Video game age ratings no longer enforceable

In the recent Digital Britain report, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announced that the UK would fully adopt the PEGI rating system for video games, making it legally enforceable on the three highest ratings--12+, 16+, and 18+. Currently only ratings by the British Board of Film Classification...

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In the recent Digital Britain report, Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announced that the UK would fully adopt the PEGI rating system for video games, making it legally enforceable on the three highest ratings--12+, 16+, and 18+. Currently only ratings by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) are legally enforceable, thanks to the Video Recordings Act (VRA) of 1984, under which retailers can be punished with a fine of up to £5,000 or up to six months in prison.

However, it now appears that the Video Recordings Act is no longer legally enforceable, thanks to a legal blunder by the UK government 25 years ago. The BBC is reporting that the then-government failed to notify the European commission about the Act, meaning dozens of current prosecutions have had to be dropped.

The error means that it is impossible to prosecute offenders until the law is passed again, which can take up to three months. Culture, Media and Sport Minister Barbara Follett has written to industry bodies, informing them that "unfortunately, the discovery of this omission means that, a quarter of a century later, the VRA is no longer enforceable against individuals in United Kingdom courts." A Government spokesperson has said that retailers have voluntarily agreed to keep to the rules, while previous prosecutions will still stand.

The mistake was discovered during work on the UK government's Digital Britain project, which aims to boost broadband use and promote new media such as video games in the UK. As well as moving towards adoption of the PEGI system, the government has also formed an all parliamentary group for the computer and video games industry to champion game development in the UK.

Discussion

108 comments
Stabby
Stabby

@ OXM-Madman That's kind of using ignorance is bliss thinking? You think it's a BAD thing we didn't realize this and fix it?

OXM-Madman
OXM-Madman

@Stabby Actually, it's not that much of a stretch at all: Our MODERN DAY government decided to switch to PEGI, and if they didn't we never would've realised our blunder. So it IS Gordon Brown's fail. xD

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

@ Brainkiller05 You can get a provisional driving license when you're 16. Also you can get a passport at any age, and you can get a citizens card at any age. So there are three ways in which to do it. Also the 15 rating is with the BBFC, it's 12+ and 16+ with PEGI. So 15 will be going away. You will be ID'ed if you look not old enough, simple fact. It's the same for smokes, booze, porn, DVD's, games, clubs... at some point you WILL get ID'ed. So people really should get ID, they aren't special, they're not being singled out because they're not liked, it's to maintain and enforce the criminal law and moral standing. And whilst the criminal law is down for now, it's only a temp' thing, so none of that is going to change. How many people do you think come in and ask for a game they're not old enough for? Plenty, so we retailers have to be carful. And we get blind checked, where we WOULD get in big trouble (see my previous post). The game ain't going any where, get your parents to come grab it, if they'll let you. Or save your self future trouble and get one of those ID's. As far as I remember the citizens card is the cheaper option. @kavadias1981 Lol yeah, wish I stikll got ID'ed I think it's a compliment XD.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

I'm 28 but I wish I would get asked for ID for once. It would make feel great to know I still looked that young lol.

Depresso
Depresso

It's the British Government, it's their job to be politically correct and mess things up. Ratings are important but alone is not enough. I wouldn't want a 10 years old boy play Manhunt, for example, stabbing people and all that.However education should always start at home ! Pity some are not so lucky.

Brainkiller05
Brainkiller05

So true Flipy, my friend who is 17 got asked for ID when he tried to by a 15 dvd, it's ridiculous... what's the point in having 15 when you're only going to be able to prove your older than 15 when you're 18 with a drivers license or w.e

Flipyap28
Flipyap28

Just get rid of that horrible 15 rating, that annoying rating which when you are 16/17 they ask ID for, why would I have ID...grrr

ChromeDrifter
ChromeDrifter

Killzoik, you have a point there, mate. It's like the old 'mail order' days - you can't prove anything without face-to-face contact. Unless (now here's just a thought) there's some kind of way to tie in game/DVD purchases with internet parental control. But, still, I guess there's a way around that, too. I think that it just proves the point that there are always exceptions to the rule - I just hope that it's the general rule that prevails, rather than the exceptions.

