiar to parents, however that doesn't guarantee that they will heed their advice any more than current ratings. There are plenty of parents who think nothing of watching "18"-rated movies with their teenage kids

  • 8.
  • At 12:29 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Verity wrote:

I agree. A big problem at present is enforcement. All video games have an age rating on them, it's just that some have a logo that looks like a film rating, and others not.

The big problem is that parents are ignoring existing ratings: it's quite clear that children as young as 10 should not be playing games with an 18 certificate. Quite honestly, I don't see how it's harder to understand the label on a game rather than the label on a video.

  • 9.
  • At 12:39 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Barrie Jehu wrote:

It's not the rating system that needs changing, but parental behaviour! My son always knew which friends to go to if there was something that we wouldn't let him watch or play.

  • 10.
  • At 12:49 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • RP wrote:

In this day and age in the UK, the words "Government backed..." can generally go hand in hand with "utterly useless", "waste of taxpayer's money", "will achieve absolutely nothing", "ignore the advice of those with actual experience" and generally be a waste of time.

This government has to realise that you can't try and control everything - parents need to take responsibilty for their children.

There is a perfectly legitimate rating system currently in place for games. Those with sex, violence and bad language are already classified as 15 or 18. The government should be raising the question of why parents are allowing their kids to play these games rather than reclassifying them again, which will essentially be a waste of time and money.

People: take responsibility for your own actions!

On a side note I fully agree that this country is villifying a sector that actually contributes a significant amount to the British economy outside of the financial sector - something that will soon be a thing of the past because this government is too narrow minded and lacks any common sense to support this industry

  • 11.
  • At 01:03 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • PurpleChair wrote:

I haven't finished reading the report, but what I've read so far has been fairly positive of games. It does seem to say that parents are at fault for not paying attention to the content of games. These suggestions are just intended to make things clearer for parents, rather than change the way the industry makes games.

And I think the current rating system does need SOME kind of re-think... I've been enjoying No More Heroes recently, a game about a foul-mouthed homicidal pervert with a lightsaber, that has somehow evaded the BBFC's censorship guidelines.

I'd agree that the recommendations of the report sound like a poor compromise, but I think the report as a whole can at least start moving the discussion on, etc. And that's good.

  • 12.
  • At 01:06 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

The majority of games now have online content, and in that open environment you cannot control what others may discuss. It's potentially by far the most damaging of interactions yet gets completely ignored.

When the regulation is by definition inadequate, there's no point in introducing more classifications because they will be more and more misleading.

  • 13.
  • At 01:13 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Rob wrote:

I can't believe parents find it complicated to understand a game that has 16+ written on the frond AND back of it. What do you think their reactions are, "I wonder what this 16+ means?!"


Video games aren't all to blame, I was 8 when i started playing Half Life, (a then rated 16 game), I also played the GTA (the original and one of my favourite games, as well as the new ones) and various other games, as well as watching my brother play the same games and other (that I didn't have the skill to play).

I'm in no way violent towards other people, and think violence should never be used; there's no need for it. I mean, like every other brother and sister, i had a few 'friendly' fights with my brother, but nothing serious. Never got in a fight at school, and if someone tried starting a fight with me, I'd walk away.

I think Trudi is absolutely correct in saying 'have the balls to say no once in a while' I see too many parents giving in to their child just because they are nagging. Children are brought up, getting what they want when they want and don't learn about what life is really like.

I'm only 19, therefore I admit that I do not have 'Life Experience' but i am certainly more realistic that a lot of people my age and i do not expect to have everything i want.

  • 14.
  • At 01:21 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Matthew wrote:

As usual, the responsibility is taken out of the hands of the parent, to quote:

"Kids are the digital natives, she said, "parents are the digital immigrants."

Well, perhaps she feels like a digital immigrant. I'm 40 and I'm quite at home in the digital world, thanks very much.

Parents who are not up to speed owe it to themselves to catch up and find out what their kids are up to.

That's what is generally known as "good parenting" - actually taking an interest in your child, as opposed to dumping them in front of the TV to amuse themselves.

Bottom line, stop treating kids like adults and adults like kids!

