The Byron Report: Brown Vs. The Gaming Press

By John Walker on February 8th, 2008 at 1:32 pm.

The Byron report, a review described as helping “children and parents get the best from new technologies, while protecting them from harmful images,” draws ever closer to publication, and the worries and whispers are beginning that this will be used by UK prime minister Gordon Brown to “crack down” on the games industry.

Crushing games with his Fist Of Legislation +1

In fact, this report has been created by working closely with the UK games industry, and the likely result will be a requirement for games to have an official BBFC rating, as is the case with all UK films. But there are fears it won’t be spun this way.

Dr Tanya Byron, heading the report, might be familiar from her television programmes, Little Angels and the House of Tiny Tearaways. The press release states that,

“She will draw on advice from industry experts and will engage a wide range of industry and regulatory bodies. It will be jointly sponsored by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.”

This morning a super-worried report was published by MCV stating, “Industry fears grow that Gordon Brown could use report to introduce an aggressive ‘crackdown’ on games.” A headline that doesn’t match the article below, but presumably catches eyes. In fact, the worry is not about this “crackdown”, but about Brown misrepresenting the nature of the agreement. A mysterious source told MCV,

“But there’s a definite fear that Brown will aggresively present this to the media and public as ‘we are fighting the industry for your kids’ safety’. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Tanya Byron knows that.”

Friend-of-RPS Simon Parkin has written a superb post about the matter on his site, Chewing Pixels. He comments on the exaggerated nature of the reporting of the issue as the story has hit the gaming blogs,

“20+ hobbyists are constantly moaning that everybody thinks games are just for children. But as soon as somebody agrees with them and, quite sensibly suggests that if some games are for adults then they should probably be marked as such, they complain still more, reinforcing the appearance that the games industry is principally supported by petulant man-children.”

One issue that’s been raised from the discussion on the Chewing Pixels post is the difference between US and UK ratings system. While in the UK we are very used to the fixed age ratings of the BBFC for films, in the US such ratings are essentially voluntary, with adults allowed to bring in children of any age to any film, at their discretion. For games to be given fixed-age ratings in the US would be quite a dramatic step forward, explaining the American reaction to what might seem a small change in the UK.

How do you respond? Should games be given a BBFC rating such that it would be illegal for a 14 year old to buy a 15 certificate game? Or should age ratings on games be at the discretion of parents? In fact, will putting a red age sticker on the cover make any difference for parents who willingly buy PEGI-rated games for their children at the moment?

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56 Comments »

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  1. Ging says:

    Either make the BBFC rating mandatory or provide more legal oomph behind the PEGI rating – I know that Game employees are supposed to check ID on PEGI rated games just as they do with BBFC ratings.

    Of course, the BBFC ratings are known by everyone – so that’s probably the better choice, especially if they maintained the PEGI box describing what the game contains. Those silly “contains scenes of imminent peril” warnings are ridiculous.

  2. Chris Evans says:

    Yeah all games sold in the UK should have a BBFC certificate making it illegal for underage people to buy games rated above their age. Same should go for the US just with an ESA rating.

  3. Morte says:

    Use the same rules for games as films, whatever they may be.

    The real worry is that games will end up on the wrong end of a witch hunt powered by lies, and be hit with daft rules affecting only games. Legally peg them to the same rules as films, and that’s averted.

    The exact details are a secondary issue. The important thing is that games are treated like any other form of art/entertainment.

  4. Will Tomas says:

    Yep, I agree with the BBFC rating idea. I also think that the BBFC have become more free in rating films in lots of respects lately, what with quite a few films being passed 15 that would have been an 18 only a few years ago (Pan’s Labyrinth for a 15, anyone?). As long as similar realistic attitudes are taken towards games ratings I don’t see a problem. They’re recognised, some games already have them, so why not make it all of them?

  5. Meat Circus says:

    Gordon Brown is a national embarrassment.

    I imagine this will be yet another of the Clucking Fist’s hilariously misguided attempts to prove he still has a single worthwhile idea in his inept, cowardice-addled mind.

