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UK Government Now Using PEGI Ratings

by Chuck Jose - June 22, 2009, 1:25 pm PDT
Total comments: 37 Source: Gamasutra

It's official. The United Kingdom has chosen the widely popular PEGI system as the sole means for rating video game content.

Following a protracted battle between the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) body, the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport has decided to use the PEGI age rating system as the country's only standard for rating video games, making it enforceable under British law for the first time.

Previously, the two ratings organisations operated in parallel; while the majority of games were rated under the voluntary PEGI system, the BBFC had the power to impose legally enforceable age limits on games containing depictions of sex and violence, or to ban games altogether. When the British Government began reviewing recommendations by child psychologist Tanya Byron for the reform of video games classification, both the BBFC and PEGI laid claim to being the best choice for a single UK ratings standard.

With the Government's decision, the PEGI age limits will be given statutory effect by the Video Standards Council. Since much of the Europen game industry already uses PEGI ratings, trade bodies like the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) have been advocating strongly for its use in the UK. General Director of ELSPA, Mike Rawlinson, has said: "The Government has made absolutely the right decision for child safety. By choosing PEGI as the single classification system in the UK, British children will now get the best possible protection when playing video games either on a console or on the internet. Parents can be assured that they will have access to clear, uniform ratings on games and an accurate understanding of game content."

Nintendo has also responded favorably to the Government's decision. David Yarnton, UK General Manager, said: "The Government has made the right decision. The PEGI age rating system is right for the protection of children as it is designed specifically for games and interactive content.

"As a global company we welcome the decision as mature and intelligent as it works across some 30 international territories."

Talkback

TJ SpykeJune 22, 2009

I'm glad out government here in the US legally can't regulate the ratings system and can't decide to ban games it doesn't like.

NinGurl69 *hugglesJune 22, 2009

Eat DIRT, BBFC.

AVJune 22, 2009

I think ESRB should learn and change it's labels to the MPAA ratings ( G, PG, PG-13, R )

We grew up with those ESRB stuff but still a huge % of population has no clue what it means.

Ian SaneJune 22, 2009

Quote:

I think ESRB should learn and change it's labels to the MPAA ratings ( G, PG, PG-13, R )

We grew up with those ESRB stuff but still a huge % of population has no clue what it means.

I think the MPAA owns the trademark for those ratings so the ESRB can't just switch to it.  They would have to form some agreement with the MPAA.

While I don't like the government having control over this sort of thing, I do think it makes sense for the UK to use the same rating system that the rest of Europe uses.  Having two systems or having a different system just creates confusion and a rating system only works if people understand it.

No matter what happens though people will bitch about this content or that content.  The movie ratings are quite successful but you still get the odd stink here and there.  There is a segment of the population that will only shut up if R-rated content ceases to exist.  I don't mind protecting minors, in fact I think that's important, but it often seems to go hand in hand with restricting what adults are allowed to have access to as well.

NinGurl69 *hugglesJune 22, 2009

Only recently did the ESRB require software makers to include the full-sized ESRB rating tag at the beginning of all official, public game trailers/media.  Are ratings being stated before video game commercials these days?

When I was growing up, at the end of every movie commercial I could see the movie credits snapshot with the MPAA rating at the bottom, AND I'd hear a narrator state the MPAA rating of the film.  Hearing the rating at the end was always a loud and clear message (maybe cuz Yankees and K-12 students can't read).  Do this still happen with movie commercials these days?

Going to a movie theater and reading the movie showing board, it's easy to see the rating next to each movie title.
Go to a store to visit the DVD video section, and you WON'T find movie ratings on the fronts of boxes.  See a strange disconnect here?

Once the movie (or game) product is close to the consumer as it is in stores, are the rating labels ignored?  There's no voice to tell you what the rating is anymore, and movie ratings aren't important enough to be on the front.  Does "rated R for Restricted" work cuz it sounds harsh and disciplinary, and "rated M for Mature" doesn't cuz Matoor = cool?

The ESRB system is a better system than the MPAA system, they just need to do a better job of making sure people know it.

AVJune 22, 2009

Quote from: insanolord

The ESRB system is a better system than the MPAA system, they just need to do a better job of making sure people know it.

I'm not a fan of what the MPAA does, I just like the aspect that everyone knows what the ratings mean. 

Understanding of the ESRB (or MPAA) ratings is not the problem. What everyone should be concerned about is the high level of ambiguity, variability, and subjectivity in the ratings process for both of these American ratings systems. If people don't understand the ratings, it's probably because the labels seem so inconsistent from one game to another.

PlugabugzJune 22, 2009

This. Means. Nothing. The status quo won't change because it works and has done for at least 2 gens now.

