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 bamir0

@mep69 I never said that anybody was going to kill anybody. I do not believe that videogames cause criminal impulses in anybody except the already criminal. I made the point because it is my firm belief that violent, gory or sexually explicit videogames are unsuitable for children. I believe the same thing about violent, gory or sexually explicit movies.

Avatar image for jak275

The ppl here that think video games affect kid's minds are wrong. I know a few people that have played GTA when they were like two and are not at all violent today. The kids that go out and commit a crime and blame it on a video game clearly are irresponsible, and so is the parent, they also probably have mental issues and shouldn't be anywhere near video games

Avatar image for QWERTYCommander

I played a T-rated game, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, when I was 9. That game has some pretty bad stuff for a T-rated game. I go on Saints Row joyrides, killing people and blowing up stuff, and I'm 13. Also keep in mind that I'm a Christian. And I never cursed or stole anything. Take that PEGI! Also @British kids everywhere Do they have Kmarts in the UK? Then I suggest going there. the employees there dont know jack**** about anything. So you could probably get away with a 12, 16, or 18 game.

Avatar image for TacticalShado

There is a positive side to this, that is to say, that hopefully there will be no more annoying children on Live or on a lot of PC games.

Avatar image for mep69

@ ShroudedEagle Ye we seem to be on the wave-length and i just find it funny that you get those goody two shoes giveing minus points because they think that our wonderful goverment is aways right

Avatar image for Merl57

"ban games outright" thank you government for deciding that I am to weak to play a game. They better ban books, and movies too or else they are being hypocrites

Avatar image for picklesrocks

@BigBad95 I agree totally, the best games are 18's, gears of war, killzone 2 resistance 2, its true

Avatar image for BigBad95

the reason why i play games that are 18 is because companys don't make games for younger people that are actually good the only games that are made for kids are crap movie tie-ins that suck nuts

Avatar image for Zikar

@Jedilink109 No, the store that sold it to you would get a massive fine.

Avatar image for ShroudedEagle

Haha, good to see that people are with me ^^ The first Playstation game I picked up and played was Grand Theft Auto, that was when I was about 6 years old. If you think games affect kids' minds to make them do insane stuff like copy events in those games, just look at me. I'm the proof against that, because you don't see me doing anything such as shooting people or stealing cars. These ratings are just there to keep the parents happy. However, what I don't like is when someone goes on a killing rampage or something similar, and video games are the blame of it. It's not like the game possessed the person to pick up a knife or gun, they have free will. If a kid did copy anything from a game, I would have to blame the parents for not teaching them right from wrong. Look at me, I love games such as Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto, all that violent and gory stuff. You don't, and will not, see me running around with a chainsaw, or stealing cars. But I already said that earlier.

Avatar image for UFO2012

Manhunt 3 the PEGI edition: A new great stealth game were you bake cakes and throw them at unsuspecting BBFC employees.

Avatar image for Jedilink109

So if you're 6 and you buy a +7 game then you'll get a fine or something? Because that'd be hilarious. :P

Avatar image for mhatter106

re:bradley7777 yes, listen to the 14 year old who umm apparently is learning his life lessons about "our planet we call Earth" from video games.

Avatar image for games100

This is all fine. But if you are over 18 you have the right to play any game you want, however bad it may be. I hate all this "fail safe" crap. p.s. ShroudedEagle im with you

Avatar image for Zikar

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

Avatar image for bamir0

It's about time that Pegi was made legally enforceable. Now if only we could prosecute the irresponsible parents (like those of some of the posters below) who let their children play blatantly unsuitable games.

Avatar image for Zikar

With the exception of Manhunt 2, the BBFC has done a very good job and I trust them more than PEGI. Additionally, multiple ratings systems create confusions. It's easier just to have the single BBFC system for films and games. Well, being 22, as long as games don't get banned or censored I don't care what the rating system is.

Avatar image for mep69

@ShroudedEagle Ye I'm with you, seriously if they ban anything they will probabally just increase violent crimes towards themseves though MUHAHAHA KILL THEM.

Avatar image for dannyb1988

I would like to know the criteria for giving a game an 18+, 16+ or 12+ rating. I'm just wondering if games are sometimes 'over-rated'.

Avatar image for Bradley7777

@isoseon Responsibility lie with the parent or guardian. If the kid wants see a game thats way over their age limit, its up to the parent. I'm 14 and nearly every game in my games collection is an 18. Its also because all the good games are ones rated the higher certificate. I have been playing games above my age limit for about 10 years now (including GTA since I was seven) and I ahve no way been affected by an and eveyr game I play. Also its life life lesson. Life isnt sunshine and lollypops mate, its evil, its gritty and hard-edged so letting kids view these things will wise them up to what happens on our planet we call Earth

Avatar image for ShroudedEagle

Oh great. If they ban any good games, I'm going to go mad and start a protest. Who's with me?

Avatar image for console-deity


Avatar image for mhatter106

How do you enforce not selling 12+ to underage children? How many 14 year olds have identification cards (apart from their passport)? Anyways, apart from that I have no problem with making sure that games are not sold to underage consumers (in fact I applaud it), but I can't say I'm a big fan of banning games. If a game is out there and a consumer of appropriate age wants to buy it, let them. Censorship towards adults who can make their own decisions rarely seems to benefit anyone. Consumers can govern themselves by choosing what they will and won't spend their money on.