    Still, I have no problem with unifying the game and video rating systems. The BBFC roundels are well-known and unambiguous enough to be ideally suited for that purpose.

  6. lungfish says:

    I also agree with the unification of ratings, although here in the UK they generally do ID people who look underage, i remember being turned away from buying Dungeon Keeper 2.
    Was also asked last week to buy Kane & Lynch by a child who looked around 12, needless to say i turned them down.

  7. Andrew says:

    BBFC ratings for all games would be something I’d get behind.

  8. Robin says:

    I don’t think any real benefit would come from universally using BBFC ratings instead of the current PEGI/BBFC mix. I suspect it would be more expensive and time consuming as well. I can’t think of any ’15+’ or ’18+’ games of the last five years which haven’t had a BBFC certificate anyway. Who is being confused by the lack of ‘U’ or ‘PG’ stickers on games?

  9. Tom says:

    Politicians…. for the love of god, when are they going to start actualy doing their job?!

  10. Gulag says:

    One huge problem with this proposal is the time needed to rate a game. Does the censor have to play the entire thing? Can he/she rely on industry providing a full disclosure of content to speed up the process? Would such a condensed disclosure be capable of setting any questionable content in it’s proper context, a huge influence on whether something can be considered appropriate or simply gratuitous and without merit?

    I’m fully in favour of a rating system that has the weight of law behind it. I work in the cinema business, and it’s reassuring to be able to tell some of the less responsible members of our society that “No, they can’t take little Timmy in to see ‘Slasher Weekend 3′ even if he is going in with them.” The problem is that slapping BBFC stickers on game boxes won’t solve this problem, and there are some huge hurdles to be identified and overcome.

    Just on a related note, join me in this thought experiment. Walk into your local newsagent and have a look at the magazine racks. Thomas the Tank Engine and The Dandy are on the bottom shelf, FHM and Loaded are at about eye level, and Asian Housewives, Playboy and Hot ***-Licking, *****-Pinching **** On Fire are all top shelf fare.

    Magazines are not required to carry an age rating, yet retailers and shoppers seem to have gotten their heads around the idea that keeping certain material out of the ready reach of rug rats is a Good Idea.

    Now go into your local Game and look at the merchandise with the same critical eye. See the difference? When your buying public is largely uninformed, mixing the girly mags and the comics up and then sticking them on the shelves without regard for the suitability of that content is only going to confuse matters. Retailers might complain that they can’t be responsible for parents poor buying choices, but they could use simple presentation strategies to tip off bamboozled mums and dads that little Timmy might be pulling a fast one when he clamps his clammy paws on a copy of ‘Sgt. Savage’s UltraSlaughterBowl 5′ and says that it’s the game all his friends are playing, so can he have it too?

  11. dhex says:

    Should games be given a BBFC rating such that it would be illegal for a 14 year old to buy a 15 certificate game?

    in a reasonable world, the idea that the content of a video game or a film or a book is the business of the state in even the slightest way would be considered farce – if not high satire.

    thankfully, we do not live in a reasonable world.

  12. Nallen says:

    @Tom: lol! Never.

  13. Steve says:

    Actually, your comment about US film classification isn’t entirely true. The more violent/explicit films get an NC-17 rating, which is analogous to our 18 rating. However, it’s considered an absolute kiss of death to a film, so distributors almost always re-edit the film and resubmit it to get an R rating.

    As such, their most violent widely-released films are almost never as violent as ours. This is no doubt why their “voluntary” system works quite well. A large number of their R rated films get 15 ratings over here, and most American parents probably wouldn’t take a ten year old to see an R rated title.

  14. Talorc says:

    Thanks to many long years of social conservatives ruling the country, Australia already has this system – the same body that assigns ratings to films also assigns ratings to video games, which are legally enforceable. (Just in case you didn’t know it yet, despite being a “labour” man, Mr Brown is also socially conservative)

    The ratings are G, PG, M, MA(15 ), R(18 ) or X (18 ) which all sounds very similar to your BBFC ratings. Only MA(15 ) rated titles or higher are actually restricted, the others are just guidelines. (So an 8 year old could see a movie rated M, even though M is suggested as 15 years or older)

    You can see them all here if you are especially interested –
    http://www.classification.gov.au

    We have the dumbass “Scenes of imminent peril” descriptors as well. The classification people have being doing extra acid lately, as they seem to be getting more loopy.