It's like when I see trailers for games like Grand Theft Auto and it has RATING PENDING slapped on it. The day GTA V gets a PG rating by featuring Bambi and High Definition Barbie is the day i fall face first into horse poo.

Ian SaneJune 22, 2009

Quote:

Understanding of the ESRB (or MPAA) ratings is not the problem. What everyone should be concerned about is the high level of ambiguity, variability, and subjectivity in the ratings process for both of these American ratings systems. If people don't understand the ratings, it's probably because the labels seem so inconsistent from one game to another.

Yeah the ESRB has some weird ass ratings choices.  SSB Melee and Brawl each got a 'T' while the original game got an 'E' but there is no real obvious difference in content between them.  Realistically there are two categories: suitable for minors and not.  The ESRB now has unclear ratings like E10+.  Realistically to me eC, E, E10+ and T might as well be the same rating and M and AO are the other one.

Why do I think this?  Partially because the ESRB is inconsistent with what games get what ratings.  But another reason is because in the days before ratings systems this "yay or nay" system was how we saw things.  These days Street Fighter games get 'T' ratings while Mario games get 'E'.  But on the SNES did anyone see any difference between Street Fighter II and Super Mario World in terms of how appropriate they were for children?  No.  Both games were considered appropriate and there was no real perceived difference between them.  It was games like Mortal Kombat and Doom that were considered different because they had graphic depictions of gore.  Those were considered inappropriate.  So why do you have all these divisions when in the past no one made any fuss about Metroid or Mario being appropriate for different age groups?  Now we have the ratings system to distinguish the two.  Why?  Realistically I think a warning for what is currently M or AO games is all that's needed and would probably make things more clear than someone wondering what the difference between 'E' and 'E10+'.

NinGurl69 *hugglesJune 22, 2009

There's no way Melee would've gotten an E with Captain Falcon realistically portrayed in it.  He's just too intense for 12 and under.

AVJune 22, 2009

Quote from: NinGurl69

There's no way Melee would've gotten an E with Captain Falcon realistically portrayed in it.  He's just too intense for 12 and under.

LOL. I have seen his moves and experienced a falcon punch and I'll never forget it.

Guitar SmasherJune 22, 2009

Quote from: Ian

These days Street Fighter games get 'T' ratings while Mario games get 'E'.  But on the SNES did anyone see any difference between Street Fighter II and Super Mario World in terms of how appropriate they were for children?  No.  Both games were considered appropriate and there was no real perceived difference between them.

Are you seriously suggesting that a game named "Street Fighter" was perceived the same as Mario?  If that's the attitude your family had, then it's no wonder the ESRB has become what it is.  I can assure you my mother did not permit the 8 yr old me to rent the game, and that was based on the title alone.  And yes I consider that position to be consistent with the content.  Mortal Kombat may have taken it to another level, but both games were of a very violent nature.

TJ SpykeJune 23, 2009

Melee got a T rating because it was more realistic than SSB.

DeguelloJeff Shirley, Staff AlumnusJune 23, 2009

I find the ESRB to be a little clunky in how it handles adult content.

Notice how the ratings go from neutral words to loaded words.

1. Early Childhood
2. Everyone
3. Everyone 10+
4. Teen
5. MATURE HARDCORE GRAW
6. Adults Only.

See where the problem is?  All the others are neutral descriptors, but Mature is a positive quality (so to speak) and literally becomes part of the ad for it (cue gravelly voiced man, "Rated M for Mature.")

In fact that area right there is a real problem zone, because games have become so realistic in depictions of violence, sexuality, etc. that the "line" between Mature and Adults Only doesn't even exist, making Adults Only this sort of false top that will never be reached.  Now, what they should do is either drop Mature or drop Adults Only, or extend Adults Only to more games than the imported "dating sims."  A real test of this will be God of War III, which, if this rating system means ANYTHING, will get Adults Only.  The trailer for that game is the most gruesome thing I have ever seen in a game, and I know it'll have some puerile sex minigame like the others, much to the delight of the sweaty-palmed fans.  If this level of violence doesn't warrant an Adults Only Rating, what on God's Earth does?

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusJune 23, 2009

The ESRB rating system is far too convoluted. We need three ratings: Everyone, Teen, and Adult. There is no need to break it down further. E10+, and Mature both seem unnecessary.

However, in order to properly handle this Adult will probably have to be renamed Mature so that it doesn't carry the extremely negative stigma associated with the AO rating **cough**censorship**cough**

KDR_11kJune 23, 2009

Stores will want at least one "this is evil filth" rating so they can appear family friendly by not stocking some games. Currently AO is the rating that does that job.

