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 masterfarticus

Thank God I live in America! I'm sixteen and I can play games with boobs and chainsaws! Yay!

Avatar image for Stabby

@placksheep Of course we're concerned over the possibility of banning violent games (near heart attack over Fallout 3 btw lol)its just some people are acting like they ARE going to do that. I blame the wording in this GameSpot article actually as other news stories on this have repeatedly mentioned the VSC ban games that don't abide by PEGI.

Avatar image for deactivated-57fce817a4cf5

@placksheep They banned Fallout 3??? Good god that is hardly the worst game I can think of. What a bunch of idiots.

Avatar image for placksheep

@ rockdan101 I'm glad you're optimistic about how VSC will manage the evaluation of games. I just cringe when I hear news like this. Stories like the ban of Fallout III in Australia come to mind as to how this kind of thing can go wrong.

Avatar image for rockdan101

@Stabby Definatly agree with you. The BBFC had the power to ban games, and now someone else is getting the power. To be honest i doubt we'll see any games be banned. The gaming industry has realy proven itself through this ecenomic crisis and politicians are realy taking notice of it and seeing it as a great way to get more VAT. Besides even BBFC failed at banning manhunt.

Avatar image for deactivated-57fce817a4cf5

My government just moving one step closer to total control over what we do. I hate this country, I'm moving to Ireland once I'm done with Uni.

Avatar image for Shtinky

+ Less annoying british kids in 15/18 rated games on Live, PSN. - If they ban a game I want, I'm gonna be miffed.

Avatar image for dThReCoN

also ( third thing lol ) how will they stop us when onlive comes out.

Avatar image for dThReCoN

yh also i think someone should make a game like bbfc zombies on community games on the xbox. well worth the 200 points :)

Avatar image for Just-Adam

We'll have to see the effects of this but I'm sensing they'll be bad to us 18+ hardcore gamers :S ..

Avatar image for Stabby

@ tatu2004 What ban? Nothing has happened or certainly going to... In the report where the decided this they actually PRAISED GTA since its makes the UK money lol!

Avatar image for dThReCoN

I hope that pegi dont make stupid age ratings like with mass effect. also i sometimes think age ratings can be stupid as they seem to rate games different ages when a game like an 18 is not as bad as a 15.

Avatar image for placksheep

This sort of government interference is akin to what's going on in the US with congressional hearings for steroids in sports, and all the laws Jack Thompson tried to drum up support for to burden the video game industry with unfair restrictions. The government has a whole lot more to worry about than an adult playing a ridiculously violent video game, or if Barry Bonds juiced to get the home run record. You are paying taxes to have them tell you what you can and can not play. That is wrong.

Avatar image for tatu2004

i guess R* games will get hit hard with the ban.

Avatar image for 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.

Avatar image for placksheep

@ Stabby "The VSC is also to get the power to ban games outright in the UK, should it be deemed necessary..." Essentially they are part of the government now. They get to decide which games are legal for you to play, and which are not, depending on your age or if they deem the game requires a ban.

Avatar image for tenlong

What are ban all games that are even a bit offensive? This is the rating board,"You killed a jewish man and a black woman of the 3 million people you killed in the game! It is hate speech and sexist! It must be banned!"

Avatar image for Sticky-Peas

I'm 15 and sometimes I need proof of my age to buy a 12! FYI as I am English I can say this isn't a big story due to all the scandals in the house of commons and this is the first I've heard of it. This also isn't adressing the problem as most kids that want 18s and 15s they just ask their parents to get it for them while the kids are at school or whatever.

Avatar image for jtthegame316

nothing should ever get banned a person of 18 and over should always have the right to choose if they want to play or watch something for em slef

Avatar image for Stabby

@ placksheep Are the VSC part of the government?

Avatar image for placksheep

"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." Oh yeah, it's SO much better to create a new governing body to handle the restriction of people's freedoms. It's really disconcerting that the government is being granted the ability to ban VIDEO GAMES outright. They are entertainment, not a loaded gun for children to take out into the streets.

Avatar image for jupsto

How can anyone think this change makes a damn difference? Firstly half the games here have PEGI rating anyway. Secondly its always been illegal here to sell to underage kids but they get thier parents to buy them, and they still will the legality of that is not changing. (I remember shops refusing to sell me tiberian sun/red alert lol) The only REAL difference is a less obvious age rating icon on the game. ie games like "50 cent's I wanna kill some muthaf***ers" have huge obvious 18 signs parents might recognise. these also make the game seem cooler to kids tho...

Avatar image for Zidaneski

I call that GOWIII is the first game to be banned.

Avatar image for Maj_Wood

You know this might just stop all the deaths done by young people cause they could be influanced by computer games

Avatar image for 5011704dc

What is it with copying europe

Avatar image for samdonni

Oh great. We may as well just let Europe run this place.

Avatar image for rockdan101

A few points about this 1) some of you are saying that shops won't enforce this, well sorry to disapoint you but they certainly will. There are some serious punishments for shops selling games to underage kids and no shop will risk that, even for some extra sales. Even the spotty faced 16 year olds who work there on saturdays wouldn't risk it as they'd lose their job and would have some seriously bad comments from their emloyer which would affect future employment 2) I think it's great that this is finally happening. I'm tired of seeing parents buying there 8 year olds games like GTA. It's about time they learnt to take responsibility. 3) At the guys saying this is unfair as only good games are 18's, well your wrong. Half-life, halo, COD, oblivion, there are probably more good 15/16 games than 18s. I also think it's unfair that you can use that as an excuse to buy games like GTA. It's like having a bunch of ten year olds going on the net and watching rape porn because they're bored of pre 9:00pm TV. 4)If they dare ban any games then i will go to iraq and place diversion signs on all the roads so that they lead to pegi HQ and hope we get a few suicide bombers

Avatar image for BobT36

I'd rather not play "adult" games with a load of lil kids yeah. However these rating companies are usually ran by a bunch of over P.C. old women who get offended at like, anything. Also this means that a crapload more game publishers are now going to reduce the amount of "adult" content, gore and anything else "dark" in their games to abide by this, since games with lower age ratings will get more sales. Prepare for all of your awesome games to now be kiddie-fied to get round the now law-based age rating system.