    It actually works pretty well for computer games, and has stopped the retarded politicians from bitching about it too much lately.

    The only problem is that a video game CANT get a rating higher than MA 15 . So content that would be perfectly legal in a normal cinema (R18 ) can NOT be seen in a computer game. You want to avoid your people over there doing that. Fortunately, despite the classification board being stuffed full of repressive goody two shoes, it is really only highly sexual content that gets an R18 rating. Something has to be EXTRA EXTRA bad violent to get an R18 rating.

    So there has only been a handful of real games actually refused classification (e.g. banned) in Australia. And they have been the real hot button games like Soldier of Fortune:Payback, 50 cent, Postal and Manhunt. Once the forces of moral conservatism in the USA found out about “Hot Cofee” they must have emailed their like minded poon friends in Australia, and the classification for Grand Theft Auto III San Andreas was withdrawn (eg it was banned). LIKE SEVERAL MONTHS AFTER “HOT COFFEE” HAD RECEIVED WIDESPREAD LOCAL MEDIA COVERAGE. So little johnny could safely buy GTAIII:SA armed with the knowledge he could play hot coffee mini games for several months, before the board got around to revoking the classification, and they released the non hot coffee version. (rated MA15 ) Good work protecting the kids there…

    A bunch of “Adult” softcore games (around 50 or so) have been refused classification as well. That is what a google search for “Hentai” is for I guess…

    Stuff that would get a PEGI 18 rating pretty much fits in the MA 15 category. So the copy of the Witcher I have is completely legal, and features the fully nude cards.

    So basically – Based on the Australian experience, don’t fear the BBFC rating computer games, it really is a good outcome for shutting the idiots up out there.

    The only proviso is that they might pull the stunt where your top film ratings for 18 or over are refused for video games.

    Unfortunately the excessively repressive goody two shoes types have discovered the internet lately. Now various lunatic plans to cut Australia off from the rest of the internet and the vast tide of pron by FILTERING AT THE ISP level keep cropping up from people in positions of authority (like the minister for telecommunications) who should god damn well f*cking know better. Thats another story though. Despite the “where the bloody hell are you” attitude, Australia is surprisingly socially conservative.

  15. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Lungfish:

    I applaud your principles! Remember Gerstmanngate.

    Oh, right. Wrong principles.

  16. Dracko says:

    I wouldn’t mind if Brown got run over, really.

  17. Chris Evans says:

    Dracko – and what, have Cameron come riding in on his horse and cart :O

    Talorc – I always thought Aussie rules were tighter than that, doesn’t seem too bad apart from the no R(18) games being allowed but R(18) films are =/

  18. Dracko says:

    Cameron could get run over too!

    Brown’s rule has done way more harm than good so far, though.

  19. Ging says:

    Gulag – the magazine / game comparison doesn’t quite work out too well. Compare Blockbusters with a newsagents – see how there’s no top shelf equivalent there either?

    What they do instead is sort by genre – kids generally won’t go into the “drama” section, where the softcore porn is put (unless it makes it into the top x list or is a new release). Of course, if a kid does go into the drama section and pick up an unsuitable title than the big ol’ 18 certificate is generally enough for them to realise something’s wrong with that choice.

    No matter what happens in terms of games getting the BBFC treatment, it still comes down to retailers enforcing said ratings correctly (admittedly, the fines for breaking the law in that respect help there) and the consumers being educated in what’s suitable. There’s still people out there who think games are “just for kids” and are happy to pick up “Slasher Weekend 3: The Game” for their young’uns without a second thought.

  20. Xagarath says:

    I really don’t see how mandatory BBFC ratings for games would harm anyone at all, really, except the americans who seem to somehow take offence at the whole business.

    I put up with Brown by reminding myself he’s probably better than Cameron would be, but things are hardly ideal.

  21. Meat Circus says:

    @Dracko:

    You leave Shiny Dave alone. He’s lovely and made of Jesus Magic.

