Report: UK gov't to act on game ratings

British newspaper <em>The Guardian</em> claims that ministers are set to introduce a legally backed rating system.


Video games have not had an easy ride in the mainstream press of late, and this weekend was no exception. As the legal battle over the release--or not--of Manhunt 2 in the UK continues, The Guardian newspaper on Saturday claimed that the government is planning to introduce a "legally enforceable cinema-style classification system" for video games.

The UK currently has two ratings systems: the PEGI rating, which is a purely advisory Europe-wide classification system, and those from the British Board of Film Classification, which are legally binding on retailers. The BBFC is an independent body, and currently gives ratings to only a small minority of games released in the UK.

The Guardian reports that the problems of policing the current system, including the ease of buying games--whatever their age rating--over the Internet, may lead to a new British Standards Institution specification relating to filtering products to "protect children and other users from illegal or unsuitable content."

Sue Clark of the BBFC told GameSpot that the organisation was "surprised" at the timing of the report in The Guardian, particularly considering that the Byron Review-- a government-commissioned study that is looking at both video games and the Internet--is not being released until March. Clark said, "The BBFC system is in place already, and we know through recent research that parents understand our ratings system, because it is common across games, films, and DVDs, whereas they are often confused by thinking of PEGI ratings, which are not legally enforceable, as difficulty ratings."

Clark said that the organisation rated 258 games in 2007, of which 59 were given an 18+ rating and 92 deemed suitable for those aged 15 and over. The remaining 157 were given U, PG, or 12 ratings; although none of these games are required by the Video Recordings Act to be rated by the BBFC, publishers had voluntarily chosen to have the rating applied.

GameSpot contacted UK games publisher body ELSPA for a statement, but one was not available at the time of publishing.

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