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 Silentninja117

I personal prefer the BBFCs ratings becasue they have a better judgement (they've been around for 100 years, PEGIs been around for about 8/10) they are more detailed with their ratings and don't overstate things within games e.g. DMC4 was rated 16+ by PEGI while it was rated 12+ by the BBFC, (mostly) bloodless violence does not constitute a 16 for gods sakes! Oh and you can see the BBFC rating on the side of the box.

Avatar image for deactivated-5940fed791b8c

The new rating logos look nice. I just hope they won't ban too many games.

Avatar image for dbpvivi

@pongley meh I'll just download a patch to put antidisestablishmentarianism back into it :). Manhunt 2 anyone?

Avatar image for deactivated-58a78a043e9d4

@dbpvivi. It will apply to you if they ban your favourite game for using the word antidisestablishmentarianism.

Avatar image for blaze11987

i'm all for age restrictions on games purely for the reason to keep 8 year old idiots making annoying noises down my headset on modern warfare, but to be able to ban games outright? Not so cool. In a day and age where the news can show troops in iraq firing live weapons at insurgents while little timmy is eating his breakfast, it seems quite unnecessary to ban games as there is always a clear choice on wether parents buy games for their kids or not. I could go out right now and buy a hardcore porn dvd with some chick taking two big ones in the can but i would'nt be able to buy a game DEPICTING death etc. Where is the logic? I work in HMV and the amount of people who come to the counter and ask 'what do the numbers on the front of this game mean?' is astounding. They should put some tv adverts on explaining the PEGI system after CSI or something so parents etc actually have some idea of what they are buying their kids. Even then, iv been gaming since i was about 4 or 5 and iv grown up to b a normal, productive, working 21 year old after killing what must be millions of digital nazi's, yet i hav'nt had the urge to go and kill someone for real (unless its those annoyinh 8 year olds i mentioned earlier). Gaming is just a scapegoat for the failings of our psychiatric system when folk they are treating happen to murder people after coincidentally playing Grand Theft Auto. Freedom of speech and information? I remember it, but i watched it slip away a long time ago.

Avatar image for SoutheastSam

Criminalizing video game sales? What are these cigarettes?

Avatar image for Caer_Death

FREEDOM! FREEDOM! FREEDOM LIVES ON! FREEDOM IS LOVELY! FREEDOM IS FAIR! ...but freedom certain isn't there. Well, everyone knows that parents are worthless when it comes to protecting their children from all of the things that they buy them, so we need big brother to institute... FREEDOM! FREEDOM! Freedom from parents having to parent their children! FREEDOM!!!

Avatar image for ShroudedEagle

Ugh, so either a game will get banned, or a game will be toned down up to the extent where we'll see rainbow beams and flower petals shooting out of a Locust when we chainsaw them in Gears of War 3.

Avatar image for dbpvivi

@ gamescottsman "Bad parenting will always make this system a failure long term" It comes down to peoples own beliefs. Some parents don't see it as something to get to caught up on. I for one as a child used to watched 15 certificate films all the time. I played games too; Doom,Quake,UT. I wouldn't say its done me any harm. I would even go so far to say that you yourself have played games that your where not technically old enough to play. The BBFC is harsh but the PEGI is just stupid. I'm glad it doesn't apply to myself but feel sorry for some of the gamers that would otherwise be allowed to buy games at 15 now having to wait 1, but more often, 3 years. Anyone with half a brain will just shop online.

Avatar image for gamescottsman

I like this, sounds better than the current system. The problem is, however a game is age rated, the parents can still buy the game in a store and say it's for them and give their moaning under aged child an over-rated game. I've seen 5 years olds playing COD4 for example as their Mums are too stupid to look at the front of the box and check their child is playing a suitble game. Bad parenting will always make this system a failure long term.

Avatar image for Col-Neil

marks_minime its insane because people are bloody stupid idiots

Avatar image for marks_minime

i really dont see the point in saying that the pegi system is now enhanced. i work for gamestation and i know they don't really have an effect on parents. the amount of parents ive seen buying age restricted games for their kids is insane.Last week for instance i had a dad buy prototype for his ( what seemed to be ) 4 year old kid. I even told him ive played it, its got alot of swearing , gore viloence ( one of the trophys and achevements is to kill X amount of people ). but the worst one was when a mother bought Fahrenheit / indego prophecy for her 5 year old . i told her there was nudity and sex in it...but she said ack it'll be ok. a week later she tried to complain that i had not warned her properly . i really dont see this working its just gonna make retailers have to id for games that dont require it ( did you know that crash bandicoot has a pegi 12? its a kids game!!) the bbfc system worked better then you had a clear cut ' this has been checked and isnt now ' . pegi from what i understand is based on complexity of the game, the level of laungage used ( not swearing, just big words ) i dont get it...i really dont.. more rules same safety.

