Reviewed Ratings System Review Reviewed

By John Walker on June 17th, 2009 at 9:30 am.

CENSORED!

An interesting story from yesterday merits a brief comment, I think. The PEGI rating system for games in the UK is to become the industry standard, and legal. The current confusion, where the BBFC ratings are often voluntary but enforced by law, and the PEGI ratings required but not enforced, has been muddling parents and shop assistants for years. After the Byron Review, Tanya Byron suggested just one ratings system, more robust, and far more clear. And it looks like it’s now going to happen.

Eurogamer quote Creative Industries Minister Siôn Simon saying,

“Protecting children and giving parents a clear and robust new system has always been our starting point. The new system of classification follows the essential criteria set out by Professor Tanya Byron, who recommended a trustworthy, uniform and clear set of symbols that is flexible and future proof.”

Clearly there had to be some change, and hopefully this will replace the complete mess that’s currently in place. However, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the promised new PEGI logos to become as recognisable and semiotically powerful as the BBFC’s big red circles of doom.

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104 Comments »

  1. Crispy says:

    “Some scenes of partial nudity may be permitted but never in a sexual context”

    e.g., nude corpses, artful depiction of nudes, the act of birth, nude innocence, catching a character undressing, basically anything that doesn’t depict the sexual act or lead-up/wind-down from the sexual act. The bottom in Terminator 1 would be PEGI-7+ but the rest of the film would not.

    “The BBFC, whilst it has a broad remit including film and video, is a surprisingly experienced and thoughtful organisation when it comes to certification.”

    I would say in recent history this is less true. Dark Knight a ’12′?

  2. BigJonno says:

    “There are other examples too – especially notable where PEGI rates a game at 16+ but the BBFC does not deem a rating to be required at all.”

    Under the existing system ALL games had to have PEGI ratings, while submission for BBFC ratings was voluntary and only required when:

    “You only have to get a BBFC rating if your game features “gross violence against humans or animals, human sexual activity, human urinary or excretory functions or genital organs, or techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences”

    See?

    @Ziv. You basically answered your own question.

    “not all kids at the age of 13 know that the violence on screen isn’t real. not all kids at 16 knows that the sex in the movie isn’t real. not all the 8 year olds understand that cursing is bad.”

    Every child is an individual. A good parent won’t blindly follow the ratings, they’ll take a look at the game and make a decision on a case-by-case basis. That’s one of the benefits of the content symbols in the PEGI system, you’ve even pointed out that content descriptors are a good idea. The symbols allow parents to get an idea of the content without playing the games themselves, which is great for non-gamer parents.

    My seven year old has plenty of PEGI 12+ games in his collection, like TMNT or Naruto. They have a nice, big 12+ on the front and on the back there is a little fist icon, which either means that it has violence or it’ll turn you into one of the Emperor’s Space Marines, not too sure on that one. ;) I know that 12+ and a violence icon means that people will be hitting one another. Compare those titles to, say, DMC3, which has the violence icon and a 16+ rating. I know that it’s going to be a lot more visceral and probably feature some degree of blood or gore. I’m not going to little my son play DMC3 for a few years.

    Another example would be my younger brother, who was prone to nightmares when he was a kid. My mum used to rely on me to make sure that he wasn’t going to play anything scary. She knew that he could differentiate fantasy violence from the real stuff and wasn’t going to run around repeating bad language, but a horror game could mean a few sleepless nights for him.

    The point is that it’s down to parents to make these decisions and, even with the legions of shitty parents out there, I will fight tooth and nail for the right to parents making these decisions. Enforceable age ratings means that, in a few years time, I can send my son into town with his birthday money safe in the knowledge that he isn’t going to come back with Super Violent Whore Killer VII. I’ll decide when my son is old enough to kill virtual hookers, not anyone else.

    Of course as soon as someone suggests that the government go all thought police and start enforcing the playing of these games by underage children, it’ll be petitions, writing to the local MP and storming parliament all round.

  3. BigJonno says:

    “I’m not going to little my son play DMC3 for a few years.”

    That should be “let” not “little.”

    *Hangs head in shame.*

  4. Dean says:

    The BBFC’s would need to grow massively to rate every game released. Compare the amount of content in a game to a film, we’re talking of doubling the BBFC’s capacity at least. And it wouldn’t really be fair to use the BBFC logos but have the developers voluntarily certify as film makers would get in a huff about it, and it risks de-valuing the symbols in the mind of the public.

