UK adopting PEGI ratings, enforcing age limits

British government endorses existing pan-European system, criminalises underage sale of games rated 18+, 16+, and 12+; Video Standards Council can now ban games in UK.


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One of the main outcomes of the Byron Report last year was something of an unseemly spat between the British Board of Film Classification and the UK game trade body, ELSPA, which had been lobbying strongly for the current publisher-led pan-European standard, PEGI.

In the House of Commons today, recently appointed Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw announced that PEGI would form the basis of a new rating system in the UK. He also confirmed that under the new system, PEGI ratings would be strengthened with new statutory requirements for those who sell games. The move will make it illegal for games to be sold to those under the stated age rating, as is currently the case with all films and the small number of games rated by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

Previously, the BBFC would mainly rate ultraviolent games that warranted an 18 rating (18 years and older), most infamously Manhunt 2, though it did occasionally rate games 15 (15 years and over). The new system would extend similar criminal penalties for underage sale to PEGI's three highest ratings: 12+ (12 years and over), 16+ (16 years and over), and 18+ (18 years and over). The two lowest PEGI ratings, 3+ and 7+, will not carry the same criminal penalty.

Explaining the decision in today's Digital Britain report, the government said, "We have selected the Enhanced PEGI system, as it combines the best of a pan-European self regulatory system designed specifically for video games with a strong UK based statutory regulator taking account of the views of the UK public. It will give consumers a single set of clear logos for video games that will apply across most of Europe, providing an international solution for game content regulation. It has the flexibility required to adapt to the challenge of rapidly-evolving technology in the games sector and will be highly effective in the online world."


The statutory weight for PEGI ratings will be supplied by the Video Standards Council, which will "be responsible for ensuring that games comply with PEGI standards before providing licences for them to be sold in the UK." Video Standards Council president Baroness Shephard welcomed the decision, saying, "By making PEGI legally enforceable in the UK, the government has shown that it is determined to protect children, help parents make informed decisions and deliver consistency in games rating."

The VSC is also to get the power to ban games outright in the UK, should it be deemed necessary, following the introduction of legislation in Parliament later in the year. "VSC will exercise this new power independently of the PEGI system, providing a 'fail-safe' for the UK--protecting children through PEGI and addressing UK-specific sensibilities by refusing classification of any game which falls foul of the Video Recordings Act," according to the Baroness.

Speaking to GameSpot, game industry law expert Vincent Scheurer of Sarassin LLP said, "This is great news for the video games industry. If the video games industry is to be treated as a mature creative industry in its own right, it cannot be subject to censorship by a film industry body. However, if PEGI is now going to acquire the right to ban video games, we need to ensure that PEGI’s systems are fair and transparent, and that PEGI does not repeat the mistakes which the BBFC made in relation to Manhunt 2."

The news was welcomed by many others across the industry, with Microsoft and Nintendo joining Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sega, and others in issuing statements in support of the new PEGI-based system. Michael Rawlinson, ELSPA's director general, echoed their support, saying, "Today’s decision will ensure that games ratings stay relevant and adapt to the changing nature of videogames for many years to come. Retailers will now have clear, legal backing to help them prevent access to unsuitable content by children."

The BBFC, however, was less fulsome in its praise of the decision: "The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government’s decision. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments."

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Avatar image for cheater87

Eo_the_shaman they ARE telling you you can't buy a game. The VSC can ban any game they want. If they did not like the next GTA game they can ban it out right.

Avatar image for eo_the_shaman

they really arnt telling you you cant buy games....they just dont want you buying certain games at certain ages....but banning games...really? in this timeof age... i would understand if it was just a game about gay sex but i really haavent seen anything that has deeply disturbed me in a game to want it banned from my island

Avatar image for andrew_ribbons

"Why do i get the feeling that Briton is being lead by Communists?" Answer: Vote Conservatives or UKIP next election. If we're ever given the chance *gives Brown stare of death*

Avatar image for thingta42

Hmm why is our Govenment becomming like a Communist Party.. I mean Labour doesn't even want step down. And why Tony Blair gave Leadership to Brown they should of been a New Ellection. He Didn't have right to give Brown The lead.. Now there Telling us what games we can and cant buy.. Im sorry but im old enough to know what game i want to buy Without some stiff enforcing all these rules.. Why do i get the feeling that Briton is being lead by Communists?

Avatar image for andrew_ribbons

I agree with others, the UK is not just another European country. We have our own currency and our own culture. We shouldn't have to just bow to every European concept and idea, it's doing us no good. Besides, swapping back to yet ANOTHER ratings system will just confuse people even more, now that the BBFC is most commonplace. Also this article is slightly incorrect, the BBFC have given out 12 ratings to games, not just 15 and 18. For example: Mass Effect and World in Conflict.

Avatar image for lamprey263

how's this any different than when the BBFC refuses to give games a rating classification?