Avatar image for Zen_420

@nappan This has nothing to do with freedom of expression. While I'm a person who believes that games should be regarded with more respect then most politicians give. I do believe that proper ratings system should be in place. And if the UK is adopting the PEGI system, and making it illegal to sell to minors, then all the power to them. If a game is meant to be played by someone aged 16+ or 18+, then why shouldn't it be illegal for someone of lower age to purchase the game? Remember, they are not making it illegal for a minor to posses a game rated above their age, however, to just limit the sales to minors. While I do not 100% agree with "studies" that link violent video games to violence in children, I do believe that if a game is meant to be played by a certain age group, then only these people should be playing these games.

Avatar image for INSANE311

I agree with the ratings system, as long as the games are rated fairly...but this whole banning of games thing is just ridiculous. I am also with ShroudedEagle on that ;)

Avatar image for ace-of-spades93

why is it that i can buy a 16 at my local gamestation but not a 15?? they dont enforce the pegi ones and i doubt they will

Avatar image for 789shadow

I feel sorry for the British gamers.

Avatar image for Stabby

@ nappan This story is NOT a top UK story, if anything it would be lumped in with a story about the rest of the reprt, the non-games part (the UK isn't a facist state like you imply either). And I'll say it again, how does this news mean that all 18+ games will be banned? They have the power but will they use it? I mean other news outlets make it seem like the VSC will ban games that don't go with PEGI...

Avatar image for CreatureRising


Avatar image for nappan

People seem to forget that the UK is another country, with other laws. Personally I think they're nuts to limit speech and expression the way they do, but unlike the USA and some other places freedom of expression is NOT guaranteed in the UK (and AU actually) the way it is in many other western countries. The UK has always been patronizing however, in their former empire, and to their own people. I don't think the majority of British people support the enforcement portion of these ratings, or the current regime. That said, I have a hard time believe that this is a leading political story in the UK with all the scandals, and what's going on in Iran.

Avatar image for mep69

@JustWiicredible Agree the UK govoment is pure crap.

Avatar image for Stabby

I you read other articles, games that will most likely be banned are those who refuse to get rated by PEGI.

Avatar image for UPCtheAUTHORITY

@UFO2012 lol

Avatar image for JustWiicredible

If your 12 and want a 18 pegi rated game. All you need to do is go to France where the Pegi ratings are still a volutary guideline for parents. Which Is what they were designed to be in the first place. Yes that makes sense the UK gov knee jerk reaction at their finest.

Avatar image for mep69

@aslkyu Just no...

Avatar image for JustWiicredible

Hold on im confused. So are the PEGI ratings are now being adopted instead of BBFC ratings and these ratings are legally binding? Also in Europe it's still a voluntary age guideline.

Avatar image for aslkyu

I totally agree with the UK Government on this, ban the bloody lot of them I say, anyway 18 year old's shouldn't be wasting there time on these murder simulators. Not when they can be joining the army and killing people for real at 18. Hippocrates of the highest magnitude. We'll save your minds kids but at the expense of your soul and that ain't written on any box cover.

Avatar image for Barighm

If a person has the impulse to commit a crime, they're going to commit that crime no matter what book they read, what movie they watch, or what video game they play. If not video games, this person will get their inspiration somewhere else, so, eventually, they will commit a crime. Since you can't blame and ban everything in developed society, maybe governments should consider removing the need to commit a crime in the first place...

Avatar image for mep69

@QWERTYCommander No we don't have Kmarts in the UK. ^_^ But I'm 19 anyway, and when i was underage the internet is your friend ^_^

Avatar image for JBjazzbo

this is so retarded obviously 18s shouldn't be sold to 8 year olds but what makes an 18 year old more suitable to play a violent game than a 13 year old?

Avatar image for coruscant

I like the fact they are backing PEGI, but not that they're legally enforcing those ratings. It won't effect me but I feel sorry for people younger people that won't be able to play harmless games that just happen to be highly rated.

Avatar image for QWERTYCommander

I think I just contradicted myself...

Avatar image for mep69

@ bamir0 I think we should just agree to disagree on this. Anyway when I played Duke Nukem on the Ps1 all thoughs years ago, there were some topless girls poll danceing and to be honest i just found it funny.

Avatar image for joesh89

BBFC rated mass effect 12 and pegi rated it 18... yea.... pegi suck.

Avatar image for WeWerePirates

I believe this report is factually incorrect, or at least unclear, in the operation of the current system. If PEGI believe a game warrants a BBFC 15 or 18 rating it has to be referred to the BBFC for rating. Other than that a game may be voluntarily submitted to the BBFC. The BBFC system largely works and has in the last two decades become much more even handed, with one or two exceptions (for example I don't agree Bioshock's violence warrants an 18 rating) they make the right call. However the whole affair with Manhunt 2 demonstrated a small or even an individual is capable of imposing their opinion as opposed to an objective decision. This has always been a problem with the BBFC, while they usually make the right call the system is flawed and capable of allowing some one to dig in. While I have my doubts about PEGI's ability to rate games as well (BBFC ratings are often lower than PEGI's recommendation) the industry would very much like to be free of the vagaries of the BBFC when it comes to censorship as opposed to classification.