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

@Dynamo11 No prob' ^^ @Killzoik True, but you need a card. I'm not sure how it is now, but when I was younger I couldn't get a Debit card (just cashpoint card) until I was 16. It was the same with credit cards, but might have changed. At least with that we know the person is 16, and like you said there's no other way to check. That one comes down to the parents, making sure they know what JR is doing online. That is a whole other debate lol XD. As a side note: The age rating really is more for the retailer. We've been saying that it should go off a persons maturity. Which whilst is true and a good idea (like communism lol) it doesn't work. You see, if JR comes in on his own and wants Resident Evil, the retailer doesn't know them nor how mature they are. They also don't know if there parents feel the kids mature enough. That's why the age rating is there, to provide guidance to the retailer and parents. So parents can get an understand for what's in a game, but also so retailers don't sell a game (to a kid they know nothing about) that their parents might not want them to have. A lot of people, especially young people think the rating system is to punish them. It's just to protect everyone's best interest child, parent and retailer. When you think about it logically (and unbiased) it's a VERY good thing to have around.

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

@Ryouji_kaji Ah sweet, cheers for that!

killzoik
killzoik

there no stopping u buying if u buy on the net anyway, there is no telling the person age. so even if this law was inforce there are still ways around it

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

@Drdoris With the ban it's more a published is not allowed to purchase the rights and sell it in England. That is an American import of Parasite Eve, also second hand (Pre-owned). So that game isn't going through the standard system of a newly published item. It's not illegal for a store to sell an imported item, as long as they have the correct license. Though I'm no expert on all the legal stuff ^^;. You had my hopes up for a sec there lol. I really want Parasite Eve 1, thought I was wrong and some how a PAL version was released. I'll have to get an NTSC one and play it on an emulator T^T. P.S. You can tell the differace between NTSC and PAL by the rating. America uses letters (E=Everyone, M=Mature etc) where we use age ratings. And...DAMN that's expensive o0; I've seen it cheaper on Ebay lol XD.

ChromeDrifter
ChromeDrifter

My only extra suggestion to retailers is to have 18+ on the top shelf, 16+ the next down, etc. That means the little ones will be most likely to see games for them, and so on. Not perfect and you can't legislate for mischievious little so-and-so's swapping the odd game around, but generally it should help. Thanks for the responses, I'm glad to meet like-minded common-sense people here. In the end, as I've just discussed with my other half, I think the games industry is taking the lead on this issue and that any government would do well to write it's legislation on the industry model. As for 25 years ago, the technology to create gore/sex/violence in computer games wasn't around to the extent it is today. In fact, it appears that the industry is being stricter on itself than the government is... (barring the odd exception).

drdoris
drdoris

Thanks for your interest Ryouji_kaji! I did a little research and I was right. In May 1986, Domark released a Friday the 13th game for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. And it was the first rated game, and the first 18 game. And domark had no legal requirment to submit it to the BBFC, in fact the BBFC were suprised to be asked to rate a game, but as domark payed them they had to rate it! @Chromedrifter You are absoloutley correct. The number of times I have been in my local game and parents buy copies of GTAIV or similar for their 10 year old little darling beggars belief. However Ryouji_kaji what do you mean by banned? For instance I take banned to mean that the sale of an item is prohibited. That clearly isn't the case with Parasite Eve 1. Look one can buy it here- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Parasite-Eve/dp/B000038ABO/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1251243824&sr=8-3. So what exaclty does banned mean? thanks chief

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

@ChromeDrifter I love ya' man, you got it down pat. Totally the right way, I wish more parents did the same in my shop. Even when you tell some of them at the counter the contents they don't care ¬_¬. You're also right about parents using it as substitute. I know a lot of people that give their kids a game so they can go out, get drunk and not worry about having to take care of JR. Playing a game together with your kid is a great thing, it helps build on your relationship, and teaches the kids so much. Stuff like interaction skills etc. I know I loved it when my dad played computer games with me, even if he just watched me play them (he always loves games stories but has a hard time playing some of them lol). EDIT: I just thought of something, because this law is void that means they need to instate a new law. Wouldn't that also mean they can change that law, what it entails? Humm makes me a little concered. A customer probably has no worries I imagen just the retailer. They may make IDing more strict, or the penalties even worse. They could make it that someone buying a rated product for a small child is an offence too (like booze). Not that, that bothers me as I wouldn't do any of that either way. However I think I'll really have to keep an eye on how all this pans out.

