- 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.
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.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites