Age Old Question: Pegi Ratings Are Now UK Law

By Adam Smith on July 30th, 2012 at 10:12 am.

When the first Brits crawled out of the primordial soup that is Blackpool’s unpleasant beachfront, one oozing cataract of a creature looked at his fellows and gurgled, “It’d probably be sensible to have one legally enforceable age rating system for games.” It’s not clear whether any of the pioneering pustule’s amorphous companions even disagreed but the fact remains that it wasn’t until the dwindling days of July 2012 that the plan came to fruition. As of today, ratings using the Pegi system are legally enforceable and the BBFC certification for games has been dropped. The diagrams indicating areas of concern will stay, which is good, because they warn about things like drugs, sex and spiders.

Since the Pegi ratings have existed as ‘recommendations’ for some time now, there shouldn’t be anything too surprising about the restrictions slapped on games. As with the film industry, where the BBFC is generally sensible (despite being very concerned about teenagers hearing language that is actually teenage punctuation), the adoption of a single system should provide guidance and information rather than harsh restrictions or censorship. The dual system was not only potentially confusing for consumers but could also cause difficulties for developers, with mixed messages about the acceptability of various types of content.

While it’s something of a relief to see that the Kafkaesque process of making Pegi law is finally complete, the landscape probably won’t shudder and change. It’s hard to imagine the games industry following the path of cinema, with the decline of the explicitly violent action film of the eighties as studios sought the pubescent pound, but there is a further acknowledgement that (shock!) not all games are suitable for every age group.

Here’s the rough outline of how the ratings break down:

Games are rated for 12-years and over if they include non-graphic violence to human or animal characters, a slightly higher threshold of violence to fantasy characters or significant nudity or bad language.

Games are rated 16-years and over if the depiction of violence or sexual activity looks the same as it would do in normal life. Drug and tobacco references also trigger the age limit.

Games are rated 18-years and over if there is a “gross” level of violence likely to make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

The Games Rating Authority are responsible for applying ratings and the BBC note that trade body Ukie, which has welcomed the move, has relaunched its Ask About Games website, which aims to provide further information to families.

Anyone breaking the rules and selling games to under-age customers can be fined £5,000 and there’s also the possibility of up to six years jail time.

In other news, Britain is expected to pass laws governing wireless radio transmissions sometime in the 23rd century.

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146 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    Bingo!

  2. Jams O'Donnell says:

    It’s about damn time this became properly enforceable. Is there any suggestion of how this will apply to online or digital sales?

    • Milky1985 says:

      If they actually gave a crap about online sales (which they don’t) they could probably enforce use of a credit card for 18+ purchases (you shouldn’t be able to get a credit card till your 18, so use of one would be saying someone who is of age says its ok)

      This would screw over peple who dno#t want to use credit cards tho for legitimate reasons, or people with bad credit.

      Currently i don’t see a way of donig this for digital sales wihtout some sort of ID checking :/

      • Malk_Content says:

        It would have to involve some sort of outside of the internet authority figure, one that can be present at the site in which gaming takes place and can be taught with relative ease how to check what games are installed on a given machine. Not sure if any such entity exists.

      • Optimaximal says:

        DSG tried a UK Census-based Age Check on their PC Download services.

        It didn’t work, as it considered my house unoccupied because the previous owners were tax dodgers.

      • Tams80 says:

        I don’t have a credit card and if I do get one it would be for emergencies only. With such a requirement, I wouldn’t be able buy any such games (or films etc.). Nor do I wish to give online retailers any other form of identification (as it stands at the moment, only really passports and driving licenses are accepted).

        Yes, I don’t have a credit card because I don’t trust myself, but unless someone comes up with an alternative (such as an age specific debit card), then I wouldn’t agree to such a requirement.

        • Lemming says:

          When you have a credit card, you can set it have the balance paid in full on a monthly basis. So you buy what games you normally would with it, then at the end of the month it gets paid off straight away from your normal account/debit card you use at the moment. You don’t pay any fees or interest doing it that way, plus if you’ve got a credit card that gives air miles or some similar bonus for using it, you are actually gaining something every time you use it, not to mention that purchases using credit cards are more secure (you can reverse the purchase in extreme cases if the seller has been fraudulent).

          The only time a credit card is bad is when it’s used like a loan.

      • skittles says:

        Dunno about the motherland, but here in dear old AU prepaid credit cards are easy to purchase in a lot of places, and there is not an age restriction.

      • UnearthedArcana says:

        I live in the UK. I’ve had a debit card, issued by my bank at my request, since I was 16 years old. Before that I used to purchase age restricted games from ebay using a paypal account – it’s ridiculously easy for anyone with a bank account and an internet connection, regardless of age, to buy things on the internet.

        Since I consider myself to be a fairly well-adjusted person, I wouldn’t be the first to ask for this sort of thing to be regulated, but it does seem like the law should have a bit of internal consistency.

    • dE says:

      Well there’s some sort of geofiltering going on in Platforms like Steam and Co. In good old germany, who’ve been experts on the censorship of games (while technically it’s just pointing a “do not sell” gun at the publisher’s head, if they don’t comply), you’re often redirected to a country specific storepage with a low violence version.
      So worst case scenario, you’re getting germany and australia sponsored butcherjobs of games. Don’t worry. The Devs will only be made to cut entire questlines (like in Fallout!) or remake cutscenes (like in Bioshock). Do try to make international friends in advance, that can gift you games from the outside. Doesn’t mean it’ll end up that way, but it’s better to be prepared, no?

    • Archonsod says:

      It won’t apply. You can currently buy all kinds of legally restricted products like tobacco and alcohol online via the simple proviso of checking the “I am 18 or over” box.

      Not that it would matter anyway – unless you’re buying from a UK digital retailer the law wouldn’t apply in the first place.

  3. agitatedclimax says:

    I think you’re right in your assertion that publishers/distributors will not start to say anything along the lines of, “well, if you just cut out the bit where you saw off the blind teenage prostitute’s leg with a blunt rusty spoon, then we could get a lower rating, and make loads more money! Hoorah!” Not.

    • Grey Ganado says:

      Sorry to break it to you but they are already doing that.

      Edit: Ignore that, I’m blind.

      • agitatedclimax says:

        Are you a teenage prostitute too? I’ve got a blunt rusty spoon, if you fancy a good time. :D

  4. Metonymy says:

    I suppose you guys are actually accustomed to not being able to own and carry guns, and having cameras openly displayed everywhere on your streets.

    Imagine if 20 years ago, your 12 year old self couldn’t buy X-Com or Ultima or Master of Orion or Civilization because of it depicted something that the STATE didn’t approve of for children?

    How can you openly accept this? Don’t you understand that you never get this freedom back? Not until you overthrow the government, I mean? Revolution may not even be possible anymore, given our technological level, so you could be losing this freedom forever.

    Strong work, gentlemen.

    • Gira says:

      I didn’t know the Cato Institute was seeding commenters onto videogame websites.

      • meatshit says:

        I blocked Metonymy months ago and every time I see a post of his with a long list of replies calling him an idiot, I feel vindicated in my decision. I suggest everyone else follow suit.

    • sinister agent says:

      Oh, don’t be so absurd. I bought more 15 and 18 rated games when I was a kid than I have now. Nobody cares, same as it ever was. I was allowed to because my parents knew I could handle it (and had seen much worse on telly – indeed, games then didn’t really have the fidelity to be as graphic and realistic as they can be now), but even if the shop had stopped me, I’d have just gone somewhere else or copied it off a friend instead. And seriously, you think XCOM or Civilisation had a high rating? Try ripping out a man’s spine in Mortal Kombat or watching a guy roll around screaming in agony, squirting blood everywhere after setting off a spear trap in Cannon Fodder. Brilliant!

      We’re not concerned about not being able to carry guns because we don’t want them. Having a rifle doesn’t mean you’re magically free, and it’s certainly not going to impress the guy in the Typhoon. And drawing a parallel between CCTV and age ratings for a medium that’s had age ratings for well over two decades is almost as ridiculous.

      The fact is that there are games that kids shouldn’t play, same as there are films kids shouldn’t watch (hell, there are films that would disturb me even now). This simply levels that playing field. Yes, it’s up to parents to know what’s going on with their kids, but parents can’t (and shouldn’t) be with their kids 24/7, so this just helps them out. If it’s really that important to you that a ten year old plays GTA5, you can just buy it for her yourself.

    • Jesus H. Christ says:

      right with ya dude! I remember when I was 8 and I could buy a gun, snuff porn, and a carton of Jonh Player Specials at my local Tesco without any stinking ID.

    • The First Door says:

      I’d just like to point out before anyone says it, that much reported statistic where you are apparently recorded 300 times a day is utter bunkum.

      For example, a 2011 report stated people were captured 70 times a day and to quote to Guardian a couple of other sources “The widely-used estimate of 4.2 million cameras in the UK was based on a 1.5km road in a busy shopping district and extrapolated out for the entire UK” which is clearly stupid.

      • sinister agent says:

        Fair point, but have you seen some of the new buses they got in for the olympics in London? I was on one a few months ago that had at least five cameras on it. Only a single decker, too. Bloody mental, that.

        • Premium User Badge

          RaveTurned says:

          This has been standard on all new buses for a while (in Southampton we’ve had cameras on buses since at least 2001). The only reason they’re relatively new to London is because of the reluctance to retire the old iconic Routemasters.

          • sinister agent says:

            Ha, I seriously don’t think I’ve ever even seen a routemaster bus. These were definitely new, and have far more cameras than the ones I’ve seen before. It just seems like a waste as much as anything – three of them showed the same area, for a start. Some manufacturer made a nice packet out of that order.

          • Premium User Badge

            TheApologist says:

            The new London buses might have *more* cameras on them, I’m not sure. But cameras on public transport including buses have been around for years now at least on the several routes I regularly take. What does seem to me more common now (though not new) is putting screens up showing people on the bus the feeds that are getting recorded.

          • shaydeeadi says:

            I remember them installing screens on the buses to Hythe amongst others so you could watch yourself commit crime.

            OT: Following the recent cinema massacre where a man with psychiatric problems tear gassed and executed a decent proportion of the audience, while irresponsible parents took small children and infants to a midnight screening of a violent film at which said event happened. I don’t see how anyone can be proud of a country where people need to carry objects of murder to feel safe in public.
            Not to even mention the buck-passing fiasco which is game age ratings in the USA.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            While the game’s ratings board in the USA isn’t perfect, I would much rather have an independent entity handle it than state boards or a federal board. I don’t know how much you know about our politicians, but giving those knucklehead the power over ratings would be a bad idea. It was before when it was abused by religious zealots to ban all sorts of stuff, and I’d rather not see such a thing come back.

            Also, I don’t know if you’re assuming that a child can just walk in to any store and buy porn, rated R movies, and M rated games, but they can’t. For guns and other such materials, there’s often state laws regarding gun sales. Pornography is regulated and selling it a minor is a crime. As for movies and games, most stores have their own policy.

            Personally, I don’t have a problem with these matters being controlled by gov’t if handled in a transparent and open-minded manner. However, that tends to not be how much of the USA’s gov’t works. FFS, we had a Federal Attorney General who required that the statue of Lady Justice be draped over because of an exposed breast. (http://tinyurl.com/9qfgg6) My own state, Virginia, has an Attorney General who wants to alter our State’s seal to cover up the bare left breast of Virtus. (http://tinyurl.com/38pc9sb) Can you imagine if these assholes got a hold of a rating board? Especially when leading officials can’t even begin to understand the difference between pornography and art?

            Sic semper tyrannis, indeed.