ChromeDrifter
ChromeDrifter

I think it's good to have a rating system to help parents make the best informed choice they can. I have 2 daughters (7 and 10 years old) and I usually check the rating before purchase. However, rather than just blindly check the rating, I read the blurb on the back and look at the screenshots. I think most retailers are now getting sensitive to this issue - I've seen a few shops check ID for 16+ and 18+ games. Since the 16+ and certainly the 18+ age tags give the games a certain notoriety, I think that game manufacturers are using that in their marketing ploys. They actually market to those age groups - which is a good sign; it seems like the manufacturers are taking a common sense approach to make sure the right game goes to the right age group. After all, the makers of Littlest Pet Shop aren't going to try and sell to the Resident Evil crowd, or vice versa. It doesn't make for a successful sales campaign! Parents do need to take responsibility for what they let their children play on. E.g. - I wouldn't play on F.E.A.R. in front of my kids and I certainly wouldn't let them play it. The problem comes when the parents use games as a substitute for attention and let the kids have whatever they want. I say to parents, get involved! Make sure that the ratings are suitable for your kids and try playing some 2 player stuff with them; your kids will love you for it (if only to totally thrash you at the game).

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

@drdoris Thanks for a that little piece of info about Friday the 13th I never knew that lol XD. Tends to be the way though, things that are rated or band get notariaty and cult interest lol. @jtthegame316 I think some less scruples games retailers will, it'd mean more cash in the till for them. I know that my employer won't allow it. Screw around during this fiasco could cost us big later. Either a parent villainising the company because they sold a game to their kid (Bad publicity at the least, don't know if they could sue personally. Someone did sue McDonalds for making them fat *Shrug*). Or the government may make it anyone selling a game prier to the law being past can be prosecuted. I can't remember what law, but I remember one being passed that even stuff (that could be proved) that happened before the law was instated could be prosecuted under the new law. But like I said I can't remember the details, and they may try something like that to get at people that take advantage of the 'law gap'. @Dynamo11 Don't worry PEGI have come into the new century, dey's got's da' colour lmao. When the system is fully implemented PEGI will have green orange and red labels.

drdoris
drdoris

Interesting stuff Ryouji_kaji. I was under the impression, incorrectly it would seem, that the BBFC could refuse to give a rating to a game. But couldn't actually ban it. Thanks for putting me straight. In fact I can remember when the first game got a certificate. It was a spectrum game possibly friday the 13th, it was some horror film game anyway. And as a gimmick the developers submitted it for a certificate so they have the kudos of selling a game so nasty it had to be rated.

jtthegame316
jtthegame316

game shops are bound to take advantage of this mess up lol

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

Ah :( I liked the colourful BBFC ratings! Ah well I don't care really...

Paul2004
Paul2004

Not very surprising tbh, they always make mistakes and try to pass daft laws (Thank god we Scots have refused some of them). If i was convicted then i would appeal as it wasnt a legal law, would be interesting if someone did :D

Stabby
Stabby

@ OXM-Madman I know people like to blame Gordon Brown for many things, but it's stretching it somewhat if you blame him for something that happened 25 years ago under the Conservatives.

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

Continued... The change from BBFC to PEGI is better in these ways. And like I said PEGI has been going for a long time already in the UK, it's just it's the rule of thumb rating system instead of having differnt ones. It won't make games more restricted, if anything it will free them up a bit. I agree also that a law shouldn't be needed to make a parent do their job. Sadly this isn't even aimed at the parent, it's the retailers like myself. So it's to make sure we're not selling JR something you don't want him to have. Although often parents have a go at us for not selling their 10 year old Manhunt or Resident Evil. And they don't have any reprocutions, except when JR puts a plastic bag over someones head. I admit I am being way overly extreme. I don't think games influence normal people, if they do something like that then there's something wrong in their head already. However as they're young a parent might not know they're capable of being a nutter. So it's best to have a guideline with the rating system. And to get people to listen, sometime a little punishment is needed. If you burn you hand on a stove as a kid, you won't put your hand back on it again. I know I write too much I apologise.

witty-name
witty-name

Deamon-Sadi - Spot on. How incredibly British though eh!? =D Whoop, Ahh see what wev' dun there, we messed tha' little bit up 'aven't we. Guys, have you told the European commission about our new ACT yet? Myhhh, we'll do it later... *Several weeks later* ...you forgot didn't you. Ah satire.