RABicleJune 23, 2009

I honestly feel the Australian system, government regulated, is better than all you other countries clown shit. The same board; the Classification Board, rate every movie, dvd, video game, book and the ratings are standard across everything. Well nearly. Games still don't have R (or X but you know) and until they do, anything that would be rated R gets banned. Luckily though, not a single game I give a shit about has been banned yet.

Ian SaneJune 23, 2009

Quote:

Are you seriously suggesting that a game named "Street Fighter" was perceived the same as Mario?  If that's the attitude your family had, then it's no wonder the ESRB has become what it is.  I can assure you my mother did not permit the 8 yr old me to rent the game, and that was based on the title alone.

I am seriously suggesting it because you are literally the first exception I've encountered.  Remember that in those days videogames in general were seen as a kids thing.  Nobody was out there making a big stink about how the company that made Mega Man also made Final Fight.  They were all kids games.  It was just went you started having games like Mortal Kombat with all the blood and gore and Doom with all the blood and gore and satanic themes and suddenly there were games that clearly were NOT for children.  But now we have all these distinctions that I just don't recall seeing back then.  It was just kids games and OMG OUTRAGE!!

Though I don't mind the suggestions that we have just 'E', 'T' and 'M'.  That's not exactly what I was suggesting but I think that's pretty good.  E10+ is the stupidest rating yet.  Who the hell was asking for that?  It just mucks things up and is so arbitrary.  On the VC Super Metroid gets an E but Contra 3 gets an E10+.  And the difference between these games is what?  Both involve shooting stuff and have a similar style of visuals and both have freaky HR Giger inspired aliens.

DeguelloJeff Shirley, Staff AlumnusJune 23, 2009

Quote:

They were all kids games.  It was just went you started having games like Mortal Kombat with all the blood and gore and Doom with all the blood and gore and satanic themes and suddenly there were games that clearly were NOT for children.

The worst part about Mortal Kombat wasn't that it was gory and gruesome.  It was that it clearly targeted children.

As seen in this official ad.

http://arcade.svatopluk.com/midway/mortal_kombat/mortal_kombat_ad.jpg

No wonder parents freaked out.

TJ SpykeJune 23, 2009

Quote from: RABicle

I honestly feel the Australian system, government regulated, is better than all you other countries clown ****. The same board; the Classification Board, rate every movie, dvd, video game, book and the ratings are standard across everything. Well nearly. Games still don't have R (or X but you know) and until they do, anything that would be rated R gets banned. Luckily though, not a single game I give a **** about has been banned yet.

No offense, but any rating system that lets the government interfere in consumers rights to choose what they want by banning games is NOT a good system, it's a crappy system that should be abolished. Say what you want about the ESRB, at least it's independent of the government and we don't have to worry about our government deciding what we can and cannot play (which borders on communism).

Quote from: TJ

Quote from: RABicle

I honestly feel the Australian system, government regulated, is better than all you other countries clown ****. The same board; the Classification Board, rate every movie, dvd, video game, book and the ratings are standard across everything. Well nearly. Games still don't have R (or X but you know) and until they do, anything that would be rated R gets banned. Luckily though, not a single game I give a **** about has been banned yet.

No offense, but any rating system that lets the government interfere in consumers rights to choose what they want by banning games is NOT a good system, it's a crappy system that should be abolished. Say what you want about the ESRB, at least it's independent of the government and we don't have to worry about our government deciding what we can and cannot play (which borders on communism).

While I agree with you, the fact that all three console makers don't allow AO rated games and neither do any major retailers means we have a private organization that answers to no one that has the power to ban games, which some would say is worse.

TJ SpykeJune 23, 2009

I'm not saying it's perfect. Companies can still make AO rated games, it's just not economically feasible (they would have to be only for the PC, and they would be sold almost online only due to most retailers refusing to carry them). I blame the retailers too, FYE will sell porn (granted that it's little more than Playboy, which is pretty softcore when it comes to porn) but they wouldn't carry AO games. Even stores like Target will sell R-rated movies and unrated movies but won't carry AO games.

KDR_11kJune 23, 2009

Interestingly Prototype gets sold by online retailers here despite getting the equivalent of an AO rating...

Germany is probably the worst country when it comes to age restrictions. It's pretty easy for a game to get blocked (i.e. rejected by a console manufacturer or retailer), especially with the recent tendency towards hyper-violence though actual bans are fairly rare and so far mostly hit stuff like Manhunt. A game that's blocked is usually legally available to adults but due to the restrictions doesn't get sold by anyone outside of maybe specialist retailers. Then again my parents accidentally bought me the indexed version of Half-Life* for my birthday back in the day...

*=Shows you how the times change, nowadays noone would bat an eyelid at the original Half-Life and Doom, which got indexed back in the day, got re-rated to 16 in a re-release. C&C had to replace all humans with "cyborgs" but Combany of Heroes can show graphic dismemberment and get rated 16...

