For a long while now the UK game trade body has been begging our government to introduce PEGI ratings. Now, after what seems like forever to “confused parents” nationwide, PEGI ratings are finally being introduced. Or so we thought…
After having pressured the gaming industry to implement safer, easier-to-understand age restrictions, the government have delayed the introduction of PEGI (Pan European Game Information) ratings for the second time. This extended wait has put UKIE (The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment) in a frustrating and difficult position, since they are considered partially responsible for the safety of children within the UK’s interactive industries. Is it fair of the government to complain about online safety for younger children, and the lack of consideration for oblivious parents whose kids are kicking ass on a game they shouldn’t be allowed to play for 6 years, when they have clearly belated the application of a structure designed to do exactly this?
Andy Payne, UKIE Chairman, had this to say:
“This further delay to PEGI’s implementation is extremely frustrating, not to mention disappointing. We have received repeated assurances from the Government that the process is in hand, yet PEGI is still no closer to implementation. It is also disappointing that a Government constantly – and quite rightly – pressuring the industry to put measures in place to protect children – can’t seem to deliver on its side of the bargain.”
The introduction of this system, which was highly recommended by other European countries’ industries, was first discussed in parliament by Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, on June 16th 2009, after a reference in the Byron Review (a report delivered on the 27 March 2008 to the UK Department for Children, Schools and Families) suggested that a new and improved scheme was needed, especially because parents were not sure about what their children were playing. Despite being signed into law 18 months ago, this has not yet happened. But what I’m not sure about is how much of a difference new certificates will make.
Here is an amusing video I originally found on the PEGI website that made me chuckle, mainly because of the Worms Armageddon reference, that demonstrates the argument at hand:
Surely if a kid tells their parents they want an 18-certificate game for Christmas, for example, they will either be told yes or no. If the parents say yes, then fine, nothing can be done. But if they say no, their child will probably just get it from somewhere else anyway, considering online shops have limited control over the age of the customer. If the parent is unaware of what they’re buying, the store are similarly unlikely to make a note of the game’s age limit, because if the parent suddenly decided they weren’t sure, the store would have one less sale. Furthermore, if any of you have ever entered a website (an example being the official COD: Black Ops site) and been asked to enter a date of birth, anyone below the expected age and with an ounce of sense will claim to be at LEAST 70. My point stands; the difference will me minute. ( “my newt”, not 1/60 of an hour ;P )
One interesting mention I came across in my research was on the UK Gamespot website, which links this delay to the banning of games. The famous instance they describe is of Manhunt 2, a game which was originally refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Classification, because of “unremitting bleakness” and “sustained and cumulative casual sadism.” It was illegal to sell this game in the UK for some time, even after an edited version was released, until the makers of GTA took the issue to the BBFC’s Video Appeals Committee, a panel of seven independent judges, who reversed the decision and recommended the game be granted an 18 certificate.
Right, so a hypocritical government expects others to take the responsibility for their tardiness, and the effects of this proposed new regime will arguably be ineffective within many factors. But the benefits for those parents whose children may innocently pick up an inappropriate game are existent to an extent, because the person who sells a game, like with DVDs and some CDs, will legally be required to ask for identification if they could be below the required age. To disprove this advantage, I present two examples: The first, a friend of mine, who at 16 is taller than I am, has a full-on goatee, deep voice and muscular physique, got away with getting a shoulder tattoo from a legitimate parlour. Similarly, my second is when I went out to buy COD: MW2 in 2009 from GAME, at the age of 15, I wasn’t even asked my age.
Yes, this delay is frustrating for gaming standards boards, and companies who are directly linked with younger criminal offences (which have been blamed on war games, of course), but the fact that all but a few electronic products these days have age recommendations shows that his introduction of PEGI will be ineffectual in many circumstances.
It will be interesting, I think, to note the changes that eventually occur when this action comes into play, reportedly in a further 6 months’ time. But for now, I guess we’ll all just have to keep playing the games we’re not allowed to play, like the rebels we clearly are.
– Will : )