Avatar image for plightstar

I think its a good idea, at least now we can stop stupid parents blaming the games developers for buying there 8yr old a 18 rated game and complaining it is violent yet they wouldnt buy there kids a 18 rated film. Mind you I did take advantage as a kid I got my dad to buy me Red Alert as it was a 18 for some reason and I managed to buy GTA1 for the local games shop even though I was 12 at the time.

Avatar image for twentymooseman

And the UK surrenders one more personal freedom to their government. I'm all for keeping inappropriate games and such out of the hands of children, after all, who likes hearing those high pitched voices screaming profanities in your headset. JK. but really to make it a criminal offense is ridiculous. besides this wont do much. kids will just get M or 16 or 18 games the way they always have, by saying "mommy, will you buy this for me?" now i put one more personal freedom up on the "wall of surrendered rights" next to gun ownership.

Avatar image for x-wing20

wow britain. way conform to the rest of europe. this what we're trying to fight in the us.

Avatar image for Glade_Gnarr

if it's the same for movies and other media then I'm OK with it. Let's make a new law to stop videogame discrimination.

Avatar image for MachineMade

@ brendanhunt 1 lol I played the original quake at 4 or 5 years old XD

Avatar image for MachineMade

So basically when u look at the back of the cover at the rating, it will have a more in depth description of the in game material, in a hope that parents will not buy their kids the game...hmm..yeah...because I see that working. Most parents buy the games to keep their kids quiet, for an easy way of life. Ive never seen a parent be refused to buy an 18 rated game in front their children...even if the kid moans that they want it. If that was to be done, that would help a lot more than this

Avatar image for zintarr

Standards Council can now ban games in UK First Micheal Savage next GTA. Just wait and see.

Avatar image for steven141

Hmm, im most familiar with the BBFC system, i recognise it on the box and have always disregarded the PEGI markings on the box as pointless and unnoticable

Avatar image for deactivated-58a78a043e9d4

And who at the VSC plays games?

Avatar image for Ewangotkool

thats so stupid. i hate people who think video games are really bad.

Avatar image for brendanhunt1

i played the first gta on ps1 when i was 5

Avatar image for Suicide-Panda

meh lol not a big deal realy

Avatar image for Jamietit

censorship is a load of bollocks in the first placeive been playing 18s way before i turned 18 and iv enever had the idea to grab a gun and start shooting random people in the streeet its a shame such a minority can ruin things for so many

Avatar image for Stabby

@stevo_360 I think its because of the extra labels that highlight what the game contains (violence, sex, drugs etc).

Avatar image for robtheguru

I agree on criminalising the selling of games to underage people but to to outright ban games is stupid. Free speech is preached about all time, even all these extremist Muslim clerics are allowed to say "Blow up the UK" etc, yet a video game might be banned because it doesn't conform to some idiot in a suits standards. Either way, any game that is banned and appeals to me will be bought from the US/Europe, meaning less money going into the UK's economy.

Avatar image for Sticky-Peas

This won't stop people buying games over Xbox LIve and PSN as you don't need a parents credit card, you can just buy points at retail (definately microsoft points, not sure about PS) whatever age you are.

Avatar image for anik786

i hope that games don't get censored how australia does, then this is just ridicualous. Fortunatly ps3 can play both ntsc and pal games, so i'll just buy it online!

Avatar image for stevo_360

Considering how long the BBFC ratings system has been in place, I have difficulty understanding why PEGI is easier to understand. Regardless, as long as games don't start getting censored Australia-style; I'm not too bothered.

Avatar image for JKxMExAN

if they ban games like australia do then i will be really pissed. that would be stupid. Otherwise, its not that bad

Avatar image for brendanhunt1

never see the queen do much these days

Avatar image for DeathProofDelta

PEGI will have the right to ban video games........but how much more violent can games get??? I dont think PEGI will start banning games left right and centre because of the games that have come out in the past.

Avatar image for Dragon_Nexus

Honestly...I don't see how this is much of a change. I was under the impression selling an 18 certificate game to a minor was illegal already. Besides, I can't imagine there's any legitimate retailer who wouldn't put age restriction selling as part of their company policy. The government is once again missing the point. Regulating the age certification is all well and good, but to make an impact parents need to be educated as to what video games are all about. They're NOT all for kids, and the age certificate isn't like a jigsaw puzzle or a recommended reading age, like "Little Timmy is reading books designed for 10 year olds and he's only 6!" it's the same thing as movies. The number of parents I've been given surprised looks from when I tell them that.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b2b9ea41d3e8

I prefered the BBFC ratings. Funny isn't it? the English government launches a gaming commity & a few short weeks after there is now only one firm responsible for age ratings. Is this me being too synical or does anyone else smell a money deal?

