UK gov't publishes Byron Review

Ratings bodies jump in to praise the report, which calls for a unified UK game-rating system and legal sanctions against selling games to underage kids.

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Today, the results of a six-month-long government-commissioned review into the effects of video games and the Internet on children have been published.

The 224-page report, written by child psychologist and star of the TV show The House of Tiny Tearaways Dr Tanya Byron, is now available in full online.

The good doctor's main recommendations that will affect the gaming industry centre on educating parents, making the rating system clearer, and improving practice among retailers.

The report calls for a high-profile campaign by the industry to educate parents how to better understand the age ratings on video games and how to use family-friendly settings on consoles. She also recommends that the two rating systems currently used in the UK--the British Board of Film Classification and the Pan European Game Information system--be combined, so that the BBFC age ratings would be placed on the front of games intended for older gamers and expanded to include the 12 certificate, while PEGI ratings would be reserved for games targeted at younger children, using the existing 3+ and 7+ ratings.

Byron also wants console manufacturers to "work together to raise standards in parental controls on consoles." Byron also calls on retailers to make more "focused efforts" to make sure games aren't sold to minors and to provide better in-store information. In terms of online gaming, Byron wants the BBFC and PEGI to work together toward a single set of standards for managing the risks of online gaming.

Based on her research, Byron concludes that "the arousal brought on during some game play may have the same impact on children as high levels as stress," although "there is no clear evidence of desensitization [to violence] in children."

Ed Balls, secretary of state for children, schools, and families, welcomed the report, saying the "recommendations show a convincing analysis of how we can properly manage risk in a fast paced, fast changing new media environment." In a statement issued by his department, the government promised to "act immediately on taking forward her proposals."

Toward the end of her report, Byron also stated that she supported the ability of the BBFC to ban games when it saw fit--the rating body has banned only two games in the UK, and both bans were overturned on appeal. She clarifies, "At this moment in time, when parental awareness of the risks and use of the classification system needs improving, and given the lack of effective control of such games in many households, it is important to maintain the ability of the state to intervene in this way and promote the debate. This may be something that gets reviewed when we feel more confident about how parents are using the classification system."

This view chimes with the BBFC's reasons for banning Manhunt 2, when it stated one of the driving forces behind its decision to deny the title a rating was the "unjustifiable harm risks" to children, even with an 18 rating.

Andy Burnham, secretary of state for culture, media, and sport, commented, "As Dr Byron points out, parents of my generation, who grew up in a purely analogue world, face real challenges in understanding the new media world. ... I am committed to working with the Internet and games industries to build on existing safeguards. Specifically, we will consult on a more coherent classification system for video games."

Paul Jackson, director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, says that his organisation "welcomes" the findings of the Byron Review. He said in a statement, "We fully support Dr Byron's advice to parents on the use of technology in the home and parental awareness of their children's activities, including the need for wider awareness of age ratings on video games."

ELSPA also agreed with the suggestion in the report that there should be one legally enforceable system for the classification of games and the use of parental controls on all consoles.

It warned about the difficulties that will be posed with online games, however. Jackson said, "We are concerned that the proposals as they stand may struggle to keep up with the public's increasing desire to buy and play online."

Shortly after, the BBFC reported its response, which was also positive. BBFC director David Cooke said, "I warmly welcome Dr Byron's report. She has listened carefully to all the arguments and exercised her independent and expert judgement."

He said that it was clear from the findings of the report that video-game ratings were less well understood than those for films in cinemas and on DVDs.

He concluded, "The BBFC has been able to handle a major expansion of the DVD market over the last few years, and we are ready and able to take on the extra work envisaged by Dr Byron."

Discussion

71 comments
bgriffithsps3
bgriffithsps3

I used to work in a shop that sold games. Tried telling a mum that GTA San Andreas let you beat up hookers, kill police with an (instrument that gamespot automatically censor, think bilbo) etc. "yes that's the one" she said while her 8-10 year old son was tugging on her jacket. "going on a break I called over to my boss." no way was I getting involved in that future mess Hope this new system works. People get fined for buying underagers booze, should the same come into games? Be a bit harsh I think if the were say...15. But little kids? A line needs to be drawn

Tylendal
Tylendal

From what they've said at least in the Gamespot article, this doesn't seem that bad. It's mostly about parental ignorance in terms of ratings.

Smersh71
Smersh71

A parent's responsibility is to bring their children up right. To know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. If a parent gets badgered into buying their 8 year old an 18 cert game they should grow a bleedin back bone and actually tell their kid "NO". As someone who is due to be a parent for the first time this year, there is no way my kid's gonna grow up with a console in his room so i can't see what he's playing. Parents need to take charge for a change. The retarded parents of all these knife wielding hoodies all need sterilization! Computer games movies etc don't turn normal kids into knife wielding nuttas. It's the parents lack of a moral compass that doesn't chastise them when they do something wrong that makes kids think all things are ok to do. A serious hangover from the sixties "do what makes you feel good" syndrome.