  • 15.
  • At 01:29 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • martin wrote:

I think the issue is again down to parents. Now i have been playing games since the days of C64, back then graphics did not have the photorealism and the nature of the games was different.

I have two children and there is no way i would even think about letting my eldest anywhere near any game that i thought was unsuitable. Being a 'gamer' i know what is suitable for my children to play. But still if the image on the cover is a guy dressed a Pimp holding an uzi or a gang holding pistols, then you pretty much know its not going to suitable.

The bottom line is Parents are to stupid / lazy and bow to their childrens demands. The Video game industry seems to the be the medias most popular whipping boy and alot of comments made about it come from supposed experts..look at the recent Mass Effect controversy that had to be apologised for of late.

This whole report was such a waste of taxpayers money.

  • 16.
  • At 01:32 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Killian wrote:

Classification systems and internet filtering software are not, and never will be, substitutes for adequate parental involvement in their children's activity. But governments feel they need to be seen to be doing something, even though the solutions already exist. Noises will be made, millions will be spent and I suspect in 5 years time we'll be no further forward. It's all as hopelessly predictable as the conclusions of the report...

  • 17.
  • At 01:33 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Mike wrote:

I think this report in view of video games is a waste of time. The system in place at the moment work perfectly, just look at how many changes Manhunt 2 has had to make for it to get a release.

The problem is now educating parents to understand the current system so that they stop giving 12 year olds 18 games to play.

  • 18.
  • At 01:37 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Jen T wrote:

I am not at all surprised by this move by the government, although I have to say it does bring the age old argument of parental discretion into play once again. 99.9% of all computer/console games I have bought since gaming moved away from Pong and Frogger and into GTA and Manhunt have had a huge classification sticker on both the front and back, with the latter carrying details of exactly what kinds of violence/sex/assorted depravity the game contains. If you go into most game stores and try to purchase one of these games, you are always asked for I.D to prove you are over the age on the box. However, if uninterested parents insist on buying their children the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV for their children, there is very little that the BBFC, the government or indeed the game manufacturers themselves can do about it. For every rule put in place, there is a way around it - console manufacturers could create some form of age recognition software within their consoles, and kids would just lie about their year of birth. Games stores could become more vigilant with their identification methods, and underage individuals would simply get parents of older siblings to buy for them. The argument seems very similar to the complications of underage drinking to me: slap an age restriction and all the warnings under the sun onto a product, but if a young person wants it enough, they'll find a way to get their hands on it. I do agree that providing more detailed information on the backs of game boxes to allow consumers more information on the sometimes 'dubious' content of what they are potentially buying for their offspring is an excellent idea. I think that in this highly tecnological day and age, some less computer savvy parents may find it difficult to judge the suitability oftheir children are asking them to buy. But by the same token, if parents are insistent on getting their children an 18 rated game such as Manhunt 2, there is really very little that anybody can do about it short of policing the parents; getting us into a territory that borders on the realms of Orwell's 1984.

  • 19.
  • At 01:45 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Richard Hawley wrote:

This is a useless report that puts a useless system in place because a government is embaressed that the gaming industry's self regulation is better and more efficient.
The only people likely to be affected by violent computer games are people who already have problems and are prone to violence. And people caring for those people whether children or adults need to do their jobs in protecting them from seeing it.

  • 20.
  • At 01:45 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Matthew wrote:

As usual, the responsibility is taken out of the hands of the parent, to quote:

"Kids are the digital natives, she said, "parents are the digital immigrants."

Well, perhaps she feels like a digital immigrant. I'm 40 and I'm quite at home in the digital world, thanks very much.

Parents who are not up to speed owe it to themselves to catch up and find out what their kids are up to.

That's what is generally known as "good parenting" - actually taking an interest in your child, as opposed to dumping them in front of the TV to amuse themselves.

Bottom line, stop treating kids like adults and adults like kids!

