EU: Games good for children

European parliament report states "games can be used for educational purposes and contribute to the development of knowledge and various skills crucial in the 21st century."

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A report to be published by the European Parliament on video games looks likely to heavily promote the positive sides of gaming, according to a draft seen by GameSpot. The report also calls for the investigation of improved parental controls on consoles via a "red button," and tightened regulation of the sale to children of games intended for adults.

The draft calls for an EU-wide resolution that: "Emphasises that video games are a great stimulant which in addition to entertainment can also be used for educational purposes; takes the view that schools should pay attention to video games and informing children and parents about benefits and disadvantages that video games can have."

Toine Manders, the Dutch MEP who created the draft for the European Parliament's Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, indicated that the report should: "Provide the views of the European Parliament on the Commission's Communication on the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games." Manders goes on to say that: "Video games are predominantly harmless and nonviolent. Moreover, video games can be used for educational purposes and contribute to the development of knowledge and various skills crucial in the 21st century."

In addition to talking about the positive side of gaming, the report addresses potential risks, saying that though "an exact link between the use and exposure to violent video games and violent behaviour has never been proven, it is important that producers, retailers, and parents take steps to avoid any negative effects." This should be done through "development of effectively working age-verification systems for online games," as well as through more effective, harmonised Europe-wide regulations restricting the sales to children of games intended for adults. He also suggests: "The industry should explore the merit of developing a 'red button' which can be included on [gaming devices] and which disable a certain game or which can control the access to certain parts of a game during certain hours."

Ratings were also touched upon in his report, with the PEGI system receiving his full support. He went on to say that it was important "that national rating systems are not developed in a way that weakens the PEGI system or leads to market fragmentation." This goes against the British government's report last year, which suggested that the British Board of Film Classification should take over a significant part of the classification of video games aimed at all but young children. This was due, in part, to confusion over the PEGI system and the fact that the BBFC ratings already have legal standing, making it illegal to sell games to those below the stated age. This discrepancy led to something of a spat between the BBFC and the ELSPA, the UK games publishers' trade body.

Talking to GameSpot, Manders said that this is "not the first time the UK is opting out or choosing its own way, which is not always better for the British people," indicating that he felt that international standards serve to make things "clear for consumers and industry."

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