The EGTV Show: The Ratings Debate

Johnny Minkley Wants You.

This is one for all you who call out after videogame journalism. Johnny Minkley takes EGTV to look at the Rating debate in the UK. Everything from the PEGI vs BBFC slanging match to the problem of self-interest is covered, with all the key figures interviewed. Sterling stuff. You can watch it here, which includes a much longer over-view of its content. A half-hour documentary with serious intent and only minor diversions into discussions of labial display – and brilliantly features Minkley going through GAME’s training procedure for spotting minors then working behind the till. It’s like staring at all our dark futures. Watch immediately.

27 Comments

  1. westyfield says:

    “It’s like staring at all our dark futures. Watch immediately.”

    Will watch later.

  2. AndrewC says:

    Johnny Minkley is a Soho Meedja Whore. I mean, in a nice way.

  3. Brendan C says:

    Nicely put together vid methinks. You can tell a lot of work went into it. Everyone was so… reasonable. I would have loved to see an interview with someone from the popular press with strong views get interviewed. They might not have anything intelligent to add but damned if it wouldn’t be good watching.

  4. MrCraigL says:

    Oh nice one Kieron. I started watching this immediately like you said and my boss saw and now I’m fired. Now I have no job which means no money which means no house which means I’ll probably die.

    THANKS A LOT.

    Good video though.

  5. Starky says:

    I need to get my hands on (or make) 3 children.
    One I will allow/force them to play 18 rated games from a young age (4 or 5, as soon as they can work a controller)
    The second I will only allow them to play age appropriate games.
    And the 3rd will play no games at all.

    Then just see what happens.

    After all what is the point of having children if you can’t use them for scientific study?

    • Tei says:

      @Starky “After all what is the point of having children if you can’t use them for scientific study?”

      This

    • Grunt says:

      Tei: I think I love you, man. Best laugh I’ve had in AGES.

  6. Joe Martin says:

    Already the site is being invaded by Eurogamer. PAH!

    Good video, though I’m still not a fan of internet video work in general.

  7. Wrongshui says:

    Having trouble watching this because all I can think about is this thing.

  8. Lewis says:

    TRY IT ON TANIA!

  9. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Some keys points to retain and that I found worth repeating:

    – The gaming industry is essentially going through the same social acceptance process that other industries (Television, VHS, etc) had to go through. As new generations of gamers go into adulthood and are themselves faced by the responsibilities of parenthood, a better understanding of this entertainment business is bound to be gained. Currently, there’s still a large gap between young gamers and parents who may have never played a video game in their lives.

    – The education process really cannot be aimed at children. These are the ones who are often fully aware of the game contents and whether they should or not be playing those games (despite their wanting to). Parents are the ones in a dire need of education and better understanding.

    Two other notes:

    (1)
    Jonathan Smith from TT Games essentially demonstrates the type of conversation we will hope to occur between parents and their children as a standard social behavior in some foreseeable future. I’m just sorry it does not go a little further into exploring other ways of getting adolescents a taste of 15+ games in a context that is not harming to them. Because quite frankly I think that is the real divide. Not so much teenagers experiencing games deemed 18+, but adolescents being constantly shown the bright lights of teenager games. And this is a point of concern, because as young Toby says, many of his friends play and have finished these games. He’s under the double pressure of wanting to experience those games and the emotions these games transmit, and at the same time under his peers social pressure for having not done so.

    If for anything I suggest we, parents, play some of these games, with our kids. We go out, buy Modern Warfare II (ignore the advertisement) and play the game with our kids at home. Let them experience the game in our presence and alongside them. All in a controlled environment were we, as parents, can explain to them the things they are seeing in a educative context. I have been successfully in doing this with my eldest daughter. No allowing her to “own” the game. But allowing her to play the game with me or in me presence.

    (2)
    The possibility of a law to be forged on the backs of the previous debate in UK that could implement banning measures is however totally wrong. I would hope, for your sake, that the law you are about to see being put in place does not get into that. You can see how damaging those measures have been in countries like Germany or Australia, where the banning of games is simply just a form of legalized censorship. Where games that were banned there are being played on other countries with no noticeable effects on the lives and behaviors of their players, and without demoralizing the society and turning everyone into animals.

    As soon as the word “Ban” comes up towards the end of the video, my ears perk. They tend to do that every time the word “Ban” is used. And this is so because banning is not democratic behavior and it is not conducive of a free society. It’s the exact opposite.

