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 352.

    "The degree of denial here is staggering!"

    No it isn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    You stagger me!
    As a past chair of the local SNT (look it up) I was/am more than privy to what is - not what biased, armchair pontificators would like to be so.
    Crime down? Maybe in Virginal Water or Bramshott.
    Check the figures for type and location i.e. deal with reality. Check Met figures for deprived areas and then make such comments. No converting the deniers, so last post from me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    347 age rating have been on games for a few years, the problem is they are not enforced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    As some have said, it's not necessarily the violence in games but how the games use it.

    Team Fortress 2 for example, is quite violent gore-wise at times, but the humour and irony often overshadow that - or poke fun at it; if you've just been dismembered the freeze-frame shot of your killer will sometimes point out your body parts lying around ("A bit of you!" "Another bit!" "Your pancreas!").

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    "I'll be honest, after a long GTA session the real world can take on a strange reality."

    Dwarf Fortress is even worse. You start believing you're a qualified geologist, civil engineer, economist, horticulturalist and military general all rolled into one. I doubt anyone who's played Nethack then tries to get their real pet to attack and/or steal from shopkeepers...

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    Sticking a rating on a video game will make kids want it even more. Sounds like a marketing ploy to me, congratulations! Next thing is to make a 21 rating, boy will that sell!

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    @335 lelboy
    I think you will find all the statistics wrt violent crime show it falling year-on-year since ~1990. If you live in East London this may not seem to be the case but anecdotal evidence from where you live does not reflect the rest of the world/country. There is absolutely no correlation between an increase in gaming and an increase in violent crime, but don't let that stop your opinion

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    @335 Actually recent reports have shown that even in the middle of a recession, that violent crime is down significantly. Taking the argument to the extremes, in earlier generations we had terrible wars which killed millions. These days the connectivity of people playing together around the world is breaking down imaginary borders. The nationality of your teammates is entirely insignificant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    The fact that you're trivialising the whole issue with your childish - in fact, plain silly - comments clearly show how much reality exists in your daily life. Oh, you were being facetious? I'd never have guessed, what with the substance of your earlier comments. Sensibly addressing an obvious problem - affecting some - is clearly beyond your take on reality and it's rather sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    A 16 year old is old enough to join the army and eligible to pay full UK tax, but does not have the freedom to play CoD or other military shooters. There is clearly something wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Those pointing out violence in the Bible, Qur'an, and Torah have hit the nail on the head.

    If we want to fix society's problems by restricting childrens' access to violent media, we should start with those media that suffer from the extra problem of parents actively telling their children that the content is true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    So playing a game which involves war and killing one another shouldn't be allowed for under 18s to play? A 5 yr old could turn the channel & watch the news and see graphic images on there daily (not saying a 5 yr old should play 18 rated game). Alot of teens are mature enough to know that it is all fiction. It's up to parents to think whether its right for their kid. But also not be overly harsh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    @217 The Anti-Europeans are missing the point. The BBFC rating system was only ever used in a small number of cases which came under their terms of reference (the vast majority did not).
    PEGI is a system designed by industry - not the EU - to rate games once and have it apply across Europe - cheaper and easier for consumers.
    Govt is now enforcing these ratings. As a 35yo gamer, I support this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Having been in game retail for the last ten years or so this is a anti climax,2 years several Million and nothing has changed what was there before its just had the rubber Legal stamp on it
    Of course this wont stop 9 year old playing GTA / CoD which mom/dad bought for them
    Its good to see the BBFC and its low ratings get kicked its about time that institution of low standards was put in its place

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    I have tried to highlight a possible(or even probable) link between some impressionable (or young) gamers exposure to gore/violence and its desensitising effects to no avail and have had my comments described as 'Obtuse' (Some may use 'Thick' instead) By Rosetta and simplistically misrepresented by others.
    Give up,I am. Bless 'em

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    'It does, however, influence the susceptible.'
    How many people played "Manic Miner" in the 80's, did we have an boost in the mining industry? "Zelda", did we have sn overabundance of fairy hunters? or even "Lemmings" how many people tried to jump off building with umbrella’s?

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    299. Black_And_Proud

    Actually in every CoD game I can think of there is a huge element of self sacrifice from the main characters, to either defeat the Nazis, save the free world from nuclear holocaust or chemical weapon attack.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    The degree of denial here is staggering!
    Unlike some, I DO live in the real world. The degree of violent & car crime has increased generation upon generation: if you can't see this, then you are truly naive. None of my posts cite games as being the only cause of this - nor have I said it makes everyone behave this way. It does, however, influence the susceptible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    I think anywhere you look these days people are trying to find a reason why the youth of today are growing up without a care for the law. It's simple you cannot so much as shout at your child these days without breaking some outrageous law. Yes there has to be a limit but when you cannot tell off a child anymore then I would suggest that is where the problem starts not video games!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    That is only if you don't see alcohol as a far more detrimental part of society than a game.
    What I wrote still holds water, cheers.

    Let me quote an 18 rated game, to be exact, MW2.

    18 - Contains strong, bloody violence.
    Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over.
    NOT to be supplied to any person below that age.

    Thats pretty clear to me.


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