TehUndeadHorror
TehUndeadHorror

"unjustifiable harm risks" to children, even with an 18 rating. I don't think an 19 year old would be considered a child...

Proust
Proust

blah, blah, blah ... supports banning games ... blah, blah, blah. Government has no bussiness censoring or banning anything - period. They, including Lord Byron, are even less intellegent than the stand off parents they are trying to instruct.

Irve
Irve

all you peeps saying waste of time and waste of money .. and yet on the otherhand your agreeing that parent's don't understand the content of games and/or don't care. ath the end of the day the more proactive the gov and industry are the less rubbish filters into the media over killer porno games being made for 5 yr olds .. that is something that pizzes me off ! ~sigh~ now .. could we please have more stories about the 3-way lezbo scene in mass effect 2 !

Irve
Irve

I look forward to the advertising campaign that promotes age ratings on games and parental controls. Personally if i were Microsoft or Nintendo i'd advertise the 360 / Wii as having parental controls so all the family can enjoy games made for them !

polkastripe-
polkastripe-

well im 15 and i dont try to get 18 rated games because i try to respect the law so i dont caREE

gandalf_storm
gandalf_storm

said it before and i`ll say it again, waste of time, wont make any difference, as for making it illegal to sell games to underage kids, it is ffs, always has been. Parents dont care and want an easy life, they give in to "john at school play it" - they pester them over and over again, then they give in. How many times have i heard the classic "It`s only a game, it doesnt matter"

Aecas
Aecas

Because you know, slapping a big 18 certificate in plain sight on Gears of War or Bioshock really doesn't get the message across -_-

Zikar
Zikar

The report, and the government do not appear to be calling for bans or censorship. I really don't care what rating system we have as long as I can get a hold of my games in a legal and unaltered fashion.

HolteEnder4Life
HolteEnder4Life

If they clamp down on idiotic parents buying their 6 year old kids games like GTA, then games probably wont get tempereraly banned in the UK anymore.

Tacticus1
Tacticus1

I'm 17 and i have to say i respect my parents for not being so god damned lazy and stupid as is suggested in this report. I'm a sensible mature guy and have always been a 'good kid' but my parents stopped me playing GTA:San An until i had fully explained the gore and directed them towards a review. I feel sorry for the people in shops that have to watch as parents don't even inquire into the game they are buying their 10,11,12 year old. With all age classifications it is simply what sections of society deem inappropriate at any one time. I'm sure many if not all the people here saw a 15 film before they were that age? Lazy parenting is the problem, its a shame people inept at raising children still have the capabilities to have them...you would of thought the gene pool was diluted enough with idiotic recesses of the world.

EnigmaticBeauty
EnigmaticBeauty

independent...yet commissioned by the government .... on a government who is opposed against videogames... hmmm the mind wonders... "The report calls for a high-profile campaign by the industry to educate parents how to better understand the age ratings on video games and how to use family-friendly settings on consoles." That is assuming that parents want to learn and let's face it... parents do not really give a damn.

x-2tha-z
x-2tha-z

I really don't care about any of this. Anything that makes money will survive. Plain and simple. Videogames make too much money for any kind of mass banning or restriction of sales.

Calverz
Calverz

Thank god Im 21 now and I can watch or play what i want whenever i want.

Nomad0404
Nomad0404

This is all pure common sense and nothing more than I have said should happen in several previous posts. Khariss - You're 21 the BBFC certification system won't affect you until you're a parent and have kids wanting to play GTAXII at the age of 8. Did I mention I walked into HMV the other day and one of the staff members was recommending an 18cert game to a parent for their child to play, this lad must have been no more than 10. My best friend Irve almost had to drag me out of the store.

khariss
khariss

man i played mortal kombat when i was 7 and im a peaceful kinda guy. the only people who want to take violence into the real world are what i like to call crazy people. and im not crazy so as a 21 year old i would just like to say to the bbfc let me play my games in peace please

dewd4
dewd4

I think its great that we wont get as much 'video games are destroying the minds of our children due to their high violence' Have they seen saw? Oh and if they decide to ban gta4 then yes...there will be blood.

toxicmog
toxicmog

woo hoo! This makes me happy ^^

pmay007
pmay007

parents see gaming as a kids pursuit that is why grand theft auto sells so well. im not dissing that game but that is an eighteen certificate game and yet most players are under that age. a large chunk of fifthteen certificate games that are even selling to twelve year old's. Kids just pester parents. it's always gonna happen. The nanny state that is the UK government should not try to just slap an age rating on a game and expect the kid not to get hold of it. If console manufacturers make excellent parental controls, like both the wii and Xbox 360, that might cut it down a bit, but if parents start to use it they should make sure that the kids can't crack it or that they should change it often. Kids ain't dumb like some people think they will get hold of these games how ever they can. you have just got to sort the parents out.