    What they do need is a PEGI symbol that’s more prominent and easy to identify, and leaflets and posters at point-of-sale. I mean is that 16 on the 360 box the age rating or the number of players it supports on Live?

  5. noggin says:

    that’s numberwang!

  6. Vandelay says:

    Crispy: “I would say in recent history this is less true. Dark Knight a ‘12′?”

    I think they got that rating right. It is a tough film in places with some unpleasant gory images, but the majority of the violence is off screen and it is always clear where the morals of the film lie. The main problem with the rating in this particular case, as well as some others, is the recent change to 12 being 12A, where the guidelines say that children as young as 8 may view the film with an adult. That doesn’t mean all films that are rated 12A are fine for an 8 year old, but that it is left to the parents discretion whether it is appropriate. Of course, as particularly gamers know, parents can never be trusted to know what is right for their kids. Films such as The Dark Knight and Casino Royale have caused a bit of a fuss about the 12A rating simply because parents don’t know what it means. I actually think that this is a good idea and could be used for other higher ratings too, but it requires an active role of the parent which many just seem incapable of having.

    It is nice to see that the government are doing something about the rating system, although I agree the BBFC symbols should have been used. I think that the BBFC has been doing some great jobs as of late and they are always giving a wealth of information about why they rate things the way they do for those that are willing to look it up (check out http://www.pbbfc.co.uk which contains games as well as films that are rated U, PG and 12A and goes into great detail about why.) Having said that, I group that focuses primarily on games maybe a better option. I think that retailers should also be encouraged to actively show consumers what this all means. Shops should have posters up outlining these changes and be making a point that games are no longer always made for kids.

  7. Bongo says:

    What’s up with all these language based ratings? I get ten year olds telling me to fuck off and fornicate with all kinds of animals all the time. It’s always been like that, even before games became mainstream. It’s seems the majority of adults has no clue that these kinds of words are something most kids learn before they’ve lost all their milk teeth.

  8. underdweller says:

    Im not subject to this censorship, but i’m prone to spit in general direction of any denial of information. So i’m surprised how accepting you guys seem of such measures.
    You truly want to have a prescribed and sheltered life for your kids? I’d surely not attempt to rob mine of the chaos of life, and if that includes a couple of nightmares, so be it, they’ll live.

  9. Ginger Yellow says:

    underdweller: There’s nothing stopping you as a parent from buying a game or DVD and letting your kids play/watch it. This just prevents them from buying them themselves.

  10. BigJonno says:

    @underdweller: That’s cool, it’s your choice, but that’s why enforced age ratings exist; to give you, as a parent, the choice.

  11. underdweller says:

    Ginger: im not british, and this hardly concerns me. Nobody cares about the ratings here, and i’d not care if my wee one bought out the entire adult section, since you know, he’d probably download it anyhow by the time he was 13. As long as internet remains somewhat free, its hardly an issue of obtaining the stuff.
    My point was discomfort with how the local internet men seem content with sending the young ones on a comfy voyage of conformation, you know. Maybe its just about them getting old and me hating to.
    But, it might be nice to keep in mind how notions of nudity and morality and whatnot are very arbitrary and not necessarily worthy of continuation. And to maybe trust the brats more.

  12. BigJonno says:

    “i’d not care if my wee one bought out the entire adult section,”

    Please don’t have children.

  13. underdweller says:

    Well, seeing how you said the magic word, i guess i won’t.
    But do feel free to present an argument.

  14. Dante says:

    @underdweller:

    We’ve always had enforced ratings in this country, and you know what? They’re great!

    Why? Because it means we don’t get major games banning campaigns like in the states and we don’t get massive cuts in our 18 rated films, because if a gets sees something adult, the fault is not with the makers, but with the store/cinema/parent.

    Hell, the BBFC have released 18 rated films that are basically mainstream porn without cuts, it’s hardly censorship.

  15. BigJonno says:

    @underdweller: I did wall of text my opinion on the issue above if you’re interested, but anyone stating they don’t care about something related to their children really shouldn’t be reproducing.

  16. oddbob says:

    Aye, the modern day BBFC is such a wonderful far cry from the dark Whitehouse influenced days under Ferman’s tenure (although it has to be said, he turned out alright towards the end of his run albeit with a few odd quirks). Looking through a lot of the stuff the BBFC snip at now and it’s not something you can lay the blame down at the BBFC’s doors, a lot of it is down to some rather arcane attitudes still in place as law (and being added recently as law too).