          • Premium User Badge

            TheApologist says:

            @Stupid_Mcgee It’s worth noting that politicians in the UK don’t typically decide matters of classification and censorship. The BBFC make most classification and censorship decisions, and they are an industry non-profit body, independent from and not funded by government. That said, if a city or county-wide local government authority wants to classify differently (either to censor more or less, classify up or down) they can. In practice this isn’t common, and censorship generally is pretty rare. So perhaps the systems aren’t so different? BBFC I think are generally favourably regarded in the UK, and do quite a lot of public consultation work.

            PEGI is similarly an industry body, but I don’t know about their record of public research to shape decision making, or how liberal or independent they tend to be in practice.

          • InternetBatman says:

            @stupid. Ewww. Just the mention of Cuccinelli makes me want to take a shower. He’s a self-aggrandizing d-bag who made me ashamed to live in VA.

            Oddly enough though, I don’t have a problem with the government taking over ratings. The system that exists is already pretty bad and virtually all physical stores follow it to the letter. The only thing I would have a problem with is people preventing the sale of some violent games, but it’s doubtful that would hold up in any supreme court.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            @ TheApologist, thanks for the info! I fully admit I am woefully uneducated about the PEGI board. That’s good to hear that it’s not a gov’t advisory board or one in which gov’t makes appointees. In fact, it seems the BBFC and the MPAA are pretty much the same, just that British gov’t has a bit of oversight and management. I would not be opposed to such a thing in the States, but I would be wary of Congress trying for a power-grab.

            @ InternetBatman, I know. VA has some really screwed up politics. But I guess that’s true of everywhere. It just seem that this past administration has been nothing but a disturbing laughing-stock.

        • The First Door says:

          True, I guess my point was that the topic is more nuanced and complex than the usual rubbish people spout. For example, you are obviously going to get recorded more in a city than in the countryside. There is also evidence that CCTV helps with the prevention or resolution of crime, but obviously it can (and has by certain Councils) been used frivolously and as an invasion of privacy and civil liberties.

          As to the buses, I’ve lived in Edinburgh for ages, which has had buses with multiple cameras on since I moved up here. I’ve also seen some of the abusive, violent behaviour on them late at night, so I’m quite torn!

          • Premium User Badge

            TheApologist says:

            Agree with this. It’s not straightforwardly as issue of principle that state surveillance is wrong. It might be more about, for example, greater accountability about how recordings are viewed and seen. It seems to me that there is at least a need to distinguish difference between i) public servants protecting order in public spaces and prosecuting crime, ii) public servants irresponsibly pursuing order (for example by shutting down protest, persecuting protesters, or undertaking frivolous functions) and iii) unaccountable private companies subcontracted to undertake surveillance in public spaces for whatever reason. And with relation to the last two, we might wish to increase levels of surveillance, but by journalists, civic action groups and ordinary members of the public.

            For this reason, shouldn’t we be less concerned with numbers of cameras that i) to protect citizen rights to record the actions of state or corporate authorities at least in public spaces?, and ii) to institute some kind of civic accountability and review of police use of surveillance.

          • sinister agent says:

            #filmthepolice

            But seriously, if anyone should be on camera at all times, it’s the filth*. And politicians. And people I don’t like.

            *If any of you happen to be or know cops, I mean this in an affectionate way. Did you ever watch Rex the Runt? See, there’s this episode where… well anyway. 1 racist cop in 100 is too many, right? Right.

          • The First Door says:

            To TheApologist: It is almost always an issue of accountability when it comes to this sort of thing. That is why it gets so complicated as who you’d trust with your data in a fleeting, confusing mess, at least for me.

            To sinister agent: That is one of the laws I massive disagree with, effectively banning photography or filming of the police. After all, it’s been shown through the Ian Tomlinson trial and the G20 riots that there is a tiny minority (I hope) of the police who can’t be trusted. Then again there is a minority in all walks of life which can’t be trusted!

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          FhnuZoag says:

          Nobody ever actually looks at the videos from those cameras, unless I guess if a crime occurs. I mean, imagine if it was your job – you’d be BORED OUT OF YOUR MIND.

          • InternetBatman says:

            This is mostly true, too many cameras just provide too much information to parse, but that could be less of a problem in the future as facial recognition technology improves. I think public cameras are scary because they vastly extend the repressive capabilities of authoritarian and irresponsible (us in the USA) regimes (Tiananmen Square was wired with cameras and the footage greatly aided in the purges afterward), but they’re not intrinsically bad. It’s the respect for the rule of law within a society that makes them good or bad.

          • Premium User Badge

            Aninhumer says:

            I feel like the law should not factor efficiency into what the police are allowed to do. If the police are allowed to observe people in public places, then there should be nothing wrong with CCTV. If we decide there is something wrong with CCTV, then the problem is not with CCTV, it is with the permission to observe in the first place. I think people need to work out what is and is not permissible for the police, with the assumption that that permission will be exercised as fully as possible.

    • Premium User Badge

      RaveTurned says:

      Not sure what link you’re trying to draw between gun control, privacy public spaces and media censorship. Care to elaborate?

      On topic: Censorship is fairly well established in the media in pretty much all western countries to varying degrees. In the UK, legally enforceable ratings already exist for the cinema and DVD sales. If the availability of certain films should be restricted subject to taste and decency, then it seems reasonable that games – the other strongly visual entertainment medium – should be too. Obviously there’s a question there about where you set the bar (or perhaps if the bar needs to exist at all?), but I can’t think of a logical reason why film and video games should be treated differently in this respect.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        That’s just it: You’re brainwashed into thinking that films should be “restricted based on taste and decency.”

        • sinister agent says:

          Brainwashed by who, exactly? If I want to watch hardcore pornography for three weeks solid, I can. If I want to watch a series of films about a man torturing people to death for kicks, I can. If I want to play a game about torturing and killing people for cash, I can. Nobody’s stopping me. Well, apart from me. Brrr.

          I don’t, however, think that it’s a good idea to let some moron in a shop sell all of those things to a young child. Do you? Because that’s the point of this. As a kid I once had waking nightmares after listening to an album – you can bet your arse I’d have suffered trauma if I’d been exposed to the wrong films or games.