  22. Mark Stevens says:

    While I’d fully endorse a sensible rating system for games, there exists the problem of how to go about rating games predominantly designed for online play and/or allow for user-generated content. It won’t take long for the relative tranquility of a PG-rated multiplayer game to be intruded upon by a 13 year-old kid from Ohio over VOIP, who wants to tell you, in explicit detail, what he’d like to do to your mom when you kill him for the 87th time. Do you make give every game with multiplayer connectivity an 18 by default?

  23. Talorc says:

    @ Chris Evans – Yeah the fact that the R(18+) category is not available for games is the only thing that sucks about the Aussie system. If it was, the games that have been banned, like manhunt, postal etc would probably have got in under that rating. I don’t really feel my life is incomplete because I never played the 50 cent game cos it was banned or anything though

    @Ging – Games getting the BBFC treatment is the whole point in consumer education. Parent’s happy to to let the kids play “Slasher Weekend III: the Game” might not know what the hell PEGI 18+ means. But they probably DO know what the little 18+ BBFC rating sticker means.

    Presumably the BBFC has already invested millions of pounds in educating the great unwashed of Britain on what the BBFC ratings mean. By using these “brand established” ratings, computer games get the benefit of all that marketing straight away. The stickers on video game boxes for rating classifications look exactly the same as the ones on DVD boxes here in Australia, and they are very recognisable. No one has an excuse for not knowing a game with the sticker (in bright red) on the front stating “MA 15+, restricted. Strong Violence, sex scene and drug references” was not suitable for little timmy. (Thats the description on the Witcher sticker by the way)

    Actually now that I think about it, that is something you dont want them to do either – come up with a different rating scale and classification system for computer games than films, where all the categories are called something different. That would be a bad outcome.

  24. Talorc says:

    @ Mark Stevens regarding little timmy from Ohio being a f*ckwad online (surprise!!):

    You just write “Game experience May change during online play” on the box. So long as the PG rated game system / art / engine / animation doesn’t provide a way for little Timmy to express his desire to hump your mum in your internets, the game is still PG. (eg there is no “hump yer momz” emote or anything)

    Little Timmy is the one committing an offence, not the game, when he describes his liking for your mum. “Misusing a wire service to commit a public indecency” or something like that.

    Admittedly, this is a bit of a grey area for the law in general.

    Also a game where you get to kill anything (even little sh8ts like timmy from ohio who really deserve it) is unlikely to be PG :-). I see you point though. Little Timmy could be loudly describing just WHAT he wants the horse to do with Barbie in “Barbiez online horzez adventures” or something.

  25. dhex says:

    I really don’t see how mandatory BBFC ratings for games would harm anyone at all, really, except the americans who seem to somehow take offence at the whole business.

    being an american who thinks the entire notion of ratings is, at best, so transcendentally fucking stupid that it offends everything worth living for and that the whole of society should probably save us all the time and energy and go fucking eat the barrel of the nearest firearm of their choice (or cheese knife for our uk brethren)… i can elaborate a bit:

    it’s not an issue of harm from any angle. little timmy is not harmed in any real way by dirty words or “adult situations” and the like. “harm” should probably be reserved for things that actually cause damage rather than distress.

    but due to a number of factors (people having less children, media saturation, the death of the human spirit) people worldwide have become accustomed to having their lives “protected” from stuff that would otherwise offend them but is basically inert. so in an attempt to legislate “common sense” we end up with world governments taking an active role in warning people of the content found in FUCKING MOVIES.