    • Lewis says:

      “If for anything I suggest we, parents, play some of these games, with our kids. We go out, buy Modern Warfare II (ignore the advertisement) and play the game with our kids at home. Let them experience the game in our presence and alongside them. All in a controlled environment were we, as parents, can explain to them the things they are seeing in a educative context. I have been successfully in doing this with my eldest daughter. No allowing her to “own” the game. But allowing her to play the game with me or in me presence.”

      That’s exactly what my dad did with me when he was introducing me to the wonderful world of early iD Software games. He played them first, then played them with me, skipping past certain parts he thought were particularly unsuitable and letting me play the rest with him sitting alongside me.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Mario Figueiredo

      Sorry to break it to you but games can *already* be banned in the UK under the current BBFC system (and under other more general UK laws). This fact will not change when it switches to PEGI. The exact details are still unknown because PEGI is a european wide ‘voluntary’ and ‘advisory’ system, whereas any actual; statutory bans are implemented by individual European countries (eg Germany has its own additional laws about Nazi symbols). The UK hasn’t set out the details about how it is going to implement this interface, except for the fact that it will be handled by the Video Standards Council – who (along with a body in the Netherlands) the people who do assessments for PEGI. The VSO will therefore have two roles – their work for PEGI on Europe-wide ratings and their more specific work for the UK government on any additonal UK-specific ratings or bans. Up until now this latter role was solely done by BBFC.

  10. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    The “Bums, boobs and pubic hair” part made me cringe. No need to air quote those.
    Also, reminded of that funny video on how news reports work, its so true.

    But 15 minutes in, good video so far. Maybe this Eurogamer thing does have something to it…

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      That part did make me wonder about games like Privates.

      I mean, since the PEGI system does not rate in a context, that means that Privates (a supposedly educative title) would be rated for older audiences than the ones the game (supposedly) targets.

      With this idea in mind, I couldn’t avoid thinking that BBFC is, at least in this matter, does things in a more appropriate way. It rates according to context.

    • Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

      Thats quite a good point, actually.
      The way round this, as i see it, is if the game is a download, you only need to say your age, most times.

      Also, doesnt the ruling apply only to retailed games? They put their ratings on internet content, i assume.

  11. Huggster says:

    “labial display”?

  12. AndrewC says:

    The introduction seemed very much ‘why aren’t our awesome games treated fairly?’ (‘is england ready to fly the flag for games?’ was the quote, yes?), rather than ‘here is the debate about the treatment of games in culture’ – which is to say openly agenda’d, propagandistic in tone and as such only for preaching to the converted – which I felt was a shame.

    I also wasn’t sure that the actual journalistic focus was framed very well. It starts off seeming to be about the general cultural profile of games – why it doesn’t achieve more recognition and why it is demonised by some. This is a good start for a discussion into why things are used as scapegoats, and the history of how other demonised forms achieve respectability in the general culture.

    But instead the actual film seems to get sidetrack into one specific part of the debate – the mechanics of the ratings system, just one part of the normalisation of a medium. One of the less significant parts, i’d argue, but that’s opinions for you.

    Now I’m guessing the original intent was always a look at the ratings system, so this is really a fault with the framing, not the content.

    But then it’s great that there’s actually journalism going on. But then again it’s kind of terrible that journalism of this type is so rare that any example of it gets praised. But then again again there’s precious little beyond PR fluffery in Movie or even Music press, so maybe we shouldn’t be too down on the state of Games’ press.

  13. Zwebbie says:

    So when are books going to get such a system? I picked up Julius Caesar, by some Shakespeare guy, once, and it was full of stabbing!

  14. cjlr says:

    Hey, you guys are lucky. Either one is better than the ESRB.

    My own experience, though, is that my parents were pretty damn careful what I was playing. And that was without worrying about ratings, much – my dad always vetted everything personally, and my mom would at least look into the why of the ratings. The ESRB site gives a breakdown of all the things in a given game that someone might object to (as does PEGI, if I recall correctly – does the BBFC do that?).