          When you wave your “BRAINWASHED OMG” flag over perfectly reasonable things, all you achieve is to cry wolf so that when people are trying to criticise things that actually ARE out of line, their position is easier to dismiss. Stop it.

          • InternetBatman says:

            By the braincleaners. They live right down the street.

    • BigJonno says:

      I played plenty of 15 and 18 rated games before I was the appropriate age because I would ask my mum to buy them, having described their content and often shown her a review in a magazine so that she could have a look for herself. However, it’s only fair that in those days, those ratings usually meant that a game would be extremely violent or possible scary. I’m not sure how she would have reacted if my eleven year old self had wanted to play GTA.

      If a day comes when the government declares it illegal for children to play games that they don’t meet the age requirement for, I will be the first person protesting that shit. As it stands, the PEGI system is an aid to parenting, not a replacement for it. It doesn’t control what children can see, it controls what they can buy, on their own, without parental approval.

      If the alternative is the situation that currently exists in the US, where there is no legally enforceable rating system, but developers self-censor in order to meet the requirements of moralising retail chains who refuse to stock titles with the highest rating, I’ll take a bit of government involvement, thanks.

      • psyk says:

        If the next gen consoles have to be online at all times and have biometric scanners get the pitch forks XD

    • Glycerine says:

      Yeah, fuck the STATE man, keeping us from owning guns, stopping our knifecrime parties, moving the legally-enforcable age-rating system for games from a board set up for film classification to a system run by a group that represents the interactive software industry specifically…it’s a step too far i tells ya!

      The ‘man’s infringing on our rights! And more importantly, they’re stopping us from getting drunk and shooting shit, and stopping 10-year-olds from playing grand theft auto, using a *different* rating system from the one which previously stopped them from playing grand theft auto (bad parenting aside). If only we had more guns so we could take arms, form a well-organised militia and take back the power! As it is, i guess we’ll have to do what we can with a straw and little paper balls.

      • caddyB says:

        God you blew my sarcasmometer there. Good work though, I agree completely.

    • Premium User Badge

      TheApologist says:

      Freedom and the possibility of resisting state control are huge issues, and you do them a gargantuan disservice by reducing them to individual rights to carry weapons, and then drawing some unspecified linkage to the presence of cameras in public spaces. And what has that got to do with a movement of legislative backing from an established film classification body and system to a new one?

      Classification is the main issue here, not censorship, incidentally. One should not reduce one to an equivalence with the other – though of course there has been a limited amount of censorship undertaken by the BBFC which is, rightly, usually controversial.

      Edit: Just saw RaveTurned’s reply – sorry for essentially repeating

    • kael13 says:

      Good thing you guys can have guns! All those public massacres we’re missing out on. For a country whose politics are so misshapen, you guys sure are making good use of that Second Amendment!

      • sinister agent says:

        Prooobably a good idea to edit that down a bit, man. That may have been a bit tasteless.

      • Premium User Badge

        Smashbox says:

        That’s barely coherent, and you’re an asshole.

      • Grygus says:

        I don’t think it’s so clear; is it more tasteless after such a massacre to rant about the sanctity of gun ownership, or to point out the inherent hypocrisy in that stance? Widespread gun ownership makes gun violence an easily available solution to problems. While that is sometimes useful, it shouldn’t be surprising that given the history of human judgement under stress that this is very often not a good thing.

    • aldo_14 says:

      I suppose you guys are actually accustomed to not being able to own and carry guns, and having cameras openly displayed everywhere on your streets.

      Imagine if 20 years ago, your 12 year old self couldn’t buy X-Com or Ultima or Master of Orion or Civilization because of it depicted something that the STATE didn’t approve of for children?

      How can you openly accept this? Don’t you understand that you never get this freedom back? Not until you overthrow the government, I mean? Revolution may not even be possible anymore, given our technological level, so you could be losing this freedom forever.

      Strong work, gentlemen.

      This post brought to you by The Campaign to Legalize Pornography For Toddlers.

      What? Seeing as we’re in the ridiculous hyperbole stage, I thought I’d join in. Now, if someone can add in a Hitler reference (Hitler hated Grand Theft Auto?), we’re done!

    • cliffski says:

      I sure wish we could carry guns on the streets of Britain. Then we would be like the USA, where there is no gun crime, and certainly no mass-shootings.
      wait….

      • InternetBatman says:

        And psychos have the nerve to say that more guns would be better because crime would give way to gunfights and there is no such thing as innocent bystanders.

        It’s worth noting that the real problem with America is that large swaths of it were settled without the rule of law or a strong central state that could disarm its people and prosecute violence. All these values became part of enculturation, which is why all our murder rates are much higher, not just gun violence.

        • Shuck says:

          Here in America everyone has to have guns to protect themselves. After all, everyone out there is armed!
          Ironically during the 19th century in the “Wild West,” most communities on the frontier actually banned firearms completely within town limits. Our gun culture has more to do with historical fantasies than actual tradition.

          • Grygus says:

            America’s gun culture, like most of our weird laws, are based entirely in irrational fear.

    • Milky1985 says:

      We can counter the idiot american with his troll post in a very simple way, with facts (this seems to be the way to counter most idiot americans i have noticed)

      PEGI was developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, this is an independent federation, representing the interests of the interactive software sector in Europe to the main stakeholders: EU institutions, international organisations, academics, or the general public.

      Thus not the state, all the state is saying is “listen to these people”.

      Amazing what happens with a bit of basic research.

      • Premium User Badge

        Llewyn says:

        In my experience, attempting to counter idiot Americans with facts is an utter waste of time. It is a disregard for facts and reality that has led them to this state. Facts are only useful to counter the posts of intelligent Americans who might happen to be mistaken.

        • geoffreyk says:

          “In my experience, attempting to counter idiots with facts is an utter waste of time. It is a disregard for facts and reality that has led them to this state. Facts are only useful to counter the posts of intelligent people who might happen to be mistaken.”