Zerosumgame
Zerosumgame

Children are victums and parents should take responsiblity to chose what is right for them. However it is tough to curb the curiosity sometimes as mindless children venture into the vastly unregulated and unpatrolled cyberspace, and it is how this website came to existance. If you have to stop them from coming, this place will be a ghost town.

ShaneJoshua
ShaneJoshua

I have no issues with this whatsoever. Its the parents ignorance that has led to this, if im an adult and I want to play Manhunt I should be aloud to but if im 12 years old I should not. Im happy as long as people stop blaming video games for the worlds ills because I'll say it again just because I can steal a car or shoot someone on GTA it does not mean i'll do it in real life as I know the difference between game and real life. Anyone who actually did do it is obviously a twisted individual and even if they didnt play games they would proberbly do somehting as warped.

clyde46
clyde46

Its the parents that need to change not the ratings. They have been on videos and DVDs for years.

JustMeJustJoe
JustMeJustJoe

I Have to generally agree with most of her comments. The BBFC should have greater input into games ratings, and there should clearer guidelines on selling inappropriate games to those underage and enforcement against those that do. Just as important is educating parents, although to be fair for every parent that would welcome the information there'll be another parent that couldn't give a crap about it. As for improving parental controls on games systems, while it could be a good idea in general, I doubt it'll be used much. It'll mean that parents are actually going to have to learn how to use the system. I know a number of parents who don't even know how to turn on a 360, and again there will be those that again just will not care. As for imposing controls on the net... good luck. If the United States can't make it work, the UK certainly won't.

TWOC2689
TWOC2689

A Complete waste of time which any mature gamer would know and take into effect but older generations will never get to grips with.

markop2003
markop2003

All sounds good except that web filter, they might pass leaglaslation in the future saying it has to be installed to all new pcs or integrated into windows. I wouldn't be supprised if they tried that. It's not exactly like we needed a report just to say parents shoould read the box, can't they tell what a number means??? It's not like the T , M and E system, it's a clear number, there's already descriptors on the back of the box with both BBFC and PEGI. I'm sure she asked only young children about how they feel about games and are going to stick anyone under 18 in the child bracket eventough she did no reasearch on them.

Hyper_Hedgehog
Hyper_Hedgehog

This is stupid. It won't stop kids from getting these games.

aramitz
aramitz

"This may be something that gets reviewed when we feel more confident about how parents are using the classification system". You would have thought in the 6 months researching this subject, that Byron would work out that the problem isn't the system that's in the place - It's the total ineptitude of modern parents. Considering that she even had a TV show based on the very notion that todays idiot parents can't even work out how to feed or read a story to their children without her personal instruction. I'd have thought the conclusion to this report would have been obvious to her! E.g. Stop idiots having children.

microwavedapple
microwavedapple

OMGitsZAL, I'm under eighteen, but I have my own credit card to purhcase games that I might not get served in shop with. I already have 2 18 rated games pre-ordered and there are some more on the way. Fortunately, my parents know that I'm responsible enough to not get "brainwashed" by violent videogames. I believe it's up to the parents if a kid wants a mature game, not the retailer.

Gunners269
Gunners269

Yeah, R-Force is right, none of this is going on in America (as far as I know at least) and it has things like "M" and "T" and all that, which don't really SAY the age, you just have to know... But over here, if a game says "18" "16" "15" or whatever, I think it's fairly obvious to the parents what age it means...

OMGitsZAL
OMGitsZAL

You know people can pre-order online with their dad's credit card and lie about their age? What if they take that into account and start taking action about it... It's the easiest way to get a game without being pestered for ID.

stejmatty
stejmatty

I think its absolutly stupid, how we have to undergo some sort of review on how games and internet affects the minds of children, when its our choice to follow upon weather we believe if its just a game or not. I see American Children aged 8-13 playing gears of war which has been rated an 18, but they act as though they are much more older than they sound. swearing and giving curses here and there. If it should be done, do it in America, im begining to get sick of kids thinking their it because they play games rated alot older than they are.

R-Force
R-Force

This is absolute bulls***! I'm sorry, but to say that BBFC ratings for video games are difficult to understand is just complete nonsense. :x If a game says "12" then that's who it should be played by. If it says "18" then firstly NO minors will be able to buy (or even return) such as game at retail, and only 18 year olds should play it. But unfortunately, just like music with explicit lyric or 18 rated films, kids may see/play them some how. That’s life. So why in god's name is she even suggesting the BBFC and PEGI need unifying. They’re both as clear as crystal. Parental Controls!? It says it in console manual, and in every flipping game manual for every console and handheld game! These systems are already in place. I know I've been quite vocal about this but I seriously think that 90% of these "changes" are a load of c***. The only reason they did this was to investigate violence in games and the affect it may have on kids. So why does this then give the Government free reign to take "forward her proposals" and change our beloved industry, just because a couple foolish parents can't be bothered to read up on "parental controls" or look at age ratings properly. The whole thing stinks. :evil:

Gribb85
Gribb85

Finally games are being dealt with in the same way as the much more establised industrys of music, film and television. If nothing else this review signifys a shift in the way games are viewed in this country.

