Ministers are preparing a new classification scheme that would make it illegal for retailers to sell games to underage consumers.
The Guardian has learned that the British government will propose a new, legally enforceable system for the classification of video games. Retailers will be held responsible under the scheme, as the sale of games to consumers below the specified age group would become illegal.
Such a system would widen the scope of legal enforcement beyond just material considered appropriate for "adults only”, covering instead the full spectrum of content produced by the video game industry.
Currently, the vast majority of video games released in the UK are rated by the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) body, which is part of a voluntary system that functions without provisions for legal sanctions. Only games that contain sexual content or "gross" violence against humans or animals are referred to the British Board of Film Classification, to be given a statutory rating consistent with those attached to works of cinema.
This suggested change to video game ratings comes ahead of next month’s Byron report on the risks posed to children by the internet and video games. The Byron review was commissioned to address concerns that children are unduly exposed to unsuitable content through new technology, and its report is said to include an examination of evidence collected from studies on the effect of video games on children.
It is expected that the report will prompt further recommendations by government ministers, including advice to keep consoles out of children's bedrooms as much as possible, in order to facilitate greater monitoring of content by parents and carers.