UK enforces Pegi video game ratings system

The Last of Us screenshot Some writers have expressed concern about the level of violence in upcoming game The Last of Us

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Video game ratings using the Pegi (Pan-European Game Information) system have become legally enforceable in the UK.

Retailers that sell titles with ratings of 12, 16 or 18 years to children below the age limits will be subject to prosecution.

To prepare for the move, the government decided to drop a parallel ratings system run by the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification).

Organisers say it will help families "make informed decisions".

In addition to the age ratings, packaging will also feature diagrams warning if the title includes bad language, drugs, discrimination, fear, gambling, sex, violence or online gameplay with other people.

Simplified system

The move was first announced by the previous government in its Digital Britain Report in June 2009 which had followed the Bryon Review into Safer Children in a Digital World.

It had 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.

The report also highlighted that Pegi's system often led to stricter age ratings than the BBFC might have given.

Under the new system the Games Ratings Authority (GRA) - a division of the Hertfordshire-based Video Standards Council - will be responsible for rating titles using Pegi's criteria:

Pegi content descriptors In addition to an age score, a Pegi-rated game also features graphics describing potential issues of concern
  • 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 also has the power to ban a title if necessary, although it has said it expects to only do this "very rarely".

Only two titles have ever been banned in the UK - Manhunt 2 and Carmageddon. Both were the result of rulings by the BBFC and both decisions were later overturned.

The GRA can also suggest tiles are not suitable for children under the age of six or under the age of three, but these are not legally enforceable.

'Shocking' violence

Video game trade body Ukie has welcomed the development, saying that having one regulator will make it easier for developers to judge what rating their title would be likely to be given before submitting it, allowing them to adjust the content if needed.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist Ubisoft says it expects its latest Splinter Cell game to receive a Pegi 18 certificate

To publicise the move the group has relaunched its Ask About Games website with information to help parents make informed choices.

The launch comes in the wake of editorials published by websites Rock Paper Shotgun, PCWorld and Cnet criticising the level of violence in some of the titles shown at last month's E3 video games conference.

The trailers for titles including Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Far Cry 3 and The Last of Us - in which the main character was shown shooting another person in the face at point-blank range with a shotgun - were highlighted as being instances where the level of violence had been "shocking".

The issue may become even more acute next year when Microsoft and Sony are rumoured to unveil next-generation versions of their consoles capable of more detailed graphics.

But Prof Tanya Byron, a consultant clinical psychologist and author of the report which led to the change in law, has stressed the positive benefits of the technology.

"Video games can be a great educational resource that can also fuel children's creativity," she said.

"It would be great to see parents taking an interest in their children's video game playing. This can involve taking direct control of what games their children play at home, how they play them and for how long, through taking note of the Pegi ratings."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 92.


    You really have no clue about most gamers at all. I've played many violent games in my life, but the thing that gets me playing them isn't the urge to inflict violence on others. Its for the story. The chance to get away from the horrible world as it is, full of prejudice, and pretend to be a hero or heroine. Be the one who saves the world instead of the nobody slaving at his desk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Although I don't permit my son to have age inappropriate games, I know that he plays them at various friend's houses. I have talked to his friends and they all seem to have these games and I rather suspect that the video games industry replies for most of their revenue on the sale of games to under age kids. I think the gaming industry has questions to answer as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    I'm 17 now, and 10 years ago, my favourite films and games were 18 rated. My mum, who bought them for herself, knew me and what I could handle. I understood the difference between fantasy and reality. Everything 'age appropriate' was mostly boring and unstimulating to me. I think everything depends on the people involved - I've not become a violent person supporting war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I'm forever gobsmacked when i see parents buying their children 18 rated games. This is rated the same as pornography! Would they buy their under aged children pornography? Thought not!

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    @21. NeoRealist

    Apparently video games are dangerous and mind altering.

    Whereas telling children about a man who was forced to wear a thorn bush on his head, nailed to a piece of wood which he as then forced to drag through a street, while being verbally abused ... was eventually stabbed to death is totally OK?


    But you still wouldn't let your children watch a video of it, or would you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    One worrying aspect of video games is that unlike a video parents can't really watch it through and then make their own informed decisions about suitability. I have to admit that with my oldest son I took the Laissez-faire approach. Only much later did I ever actually take a serious look at the imagery and symbolism that appear in some of the levels and I was horrified and guilty at my neglect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    All this focus on restricting games by age -- all we need is one rating for 12+.

    How about more focus on the -real- problems in -real life- such as kids drinking alcohol and roaming around in gangs mugging people?

    Seems like it's easier for them to buy alcohol than it is to buy a harmless video game.

  • Comment number 85.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    80 "Many who want and crave these games already have a penchant for violence and callousness."
    Spoken like like a true non gamer!
    I play MW3 online (violent game) I do it for the tactical experiance, planning your attack and stratargy. I dont get of on the "killing" if i did im sure i would have been on some sort of sociopathic rampage by now. I think most people are the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    If a shop sells alcohol to a minor, they are the ones who are charged. If an adult buys alcohol for a minor, they are charged. Why is this not the case for all age restricted products?

    I'd love to hear some of the comments from the parents who are reading this article and have knowingly bought a game that is rated 18 for their child. Would they also buy them a bottle of JD to go with it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Just another "nanny state" control. I guess the gov thinks there is no common sense left in this country. They might have a point as "we are all in this together" and putting up with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    How about a game where "communism" fights "capitalism"

    teach kids and most parents some politics - that should get an X rating.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    For those who say we all know the difference between a fantasy game and real life are both wrong and missing the point.
    Many who want and crave these games already have a penchant for violence and callousness and the games just satisfy this craving and serve to desensitise them further to blood/guts and suffering.
    Just the sort of people who shouldn't have them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    2 Minutes ago
    What a waste of time. So many times I have seen sales assistants refusing to sell kids games only for them to return 5 mins later with their parents.//

    If the requirement is for parental consent, doesn't that mean the system is working as it should, then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    The Government should really be pushing some kind of parents parenting programme.

    This would fix a lot of this countries issues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Age restrictions are pointless if parents don't know how to say no to their children.

    The amount of under 18 year olds playing the Call Of Duty franchise more than proves its not the stores its the parents.

    With that being said there is still no evidence to proove violent games lead to violent behaviour, its just very easy to blame rather than tackle any real problems in society,

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    64 RonC - Maybe, if they are responsible parents, they have raised their child to recognise the difference between fantasy & reality? Kids aren't as stupid as most people like to believe.
    Funnily enough, most paintball sites have minimum age restrictions of 12 and laser tag tends to be 8. So you can go out and actually shoot your friend at 12, but are supposed to wait 'til 18 to do it virtually?

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    What a waste of time. So many times I have seen sales assistants refusing to sell kids games only for them to return 5 mins later with their parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Whilst it is good that the ratings are now enforced by law, it is odd to split from the BBFC ratings. Having a uniform system for film, TV and games avoids confusion. BBFC logos are more prominent and everyone is familiar with them.

    What needs to happen is for parents to pay attention, otherwise they will continue to buy titles such as the BBFC 18 rated Call of Duty: Black Ops for their children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Ban children!! Or at least put them to use cleaning chimneys....leave poor wee innocent video games alone!!


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