    I’m struggling to see the actual benefits to the public of this at all. I like that we currently have an independent(ish) body outside of the games and movie industry to handle this. To my moral compass it wavers to feeling more right and trustworthy.

    I guess it feels more like removing a perceived obstacle from the distribution chain more than anything to me rather than something that’s for a humanistic reason.

  17. underdweller says:

    Dante: i’m not really commenting on these censorship standards, of which i know hardly a thing really. I was speaking of people who appear so happy with em, like you seemingly.
    You say they save you from the idiocies of the americana and how they’re grand for it. And its probably a very practical and rational statement. But to the idealistic me, it just seems like you accept some evil to avoid a greater one.
    Censorship isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, but i was always expecting geeks to be grudging towards it, so as i now read these comments all so practical and realistic it just evokes images of complacent middle aged men that go about their decently enjoyable lives.
    Its just a grumble of delusional me, and i regret posting it.

  18. Ginger Yellow says:

    underdweller: In the UK, local councils have the power to ban films, even if they are rated by the BBFC. That’s something worth getting worked up about as censorship, not the BBFC’s existence in itself. The alternatives, in practice, are far worse – in the US, self-censorship means that an NC-17 film is commercial poison, while games in the US have be sanitised of almost any hint of nudity to avoid the dreaded AO rating (and we all know about the situation in Germany). Here in Britain, some of the biggest selling games in history were rated 18.

    I’m not claiming its a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination, but it works well for us. Extraordinarily few games ever end up being “banned”, and censorship is far less than in other jurisdictions, partly because the BBFC is more relaxed than some other boards, and partly because the comercial consequences of ratings are different.

    And your “comfy journey of conformation” line is a total strawman. I think children shouldn’t be sheltered and should be exposed to adult situations, but it’s up to the parents to decide how that happens.

  19. BigJonno says:

    Age classification is not the same as censorship. It’s not illegal for under 18s to play 18 rated games or watch 18 rated movies. It’s illegal for them to buy them, which is a different matter entirely.

    Dante is right, it serves as excellent protection against censorship, because the “protect the children” arguement can be squashed instantly. Additionally, unlike the US, we don’t have major retailers refusing to stock 18 rated titles, so there isn’t a pressure to get a lower rating to increase sales.

  20. Gorgeras says:

    I realised the BBFC was not worth it’s budget when they came Perfect Dark on the N64 an ’18′ and GoldenEye a ’15′. I haven’t ever been able to work out why.

    My spite towards the EU doesn’t equal spite towards Europe or other European organisations like PEGI. They should be judged on their individual merit. PEGI has the effect of exposing societal prejudices and removing them from interfering with game classifications. Germany’s ridiculous laws are made to look even worse this way.

  21. oddbob says:

    “In the UK, local councils have the power to ban films, even if they are rated by the BBFC.”

    Handily, they can do the reverse if need be also.

  22. underdweller says:

    BigJonno: how do you assume i wouldn’t care about things related to my child from that sentence..
    I think i would not try delude my keen creation about something seemingly 90% of human activity is about. Of course porn is full of stupid crap, as is most all else. I would rely on my kid to be smart enough to not buy everything, and also to not concern himself with people giving their approval. Because you know, your gasps of moral indignation, i also do consider forementioned crap.
    If he wants to see people sticking oversized dildos up their asses, let him, but im decently sure he’ll also want to see how protons collide. People do stick dildos up their asses and protons do collide and its all so interesting innit.
    And seriously, if i were in a position to buy me a department of adult material at age 13, i think it’d be a moment to remember and life very interesting. I’d be quite smug.

    Pardon if you feel offended, there’s really no hostile intent here.

  23. Goaty says:

    BigJonno you are aware that the kids will already have seen the whole adult section by age 13?

  24. Goaty says:

    And have done so without getting corrupted in some unspeakable way.

  25. Clovis says:

    @Ginger Yellow: I don’t think NC-17 and AO rated media is banned from big box stores because of self-censorship. It is just that we have a very vocal right-wing that can possibly hurt the sales of the big box stores if they did carry it. Having various laws in place to stop kids from getting that media wouldn’t change that. Almost all major retailers already enforce those non-exsitant laws anyway. I had to claim to be the “guardian” of my little brother so he could buy Left 4 Dead the other day from GameStop.