    MOVIES. think about that for a minute, really. MOVIES. is there anything less consequential in this world than FUCKING MOVIES? maybe the fashion industry, but that’s about it.

    now, i like free speech and all – a whole fuck of a lot – and don’t respect movies in the slightest, so i don’t actually care what they get rated cause i’m not going to sit through most of their bullshit brainwashing boring ass talking about feelings nonsense anyway.

    but i am intrigued by an obvious comparison: no one on earth would expect people to label books. (“may contain adult themes, blasphemy and poor pacing”) this may partially be due to the fact that very few people alive remember a time when the post office had official censors looking for covert copies of henry miller books being sent back from france post ww2. and books simply aren’t sexy for politicians or parents. and since politicians are desperate to pander to parents, and parents are desperate to live in a bubble where nothing ever dies, suffers or offends their sensibilities, we end up with the current scenario.

    now we’re onto games, because that’s the really big deal and VERY BRIGHT SHINY LIGHTS and whatnot. maybe folks want to believe that if you can control the visuals of violence – which are easily given a show of “action” by slapping some letters on it and occasionally roughing up a bad boy here or there like rockstar when they make a catastrophic PR blunder – you can somehow stop violence. that’s great if you also like traipsing around with faeries in the magic land of happypants, which it seems most of us do, so we have the current situation.

    that doesn’t stop me from occasionally slapping my hand to my forehead.

    jesse walker over at reason did a rundown of the film industry’s relationship with the government when jack valenti died. it’s worth reading for some examples on how this sort of thing tends to grow. (this is above and beyond the utter lunacy that is the government taking any interest in the content of GODDAMN FORREST FUCKING GUMP.)

    edit: i forgot to mention the documentary this film is not yet rated – mpaa ratings actually can be used as a weapon in some cases against people not playing ball.

  26. Michael says:

    My sentiment exactly.

  27. Andrew Farrell says:

    The comments thread hasn’t really answered the question I had on reading the question.

    But as soon as somebody agrees with them and, quite sensibly suggests that if some games are for adults then they should probably be marked as such, they complain still more, reinforcing the appearance that the games industry is principally supported by petulant man-children.”

    So who are these “20 hobbyists”? I don’t know anyone who has a problem with this.

    Edit: Question answered before I can ask it. So: who, from the set of people who believe it’s a bad idea to show porn to kids, has a problem with this?

  28. Robin says:

    There’s a difference between censorship and consumer information, Dhex. (And denying that art can be influential is a whole other kettle of stupid fish.)

    I share your bafflement about the idea of ‘harm’, though. I filled in the Byron Report questionnaire, and commented on how absurd it was that so many of the questions seemed to assume that there was this tangible harmful force inherent in “games” and “the internets”, and how silly these questions would look if you substituted in “comic books” or “skiffle music”.

  29. beeber says:

    An enforceable BBFC age rating seems sensible to me. Two issues:
    The political rhetoric about gaming is damaging, both to the public trust regarding creative people working in a cultural domain, and to sales as it will damage mainstream acceptance of the product.

    The other was, how do we know the BBFC will retain sensible rules about what is acceptable in gaming in comparison to film? I couldn’t care less about Manhunt 2 getting banned, but it did point to the persistance of the unproven (as far as I know) idea that interactivity makes violent content in gaming more dangerous.

  30. Ging says:

    Talorc – Some games are required to be rated by the BBFC already, they’ve managed to prove that parents will just as happily ignore the BBFC 18 rating as much as they will the PEGI 18+. I suspect this is due viewing games as just for kids, as I said earlier.

    I have distinctly uncomfortable memories of watching kids playing Vice City and being asked if they’d be taking part in any way when they did the Candy Suxx film missions (ie, doing “stunts”…) I just said “it’s not that sort of film” and hurried them on. The kids were well under 18 – I don’t think their parents blinked an eye when they picked up GTA for them, even with the 18 rating.

  31. dhex says:

    robin: from the jesse walker article:

    It didn’t work out that way. According to Valenti, the original proposal didn’t include a rating stronger than R, but the National Association of Theater Owners objected, arguing that allowing minors to see extremely explicit films would leave the venues open to legal harassment. The result was the X rating, now called the NC-17, which before long was associated so closely with pornography that it became the kiss of death for any non-porn film that received it. The ratings, meanwhile, are imposed by a shadowy central authority with its own peculiar prejudices. Many filmmakers have questioned the workings of that mysterious council. In Kirby Dick’s documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, for example, Matt Stone contrasts the treatment given his early film Orgazmo, released independently, and his later effort South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, released by a major studio. When the first cut of Orgazmo got an NC-17, he reports, the MPAA said it was “for the overall sexual content”; asked if there was any way to recut the picture to get an R, the association said they were welcome to submit a new version but “we don’t give specific notes.” With South Park, by contrast, Stone says the board “was extremely specific”—they were told to remove “this word, this line, this joke.” When Orgazmo was released, it still had an NC-17. South Park went out with an R.

