Thursday, March 27, 2008

Video Game ratings

And so up pops Dr Tanya Bryon with her 'won't someone please think of the children' report on video games. The reported conclusions - A new set of ratings, more public awareness on games, and consistent guidance for the industry on advertising. Wow how um pointless.

I agree in getting consistency in advertising, feel free to apply the same standards to the BBFC while you're at it. Likewise I'm fine with raising public awareness it's a good intent which will have about the same degree of success as with film classification - i.e. bugger all. The real meat of the argument lies with the shake-up in ratings, let's look at that.

Firstly it's acknowledged that games of a certain nature are already submitted to the BBFC for rating; other games already submit themselves to the voluntary PEGI system. The problem may be that PEGI rate a game at 16+ while the BBFC look at it as an 18 and as quoting from the BBC

Dr Byron has said games should have just one set of symbols on the front of all boxes which are the same as those for films.
Yep just like this one. Oh wait that has two ratings on it one in red and one in blue; sure they're the same age, but then again can anyone point to a game that has two different ratings? In fact browsing through them I can't find a single game that features even two ratings from different boards on their front cover it's either PEGI or BBFC.

Is that the problem? Are parents seeing a game with a BBFC rating of 18 and then another with a PEGI rating of 16+ and wondering which is suitable for their 12-year old child to play (answer - neither)? What confusion can possibly arise from a system that has a larger set of age ratings compared to the other? Can my 12-year old watch/play an item listed as BBFC PG on their own, well if it's labelled PEGI 7+ I'd say the answer was yes otherwise who knows?

Oh wait she means having the same set of symbols, hmm yes because these are so difficult to understand whereas the BBFC system is easy; everyone knows the difference between a Uc and a U and a PG, 12A and a 12 rating. Simplicity itself.

What's even stupider about this recommendation is that the PE in PEGI stands for Pan European whereas the B in BBFC stands for British, so these ratings will only apply in Britain anyway, the game industry will still be submitting their wares to PEGI, but now will also have to submit them to the BBFC for them to be sold here.

Of course some might say that the PEGI system has no legal force in this country. The whole system is voluntary yet the industry still uses it, because they're not stupid; likewise the retailers aren't stupid and usually refuse to sell a PEGI 12+ to a 7 year old. Will giving it a legal standing prevent minors getting their hands on such items? About as much as it already does with films, cigarettes and alcohol, they'll just get someone else to buy it. So the question to ask is - what's the point?

None - it's bandwagon jumping, tabloid pandering; the simple fact that we've had this six-month review and the majority of it comes down to 'educating parents' shows that the system in place already works. PEGI works and the only good thing that might come out of this is the removal of video games from the purview of the BBFC, but expect the reverse because it'll just turn into a power struggle and it's just so much easier to hand everything over to the BBFC then legally enforce a 'foreign' system.

We'll just get more censorship and more inconsistent rulings from our Moral Guardians.