    Remember, the US is a country that went absolutely crazy when Janet Jackson’s boob appeared on TV for 1 second.

    I don’t have a major problem with a law banning kids from buying rated AO games, but the issue has been effectively tied to the First Amendment (Free Speech). I’d rather not erode anything from that, than get a law like that passed.

  26. Thirith says:

    How is this tied to Free Speech in any but the most abstract or facile “thin end of the wedge” way?

    Anyway, to be frank, I don’t quite get the US veneration for their First Amendment, because so often it seems to distract Americans from realising that their speech isn’t any more or less free than that of, say, Europeans; it’s simply restricted in other ways.

  27. underdweller says:

    Ginger: you posted a very nice reply and you make it sound like a decent enough system, but again, i wasn’t talking about the system to begin with. I was talking about you guys.
    As example, mandrill’s story. He refused to provide GTA for a 4 year old kid, tho i don’t know if thats just their shop policy. I know i’d just grin and pack the thing in a given situation. The world’s a better place, kid gets his game, mom’s appeased, Rockstar’s account goes ching and noone gets driven over.
    The kid could always get the game by other means, ones much discussed here.
    To me, mandrill just acted in (inconsequentially) responsible, boring adult manner.
    And i’d prefer to imagine people here aren’t responsible boring adults, but rather cool geeks who love to spread the joy of decadent gaming. I hope you get my point.
    Again, i’m just being silly.

  28. Lack_26 says:

    @underdweller,

    Nope. We’re all responsible, boring adults with names like Nigel and we all work in Health and Safety and speak in a really nasal tone.

  29. Ginger Yellow says:

    “I don’t think NC-17 and AO rated media is banned from big box stores because of self-censorship. It is just that we have a very vocal right-wing that can possibly hurt the sales of the big box stores if they did carry it.”

    Um, that’s exactly what I meant by self-censorship – I was contrasting it to state censorship. That and the fact that developers/publishers cut games themselves to avoid getting the ratings in the first place.

    “I don’t have a major problem with a law banning kids from buying rated AO games, but the issue has been effectively tied to the First Amendment (Free Speech). I’d rather not erode anything from that, than get a law like that passed.”

    Oh, I more or less agree, although I do think it would be possible to draft a consitutional law given the history first amendment jurisprudence around “decency” and “obscenity”. In the context of the first amendment, Americans should be more circumspect about anything that verges on censorship, out of respect for the constitution and its principles. In the UK, we don’t need to have those legal qualms, which works out for us in some ways, but means we don’t get to have the benefits of the first amendment either.

  30. cowthief skank says:

    Isn’t the point of the new ratings that they give otherwise uninformed parents the chance to understand what they buy for their child and decide whether they agree with it? How is informing a parent of what they are buying for their child ever a bad thing?

    The world is too full of people all too willing to impose their opinions on others (violent games are bad and should be banned completely / nothing wrong with anything, let all children view it if they want).

    I guess what I’m saying is enabling parents to make a somewhat informed choice on the issue is better than banning all “bad” games or allowing four year olds to buy gta without their parents’ consent.

  31. Clovis says:

    @Thirith: Video Games get all the protections of anything else covered by the First Amendment. In order to pass a law that restricts access to video games it would have to show an overriding public interest, based on more than just a hunch that the games may harm kids. The problem is that there is no such evidence.

    It may be true that some people might think our speech is more free because of the First Amendment, and that might them be complacent when stuff like this comes up. But this doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be venerated. I don’t get that argument at all. It is nice if you have free speech without a law to back it up (it is a basic human right), but having it almost carved in stone is at least helpful in stopping the government from encroaching on your rights. Before they do it, they have to at least get through the Supreme Court.

    I do, BTW, agree that some European countries speech is more free.

    The Bill of Rights is as American as apple pie. I know we like to incorrectly brag about how great we are (or how we single-country-dly won WWII for example), but we really did something great with this one, right?? So, I’m in no hurry to back away from the rights we currently have.

    If quality studies can show that mature video games present a real threat to children, then maybe we should allow another abridgement.

    It is dangerous everytime you do this though. Copyright law started as a 14 year abridgement of the Freedom of Information and has turned into a Corporate Monopoly of culture.