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

You won't be able to walk into Game and buy an 18, as a moral standing alone Game and Gamestation will not sell the games to a minor. Also it won't be long before the law is reinstated. As for PEGI/BBFC, PEGI ratings are a lot more fair and less harsh than BBFC. For example off the top of my head 24 the game BBFC rated it 18 PEGI rated it a 16+. Also games have been banable for a LONNNNNGGG time. The orginal Parasite Eve was, and still is banned. Manhunt was banned for a limited time, and Manhunt 2 was aswell. By the time that one came out it was pretty pore in comparision to the rest of the games out. And those are just a couple, even wayyyyy before PS1 games were banned. All that is different is that PEGI original didn't have the power to ban games. Now they do, but like I said they are game orintated not film. They have a whole differnt perspective on the ratings games should have, and usually are more leaniant. They will only ban something REALLY~ bad. And these days it doesn't make much differnace with the consoles being region free. I'd rather have a UK one, but if it's banned I'll import. Nor do bans tend to last. To be continued...

ClownsAteMaBaby
ClownsAteMaBaby

It was a blunder made by the British government 25 years ago. What has Gordon Brown got to do with it?

gandalf_storm
gandalf_storm

i think the younger people in this thread are missing the point, it doesnt mean the shops are going to sell you 15`s or 18`s, it simply means that a loophole in the current law would stop the shop or assistant from being prosecuted, it wont be long before its sorted anyway, in the meantime shop`s need to use common sense and keep id-ing peeps as normal, at the end of the day most parents dont care, if they wanto mess up little johnny with manhunt and condemed, let them, its on their heads.

Inconnux
Inconnux

I don't need a government law to do my job as a parent. Enough with the nanny state mentality

StarlightHunter
StarlightHunter

I personally think That some games should'nt be rated so high for eg RE5 was an 18 which was laughable, at most it should be a 15. But nothing is stopping kids at ages 12-15 from playing extreemly violent games. I play on Gears etc and find myself paying with children half of my age (I'm 21 btw). Their parents just by them an 18 not even bothering to check what content they are exposing their children to and then people blame violence in society on violent video games when I have just explaned the real reason for it. But this is besides the point.

Deamon-Sadi
Deamon-Sadi

it's funny that you can have a fine up to 5,000 pound and up to six months in prison, they are very strict on this so much so it's unbelievable. But yet when you kill, or do what those monsters done to baby p, you have a little longer in prison, a whole new identity, meaning your depts are cleared, and your given a whole new life, they could even apply for a higher education. and gain a qualification, get a new residence.. to name but a few... it makes you wonder what those wig bearing wanker judges think about when they sentace someone. sorry, it makes me annoyed.

drdoris
drdoris

I just read the original article about PEGI ratings replacing BBFC. That's fair enough, Iam 35 so the ratings system makes no difference to me. BUT I was alarmed to read that under the new laws there will be the potential for games to be banned! Ye gods. What a state of affairs. Mind you in todays global shopping world importing games would hardly be difficult, but the whole idea of banning any art form leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Incidentally did you know that Voltaire's Candide was prohibited from entering America in 1929! As Oscar Wilde said "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." And I believe that applies to games too.

steven141
steven141

I prefer the BBCF. Wow, what a hilarious blunder by the government of that time. Haha, none of the ratings would affect me anyway but still hilarious

gormo4
gormo4

woot, I wonder I'll go into GAME and buy all the 18's I ever wanted ^_^ could they prosocute them after the law has been passed again?