  • 21.
  • At 01:46 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Jonathan B wrote:

Strange. In the same week that the "King Report" is issued that is intended to dissuade anyone from aspiring to car ownership beyond automotive "white goods" designed to get you from point A to point B we get the "Byron Report". The King Report will have a significant impact on an already beleaguered home industry (interesting that Ms. King worked for Rolls Royce previously) but has hardly been noticed by the BBC! Killing off gas guzzling cars, anyway you cut it, will have negligible positive effect on the environment. In the interim it provides the government a temporary revenue stream and leaves the next government with an industry gap and more unemployed. Yet we are supposed to show sympathy for the "poor games industry". An industry that promotes death, destruction, drug dealing et al does not get my sympathy. I will work hard to make sure my kids don't see/play this rubbish. I only hope that their friend's parents have a similar view. And then these "games" will no longer be produced - clearly though I'm sadly in minority otherwise this would already have happened.

  • 22.
  • At 01:47 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Andrew Livingston wrote:

There's plenty of people who would suggest the BBFC are not up to spec actually. They're a fading irrelevance for film with digital distribtion, and they proved with the Manhunt fiasco that they have no concept or proper evidence lead approach to games classification.

  • 23.
  • At 01:54 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Dave wrote:

I don't think these recommendations will help very much.

I know of parents who knowingly buy adult rated games and videos for their kids. They allow their kids to use computers and televisions in their bedrooms way into the evenings.

Some parents have no idea (and some don't even care) what their kids are up to.

I think it's mostly a parenting problem.

  • 24.
  • At 01:57 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Richard Hawley wrote:

This is a useless report that puts a useless system in place because a government is embaressed that the gaming industry's self regulation is better and more efficient.
The only people likely to be affected by violent computer games are people who already have problems and are prone to violence. And people caring for those people whether children or adults need to do their jobs in protecting them from seeing it.

  • 25.
  • At 02:07 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Andrew Livingston wrote:

There's plenty of people who would suggest the BBFC are not up to spec actually. They're a fading irrelevance for film with digital distribtion, and they proved with the Manhunt fiasco that they have no concept or proper evidence lead approach to games classification.

  • 26.
  • At 02:10 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Demetrios wrote:

It's becoming painfully obvious that the people who are trying to get better censorship and keep pointing the finger at game developers for their child's "inexplicable" bouts of aggressive behaviour are mostly people who haven't even tried to play a game at home - hence why they're trying to use the same rules for films and apply them to game certificates

Anyone who's into playing games will acknowledge that the games realism has progressed in leaps and bounds - but not one gamer will state that playing games is anything like watching a film.

The game cerification we currently have is more than adequate - if parents blidly allow their kids to buy +18 rated games, then perhaps they should consider sterner discipline if their child decides to "act out" what he plays.

  • 27.
  • At 02:17 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Luke Stephenson wrote:

I was looking forward to the Bryon Review. I thought it was gonna be an in-depth look at how games are rated and how this could be changed at a basic level to benefit parents buying games for children and adult gamers who want to be able to play the content they like.

Instead all we get is a token review saying "We need to give the BBFC more work to do".

I must say, I'm very disappointed. This whole study has turned out to be little more than a farce.

  • 28.
  • At 02:22 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Ceri Thomas wrote:

The only reason to change which organisation is responsible for the rating on the cover is if mistakes have been made in the past.

Is there a list of games that have been incorrectly labeled by PEGI?

If not, why change the system?

  • 29.
  • At 02:24 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Benjamin Hathaway wrote:

Hmmm...

A lot of this controversy was seemingly caused by the Wii implementation of Manhunt2 - In which the Wii-controller is used to simulate the attacking gestures - and it was this that was deemed a step too-far. (Which I happen to agree with)

Now on the same day as the Byron report is released through the press, I popped over to a rival UK news site and found this little headline:

"Nintendo Wii Into Battle For Real"

"The Nintendo Wii control system could soon be used in real-life warfare - to operate military robots."

WTF!?! This is okay with every-one?

Kindest regards,

An ex Manhunt2 programmer.

  • 30.
  • At 02:31 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Lewis wrote:

I agree with the comments so far that this review has only added another level of red tape and has not actually changed anything in a meaningful way. And I also agree that the responsbility lies with parents, too many of whom do not take an active enough interest in the games their children play.