  32. Thirith says:

    Clovis: How would you set out to prove that, say, hardcore pornography and extremely violent splatter movies are potentially harmful to 8- or 10-year olds – or not? Other than exposing them to this material, that is? With that sort of material, I am very happy to have sales restricted at a legal level without doing research first, because I don’t see how it can feasibly be done.

  33. Crispy says:

    @Vandelay

    “I think they got that rating right. It is a tough film in places with some unpleasant gory images, but the majority of the violence is off screen and it is always clear where the morals of the film lie.”

    I’m surprised you find it clear where the film morally situates itself when many people, myself included, found much of the beauty of the film to be its moral complexity.
    See: http://ruthie-zaftig.blogspot.com/2008/08/morality-in-dark-knight.html

    It also features a huge amount of unjustifiable grievous violence, which the BBFC shrugged off because it didn’t linger on screen, but the truth is the film is designed to invade the imagination and make the violence that much more visceral by having it take place of-screen and with horrifying quality of sound. Pencils shoved into eye sockets, prisoners used as punching bags in Jack Bauer-esque interrogations, the corners of mouths slit open to leave the Joker’s trademark on his victims.

    Add to this the nature of the violence, which is grievous to say the least but more disturbing on a psychological level due to its twisted nature (such as sewing a ticking bomb inside a man’s chest). Most of the time the motivation for the violence the sadistic pursuit of driving fellow beings to commit evil deeds through mental torture. It’s injury for anarchy’s sake. The Joker asks: “Do you want to know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can’t savor all the… little emotions. In… you see, in their last moments, people show you who they really are. So in a way, I know your friends better than you ever did. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?”

    The film deals with very adult concepts of morality. For a start, the Joker is entirely amoral, his drive being anarchy as opposed to a love of money or revenge or anything that might help us understand his actions; he even refers to himself as “an agent of chaos”. To quote Anthony Quinn from The Independant: “If the rule is never to negotiate with terrorists, what to do with a terrorist who sees nothing to negotiate?”.

    To come to terms with his actions (on the whole demonic, bullying, conniving, selfish, selfless, gratuitously violent, brutal, cold-hearted), the viewer must accept the concept of a man who embraces the undermining of a rulebook, not because the rulebook has flaws or doesn’t fit the bill in any given circumstance, because of what it stands for: a moral code. The one thing the Joker isn’t is insane; he chooses anarchy, which is one of the more troublesome themes of the film. I’m not a conservative prude, I find it a very interesting topic and one I plan to have my kids watch when they are nearing adulthood, but I definitely don’t think it is something most 12-year-olds can get their heads around. More likely is that an iconic and performance by Ledger as the Joker and the blurred morality of Batman himself (see below) could lead many less adult minds to hold these characters upon high for all the wrong reasons (i.e. that in the film they’re kickass and cool, not because they’re deeply interesting characters). In his review for The Telegraph, Sukhdev Sandhu describes this unlikely charisma:

    [In the Joker] there exists a freedom that is indecently beguiling. He calls himself a “freak”, a word that in the Sixties was used approvingly to refer to adventurers and outsiders. When he speaks there’s often a slurpy quality to his consonants – as opposed to Batman’s gravelly voice – that sounds as if he’s being asphyxiated; he’s moist, mobile, alive. At the screening I attended, I was struck by the laughs and cheers he elicited.

    As I said, the Joker isn’t the only character who throws out the rulebook. Batman himself, the supposed hero of the film, does not operate within the law. He even chooses at points not to save lives. There’s also the dark question of the notion of hero versus vigilante. Harvey Dent sums up the moral dillema at the end of the film with: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

    I wouldn’t say the film is morally ambiguous, it’s just complex beyond the minds of most youths. I would say the BBFC got it wrong when they decided that any 12-year-old could see this film alone and gave the wrong message by extending that judgement to permitting any child to see this film in the company of an adult.

  34. Crispy says:

    While reading a bit more up about the 12A Dark Knight outcry, I found one reader comment that stated the BBFC was actually paid for and run by members of the film industry, and not by the state.

    The BBFC’s Wikipedia article confirms the BBFC is an independant NGO. I’m more happy for PEGI to deal with ratings since at least they don’t exist for the benefit of an entirely different industry.