          FTFY

    • bill says:

      Sensible laws are the first step on the slippery slope to non sensible laws! Ban the sensible laws!

    • Tams80 says:

      This is not the place to start discussing “freedom”, especially guns (weapons is the proper term, as guns are artillery) and cameras.

      I think we have it better not having that much gun ownership and cameras that really do help prevent crime and provide evidence (sorry, I couldn’t resist a rebuttal).

      Games ratings are a bit of a joke anyway. Underage people who want these games just get someone is old enough to get them in many cases. This is less so for alcohol and tobacco, but the consequences of selling to minors in those cases are more obvious. Game shops just don’t care.

    • Nick says:

      My 12 year old self was bought Xcom for christmas.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I’m sure he’s american. They have this absolutely bizzarre idea around ‘freedom’ or at least some kind of fictional freedom they made up that the entire rest of the world disagrees with them about.

      Because in America, you aren’t free to say anything you want.

      You aren’t free to achieve what you want, unless you are affluent and white.

      However, you are free to buy a gun and commit atrocities, that happens all the time!

      Of course, I’m lazy that list could go on for hours, and I would struggle to find any advantage to America over other nations. Universal Studios? That was indeed fun.

      • Premium User Badge

        Smashbox says:

        People who spew ad-hominem attack on entire countries based on assumptions are … er … how do you say retarded without sounding like a jerk?

        • Shuck says:

          I believe the word you’re looking for is “American.” (No, seriously, we love to do that.)

    • plugmonkey says:

      What freedom have I lost, exactly? I’m 33. I’m as free to play these games today as I was yesterday.

      As for children, the STATE denies them lots of things: alcohol, tobacco, knives, solvents, driving licenses, the vote. I can’t say I’m particularly troubled by any of these developments.

      Also, why would X-Com or Masters of Orion have been unavailable to my 12 year-old self? You think the depictions of violence in those games were particularly life-like?

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      This coming from the entity who believes it’s ok to call for a feminist to get raped.

      Gems like

      Keep kissing feet, keep being beta, Europe. It’s not the woman or the immigrant who will be your master, but someone far worse.

      make you so enthralling!

      Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and buy some guns and then sit in my fallout shelter until all the women leave politics.

  5. fishmitten says:

    56

  6. The First Door says:

    To be fair, I thought that the BBFC certification was already enforceable (as it was exactly the same as for film) and the main issue was that there were two competing rating systems?

    Anyway, this is brilliant news that they’ve finally sorted it, but I can’t help feeling that going with the BBFC certification would have been clearer to parents as you are using symbols and ratings which they should already be used to.

    Incidentally I have massive respect for Professor Tanya Byron ever since I saw her on The House of Tiny Tearaways where she took children (or a French & Saunders) with behavioural problems and then taught the parents to stop being so rubbish.

    • Leeroy says:

      The Byron report basically said the bbfc guidelines were sufficient for the reasons you mention, on the other side of it I’ve never really liked the PEGI systems actual rating process, the onus is too much on the developers and there have been some pretty anomalous results as a result.

      • The First Door says:

        I was actually really impressed with what I heard about that report, because it seemed quite balanced between the need for clearer ratings for to help parents make informed decisions and putting an onus on individual parental responsibility.

    • Glycerine says:

      The BBFC rating was enforceable previously – you’re right in that the issue was in having two different ratings systems, one enforceable and one not. Not helped by many games being classified by PEGI but managing to slip past getting a BBFC rating at all.

      Having one or t’other would probably be fine, so long as all games were rated, and by the same system. I’d agree that the BBFC symbols are better established as a recognised legally-binding system.

    • Optimaximal says:

      The BBFC certification was perfectly enforceable, the problem is the guidelines with which it issues the certificates are not entirely suitable for interactive entertainment.

      As a result, you may have instances where a game that should have an 18 got a 15 (or vice-versa) because it didn’t fit the criteria or something was missed. I don’t think it took into account ‘online experiences’ either.

      • sinister agent says:

        Oh god, they don’t count online stuff for the pegi ratings, do they? Now every game ever will be an 18, ironically thanks to the legions of screeching thirteen year olds screeching every racist and homophobic slur they can think of (three!) every thirty seconds.

        • MasterDex says:

          I don’t believe they do. There’s a message along the lines of “Online Interactions are not rated and may differ from the rating granted” or something to that effect. If online interactions were rated, nearly every game with online capabilities would have to get an 18′s certificate.

      • Wut The Melon says:

        Well, as a Dutchman who’s lived with the PEGI system ‘legally enforced’ (if you know anything about the Netherlands, you should know that that doesn’t mean anything here), I have to say that I don’t understand your (because, you know, you’re all Brits) decision to go with it. I have no idea what PEGI bases its ratings on, but they’re not very realistic/accurate. Pretty much everything gets rated 18+, even though most of that contains much less shocking content than your average 18+ film.

        Which makes some perfectly OK games inaccessible and the real ’18+’ titles undistinguishable. The rating process seems to focussed on arbitrary elements instead of the game as a whole (I once watched an American documentary on… war crimes? something like that. Anyway, some of the things that were said were really shocking… but for the younger crowd, at least the word ‘fuck’ was repeatedly censored out!).

    • Luke says:

      The BBFC ratings were enforceable at 15 and 18, but not the 12 certificate. For some reason. I think they were never actually tasked with providing the 12 certificates?

  7. D-e-f- says:

    Yay for better looking PEGI logos on my boxes! I found the BBFC logos very often clashing with the box art design due to its shape and color (still better than Germany’s atrociously huge USK-logos).

  8. Visualante says:

    I think the whole thing was a political move between ELSPA and some publishers. I guess some publishers want to pay one fee for European ratings, and not a second fee for BBFC. But also there were some concerns post Manhunt 2 about censorship. I’d love to know the real story about it.

    Personally I think it makes sense for the British public to have one rating for media, known and enforced, but what’s done is done.