Avatar image for Mac11_Fanboy

pffffft, what was wrong with the BBFC certificate? surely that is more of a recognizable UK standard for media since its been around for ||%$&£ decades! Which, I'll add, is used on a hell of a lot of games nowadays, in fact, at least 60% I'd say on 360. why do we have to sheep along with Europe all the time, it's things like this that really grind my gears.

Avatar image for MattHopeKids

lets face it the only games that cause all the controversy are 18+ games, so at the end of the day this shouldn't be a problem because adults can still buy games aimed at them. This just might prevent people getting their hands on games when they are too young to play them.

Avatar image for InfectX


Avatar image for NICKKELANIUS

too bad i live in North America

Avatar image for hannify

Banning games? Hello do we live in a communist country like china? That tell us what we can and can't do. I think not...

Avatar image for 229433858839766927591328940103

I wouldn't worry too much about it guys n gals, as it won't make too much difference to the habits of retailers. Just a different logo on the box instead of the BBFC ones. Also I tend to find that some retailers take these things more seriously than others e.g. the guys in Game asked me what my date of birth was when I bought GTA 4, but no-one even murmured when I bought Killzone 2 from HMV (both games got the '18' BBFC certificate slapped on the bottom right corner of the box).

Avatar image for jimmyCCFC

The age rating is kinda fair enough, it's games being banned that boils my urine. I'm 28, why should some out of touch commitee decide what games I should be able to play. For crying out loud there is NO evidence playing games gives you any averse effects. Anyone seen any of the films that were banned during the 70s? Compared to say, Saw or Hostel or whatever they're completely tame. The British goverment over the last few years has shown itself to be in complete disarray and frankly no-one has much faith in it.

Avatar image for Gazz_mann

god damn it........ sigh.

Avatar image for BloodMist

It's the "video nasties" all over again.

Avatar image for InsultToInjury_

I wonder perhaps thats why in the new Pokemon Platinum game the Europe version wont let you gamble in the little gaming centre to win coins to get TMs. Something against gambling in games? All other versions have this. Seems a bit far fetched buts the days we live in. I dont like the idea of games being banned. Dont they realise banning a game gives it more interest and people will find a way of getting it.

Avatar image for jupsto


Avatar image for jupsto

@ bamir0 do you not get that thats the way it already works in the UK, It was already illegal. what did you think the rating where for, how good the game was out of 18? this whole news story accounts to nothing except a change in judges basically. so in the case below of mass effect the few under 18s who don't have parents to buy the game for them wont be playing.

Avatar image for PsychoLord13

Well I'm quite happy to finally be 17, no more mom complaining about why I have to drag her to Gamestop yet again. But the idea of anyone being able to ban any form of media is scary. I mean I think the paranoia about ratings is unnecessary, but not really scary. But the idea of banning games is just a little too close to the idea of censoring information flow for comfort. Oh and Manatassi, smug age-based superiority complexes are bad.

Avatar image for i_like_laX

Cigarettes, Alcohal, Voting, military service, driving, bank loans....are they all really in the same catagory as Halo/GTA IV and other 18 games??? These rankings were for when parents didnt know about video games and were used to ensure little 8 year old timmy didnt get to kill prostitues in Vice City till he was old enough. Criminal penalty, come on...a little rediculous for something to help parents buy the right games for thier little ones.

Avatar image for thekodaman

Yes as somebody has already pointed out PEGI make some fairly ridiculous decisions, for example giving Mass Effect a rating of 18+. This is clearly because of the well-documented "sex scene" which by the way I personally think is handled very tastefully and it is always the result of a series of decisions made by the player so it's not a sordid affair forcibly pressed upon the player. But I guess its better than nothing or a system that people cannot understand so we can live with it until a better idea comes along.

Avatar image for Poison_Me_Rum

I work in retail, and at our store we've always treated the PEGI ratings just as we would the BBFC. Many people don't quite understand how serious it is for us to sell products to people underage. Not only can the store and company be fined some serious cash, but the person who sold it, and the store manager can be fined and face jail time. It's actually quite scary. I don't care if little Jimmy wants his GTA, I have bills to pay and a life to actually live, not be in debt/prison.

Avatar image for Mactiddeus

@ Manatassi Thats a little offensive. My opinion is just as equal as yours even if i am younger. I play games that focus on adult content more than anything and I would never dream of going outside to kill or harm any one in any way. Most older people think that all younger people are immature, but there is a large percentage of us who are actually mature for our age:D

Avatar image for vengeance00

@manatassi doesn't matter what age you say you are if you look young then they may ask for your ID and if you don't produce one you don't get served. i get mistaken in pubs for being at least 25 when i'm in fact 19 and a sales rep at my local GAME store always asks for ID as he goes by the books even to people who are clearly 30 to 40. these days people don't trust each other because it could end them in trouble.