Foffity
Foffity

There's a quick way of dealing with kids trying to buy age-rated products in our store. Ask for their date of birth, if they hesitate, theyre obviously lying. If not, you can always check their ID anyway. Date of Birth puts a lot of them off though.

covhunter
covhunter

The BBFC already rate games, infact if they refuse to rate a game it can't be sold in this country (refer to the Manhunt 2 case) so she has happily wasted tax payer's money to recommend laws that must obviously be in place in some form of another.

partyboyuk
partyboyuk

HamsterOfFury We always check at work. We regularly turn down underage children for game purchases when they either try to push their luck or don't realise (as if the certificate on the front of GTA for example doesn't mean anything...) The problem is, often parents come in, purchase the game in good faith and then HAND THE GAME STRAIGHT TO THEIR TEN YEAR OLD CHILD in the shop. There's some absolutely apalling parenting going around these days believe me. We have to go through VRA training to teach us not to sell underage, have to go through it a few times a year in fact AND get fined, imprisoned and sacked if we get caught selling underage. However parents on the other hand can be as disgustingly uncaring as they want and it's seemingly ok. The parents need educating, we, the staff, DO NOT. We are educated on the dangers already. I agree I to work in a game shop and 90 percent of the customers will buy the game for their kid even after we have explained what is in the game then try to return it when the have seen it played then complain when there kids go off the rails. Why don't we teach parents how to parent? we can call it the "common sense review"

microwavedapple
microwavedapple

Clearer game ratings aren't needed. It isn't hard for someone to read a number on a box. But I agree, some retailers are selling unsuitable games to minors. I'm a few years away from my 18th, and I've managed to walk into a shop and buy 18 certificate games multiple times. But it's the parents who should be educated, and no-one else.

deepdreamer256
deepdreamer256

These suggestions are refreshingly weak. A stark contrast to the crap in the newspapers.

deepdreamer256
deepdreamer256

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

"there is no clear evidence of desensitization [to violence] in children." ~~~~ I call BS on that one. Games, movies, entertainment in general have a noticeable impact on our behavior both positive and negative. The military, medical and many other institutions know this for fact as well. See something enough and it doesn't have the same impact it once might have regardless of if it's funny, gross or horrific.

HamsterOfFury
HamsterOfFury

We always check at work. We regularly turn down underage children for game purchases when they either try to push their luck or don't realise (as if the certificate on the front of GTA for example doesn't mean anything...) The problem is, often parents come in, purchase the game in good faith and then HAND THE GAME STRAIGHT TO THEIR TEN YEAR OLD CHILD in the shop. There's some absolutely apalling parenting going around these days believe me. We have to go through VRA training to teach us not to sell underage, have to go through it a few times a year in fact AND get fined, imprisoned and sacked if we get caught selling underage. However parents on the other hand can be as disgustingly uncaring as they want and it's seemingly ok. The parents need educating, we, the staff, DO NOT. We are educated on the dangers already. The best/worst I've seen is a parent purchasing 50 Cent (an 18 certificate) for an excited 6 year old. I was aghast but when our sales assistant questioned it she said it was for her, then handed it over to the kid on the way out as if to prove a point to us.

thee_Decider
thee_Decider

"there is no clear evidence of desensitization [to violence] in children." Why don't I think this will shut up game critics? Because they are so convinced of their own rightness that mere scientific evidence can't get in their way...

Agermemnon
Agermemnon

More blah blah blah . Like since the introduction of film media in the homes kids have always watched films that were cough cough not suitable big deal just deal with the real issues of why kids don't give a flying f*** anymore please and stop trying to pass the buck .

oliver_475
oliver_475

I agree with this person and all - but shouldn't the parents already know about the ratings.... it doesn't take a genius to read a number and immediately decide wether it's suitable or not.... Anyway, i hope this stops soccermoms and bored lawyers from bashing the industry again, but then again, nothing has.

DarkKaosKnight
DarkKaosKnight

Just do what the Swedes did when it came to prostitution, outlaw the buying of the product and go after those who do. Game stores are only one very small piece of this. PARENTS are the main thing, don't want your kid playing Manhunt 2? DON'T BUY IT! Wow that was so hard. If parents today had a more hands on role in their children's lives then we wouldn't have so many problems.