Avatar image for ASG_

I don't mind, since I live in Sweden. Although, I get really pissed off when I see little kids in the local gamestop. "Hey mom look, it's COD4, can I buy it?" "Yeah sure, it's your money" I ****** hate little kids playing online.

Avatar image for Paul2004

Overall i dont think this will change much, while they get to decide the ratings ppl still wont bother about them, I got games way above my age when i was young (Resident Evil's ect) but i always knew the difference between that and real life. Games are designed to be fun, not to teach kids how to murder their parents afterall.

Avatar image for hugman99

ohhh this doesn't look good postal 3

Avatar image for Calverz

@gormo4 Because the game glorifies anti-establishment behaviour.

Avatar image for lukas1051

Dammit, the BBFC are so goddamn strict, if they ban games like GOW3 for being too gory and violent, I'm gonna go mad.

Avatar image for skipper847

hehe lol. Im 29 but look 16. I will have to carry ID on me just to buy games. :P

Avatar image for Strollingchimp

they will probably be banning games that have little bit of blood in them

Avatar image for isoseon87

@ Shenton47 when I go to buy games I sometimes see that happen too, I'm 22(in a couple weeks) and I'm safe but I see a quite common thing with parents buying 'little' kids games that are far over thier age limit, I think one guy the other day looked about 8 or 10 I guess and they freaking brought Prototype! now I've got to say personally I love that game, but that is not suitable for under 18's, so says on the box, I would never let my kids(if I ever have any) play or watch anything that much over the age limit, and I think that it is exactly the parent, as you said yourself, that has made this whole thing out of hand and everything else. of course I must admit though when I was younger I did get my parents to buy me games that were too old for me, but I guess then I'm to blame too lol but of course if I was 12 I wouldnt buy an 18 game or anything else anyway, I think the problem is still the parents who expose thier under-age children to things like violent games and everything else like that, surely its a crime? like say, taking an 11year old to a strip club or somehting, you wouldnt do that, so why expose them to the types of games with sex or violence then? Parents need to learn to say no to kids already. also, I have ID and everythign else and I look my age too, so whatever happens, I am fine with whatever happens, and I have friends all over the world so banning games will not effect me at all

Avatar image for gormo4

So bassically if your under 16 you have to play games designed for 12 year olds, the UK is pathetic, censors everything.. FFS- how is mirrors edge a 16+? why are we censoring that from people under 16? it's opression! :/

Avatar image for Ikavnieks

Why do people get a raging hard on over this issue? If parents deem it suitable for their children to have such games, let them be, besides, I used to get alot of games like GTA and I was underaged, still am, but im mature enough to control my own life and not be influenced by some video games, which are meant for entertainment, aslong as kids are enjoying these, and it isnt influencing them in the wrong way, as the beetles say "Let it be"

Avatar image for shenton47

I have to admit this is welcome news to some degree. I work in games retail so this is going to help clear up a lot of grey areas. Well, hope so anyway. I still believe the problem lies with the people who actually buy games for under aged gamers. Not many of the parents I've served in recent times have even paid attention to the ratings. For example, one mother bought Gears of War 2 from my store for her son; when I asked how old he was, she told me he was 11. I pointed out the game is rated 18, and she just shrugged her shoulders and said (direct quote) "He wants the game, so he'll get it". No matter what system you put in place, with parents like that, it'll always be undermined

Avatar image for IgotEpixx

This can't end well.

Avatar image for Gorenutter

If these a**wipes can now have some politcal storke to ban games left right and centre I'll just import them just like I did with Manhunt 2

Avatar image for cockneyscouse

I hope it's used well and games don't get banned knee-jerk. (as long as that muppet Keith Vaz stays out of it) Hope it puts and end to kids being able to buys games they shouldn't.... By that I mean 8yr olds etc; being bought GTA and the such. Could actually help our hobby to be seen as a bit more 'grown up'

Avatar image for shadowhawk2009

Who really cares anyway, stores never actually enforce the laws anyway. I bought GTA 4 from Gamestation. The games is rated 18 and I said to the guy in the store, can I have GTA 4 and he said yeah. The actual ratings are never enforced, BTW I'm 14 and look a lot younger than that (like 11 or something).

Avatar image for Dr_Bob_UK

I've always preferred the BBFC over PEGI. Oh well.

Avatar image for TTDog

As long as they don't decide to ban games based on the reation of Daily Mail readers then fine, if they start to ban games because a minority of people, who have never played a game in their lives, kick up a fuss over a 3 second scene or a one off glimpse of side-boob then we could be in big trouble.

Avatar image for deviates1080

Nice to see as standardised system finally. Having games rated with multiple systems causes a lot of confusion, especially when it is parents who do not understand how the ratings work buying for their children. Good stuff, except maybe the banning games.

Avatar image for rrraaagggrrrhhh

Why should they have the right to ban games from the U.K.? The PEGI system is rubbish and well over classify games. I'm 14 and my parents let me have 15's in the BBFC and 16's in the PEGI but loads of great games like COD5 are rated 18 in PEGI which means I won't be able to get them.

Avatar image for shadowkiller11

thats ok i guess except the banning games i just import it because if they ban the games they suck and are terrible