Ian SaneJune 25, 2009

Quote:

While I agree with you, the fact that all three console makers don't allow AO rated games and neither do any major retailers means we have a private organization that answers to no one that has the power to ban games, which some would say is worse.

They do answer to someone though: the buying public.  If the buying public demanded AO games then retailers and the console makers would give in.  You don't even truly need a majority to change their mind, just enough of a minority that the companies involved feel they will profit off it.  In comparison an elected government can say one thing, get elected, and then go back on it and not have to truly answer about it until the next election.  And even then they could still win the election by being the lesser of two evils or based on an issue that is of considerable more importance to voters.  In business there is competition too and there is really no such thing in government.  There are elections but only one government at a time.  The only reason AO games are self-banned is because the money isn't there.  There's no agenda to push specific morals or anything which there would be with government regulation.

The buying public would never demand AO rated games because no game will ever get AO as its final rating because the publisher will tone down the game to get an M rating because that's what's allowed. It's a catch-22, the public won't demand something that doesn't exist and it not allowed to exist because the public doesn't demand it.

vuduJune 26, 2009

We would have demanded an AO Manhunt 2 is the game was any good.

KDR_11kJune 26, 2009

Quote from: insanolord

The buying public would never demand AO rated games because no game will ever get AO as its final rating because the publisher will tone down the game to get an M rating because that's what's allowed. It's a catch-22, the public won't demand something that doesn't exist and it not allowed to exist because the public doesn't demand it.

In America maybe.

Ian SaneJune 26, 2009

Quote:

The buying public would never demand AO rated games because no game will ever get AO as its final rating because the publisher will tone down the game to get an M rating because that's what's allowed. It's a catch-22, the public won't demand something that doesn't exist and it not allowed to exist because the public doesn't demand it.

Someone could make an AO PC game that is only sold online.  It becomes a phenomenon.  Anticipation is high for a sequel and one of the console makers decides to allow it on their console so as to cash-in, with the exception being granted in exchange for exclusivity.  We're not in a situation where AO games are truly banned someone, in theory, could always create an AO cash cow.  They probably won't but it COULD happen.  Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas almost had a situation in place where there would have been high demand for an AO title, if Rockstar stood firm about the hot coffee thing.

StratosJune 26, 2009

I thought the BBFC were a pain in the butt regarding ratings? Didn't they flat out refuse to rate certain games because they didn't fit into their views of games being for children? I recall some issue with a fairly popular game in the UK that wasn't terribly bad (not Manhunt 2) being classified because of their narrow and stiff view of games. I believe it was Fallout 3. Having PEGI rate games now sounds like a step up for UK gamers.

Quote from: Ian

Quote:

The buying public would never demand AO rated games because no game will ever get AO as its final rating because the publisher will tone down the game to get an M rating because that's what's allowed. It's a catch-22, the public won't demand something that doesn't exist and it not allowed to exist because the public doesn't demand it.

Someone could make an AO PC game that is only sold online.  It becomes a phenomenon.  Anticipation is high for a sequel and one of the console makers decides to allow it on their console so as to cash-in, with the exception being granted in exchange for exclusivity.  We're not in a situation where AO games are truly banned someone, in theory, could always create an AO cash cow.  They probably won't but it COULD happen.  Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas almost had a situation in place where there would have been high demand for an AO title, if Rockstar stood firm about the hot coffee thing.

Fine, if you want to split hairs, the ESRB can't truly ban a game, they can only make it virtually impossible for it to be commercially successful. It could theoretically work if the company made it only for PC and only sold it themselves through their own site (which, funny enough, would be a situation where the game wouldn't have to be rated at all because there would be no console maker or retailer that would require it), but they wouldn't, because they'd censor themselves and scale it back to get an M rating because it would put them in an overwhelmingly better financial position.

StratosJune 26, 2009

Haven't there been a few games that went the online only PC route?

Plenty of games do that, but they're generally planned that way and budgeted for it.

StratosJune 26, 2009

I seem to recall the more recent Leisure Suit Larry games were either online only or had an unrated version online you could buy.

KDR_11kJune 26, 2009

I recall Singles being rated AO in the US, it was rated 16 here...

TJ SpykeJune 27, 2009

Quote from: KDR_11k

I recall Singles being rated AO in the US, it was rated 16 here...

The PEGI rating was 18, the BBFC rating was 18.

There were 2 versions of "Singles: Flirt Up Your Life" released here in the US. There was a censored version that was rated M and released at retail, then there was a uncut version that was rated AO and only sold online.

KDR_11kJune 27, 2009

Well, we still use the USK here.

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