  35. elmuerte says:

    A lot of British people here I guess. FYI, PEGI is used everywhere in Europe (with the exception of Germany). PEGI, the name, might not be that old, but it was partially based on the ELSPA system (which it replaced). ELSPA was used since 1989 for game ratings, until it was replaced by PEGI. ELSPA was a British creation. The PEGI rating of a game is performed by NICAM, which you could consider the Dutch counter part of BBFC, with a major exception to how they operate. NICAM is completely independent from the government (with the exception of funding). It’s an institution regulated by the industry they rate stuff for. Much like ESRB and MPAA in the US. But the method of rating things is very, very, different from the ESRB (and not even close to the retarded MPAA system). And it’s methods are also more transparent the the method the BBFC uses.
    I’d much rather have a system that is not rated by a group which is under the direct influence of the government.

    Also, a thing people often don’t get. The age rating systems doe not say that you have to be of a certain physical age, it’s more of a maturity guideline. For example, if you are mature enough to handle stuff which is generally considered to be handled property by somebody of the age of 16, then you fit in the “16″ rating, even though you’re only 14 years old.

  36. Erlam says:

    “However with the PEGI system if you’ve not seen it before you might not notice it especially as its black and white on a nice colourful box.”

    If you’re a parent and see a huge “18!” on something, you know what that means.

    The only real difference will be the background, which I’m assuming will have little cartoons of why it’s that rating, I.e. a gun, a cigarette, a beer bottle, whatever.

    This is my theory though, not fact.

  37. elmuerte says:

    ps, I’m absolutely against regulations that require ratings and additional actions based on the rating (for example requiring by law age verification).
    It is much better if this was self regulating. Censoring never worked in protecting people. Education protects people. Use ratings as a form of advice. If a retailer or cinema wants to deny under age people to buy a game or see a movie, then it’s their right to do so. But you shouldn’t make it a law which requires that.

  38. Serenegoose says:

    Eh. To me, this is just another good reason to continue my refusal to buy games from high street retailers.

    Not that they’ll care, as they won’t sell the games I want to buy to me anyway, as I can’t prove that I actually really am 22.

    But I’m sure there’s principle there somewhere.

  39. Clovis says:

    @Thirith: I don’t know, but the burden would be on those wanting the law to be created. We do have obscenity laws, which were overbearing before. Ulysses was banned in the US for awhile.

    I’m at work and can’t google this, but I think we atually do have restrictions on hardcore porn. If we don’t, and we implemented some, it would change almost nothing. I don’t know of many businesses making big bucks selling porn to kids. Kids don’t even like porn; it’s icky.

    I guess I wrote that a study would be necesary, and I will retract that. The Courts will request information on the possible harm of certain media and make what are hopefully intelligent decisions based on that. The important thing is the possiblity of harm is not nearly enough. If a large number of child physchologists give compelling evidence that it is bad for kids, and this is the accepted opinion of the field, then maybe you have a case. And they would need to show this harm happens for most games Rated M or AO.

    If someon started selling hardcore porn/ultra-violence games in the US, then I think they would have to create another rating (X?), and then try and control that category. That could possibly work. But the current rules for AO would never override the First Amendment.

  40. K says:

    Why not shelve the adult rated games with other adult rated items. If the games were alongside hardcore porn instead of next to boxes with cutesy cartoon animals on, parents could get the message.

    Also, kids know when their parents are buying them games they shouldn’t play, and they know the parents are ignorant of it. They’d be less inclined to point out they want the one next to “Horny All Naturals 17″. Well, not all of them, but still.

    Anyway, some sort of guidelines about putting adult titles on a shelf under “This is the adult section” could help.

  41. Thirith says:

    I guess I wrote that a study would be necesary, and I will retract that. The Courts will request information on the possible harm of certain media and make what are hopefully intelligent decisions based on that. The important thing is the possiblity of harm is not nearly enough. If a large number of child physchologists give compelling evidence that it is bad for kids, and this is the accepted opinion of the field, then maybe you have a case. And they would need to show this harm happens for most games Rated M or AO.
    Why, though? What is bad about kiddo having to wait two years to be able to walk into a shop and buy a certain game? We’re not talking about a law that tells developers not to develop a certain type of game or content. I still don’t see how this is censorship except in the most abstract way.

    The difference to your example, Clovis, is that Ulysses was banned. They didn’t say, “Sorry, gotta be over 18 to read this!” (They should have said, “Gotta be an obsessive compulsive EngLit major to read this!”, anyway…) There is a pretty fundamental difference between banning something and restricting its sale to minors. You may still disagree with the latter, but it’s different from banning and different from censorship which is a binary proposal: either something is permitted or it isn’t.