    I think really they should be a bit more forward thinking, as mentioned online is becoming the norm.. many readers probably haven’t bought a boxed PC game in a few years and that is likely going to be a problem with the next round of consoles. Perhaps you could scan your birth certificate into your Kinect?

    • The First Door says:

      On consoles at least, they already have relatively robust age filtering. As far as I’m aware all major consoles allow parents to set what age-rated games the console is allowed to play without a parental password/pin. Doesn’t that apply to both boxed and downloaded games? That is why I always get annoyed when parents blame console makers for not protecting their children.

      As for PC, I guess you’d require the store fronts to implement something similar if they haven’t already.

      • Visualante says:

        I’d say it needs to be at point of sale, in addition to be enforced in the household. Kids can buy Microsoft points, log on to XBOX.com, what about gifts? It’s very difficult to police on a console level. Maybe they take their XBOX Live account to a friend’s house? I’m not sure how the parental ratings work but it seems like it’s purely on a console level.

  9. sinister agent says:

    Bonus: this surely means more royalties for that man with the charmingly matter-of-fact voice who reads out the ratings at the start of videos.

    Edit: Also, how long before “Peggy 18″ becomes a porn site? Oh, who am I kidding, it probably already is.

    • Kaira- says:

      His voice is very lovely indeed.

    • The First Door says:

      His voice is fantastic, but if they got Logan Cunningham to read out the PEGI ratings I’d be in heaven though.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        The kid wanted to go first-person shooting. Sorry kid, PEGI 18.

        • The First Door says:

          See! Even an impression of him in text form made me smile widely! Thanks Rustybroomhandle… Thustybroomhandle?

    • tossrStu says:

      Never mind that guy. I want every game to ship with an unskippable intro video of Simon Bates earnestly explaining the PEGI ratings.

  10. frightlever says:

    “despite being very concerned about teenagers hearing language that is actually teenage punctuation”

    Ah. See, teenagers and society also tends to be casually racist, homophobic and misogynistic but that doesn’t make it acceptable. We should be ever striving towards a base level of decency. It’s the broken windows approach to civility.

    I would suggest that people who don’t swear, are less likely to mug old ladies or set fire to cats, than people who do swear. I’ll leave it at that and let people tie themselves into logical knots telling me I’m wrong.

    And none of the above should have any effect whatsoever on properly age-restricted entertainment of any kind.

    • dE says:

      I would suggest that people who don’t swear, are less likely to mug old ladies or set fire to cats, than people who do swear. I’ll leave it at that and let people tie themselves into logical knots telling me I’m wrong.

      Don’t worry. No need to make all those logical knots, your view is simply outdated. By about a century or two.

    • sinister agent says:

      People who never swear might not be likely to mug old ladies, but they are far more likely to have a back garden that’s about 15% dismembered hitchhiker.

    • 2helix4u says:

      M…Michael Gove?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Actually, people who do swear are more likely to be the hitchhiker fertilizer kind.

      People who don’t are more likely the white collar tax evasion types.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aninhumer says:

      It’s quite simple: correlation does not imply causation. Yes, a person who swears a lot is probably more likely to be violent. No, that doesn’t mean that fixing the swearing will fix the violence.

  11. sophof says:

    Surely this is about buying, not about playing? It is not very clear in the article at least. The day that country censors what anyone can see would be a very sad day indeed otherwise.

    As it stands I already find it silly why a country wants to raise someone else’s children, what exactly is the ‘damage’ if there would be parents allowing kids out there buying these things? Please prove such things first before you bother making laws… (one can dream)

    • sinister agent says:

      Yeah, who cares if kids are traumatised by watching all of the Saw films on their fifth birthday. Fuck ‘em.

      • sophof says:

        Because clearly this is a problem that needs to be handled by the government, what with that epidemic of traumatised children by videogames and parents having absolutely no control against the evil game resellers.

        See, I can hyperbole too.

        • sinister agent says:

          Except that mine demonstrated why it’s a good and positive law, because without it all a parent can do if some twat sells their kids a game that gives them nightmares for a fortnight is take the game off them. With it, the parent can hold the idiot who did that responsible. Yes, parents should supervise their kids, but the goal of all human children is to defy their parents. Whereas yours was just self-congratulatory sneering that completely misses the point.

          Yes, criminal law is, oddly enough, an area best handled by the government. Unless you think retailers are going to spontaneously start inconveniencing themselves and curbing their own profits for the public good, after 30 years of taking bugger all responsibility for what they sell.

          Would you sell a child an extremely violent film, against the wishes of their parents (who, if they’re not bothered, can simply not press charges)? Yes? No? There’s no difference between that and selling them a similarly violent game, practically or morally. Now there’s no difference legally either. It’s that simple.

          What, precisely, are the benefits of selling violent or disturbing games to children? If you can’t think of any… why are you complaining?

          • sophof says:

            You appear to still live under the misunderstanding that I agree with you that this is for “the public good”. This in itself is telling, people don’t even stop to think, “wait, what exactly are we hoping is prevented by this?”. This is an idea pervasive in society, so it helps to keep pointing out that 1: you need an actual problem to invent a criminal law and 2: does the law actual prevent said problem? Not that hard one would think…
            Is helping a few parents prevent their kids buying certain games really worth not only inconveniencing resellers, but also completely removing the freedom of others, where the parents are fine with it? Someone can get 6 years of jail and you can’t even point to a single victim. Why exactly does one get more rights as the other?

            The frivolous and callous manner where people like to tell others how to behave, even when it doesn’t impact their lives at all is scary.

    • aldo_14 says:

      Parents can still buy their kids an 18 rated game. Ratings really just mean that the parents can control entertainment being purchased by a minor, if they choose to do so.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        That or the law is that “shops cannot sell to minors”. Come on RPS commentators, it’s plain English here. This is not a law against purchase but against sale.