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

I agree with SparkeyMark86, BBFC is more effective.

biledemon156
biledemon156

@ kekejefferis Actually it was Thatcher who was in power when it was enforced, although her government was just as useless lol

juberline
juberline

hmm... tricky subject to comment on. I mean I’ve never bothered with age ratings (I got manhunt for my 16th birthday, off my mum!). But I’ve been brought up with deciding things for myself and I know what’s best for me for age rated stuff. and yes I can understand the parents wanting there kids to never hear of gears of war or gta ever existing, but no matter how hard they try the kids are going to play them somehow. I believe there is a good sensible answer to this. lets face it, parents aren't massive game fans and they don’t have time to be but if they were to rent the games and play it for themselves first then maybe they can judge if certain age restricted games are really that bad for there children. In opinion some games like left for dead should be a 15+ and not an 18+ but thats my opinion.

SparkeyMark86
SparkeyMark86

I do think that BBFC is far better then PEGI. I Iive in Ireland and some my games are PEGI rated like Killzone 2 & Resistance 2 but most are BBFC. Theres now a new PEGI system just in now and I hope this makes the parents understand because I m getting very piss off of 9 or 10 year olds getting there hands on 15-18 rated games.

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

Continued... If my child went out and brought one, I'd be pissed at the retailer for letting them have it. So it is retailer responsibility to still not let children purchase these age rated games. However parents also need to take MUCH more responsibility for their children. So many come in a buy games for their kids, which they blatantly just don't care. Most even saying, oh if I don't buy it he'll play it at a friends. And they're okay with that? It's either ignorance or ignorance through proxy. Either way, all parents (including the 'friends' parents) need to be more educated in game ratings. However it needs to be done in a way that doesn't villainies games. They need to understand, just like movies, games are not all for kids. Games are pretty much our generations version of the movies, so they cater to many different people. At any rate, as well as parents needing educating I pray this law gets re-instated soon. Also the differnace with the PEGI system, they are run by people specificly aimed at games. They aren't nailed down by the same restrictions on the BBFC's film clasifications. So hopefully they have a better understanding of games. The PEGI system has been running for a while, and they're usually a lot more fair that BBFC.

Ryouji_kaji
Ryouji_kaji

I've worked in game shops for the past five years, and still do. Retailers do enforce the rating system as much as they can. There are few people that don't follow the rules and if they 'did' get in a lot of trouble because of it. Criminal record, lose your job, big-ass fine, etc. It's a ball ache that this has happened. Many times you get kids coming in starting a ruckus because you can't sell them a game. You tell them it's the law, they have deal with it. Now this has happened we're going to get a lot of kids coming in spouting crap saying 'it's okay, it's not against the law'. Which is true for the moment until they reissue the law. However it is also the moral standing, these games are rated for a reason. I know I wouldn't want my kids playing GTA or anything like that if 'I' didn't feel they should. Some kids understand their surroundings and have a better moral standing. However some don't mature as fast, so find it hard to grab the difference between reality and fantasy. If I feel my child is capable of playing some games safely, I'll let him. However they would still have to be checked by me. To be continued..

taylormars5
taylormars5

Is the pegi ratings going to be any different really? Can't the kids just get their parents or their older brother/sister to get it for them?

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

By the way natr75 I wasn't spouting tabloid garbage because I wasn't reading one. Nyah! It was on a documentary donkeys years ago. More importantly is that while many of us reading this and typing comments may be mature enough to know a certain degree of what's right and wrong. It doesn't mean that everyone is. You have others that would fantasize and glorify violent games to the extent as to mimic its actions with greater consequence. Responsibility should not only be allocated to the parents and game developers. The burden of responsibility should also be on the retailers that sells it to the end user.

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

No difference to over 18s like myself but, if I ever have kids in years to come, I'd like to be responsible. The last thing I want is to have my future kids becoming killers like the James Bulger Killers. Which reminds me... I'm depressingly psychotic and I don't going around on a killing spree.

lukas1051
lukas1051

Bahahaha, fail. Although TBH it won't make a difference to any of us gamers over 18 anyway.

lordtufty
lordtufty

epix! does this mean that the guys at the counter wont stop me if I want to buy gta, and I'm only 15?

BenBenBen93
BenBenBen93

@kekejefferis. 25 years ago. now time for me to get larry leisure house suit. for my teenage self

kekejefferis
kekejefferis

HAHA just another example of why the UK government is utterly useless.

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

There's a reason why you get ID'd. I carry my driving licence with me at all times and when I'm buying games rated over 18 or alcohol I still get ID'd. But I take it as a compliment since I'm not going to get younger.