  42. BigJonno says:

    @Goaty: Of course I’m aware that teenagers will attempt to do things that their parents say they shouldn’t. That’s called being a teenager. I also know that most children know more swearwords than their parents realise exist by the time they leave primary school and that my son has probably played games at a friend’s house that I wouldn’t let him play at home.

    It’s all perfectly normal, I expect it to happen to my child and any future offspring. I raise my children to be intelligent, independent and discerning. There’s a reason that I walk my son to the school gate and he walks in on his own. I get dirty looks from some of the other parents, but that’s their problem. I believe that seven year olds should be capable of walking across a field and into a familiar building on their own.

    I don’t want my son learning about sex and intimacy from hardcore porn. I don’t want him learning about social interaction from GTA. He’s a sensible, mature kid and I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying 18 titles for him long before he’s 18, but it’ll be when I decide that he’s ready, not someone else.

    Which is what this is all about. Parents deciding, not the children, not the government, not anyone else, but parents.

  43. Vandelay says:

    Crispy:

    Nice post.

    You are absolutely correct that the film is morally complex and you are probably right that the majority of the complexity would be lost on the mind of a 12 year old. However, without that complexity I think it is clear to see that the Joker is the bad guy and Batman is the good guy. He is very much a classic film villain, one that I could imagine putting fear into many young children when he is on screen. I expect that the cheers Sandhu describes from the screening where actually emanating from the mouths of older teenagers, a group who are more likely to be drawn to an anarchic point of view than the younger audience.

    The idea of him being a vigilante isn’t really too dissimilar to themes explored, to a degree, in the much more kid-friendly Spiderman films and I expect is in many other comic book films. Obviously, the recent Batman films deal with this in a manner that makes the audience truly question whether his actions are right or wrong. The Harvey Dent quote is really a theme that runs throughout the film and the central question pondered is can any person, given the right circumstances, become the Joker? I would personally say that the film daringly nods into the direction of answering yes but hurtles towards no when dealing with this. The boat sequences plays out like your typical summer blockbuster set piece in which the audience is given the safe answer of not even a group of prisoners would kill innocent people to save their own lives. I would say that this is undercut by the following, much more personal sequence of Dent threatening Gordon’s family, but as I have seen many comments stating that the film loses its edge during its final third and the boat sequence in particular as pandering, I would suggest that it may not just be the 12 year olds that miss elements of the complexities.

    I would say that it was the complexities that make the film potentially harmful to someone, but these are the very things that would be lost on those susceptible to them. The links the film has to many current issues (knife crime, footage of hostages, etc.) I can certainly understand causing some to be uncomfortable with letting young children to see, but I think a 12 year old would be old enough to deal with these issues (particular as they are common place on rolling news channels throughout the day.) It is certainly at the up end of the 12A certificate though.

    One other thing, rightly or wrongly, the BBFC also take into consideration the fantasy setting. Personally, I feel that The Dark Knight plays in a world that is very close to the real one and certainly more so than the previous film. However, the origins of the franchise and the images that the name Batman conjures probably added weight towards them considering it for a lower rating. I think that this argument is not to dissimilar to the “it’s only a game” argument that plagues games, but it is likely something they considered.

    Edit: after writing this I checked the information on The Dark Knight on the Parents BBFC website. The fantasy setting, as well as the fact the violence is off screen, is a repeated reasoning behind the rating. Interestingly, there is no mention of the morals of the film, only on individual sequences.

  44. Clovis says:

    @Thirith: It isn’t really a big deal, except that has been tied to the First Amendment. Since the First Amendment is involved, the question is not, “What harm will this law have?”, but rather, “What definite harm will this law prevent.” The current evidence (and there have been several relevant trials, and more to come) is that it will prevent no harm. I completely understand your argument. Do a poll and most Americans will agree with you. I just like to be super picky about civil rights.

    The reference to unrelated obscenity laws was just to show that in the US we do abridge Freedom of Speech sometimes. Ulysses is just an example of how that can go wrong. And Finnegan’s Wake is (maybe) for compulsive EngLit majors. Ulysses is a fun book that any intelligent person can enjoy. I read it every other year or so around now. Haha, Bloomsday was yesterday!

    That’s probably enough from me about US law. However, I will engage in an unending flamewar about Ulysses.