However, as a long term gamer, I am actually relieved that this review has adopted a balanced viewpoint and not that currently held by the tabloids: video games and gamers are evil. This was an opportunity for yet another cheap shot at gamers and I think we should be grateful that someone has shown (at least some) common sense.

As with all this regulation it comes down to accessibility and few retailers in the uk will hand out an 18 cert game to a minor, this is not up for question. Children will always see 18 cert films and games before they are legally allowed to view them, especially in the agegroups after puberty. Other family members and friends will always be able to supply to this age group also. A warning on the box is just not enough, education of the parents is the only solution and it should be expected that a percentage of kids will be "ready" for some material where others will not. A strong television campaign of the inadequacies of some parents should be enough to create media debate and go some ways to an acceptable level of ignorance.

  • 32.
  • At 02:35 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Matthew wrote:

As usual, the responsibility is taken out of the hands of the parent, to quote:

"Kids are the digital natives, she said, "parents are the digital immigrants."

Well, perhaps she feels like a digital immigrant. I'm 40 and I'm quite at home in the digital world, thanks very much.

Parents who are not up to speed owe it to themselves to catch up and find out what their kids are up to.

That's what is generally known as "good parenting" - actually taking an interest in your child, as opposed to dumping them in front of the TV to amuse themselves.

Bottom line, stop treating kids like adults and adults like kids!

So, the long awaited report is out and it is stupid.

Why commission the report at all when there is no known problem that needs addressing? This is just another waste of taxpayers money and an example of blame culture running amok. The nanny state out of control. There are far more pressing social issues that the government continually fails to address.

The real problem is ignorant politicians and journalists like Hillary Clinton and Keith Vaz who don’t understand video games and who lash out in their ignorance. These self publicists do a lot more harm than good.

Why choose a populist TV celebrity psychologist for this report? Why not Jade Goody? Seriously, this is a political matter of state control over children. There are many far better qualified people who could have written it.

Why does the report not include books (which have no age rating), pop music, films, television, radio, videos etc? Different popular culture is treated differently in a wholly illogical manner. This ruins any vestige of credibility that the report may otherwise have had. Games have far milder content, in general, than the more established media.

Using the BBFC film censorship to prejudge every game is just plain stupid, as I explained in an earlier article. This is going to be a major, completely unnecessary, burden on the games industry.

The report Grand Theft Childhood is about to be published which is based on vastly more research and which totally refutes the basis for the British government’s worries and therefore the Byron report. Every politician or journalist should read Grand Theft Childhood before commenting or voting on this subject.

Why don’t we just stick with the PEGI system, like the rest of Europe? This would give us trade harmony and not put us at the trading disadvantage that the Byron report would bring if implemented.

At the end of the day those kids who want to play Grand Theft Auto will. You cannot wrap children in cotton wool then lock them in a safe.

So there we have it. A sad day for politics and another sad day for the British gaming industry.

  • 34.
  • At 03:00 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Chris wrote:

I have to agree with the comments that Gift made. And indeed, the ratings are already HUGE on the front of almost all games. I don't see anyone complaining about video game ratings either. It seems like a really poor solution to a problem that didn't exist in the first place. The PEGI ratings are excelent as far as I'm concerned.

  • 35.
  • At 03:10 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Cameron wrote:

Whilst working at a high street video games store a year ago it became apparent where the problem lies in this such area. a child would try to buy something like grand theft auto for example, a title with an 18 certificate from the BBFC; and after being denied by myself he would appear again 5 minutes later with a parent in tow to buy the game.

the fact is children already cannot get hold of games with sex or violence in them unless a parent buys them for them.

i dont see a reason for misunderstanding the meaning of a 15 or 18 BBFC certificate or ignoring the PEGI grading system on the front which even goes to bullet point what issues a parent could have with the game.

If i myself had sold a 15 or 18 certificate game to an underage child i could be fined up to £5000 or get a short prison sentence so the only way I or any other cashier at a shop selling games would ever sell to a minor is when the parents are doing the buying for them.