  12. increpare says:

    Haha rps should do an article asking people who’ve dealt with PEGI about their experiences :P It’s nice for consumers, but I’ve heard a bunch of developers grumble about them. (I’ve not dealt with them directly, though now I guess I’ll have to? Uh, maybe I’ll go back to freeware…).

    edit: oh, it doesn’t apply to online? that’s grand so for now :)

  13. MonkeyShines says:

    6 years jailtime? wow. The UK really is a fucking police state.

    • Unaco says:

      No it isn’t. Don’t be silly.

      • Premium User Badge

        lasikbear says:

        Yeah, you guys will have to try way harder to get on our level. USA #1

        Pro tip: 3rd strike rules + minor drug possession laws

    • Krimson says:

      Your response has been noted, and our international police team has been sent to your home. Do not attempt to resist. That would be most unwise. Thank you for your co-operation.

  14. Ministry says:

    New laws are always a good thing to keep the citizens from hurting themselves since they have proven unable to make their own judgements. I won’t be happy till we have cameras installed in our home for our own protection.

    • sinister agent says:

      The citizens you’re talking about are children. It’s not preventing any adults from doing anything, except for people who are not adults.

      Get a grip.

      • Ministry says:

        It’s the parents job to protect their kids, not the governments.

        • sinister agent says:

          (a) parents can’t, and shouldn’t, be with their kids 24/7.

          (b) some people are really shitty parents.

          (c) there is absolutely nothing stopping any parent from buying any game for their kids anyway. The only thing this prevents is the sale of adult games to adolescents or children against their parents’ wishes.

          This has absolutely nothing to do with government oppression or totalitarianism, and frankly you and many other people saying similar things in here are making fools of yourselves by pretending it does.

          • Ministry says:

            Ok Tipper Gore, the fool is the one who thinks laws like these make a difference. If a kid wants a game bad enough he will find a way to get it, simple as that. Wake up.

            Also, how can you defend a law that can fine someone 5k or have them put in prison for 6 YEARS for selling a video game? Really?

          • sinister agent says:

            Ok Tipper Gore, the fool is the one who thinks laws like these make a difference. If a kid wants a game bad enough he will find a way to get it, simple as that. Wake up.

            Right, so in other words, there’s no problem. So what are you moaning about, exactly? “Wake up” to what? The fact that you’ve made a fool of yourself once, and apparently enjoyed it so much you’re looking for whole new ways to do it?

            Also, how can you defend a law that can fine someone 5k or have them put in prison for 6 YEARS for selling a video game? Really?

            Because it’s a perfectly reasonable law, and if you genuinely think that anyone will get 6 years for selling a video game once, you clearly have no understanding of how the law works.

            If you don’t want to pay a hefty fine, don’t sell things to children if it’s illegal to sell them to children. What justification do you have, exactly, for selling (say) Manhunt 2 to someone whose parents don’t want him to play it? It’s not your decision to make.

            As it is with films, so it is with games. It’s perfectly reasonable and sensible. Yeah, it’d annoy me if I were still a teenager, and I’ve no problem with people who’d like to criticise precise details of how the games are classified, but that’s a completely separate response to “waaah all laws are totalitarianism waaah”.

        • Bhazor says:

          And this law *makes* their parents responsible. Now they are the ones who will have to queue up in the shop reading over the back of the box and thinking whether their kid is really grown up enough for it.

  15. TheManfromAntarctica says:

    Extra points to Adam for quoting the Good Doctor.

  16. NightShift says:

    You are playing a game? Terrorist! 5k or 6 years on jail Your choice.

    Joking aside, why the really harsh punishment there? If a 14 year old wants to play 18+ games, it’s my own damn decision. Oh god, red mist! I’m going to have nightmares about that red jam I keep getting in my eyes when I’m almost dead.

    There are reasons why I’m really happy rules such as these aren’t here in Egypt.

    • sinister agent says:

      If you’re 14, you’re the responsibility of your parents (shitty as it is, it’s the lesser evil). There’s nothing stopping them or any other adult from buying them for you.

      If you’re an adult talking about another 14 year old, there is nothing stopping you from buying them for that 14 year old.

      Seriously, what the hell is it with the ridiculous overreactions on this one? Is this some kind of invasion?

      • shizamon says:

        Just because people don’t feel the same way as you do about this law, doesn’t mean that they’re having overreactions. The fines are ridiculous, not to mention the jail time.

        • sinister agent says:

          People aren’t complaining about the fines, though. They’re making out that this is some kind of sinister threat to a fundamental civil liberty, rather than just banning people from selling things to kids when kids really shouldn’t have them anyway (but still allowing people to buy them for their kids if they want to). So what if the fine is five grand? It needs to be high to dissuade retailers from doing it. If it were only a few hundred quid, the money you’d get from doing it anyway would far outweight the fine.

          The jail time seems extreme, yeah, but that’s an upper limit for exrteme and/or persistent cases. Pretty much every law works like that. Even so, I’ve no problem with people criticising details of the law – it’s the wailing about government control that’s absurd. This changes makes no difference whatsoever to anyone’s rights, unless there’s a hardcore “selling adult games to kids is a basic human right” lobby that nobody’s told me about.

    • Subatomic says:

      These are penalties for the seller, not the buyer. They’re mostly there to assure shops don’t just ignore the ratings.

      • sophof says:

        Making a recommendation a law, so that people can no longer ignore the recommendation is more or less the definition of circular reasoning ;)

    • Premium User Badge

      Kong says:

      No silly rules in Egypt?
      I may party, drink and smoke, dance naked with naked girls on any beach in Egypt without having being harassed by the police?

    • Premium User Badge

      Kong says:

      No silly rules in Egypt?
      I may party, drink and smoke, dance naked with naked girls on any beach in Egypt without being harassed by the police or other controlers?

  17. bill says:

    You guys are just chuffed that you got name-dropped on the BBC!

  18. stkaye says:

    Adam, that opening paragraph is the best thing you’ve ever written.

  19. Bhazor says:

    If this forces parents to take an interest/responsibility for what hyper violence Lil Jimmy gets then fine by me.