  32. Conzar says:

    I love it how we treat children as second class citizens. No one ever talks about this; but children are unfairly discriminated against. Its no different then discriminating based on gender or race.

    I believe that in society, what we can or cannot due should be based purely on our capabilities. If a child can physically vote, then let them. The government should not be in the business of discrimination. Period.

  33. FaceOmeter says:

    So if a 6 year old can outlast you in a tequila slammer contest, (s)he should be legally allowed to drink, eh Conzar? I’m a pretty hard liberal but even I can’t help but feel you aren’t on to a winner here…

  34. The Unshaven says:

    Just to table things, New Zealand has the same situation as Australia, but with less aggravating bits in that we’re perfectly happy to have R18 games.

    I’ve worked in a lot of videostores, and having dirty great R18 stickers on games, which look the same as the ones on films, does clarify the issue splendidly – barring the inbred mouth-breathers who don’t believe the stickers because ‘they’re just games.’

    – The Unshaven.

  35. JakethePirate says:

    “While in the UK we are very used to the fixed age ratings of the BBFC for films, in the US such ratings are essentially voluntary, with adults allowed to bring in children of any age to any film, at their discretion. For games to be given fixed-age ratings in the US would be quite a dramatic step forward, explaining the American reaction to what might seem a small change in the UK.”

    The issue for Americans is not as much “lolshock” but a difference in cultural connotations. In the US the only thing that has a government-enforced age restriction is pornography (alcohol and cigarettes too, but for different reasons and etc). In the UK, government-backed age restriction might be seen as a public view of games as more than just toys (I don’t know, that’s the impression I get). In the US, such a system would essential be an assertion that games=porn.

  36. Noc says:

    Living in the States, I got carded a week after my seventeenth birthday for buying Thief: Deadly Shadows.

    I don’t know how typical this is, or if it’s just the store’s (I think it was Electronics Boutique, which was still Electronics Boutique at that time) policy. But I think much of the issue is that the R-18 or M or whatever the particular rating between “Cool for pre-teens” and “Hardcore Pornography” is is rather broad. I mean, Thief DS and Manhunt are in the same category. The Cradle was a bit scary, but content-wise?

    If you look at Thief, or Halflife 2, or even COD4 or Halo, there’s no gibbing. “Realistic violence” is “realistic acting weapons, and ragdolls that fall over when you click at them.” All of the above games carry some rather weighty story matter, and DO consist of hours worth of shooting at people (or clubbing them upside the head and taking their stuff) . . . but there’s no distinction between dark and violent games and dark and gratuitously over-the-top violent games. Or satirical gratuitously over-the-top violent games. Or violent games where you stop shooting at aliens (you’ll notice that, even when you play as the Covenant in Halo 2, you’re never gunning down Marines) and start shooting at your neighbors, friends, and police officers.

    As it is, at least with our current rating system in the U.S, it’s either “Give these possibly objectionable titles away to everyone, because no one takes the M (R, whatever) rating seriously anymore” or “ban them entirely.” Even “Banning them entirely to Minors, like those dirty movies” means that game stores won’t stock them, which amounts to the same thing.

  37. Thomas Lawrence says:

    While I agree in principle with the people pointing out that ratings systems of any kind are an unnecessary imposition of government meddling on individual freedom, dispraportionately applied to “new” forms of media, I think we have to take a compromise view, given the political realities of the situation.

    There isn’t the political will at present to get all ratings systems abolished. Complaining about them in principle when reasonable restrictions like this are proposed is thus counter-productive (sadly).

    A mandatory ratings system, legally enforceable, which hopefully refuses certification to nothing, but utilises a full range up to 18+ seems reasonable to me. If you want to exercise discretion as a parent, buy the game yourself and give it to your child – simple.