  • 36.
  • At 03:11 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Deborah Plester wrote:

It's sad to think that people still feel that playing video games creates violence in our children. Children who are not raised properly and have never played a video game, and I know that in this day and age most kids play video games, but if they hadn't played and were raised incorrectly, could still be violent. Video games have no bearing on violence. I'm a middle aged person and my father was a violent man and guess what, he never played video games, so where did his instinct to be violent come from?? Itsd a load of twoddle.

If we start getting to worried about violence in video games then we need also to be aware of violence on TV and to stop showing blood and gore on the 6 o'clock news, even if you give a warning that some scenes may be offensive, its still showing violence. Even violence on soap operas should be censored if this was the case.

  • 37.
  • At 03:13 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Nick Eddison wrote:

I find this report farcical at best. A rating system that has been signed up to by all major publishing houses cannot be good enough because it is not as well recognised? Give me a break!

Why not put real weight behind Pegi, Make it illegal to sell to people below the age rating and a CRIMINAL offence to buy them for people below the age rating?

It would make far more sense to leave the BBFC to what it knows best because I doubt they would be able to cope with a vastly increased workload that would like this report have to be funded by the over-stretched public purse!

  • 38.
  • At 03:20 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Jellyman wrote:

I was brought up playing video games and not once have I had the urge to kill/steal/fight or drive like a maniac and ive been playing for over 20 years! For the last few years video games have had certificates on them and ive seen kids refused a 15 or 18 game by the shop. We don’t allow minors into the cinema for an 18 film neither would we allow them to rent a movie. It’s all about educating the seller and the parent!!

It disgusts me the way that kids nowadays act towards each other, to strangers and to people’s property. If I had acted the same way when I was young I would have been severely disciplined but because I was brought up to know what was right and wrong I didn’t act like that. I think parents need to take a proactive role in teaching their kids that these are games and not real and that any action taken in the game shouldn’t be repeated/copied in public.

Video games are a distraction for most people to escape their hectic lives just like movies are and TV programmes.

  • 39.
  • At 03:24 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Dan wrote:

One of the issues with the rating systems - particularly PEGI - is that people think it refers to the game's difficulty rating, rather than specifically the tone of the content; there's no such confusion with the age ratings.

Th Byron Report appears to be what you want it to be: the Daily Mail seem to think it's a drive against the video nasties, despite Byron pointing out that the research is largely divided and inconclusive. the games inudstry look to be breathing a sigh of relief, as Byron doesn't actually say the ratings are wrong, just suggests increasing the number suggested for rating. However with stats culled from the daily mail, 10% of games realesed go to the BBFC, and 3% are given 18 certs - the Daily Mail takes that as evidence of the system being a failure, but it looks to me as though the industry is more sensitive to content than the BBFC (in that two thirds of waht they submit isn't top-shelf stuff after all).
All this would be irrelevant if parents turned on the family controls on the Xbox...

  • 40.
  • At 03:47 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Tim Whatley wrote:

Lets be honest, most parents who are daft enough to buy kids games that are rated over the kids age will continue to do so, and nothing in this report will change that.

  • 41.
  • At 03:52 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Dave wrote:

Stick as many rating certificates as you like on any console game. Parents dont really look at what they are.

This report misses the point completly. one saving grace is that at least it didnt recommend dumbing down on content.

  • 42.
  • At 03:53 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Someone wrote:

When parents will become parents and not just people who happen to have a child or two growing under their roof?
I am amased how quickly the responsabilty for a product passes on to the producers instead of parents. Merchandise is merchandise, no matter how you look at it. If you buy a videogame for your offspring and you notice mindless violence, sexual acts while playing the game, explain to the child what is wrong about the game. And take the game back to the store and ask for a refund. A drop in sales will leave the industry wondering. When they find out that a drop in sales is also due to the parents' asking for a refund I think they will reconsider.

  • 43.
  • At 03:54 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • AdB0T wrote:

Thank the lord we finally have something to pin all the worlds problems on.
At one point i thought it was Heavy Metal. But in the nick of time we were told violent films were to blame, just before i burnt all my vinyl and CD's. Then, just as the Binmen turned up to recycle my DVD's today, i found out it was Video games all along.