Avatar image for smeghead83

What this comes down to is....Manhunt 2, they tried so hard to ban a game that buy all standards was mediocre and downright rubbish. In fact it was their own constant moaning about this that gave the game any notification at all to begin with the general public. As such this is just like a small toddler screaming and crying until they get there way and it seems that they have gotten their way.

Avatar image for master_hookshot

Hm... Is this what happened to the KA rating in North America?

Avatar image for MadManRob

Its a good idea but you will still get parents that will buy the games for thier little spoilt winging kids... I hate the fact that alot of the time when you play a 18 rated game online that you get kids moaning at you for killing them well for a start they shouldn't be playing them if they are under 18 an secondly it puts you off having a squeaky voiced teenager moaning coz he keeps getting wasted

Avatar image for brendanhunt1

violent video games to teach you violents eg how to hold a rifle, however if ur stupid enough to go out shooting then thats caused by a different matter. the cases with people shooting others and blaming video games its like saying that it would of never happened if guns weren't invented. and they all had a mental illness.

Avatar image for 02sfraser

i think it is a great idea. we enforce PEGI strongly at my work and the information they provide with the rating does help parents.

Avatar image for 14113a

@leekboi I agree that the ability to ban games will almost certainly be misused, however I am uncertain as to whether it will be due to the pressure of minority groups, for example If I formed a games company and made a game where you go around killing British national party members, it is unlikely it would be banned, even though the bnp are the the most vocal racist party in England

Avatar image for leekiboi

Couldnt care less about the age ratings I am 16, and my parents believe I am mature enough to understand the difference between reality and the game world and therefore will buy me 18 rated games. The thing that worries me here is the ability to ban games, in a country where the government panders to the smallest group of people in a bid to be 'P.C' this is very worrying news a small group of people with extreme views could have the potential to ruin a fantastic gamingg experience for the majority.

Avatar image for Redmore

This idea of banning video-games is stupid! In a culture where we can do whatever we want (within the constraints of the law) we should be able to choose what materials we experience. Banning a game would simply create stigma about it and eventually there would be a black-market of illegal games on the internet.

Avatar image for airsoftmanic

i dont really care about rating anymore (over 18 so dont need to worry) but i make sure that everytime i go into a game store and see some 12 year old kid wanting halo 3, i suggest to the people behind the counter not to sell it to them due to age rating. the only thing that makes me worry is thier authority to ban video games if they deem it necessary. all it takes is one religious game-hater on the board and we could very well see decent games like borderlands or MAG being banned.

Avatar image for Ryouji_kaji

I work at a game shop, and we've always enforced the PEGI ratings as much as the BBFC ratings anyway. So this isn't going to be any change for me. What needs to be done though is that ignorant parents needs to learn that age ratings are NOT difficulty guidelines! They're just like DVD's, you wouldn't go out and buy your ten year old a Freddie DVD or a porn film. It's the same deal with games. However it needs to be done in a way that doesn't criminailse games. If done with to much of a harsh advertising campaign, people will stereo type all games as bad for kids and violent. Remember that health advert, with the clay family? Telling people to get active and stuff. Well there was a bit where they were talking about kids being inactive, and this can cause heart illnesses and stuff. They showed a kid playing a games console for this section, and boy did that kick up a stink. People are easily influenced and fickle. So yeah, they need to educate the parents in a subtle way. Whoever also the parents need to educate their kids. There have been some parents that come in with age relevance in mind, no violence etc. However kids are so used to getting inappropriate content they throw a fit with their mothers. If I was the parent I'd walk out the shop and say you ain't getting anything then. However they still end up getting them an aged rated game. I tryto help them find something appropriate, but the kids always like 'no, I don't like that'. What can you do, ne?

Avatar image for noxboxlive

thats it prepare da sniper wifles

Avatar image for vengeance00

problem is its not going to stop children getting hold of these games, their parents will most likely buy them and in my opinion only a minority of parents actually care about the ratings. i was seven when i first played doom, mortal Kombat and Alien triolgy and i was not the only one who played them when i was younger. its the banning games that annoys me and they will most likely hear protests if something like Gears of war 3 or GTA5 was ever banned.

Avatar image for gameking5000

At least they're being strict on those who sell games to underage people

Avatar image for wiidsduelpack

Adults can always buy mature games and give it to minors. This can't be enforced to much as it can affect the game industry and gamestops in the nation. Agree with V4LENT1NE.

Avatar image for V4LENT1NE

Why are people seeing this as a bad thing? Its just an attempt to stop kids getting their hands on mature themed games, Britain wont go crazy and start banning games for no reason, not how it works over here.