  45. jalf says:

    I reeeeeally don’t see the problem. So people in the UK are now going to see a different icon with the label “18″, and what, we worry that parents will feel confused and lost because of it? My guess is that with a bit of effort, at least 85% of them will be able to guess that “it probably means this game is for people aged 18 or above”.

    It works for the rest of Europe; so far, it hasn’t caused mass waves of maladjusted children becoming terrorists or whatever we’re afraid might happen if they play an 18+ game.

  46. Nimdok says:

    I dunno, once you start enforcing moral restrictions or ideals as law you start down a rather disturbing path to a bygone era. It’s all well and good to have a ratings system in place, to allow a rough, at-a-glance idea of what’s in a film/game/album/book, but when you start saying “OK, since this product is rated at 12+/17+/Whatever, then it’s illegal for someone UNDER 12/17/whatever to purchase it” you’re basically enforcing a vague set of moral decisions on the populace. If a kid’s realistic enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality, let them do whatever they want with products which dwell in fantasy. If not, then it’s their parents responsibility understand this and to police what they absorb, not the governments.

  47. Wisq says:

    @itsallcrap: I thought the same. But, if you look at the new logos (see Kast’s link), you’ll note they’re a lot more trademarkable.

  48. Chemix says:

    My thoughts: Setting a specific age minimum is often too harsh, and stating a general thing is often too little.

    In the US: We have ESRB, and yes I know that someone else mentioned it. E-E+10-T-M-Ao (when’s the last time anyone saw an actual Ao game? I mean I know there are porn games, but do they even bother to actually rate them?) presents an ambiguous system that is vague and highly generic. If you look down an isle of games, you’ll likely see 2 primary ratings, M and E (+10)m with Ts dotted around and “eCs” at the end of the rack. M effectively covers almost any FPS game, bar, Dr. Brain 3, or… Elite Force 1&2. If there’s blood, it gets an M, if there’s guns that shoot bullets, it gets an M, if there’s a hint of sexuality it gets an M, if it involves active swordplay, it gets an M, unless it’s Star Wars, where it gets a T, because slicing people apart with fantasy weapons that can’t be created at our current technological level is fine. Disintegration by extreme heat, also fine, head shots, not fine. “Mature” covers too many bases, and misses a couple important ones as it’s attempting to blanket an entire market. Teen is used as a bandage on what doesn’t get blanketed, and E/E+10 (Why?) covers everything that doesn’t deal with violent confrontations, sex, or… well, technically Sim City takes the E rating for a ride, what with the riots, the tornadoes, the fires, the radiation, the alien obliteration sequences, the monsters, the earthquakes, you getting a picture here?

    On the other side of the pond, age specific ratings seem to make for a lot of ratings that mean less, because if there’s a 14 and a 16 rating, then it can’t mean that much because it’s just 2 years development in between. Also, if enforced, it sets a hardened expected maturity level that may be higher or lower than the child in question actually has.

    Possible Ratings, and keep in mind, I’m quite tired while writing this
    -E:educational
    Learning games for children
    -s G: sports games
    NFL, NHL, GTFOML (20XX)
    -Cg: Casual Games
    -c A: comic adventure
    games like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Lego (license here)
    -S: simulation
    Plane Simulators, Boat simulators, crane simulators, job simulators
    -S v: simulations with simulated violence
    Sim city, air combat sims, basic wargames
    -Co (s): Active Combat Games and (s)trategy games
    Call of Duty, World in Conflict, Halo
    -dN (sd&r): “Deep” narrative games that revolve around a story and include violence and possible (sex, drugs, & rock and roll)
    RPGs, The Longest Journey, GTA
    -Ex: Explicit games directed at an older audience that revolve around pure violence
    Manhunt, Postal, Mad World
    -SXY: Games devoted, but not limited to sexuality
    Leisure Suit Larry, Sexy Beach 3, Dead or Alive
    -Hr: Horror/ Survival Horror/ Action “horror”/ really dark comedy
    Silent Hill, Luigi’s Mansion, Sexy Beach 3, etc. etc.
    -OMGWTFBBQ: Awesome games meant for people between 17 and 1000
    Team Fortress 2, Portal, Deus Ex, Sexy Beach of Monkey Island, etc. etc.

  49. Jayteh says:

    I still wish Australia had an 18+ rating but sadly I doubt we will see one for a long time.

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