I feel so relieved. I was frightened there might be some unstable lunatics out there that the authorities should be "policing" in some way. We can all rest easy as long as we burn every PC and conole in the land.

The rating system is fairly strait forward as far as I can see. PEGI uses symbols to signify what sort of content the game contains. For example a fist represents violence, a syringe represents drug use, a cloud of !#@* to represent swearing etc... And these symbols are placed clearly on the back of the packaging. On the front there is an age rating which is the recommended age range for this game.

The BBFC has a similar system just instead of the symbols on the back it has the content in plain english.

Now you could argue that PEGI uses symbols which could be interpreted differently... However its an European standards agency not a UK one. So they cant just use english. The symbols are effective, and clear in my opinion.

So what's the problem here? How are these symbols so confusing?

It comes down to giving people the information they need to make a decision for themselves and these standards do this already.

  • 45.
  • At 04:08 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • David Howell wrote:

What a massive load of confusion.

Must say it was priceless to hear Byron on Sky News and sounding less liberal than that channel's letter-writers. I cannot remember the last time that happened.

PEGI needs to continue, though perhaps there's a concern over it being self-regulated; the fact that a majority of games submitted to the BBFC wind up without an 18 certificate suggests otherwise, though.

The issue's with parenting though, and ironically it's very often the most repressive parents who breed the children exposed prematurely to these games.

Well, that and the huge issues with multi-threaded gameplay and virtual worlds, but I suspect a 'child-friendly' virtual world will gain great currency at some point...

  • 46.
  • At 04:23 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • SOxlade wrote:

I agree with Darren's thoughts - the Games Industry gets clattered again by an ignorant Government.

So how to change it - how do we stop the games industry being vilified?

I would vote for the PEGI system to be expanded a bit more - add descriptions under the icons so that the public can be educated about what they mean and a brief description of what the game contains - example for Tom & Jerry could be: Violence: Slapstick, cartoon, non-bloody, humourous. For Manhunt: Violence: Bloody, brutal, sadistic.

This should at least help unsure parents make an informed decision about what was suitable for their kids.

I'd enforce the PEGI system by law with fines for shops that sell underage. Put recommended min age on the cover and the rest of the info on the back.

But this won't stop online selling or parents that just don't give a fig.

I quite like consoles being supplied with an age-control device preventing little Timmy from playing games out of his age range. However this would again rely on the parents to be savvy enough to actually be able to set the system up, and also for the parents to give another fig. Sky TV boxes have had this feature for years, but I wonder how many users have actually used it?

A potential answer would be to combine MySpace data with Facebook data and AIM/Windows Messenger data to develop an online passport that can ship your avatar and personal data into games and onto the web - but this sounds a bit too Big Brother for me and way to complex to manage (and it would be easy enough to forge - just create a false avatar).

That idea would never work anyway: Teenagers like being different. Online they can escape from being themselves, so why would they want a passport that will restrict them from being who they want to be and peg them back down where they are? It'd have to be enforced by law, which takes us into murky privacy/freedom waters where nasty monsters like ID cards live.... eek!

Fact is there is no simple way to control what kids are exposed to short of actually taking an interest in them, watching what they do, and keeping the games machine/internet portal in the front room.

This report - which is relatively worthy even if it doesn't deliver anything new - is blaming the Games Industry for the Government's failure to enforce society's values onto at least one generation of kids and teens.

No-one seems to ask the simple question why games, TV, DVDs and the internet are bringing up kids instead of parents?

Dr. Byron is right to highlight that games can have an adverse affect on children and young adults, and the games industry itself should look at some of the content it produces, but is not fair to heap the problem of teenage delinquents solely on computer and video games.

If the family unit was supported, if respect for society was encouraged, if parents were educated, and if kids were brought up as part of a harmonious self-governing unit that was interested in them and their needs, then Dr. Byron's recommendations would stand more of a chance.

Without them, I fear this will just lead to some more ill-thought out legislation that will restrict the majority of decent law-abiding gamers from enjoying their hobby in order to protect the innocents from idiots.