    If this bothers you, just wait about twenty five years for the generation that grew up without videogames, and who hate and fear the current young generation to get out of politics and into senescence and death. When the Gamer Generation gets into politics, we can repeal all this bullshit. In the mean time, a certification system as proposed only really hurts people younger than 18, and who gives a shit about them, eh? :)

    (Besides, as stated, they can just beg parents/older brothers/convenient tramps to buy it for them. That’s what they’re probably doing anyway.)

  38. Will Tomas says:

    I think, while I would have had a lot of sympathy with the “all ratings are corrupt” argument a few years ago, and I do genuinely think the MPAA are completely skewed in how they rate things (extreme torture-porn violence being far more permissable than simulated sex, for example, with the former rated R and the latter NC-17 in the States), I don’t have the same misgivings about the BBFC. Or at least as much. Their behaviour over Manhunt 2 hasn’t been great, but neither has Rockstar’s.

    I think if they’re asked to rate games the same way they do films they tend to be doing a fair job at the moment, and have unquestionably become more permissive over the last few years. I’d like to see them take the same line towards all media, but as long as they do that the BBFC seem to be alright. Better them than government cracking down on what games can and can’t be seen to do in this country because the ratings system doesn’t stop Little Timmy buying GTA.

  39. Champagne O'Leary says:

    Rating will not prevent any of us from buying anything. Sssh.

  40. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    Agreed with Mr O’Leary above.

    Hell, i saw 18+ movies when i was a wee child (couple of bruce lee ones back in the day, if I recall). I spent most of my free time as a child playing Doom (which I’m pretty sure was never rated back in those days, but still).

    Point is, yeah, we have rated games here in Australia, thats never stopped me buying the games I want. Look at the ones that did get banned…. Nothing particularly special in any case.

    When did 50 cent get banned anyway? I recall having that on XBOX. Maybe it was cut back and re-released?

  41. Crispy says:

    “Should games be given a BBFC rating such that it would be illegal for a 14 year old to buy a 15 certificate game?” – Yes (and “14 year old” should be hyphenated because this phrase modifies the elliptical noun “teenager/child”).

    “Or should age ratings on games be at the discretion of parents?” – Yes. This is not an ‘or’, since the child could ask an adult to buy it for them. This then puts the onus on the adult to do what they think is right. A parent should be able to buy their child a game or film if they genuinely think they are capable of handling the scenarios depicted within with an adult attitude.

    “In fact, will putting a red age sticker on the cover make any difference for parents who willingly buy PEGI-rated games for their children at the moment?” Yes, because BBFC marks are far more prominent and recognisable to parents and adults of all ages than the PEGI marks.

    BBFC marks are already an established icon in mainstream British visual culture for all ages and pursuits, applying to cinema ratings and film sales. BBFC marks appear by mandate on all film posters, the front of all VHS, DVD and UMD boxes, and on the outside of cinemas after the movie title. There is little-to-no chance a parent might be in any confusion about what age a film is suitable for in the UK.

    While still appearing on the boxes, PEGI, on the other hand, is a wimp of an age rating. I couldn’t seem to find anything on its website that states where the rating sticker should be displayed and at what size. Why? Because it’s a voluntary system that carries no weight.

    On the ‘ratings explained’ page, I found:
    “At the end of the process, products concerned are granted by NICAM, on behalf of ISFE, a license to use a specific logo and possibly descriptors as well.”

    ‘Granted a license’ to display a warning that your kid shouldn’t be playing it? Yeah, might just put that PEGI rating on the back pof the box, and scale it down so it’s barely noticeable. The syringe, spider and fist of power silhouettes can stay, though, they look fun. The kids’ll like that. Good thing they’re not like the BIG-RED-FRONT-OF-BOX BBFC rating that screams “warning, this product might be a portent of evil and the unknown for your child”.

    I absolutely don’t have a problem with industry self-certification subject to checks by a regulatory body (before release for 16 and 18 games, after release for 12 and below). What I do have a problem with is that, while the essence of the message conveyed to the seller and buyer may be informative enough, the manner in which it is displayed needs to be more eye-catching and uniform. This information shouldn’t be hidden away, it should be on the front of the box for all games so this ridiculous argument about whether games are a damaging effect on chidren can be taken up with the real offenders: the retailer and the consumer.