  15. matte_k says:

    Wow, either that GAME store gets some remarkably polite (and well prepared with ID) young people in to purchase age-rated games, or that’s some fantastic editing. Never had that happen where I work, you ID someone for buying an age-rated game and all hell breaks loose. They still don’t get the game without ID though, not worth losing my job over. However, the way they get round this is usually the parent stepping in and making the purchase.
    Which in one case is a good thing as it means they are aware of the fact it is an age rated game for a reason, and are therefore taking an active interest in their offspring’s gaming habits, or the other case (sadly more frequent it seems) is that they just buy the game because the child wants it and thus giving them what they wants means a few hours peace at home. From a legal standpoint, there’s not much you can do to stop them as they are over the necessary age, and a moral standpoint of not making the sale quickly escalates into an awkward situation.

    Interesting to see GAME’s till system flags the age rated games all the time, so staff have no excuse for not doing their job. That system should be adopted across all retailers, for DVDs also.

  16. TeeJay says:

    @ Johnny Minkley – thank you for doing this programme
    @ Kieron Gillen – thank you for linking to it

    Anyone who wants to read the detailed PEGI age-rating criteria (46 long-form questions).

    1. go to link to videostandards.org.uk
    2. select the ‘games’ tab
    3. select ‘Download PEGI Assessment Form’
    4. you need to download the file, unzip and use Adobe Reader to look at it.

    Some follow on questions:

    From this autumn will it now be illegal for a mod-maker or indie developer to release/distribute a game (adult or otherwise) in the UK without a PEGI certificate? Are people allowed to release games as online digital downloads without a PEGI certificate? While the fine for a developer “making a false declaration about a game’s content” is up to £425,000, what is the penalty for not having a PEGI certificate? How much does it cost to get a PEGI rating? Does each patch or version need to be re-submitted? Who is responsible for user-generated content and mods?

    While PEGI was voluntary and advisory system the fact that it was industry owned and a ‘pan-european’ project wasn’t an issue. However now that it is part of UK law we need to ask what input does the British public and/or the UK parliament have (if any) into PEGI or VSC guidelines?

    While I can read the PEGI and BBFC criteria these still contain non-quantifiable judegment-calls, so I’d like to know if – in practise – PEGI ratings more restrictive or more liberal than BBFC ratings? For example BBFC rated Mass Effect 2 as ‘15′ versus the PEGI ‘18+’. Other games have apparently been vice-versa). Have PEGI ever refused a rating or do they simply give an +18 rating? Reading the PEGI criteria some are relatively mild (using the word ‘fuck’) whereas others are getting closer to UK obscenity laws (hate speech, sexual violence). How will any ‘additional’ UK controls on top of/beyond the PEGI ratings be handled?

    Just to fill in people in on this – for movies and DVDs the BBFC operates criteria against “detailed portrayal of violent or dangerous acts, or of illegal drug use, which may cause harm to public health or morals … this may include portrayals of sexual or sexualised violence which might, for example, eroticise or endorse sexual assault” and has a special R18 “Sex works” category which restricts supply to licensed sex shops/cinemas.

    UK obscenity and other laws totally bans more extreme material which covers:

    * Sex:…real or simulated sex where it involves under 18s / incest / animals / corpses / urine / vomit / excreta / lack of consent / bondage / pain / harm / verbal abuse / fisting (to various degrees). This ban however is ‘variable’ in that stuff like child porn is activitly enforced even online, whereas “2 girls 1 cup” is freely available and I have heard of no action being taken against anyone.

    * Violence:…sadistic violence / graphic mutilation / torture (this is also ‘variable’)

    * Other stuff:…material intended to stir up hatred (race/sexuality/religion), tobacco adverts, things which “may promote illegal activity” (this might include some depictions drug use), some catch-all ‘anti-terrorist’ laws and the vague ‘harm to public health or morals’ catch-all (which could probably be used to obstruct ‘how to hang yourself’ stuff etc).

    My *personal* interest in how the PEGI and how extra UK laws will operate isn’t out of a concern about about the tiny number of “extreme material” games, I’m not a collector of Japanese Eroge or Oblivion naked mods, I’m not a Leisure Suit Larry fan and I don’t indulge in interactive fetish roleplaying in Second Life (but each to their own)… it’s more about what the general impact will be on how ‘mainstream’ games are designed: for example who hasn’t been a bit annoyed by those games (Fallout?) where all children were removed or made magically ‘un-harmable’ until fans created patches to put them back in? I’m personally less interested in the “kids” end of the debate (as important as it is) and more interested in the impact of laws in America, Germany and Australia – and the UK – will have on game design.