  • 47.
  • At 05:09 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Jay wrote:

its an absolute joke, gordan brown probably doesnt even kno how to use a console. Isn't it funny how people understand film age certificates but its too hard to understand a game age certificate. There is an age certificate for a reson and people are ruining it for people who are old enough to play games. next thing ya know they will stop making games because some1 blames a murder on a game to get out of the punishment.After stopping making games it will then be films then free speech this is a joke and must stop now. What shops should do is not sell it to parents if there is an infant with them, and make people who seem under the age produce id like for alcohol. Funny how people are more intrested in under age gamers than under age drinkers. Which is more important??????

  • 48.
  • At 05:10 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Thomas Brownlee wrote:

Nick Eddison - I see where you are coming from, but making it a criminal offense once again just dodges the issue.

Parents need to stop their children from playing the games - no threats, no legal action, just do it. If parents were actually to sit down and play some of these games, it might change their view.

  • 49.
  • At 05:16 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Dominic wrote:

I have to say, I was expecting worse from the Byron review; I thought it likely that there would be some badly thought out ideas for regulations against games with strong violence or sexual content, which is not the case.
On the other hand, it does increase the role of the BBFC, which, with the recent ruling against it over Manhunt 2, has shown itself to be incompetent to properly rate games.
Personally, I thought that the PEGI system worked well, was clear and gave useful information and would have been happy to see it be the main standard. The only problem I've encountered with it is that some people assume that a game rated at 3+ is aimed at young children and is unsuitable for an adult gamer.

  • 50.
  • At 05:19 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Phil Tolhurst wrote:

I advocated this in a recent posting on another blog and it seems I wasn't far off.

The BBFC rating system works, is familiar and understood by nearly everyone in the country.

Applying it to games is the first step then educating parents that games may contain content that is unsuitable for young children is the next.

As I said before I know what games contain and being 36 next month, I am probably the first generation of parents that have a very good understanding of the current games market. I would take a long hard look at a game before allowing my child to play it if it was rated above their age grouping, however, if there were 13 and wanted to play House of the Dead 2/3 on the Wii I don't think I would stop them and that's my perogative as a parent. However, if they were 13 and wanted to play Resident Evil 4 I may think twice before letting them. This is because, even though they both have central themes around killing zombies I know the difference between the games.

Now if the government and the BBFC take large steps to educate other parents in the same way then they would be able to make the same decisions. however, without playing the games (or indeed watching the movies) the only way to make those decisions as a parent is based on somekind of ratings system. And the best way to do this is with the BBFC system.

However, having two systems is confusing so why keep PEGI?

  • 51.
  • At 05:32 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Richard wrote:

I was recently able to talk to some teenagers about their video gaming habits. Not a single one said that the parental controls were used on their games console. Rather than talking about ratings systems, educating parents about the controls available to them in recent consoles and operating systems would be far more effective. Yet nowhere in the media coverage on this issue have I seen information on, for example, how to turn on the parental controls on an Xbox.

I have also witnessed on a couple of occasions in retail stores, young teenagers being refused an 18 or 16 PEGI rated game, only for their parent to intervene and buy it on their child's behalf.

Inventing or refining ratings systems will not address the issue of parental responsibility, which is at the heart of the matter.

Yes, I feel sorry for the games industry as well!

  • 52.
  • At 05:34 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • John Ludlow wrote:

I'm not sure that the Byron Review is necessarily a bad thing for games. At the very least it's trying to get people to think constructively about games in general.

There may be misconceptions about what the ratings mean (though I'd have thought the current logos are pretty clear cut - the high-rated games show the same age rating logos as DVDs) but I think the bigger issue is around misconceptions of games in general.

Many parents think that games are for kids. Manhunt (18-rated, and it deserves that rating) is a game, so it's ok for my kids, right? Right?

  • 53.
  • At 06:00 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • frothing nutter wrote:

Dan: "One of the issues with the rating systems - particularly PEGI - is that people think it refers to the game's difficulty rating, rather than specifically the tone of the content; there's no such confusion with the age ratings."

Dan Dan Dan, have you even look at the Pegi system?

It' listed on the games box with all the pegi logos.

www.pegi.info

It's significantly less confusing the BBFC systems (12/12A anyone?)