Avatar image for LoserMike

Shouldn't ESRB use numbers as their rating system. I know alot of parents who get confused with EC, E, E10+, T, M, AO. Wouldn't it be alot easier if it was 3, 6, 10, 13, 17, 18?

Avatar image for Manatassi

HEHEHE! I don't care I'm 27. For once its great to be a bit older :D Look kiddies its just life. your brains aren't fully developed and you don't deal with adult content properly :) live with it. Well i guess thats not really an option.. but you get the point. anyway its always funny to see a bunch of little kids on this site running around shouting, like their opinion actually matters. :P

Avatar image for vaejas

Good. As Germany is discovering, age checks are preferable to all-out censorship. @BigBad95: The slur at the end really makes your whole argument that much more ridiculous. Get your head out of your own butt so you can actually see what it is you're talking about, and hopefully find some punctuation while you're at it.

Avatar image for thomas6000

yeah BigBad95, video games aren't as violent as in real life, I've seen fights outside bars with people getting kicked while their on the ground, and that's a scary thing to see. But, maybe the problem is that kids play violent video games and hear swear words in these games and they think it's ok, they think violence is glamorous, and not horrific, or maybe they don't. There's nothing I find more disgusting than a young lad (or girl) using foul language, but maybe that hasn't come from them playing video games or watching movies? Maybe it's because their parents don't give a s***.

Avatar image for brain20035

come on ma, these ratings don't apply to everyone! I mean they take a minority of sensitive people in an age group and then base their ratings on them. Not everyone is sensitive to blood or gore or sex or....

Avatar image for alexLmx6

i dont think rating systems really do much of anything, and theyres always gunna be retailers who will sell to anyone or parents who will buy for their kids, and i dont think the government should be playing nanny, its the parents responsibility. on the other hand, i really dont care, i just dont like their ability to ban games (i dont think anyone should have that right)

Avatar image for louis010

sticky peas When you hear people on tv they say 'kids think what they play on games such as GTAIV is normal and in the ordinary'. They act like we're completely stupid 3 year olds and we don't know a thing about life. i agree i mean im sixteen now so its not really aimed at me but when i was 12 -13 i knew the difference between a video game and real life

Avatar image for Vod_Crack

Fun fact BBFC gave Mass Effect 12 Rating PEGI gave Mass Effect 18+ Rating

Avatar image for thomas6000

Like some have said here, it won't change people's buying habits, I never bought a game when I was too young to buy it, always got my parents to buy it for me. Like gta3 when I was 14, or doom when I was 10. It's strange, but I don't feel playing those games had any negative affect (or effect) on me, maybe more modern games do... Also buying violent games over the psn or live is easy now, but I guess children would need their parents card details to buy things, so that could be monitored. It's difficult, in one way I think age ratings are on the whole quite good, but honestly some of the things I saw and heard kids say at my school was far worse than a lot of the things I see in video games... School should be banned!

Avatar image for cheater87

Dammit I thought that the bannings would end with the BBFC out of the picture.

Avatar image for Glorparin

@ Zen_420 Because the all knowing, all wise PEGI people say so.. I hear ya.. I say power to the people, not some f*******s behind a curtain.

Avatar image for tomo90

Suprised they hadn't already made the decision to make it illegal to sell games below the age limit. Although concerned about how much power is being given to VSC.

Avatar image for bamir0

Do none of you get this at all? This has nothing whatsoever to do with banning games. All that this will do is make it illegal to sell games rated a certain age to people below that age. That isn't governement interference. It is just plain common sense. The same rules already apply to bbfc rated games, dvds, alcohol and cigarettes.

Avatar image for rikhan_z

Agreed... graphics are becoming too photorealistic in video games, it's nice to know that there pre-enforcement in the video game industry.

Avatar image for Alf

as long i can put my ands on God of War 3 i'm good with it^^

Avatar image for deactivated-5940fed791b8c

Oh no...

Avatar image for YoJim8obaJoe

Just to confirm what i think,this means nothing about the sort of games sold does it?it just reenforceing currents laws?

Avatar image for cheames

I strongly doubt that this will have any affect on the public or their game buying habits.

Avatar image for linkdarkside

i was born in the U.S and rigth now im living in a U.S territory so im save. god does bless america.

Avatar image for Stabby

@ cockneyscouse In the UK? It just past 9... *sigh*

Avatar image for cockneyscouse

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

Avatar image for brendanhunt1

the European standard is less strict. and the residents have a strong belief in the "human rights"

Avatar image for brendanhunt1

they gave bully a 15, i think

Avatar image for Stabby

@kavadias1981 I think Australia NEARLY did due to the drugs (I know, thats a stupid reason) before the names were changed to fictional that affect all versions, PAL and NA.

Avatar image for placksheep

@masterfarticus Well half right :-P Any time there are boobs in a game from overseas, they want to take it out for the US version. Sawing people in half with a chainsaw is perfectly acceptable however.