    If this encourages less violent videogames and replaces them with fun and witty games then thats just a bonus.

  20. Randomer says:

    Hah! I’ve played a few games where “PEGI 16″ was announced at the beginning. I always assumed that was the name of the developer or publisher! I figured it was a vague riff on the age old “PENI 5″ joke.

  21. Quatlo says:

    Have you ever heard about Lobo? Its a comic book anti-hero, tough guy who is immortal because he was such a douche in hell that they kicked him out of it. Gore and stupid jokes all over the place. Some time ago Holywood wanted to make a movie about him. Obviously that ridiculous violence and mature humour are what these comic books are about. Of course some genius in monkey suit decided, that movie will be 12+ to not scare the audience (As we all know, comic books are for children only) Lobo was supposed to help a teenager girl to save earth, I still remember the outrage that sweeped through the web, in the end the movie never happened, at least I hope so that nobody is trying to film that.

    If people start to respect such ratings I’m afraid the same will happen with games, just when I was hoping that something good will finally happen at the market thanks to kickstarter and the whole indie scene.

    • Jehuty says:

      You’re worried a bunch of suits will invade the industry and start making decisions that will compromise the creator’s artistic vision in the name of less controversy, broader appeal, and larger sales?

      I have bad news for you . . .

    • unsane says:

      Oh, they’re still wanting to do the Lobo movie. And they still want it to be PG-13….

      And yeah, anyone wailing that this law is censorship or an attack on “freedom” needs to up their medication. Or get off it ;-)

  22. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    Actually Adam, the BBFC were sensible about the 12A/15 rating decisions in that link. I would have rated them both the same. Context, etc…

    The bigger issue with the BBFC is allowing bone-crunching brutality in 12A films because they’re carefully edited to within an inch of their lives so they can sneak the desired rating (despite the shock factor generally still existing), perpetuating the continued dumbing down of adult films so parents can take along little Timmy.

    Hey kids, all this brutal violence has no repercussions – because we can’t show it!

    (Although it’s more of a problem with the US PG-13 rating initially I guess. Studios wanting maximum profit, etc..)

  23. kemryl says:

    RPS commenters, way to spoil your good reputation. The ethnocentricity of some of these anti-USA comments is really just disgusting, and I say that as someone who detests the US with a gleeful passion.

    RPS crew, are you taking a day off or something?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      To be fair, there’s a lot of “lol we’ve got guns so we’re free” trolling going on in this thread and simply by statistical likelyhood I doubt that’s the Swiss.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Those Swiss! They’ve got way better guns than we do, and I’m from Texas….

    • Josh W says:

      Ever since the comment system changed, we’ve been dealing with the “hydra of stupidity”.

      It used to be that you could just cap off a thread that’s going stupid with something witty, surreal or insightful, but now stupidity sprouts from the sides, with people commenting on other comments, or starting a new line of comments off the original post.

      Look at the first page, you can find fragments of a traditional RPS comment thread, surrounded by people being dull.

      For me personally, I get my energy sapped wading through it, and forget what I was planning to say!

  24. Clean3d says:

    username@compyname:~$ diff this_pegi_article http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/06/27/supreme-court-videogames/

    Also, what does this mean for indie developers? This is limited to the sale of voluntarily-rated games to minors, right? It doesn’t actually require developers to actually obtain potentially-expensive ratings?

  25. adonf says:

    Someone please correct me if I’m wrong: this is only mandatory if the publisher is a member of the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), so independent publishers do not have to get a PEGI rating for their games. Right ?

  26. Eddy9000 says:

    I thought age ratings on games were already enforcable? Shows what I know.

    Besides I read on the BBC news website that it was all because RPS said the trailers at E3 were too violent.

  27. RakeShark says:

    As an American, I’m confused by this, considering our Supreme Court shot down state legislation that made video game ratings government enforceable and assigned federal penalties for sales to minors under the rating’s age specification.

    I was under the impression that the rating system was a voluntary measure to help parents understand what games may be appropriate/inappropriate for their children. We’re not talking about a controlled substance like tobacco or alcohol that medicine has shown multiple times (and can produce said results anytime) to have ill and adverse affects on minors. That’s how I think us Americans are interpreting this news item: UK makes video games a controlled substance.

    I could understand this more if, like television, video games were government and publicly funded through taxes. In which case that’s fine because that’s how the UK works. However, I’m /fairly/ certain that UK developers and publishers are not funded that way. Hence my ambivalence.

    I guess I don’t like the idea of attaching a criminal penalty enforced by the government to a self-policing system.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      I’d say it’s not that complicated. The USA has a bill of rights built into the constitution; the UK does not (though obviously it preserves various rights of citizens via legislation; it’s just my understanding that they are not unassailable). The 200+ years of case law expanding the First Amendment has made an intrinsic part of American culture; most people (at the very least, most gamers) consider media to be a form of speech, and thus this law seems like it would be blatantly illegal in the USA (as the supreme court recently determined).

      But in the UK (and western Europe in general) there is much more of a focus on balancing individual rights with “societal rights” – i.e. the right to free speech is balanced by the right to privacy, right to freedom from harassment, etc, and these latter factors are weighed much heavier than they are in the US.

      • RakeShark says:

        Suppose I can understand that to a point. It just feels wrong on this side of the pond. Guess it’ll be one of the hundred dozen things we do differently for valid reasons, even though it looks crazy to the other side.

    • Josh W says:

      That “controlled substance” point is a good one, people intuitively assume that certain kinds of content have issues for kids, but I doubt very strongly that the ratings are actually gauged in terms of the harm they will do.

      I’m sure there’s a lot of creepy psychological stuff out there that children should probably not be interacting with, even if it is not explicitly violent or grotesque.

      But unlike drugs, where it’s possible to avoid testing for harm directly, via analysis of the effects of chemicals on isolated brain cells, etc. the links with cultural stuff are much much harder to prove. We have no models that would allow us to experiment, except by traumatising children in a controlled environment, which no one but glados would agree to.