(and YES *systems*, the BBFC already runs basically separate systems for Video/DVD and Movie Theatre.)

For more than 20 years, the games industry has been dealing with self-regulated rating in various ways since the BBFC said they couldn't be bothered. Now instead of legitimizing an well developed pan-European system, we instead decided to simply add another layer of parochial beaurocracy decided upon by a telly nanny. fantastic. westminster nannies clearly aren't enough anymore.

Ask yourself this folks..
Do you *really* want to pay for a bunch of fat bottomed civil servant to sit in front a PeeC/Wee/XXXboXXX/blah twitching their thumbs all day to the latest edition of TotalSimsWarSpaceTheftKillerHunt 9000 Deluxe Pixel Basher 2 in order to verify that the Pegi rating that it's already got is roughly equivalent to what the man who banned Clockwork Orange thinks it should be?

Or would you like another school/hospital/policeman/teacher?>

A Parent.
A Gamer
An Ex-Game Developer
and 40+
A digital native (more so than modern Yoof)
Frothing Mad at this pointless stupidity.

  • 54.
  • At 06:32 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • Simon Gartley wrote:

waste of time and money. The age rating of video games are clearly printed on the cover of the box, ignorant parents are to blame.

Besides, no one will be able to put an age rating on game modifications.

  • 55.
  • At 07:33 PM on 27 Mar 2008,
  • steff wrote:

The system needs to be overhauled. The BBFC shouldn't be allowed to decide the ratings for games again after the Manhunt carry on. Parents and retailers need to be educated regarding the ratings, and if a retailer suspects that a adult rated game is being bought for someone below the age then they should refuse to sell to them.

  • 56.
  • At 09:06 AM on 28 Mar 2008,
  • Andrew wrote:

it is a real shame that the video games industry is vilified in this way. The games are categrically no where near as violent or as gory as, say for example the SAW movies. I am 25 and would not watch one of them (i have heard they are pretty rough though) but i know of young cousins etc who watch them all the time. Video games industry is being made a scapegoat for peoples failure to lay down boundaries to children. My parents were hardly nazis when it came to tv, gaming etc but they did no when to draw the line. Look up the game Kingpin:Life of Crime, bought it when i was 15 or something and my dad went mental, ultra violent!!! Made me bring it back, very embarassing!!!

  • 57.
  • At 10:34 AM on 28 Mar 2008,
  • Jack wrote:

As someone who works in the games industry, I worry that this regulation has the potential to destroy smaller developers who are already under massive pressure. I can see release dates being delayed because of a massive increase in workload for the BBFC, which could have extremelely damaging implications for the industry. We should be helping our industry thrive not making it a scapegoat for wider issues in society.

  • 58.
  • At 12:49 PM on 28 Mar 2008,
  • david wrote:

Tanya Byron, The TV psychologist said that the PEGI system was run for the game companies. So what? It is in their best interests to rate a game properly as a protection against being sued. They are more likely to be overcautious than anything. Kids don't know more about technology than adults anymore either. So you can stop using that cliché.

What an utterly pointless waste of money!

At the very least another scaremongering bid by the government to make it seem to the public that it's acting in the 'peoples' best interest and actually doing something to protect our children.

Games like Bully, Manhunt 2 and GTA are often cited as the reason why our children go bad yet bad parenting is more likely the case. Sometimes, as the BBC itself pointed out, the games (Bully for one) bear little semblance to the horrors the media present them as.

As a 40+ gamer I grew up playing these games and have yet to murder anyone.

Yet...

In years to come the attention will switch to some new menace to society and these games will be released uncut with extra violence and gore.

One only has to be old enough to remember the video classification act during the 80s and the public outcry surrounding video nasties.

Nowadays, all these so called banned and nasty films are available from your local rental shop uncut. Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave being two prime examples.

Are we now more mature as a race to be able to handle such films or are we desensitised? I for one would like to see these games released as the developer intended in all their gory glory with PEGI ratings intact and leave the censorship issue to responsible parenting. Why should 'I' as a stable and mature adult be penalised because some so called parents are irresponsible themselves?

Surely the money would be better spent educating the parents rather than penalising the majority!

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