  42. Morte says:

    “Champagne O’Leary says:

    Rating will not prevent any of us from buying anything. Sssh.”

    Agreed completely. But rating will (with a bit of luck) head off banning, and rating on the same basis as films will (with a bit of luck) head off the notion that games are somehow “extra bad” compared to other entertainment.

    Because, let’s face it, there’s blood in the water right now. A lot of newspapers who can spell “whip public into hysterical frenzy over subject they don’t understand” can smell it. A lot of politicians who can spell “look morally upright” (or “deny the conservatives a chance to outflank us from the right” if they’re ministers) smell it too.

    FWIW, I suspect Mr Brown will make a show of looking at a “crackdown”. That’ll make him look concerned, make him look tough on moral issues, and deny the conservatives an issue of their own. Then he’ll announce that having considered the matter, relatively modest measures are appropriate. That’ll make him look sensible and reasonable. Also, making it look like there’s a crackdown on the cards will make it easier for those who object to swallow whatever eventually comes out of it. Well, that’s how I’d plan the spin campaign if I were in office.

    Re America: in the USA, putting legal restrictions on games would make them different from films, so it’s a bad idea. In Britain it would make them the same as films, so it’s not a bad idea.

  43. James T says:

    Was also asked last week to buy Kane & Lynch by a child who looked around 12, needless to say i turned them down.

    Bravo! No-one should inflict ‘Kane & Lynch’ upon an innocent child — they’d never wake up.

    And I agree re: the Australian censors dropping mind-altering substances; they used to have those nice little symbols with a text warning down underneath everything, and now they’ve got these enormous, garish slabs of warning text splatted just below-centre on every game and DVD cover in the fucking country. Of course, quite beyond that, the trigger-happy banning of games and, much more prominently, films, would quite rightly make us a global laughingstock if our country didn’t have the population and global profile of, oh, Milton Keynes. We’re not quite as badly-off as Germany’s reputed to be, but it’s still unacceptable.

  44. goz says:

    “The issue for Americans is not as much “lolshock” but a difference in cultural connotations. In the US the only thing that has a government-enforced age restriction is pornography (alcohol and cigarettes too, but for different reasons and etc). In the UK, government-backed age restriction might be seen as a public view of games as more than just toys (I don’t know, that’s the impression I get). In the US, such a system would essential be an assertion that games=porn.”

    I think this is the key here and bravo for putting it so clearly.

    This is why Brits and Americans who are enthustiastic gamers of similar liberal leanings seem to find it so hard to find common ground on the issue.

  45. Talorc says:

    Is Milton Keynes any good at cricket though? I THINK BLOODY NOT!!

    re 50 cent being banned in Australia – I just looked up the list of “refused classification” (e.g. banned) games, and 50 cent was on it. They very well may have cut the offending content and got it classified for sale with the cut version.

    That’s what GTA III:SA did by submitting a no hot coffee version after the original version got banned.

    I like it better when they do the Aussie ratings by putting stickers over the original PEGI or ESRB ratings, instead of an integral part of the box art. I can rip the stickers off then :-)

  46. Lady Biscuitry says:

    It’s all very admirable, wanting to keep children away from stuff that could potentially mess them up in the head for years to come. But I have to ask this: what is the point of it all when most of them will see and hear worse in school from their peers on a daily basis?

  47. JC Hewitt says:

    Uh, screw your heads on a little tighter. Brown wants more cash from the games industry. Professional thieves are not moral authorities.

    Subjecting games to more stringent censorship allows politicians to extract more rent from entertainers. Ignore what they say, just watch what they do.

  48. alphaxion says:

    I sent the following in to the byron review address that was published when news of the review first broke
    http://www.pissheadnerds.com/forum/viewthread.php?forum_id=2&thread_id=3

    I’m not against applying BBFC ratings to games, I am against the flawed methods of observing and testing gaming that is endemic in every review of this industry.

    Yes, give it an age rating.. no, don’t ban them because of a flawed understanding of how games affect their players.

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