Age ratings for games become law in UK

UK switches to PEGI ratings system; retailers selling adult games to underage customers subject to prosecution.

Video game ratings have become legally enforceable for the first time in the UK as the country switches to the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) ratings system. The parallel British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) system has been dropped in the same move, as was planned in 2009's Digital Britain Report, following the 2008 Byron Review on child safety.

Games will now be age-rated by a single body for simplicity, with retailers subject to prosecution for flouting PEGI's 12, 16, and 18 ratings. Previously, the dual classification system was formally voluntary and, according to the Byron Review, "often made things confusing for the consumer".

Under the simplified system, the Video Standards Council will award ratings for games using PEGI's criteria for violence and sexual content. Game packaging will also feature the PEGI emblems for drugs, bad language, and the like.

The UK's Trading Standards Institute will oversee the changeover and compliance of game sellers who, if found guilty of selling games to underage customers, may face fines and prison sentences of up to six years.

Dr Jo Twist, chief executive of the United Kingdom Interactive Entertainment Association (UKIE) says the new system is "more relevant to games" than the BBFC equivalent and carries more weight, calling it "strict in the same regard as [rules on] alcohol or cigarettes".

Dr Richard Wilson, chief executive of games industry trade body TIGA, says that though PEGI ratings will let consumers make informed decisions, "the purchaser must ultimately take responsibility for ensuring that the game which he/she has bought is age-appropriate".

Wilson also notes online stores and digital downloads remain exempt from age rating enforcement. "As both of these methods typically require a credit or debit card, parents can ensure their children play age appropriate games".

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Discussion

7 comments
Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

I worked in game retail for over six years, until Game closed our Gamestation. But in all that time the PEGI and BBFC were always treated as law anyway. We could lose our job, be fined £5000, get a criminal record and even do prison time. So for any (responsible) retailer, nothings really changed. (All this was by an external group that would randomly test stores. The same that test shops for selling booze.)

 

Of course the parents would still buy their child an 18 game and think it was all stupid, but if you explained the content of the game to the parent 7/10 times they changes their mind but 9/10 at least they stopped to think about it. The other 1/10 it was some ass that said their son has seen worse stuff than GTA, Manhunt or Doom in his own home...okay o0...

 

In the end it's the parents responsibility, they should be the ones that insure their kids aren't playing age rated games. But when the parent isn't around, then the retailer has to pick up the slack, and not allow the kid to buy a game above their age.

 

As for banning/rating games. PEGI is more fair. The rules and people behind it were thought of with games in mind. BBFC is for films (British Board of Film Classification), they often banned games or gave poor ratings simply because they don't understand the difference between the medium. And you do interact differently with a game than a film.

 

cheater87
cheater87

Hope the VSC doesn't ban too many games.

maniaxe613
maniaxe613

This is ridiculous.  I can understand why a cashier would get in trouble for selling a 16 or 18 game without ID or a parental guardian.  But a 12 game?  That has gone too far.  So now what?  12-year-olds are going to be required to have ID to buy 12 games?  Those games aren't even as harsh as the 16 games.  Also, how about if instead of the government getting involved, the parents and stores make their own rules without restricting 12 games to minors.

TrueGB
TrueGB

Just the other day I was in the express lane at my grocery store when some guy walks in with a full cart of goods. The cashier turned him away because he had way too many items. He should have noticed the 3 large signs clearly stating this was the express lane with an 8 item limit. Does he apologize and move to the next free cashier 5 ft. away? No, he'd rather complain about how the store did a poor job making it clear this was the express lane. He was inconvenienced, so it's THEIR fault, not his.

This is why rating systems are a waste of time and money. There will always be some mom or dad who can't be bothered to actually seek out the symbols and learn what they mean and then point fingers when they realize their mistake.

Mijati
Mijati

Good to see, hopefully this means the press can stop using Games as a scapegoat for kids doing stupid stuff. The ratings are there for a reason and if they're ignored then the games shouldn't be the ones taking the brunt of the complaints. That belongs to the parents who let their kids play things they shouldn't be.

Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

 @maniaxe613 It's no different than it was with the BBFC ratings; you could still be held accountable with those too.

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

 Mijati. Completely agree, it's not the games fault as it's not aimed for a kid to play. It's up to the parent to teach the child the difference between reality and fantasy, and right and wrong.

 

I've played violent games since a kid, but my parents taught me this, and knew how much I could understand. I've never gone around shooting someone or something. And to be honest, if a kid is taking things like games and doing it in reality, then theirs something wrong with the kid to start.

 

Also you can't really blame media in general because people have always been doing horrible things since the dawn of time. But the media likes to just blame games to cause an uproar.