Friday, June 22, 2012

Playstation 3's Parental Control Levels

If I seem to be smacking Sony about at the moment it's because this is the first time I've had to deal with their complete screw-up of their parental control system on the PS3.

I've dealt with how a child will forever remain a child in the eyes of Sony's Playstation Network; and how it's completely easy to bypass said controls. But what if you try to use them?

Sony allows you to set two different scales for watching videos or playing games. This should be fairly easy - set game and film content to 16 and they'll be able to play or watch anything with a 15 certificate or under. Of course Sony don't do that, they use their own scale.

So dumb is this that Sony themselves have had to produce a guide to parental controls to equate the ratings that games and films themselves have to their own arbitrary scale. From this I can see that a 16 year old requires a setting of "7" which I'm having to guess applies to films too.

So why am I making a fuss? Well beyond having to look this stuff up it seems the games don't quite match up.

Take "Dead Island", for example, a game in which you slice or bludgeon infected people or 'zombies' until they fall down and you can kerb-stomp their heads while calling them nasty names. That unsurprisingly has an 18 certificate rating.

Now take Skyrim which has what the box calls "Strong violence" no nudity, no really graphic violence, no swearing,;that's rated a more moderate 15 certificate.

So your 16-year old sneaks a copy of Dead Island into the house, but a-ha good old parental protection comes into play and it asks for a PIN as it's set to level 9 which is above the level 7 restriction. Well done you've protected your child.

Now buy them Skyrim and watch as exactly the same thing happens because for some reason Skyrim is also set to level 9.

That means having to enter the PIN every time they want to play a game which is designated as being suitable for their age, or changing the restriction level upwards which will include all the games they're not supposed to play.

It gets better.

There's no ability to tell what restriction a game has set unless you have a copy of the game and look in the PS3's information about it. So just because a game says it's a 15 doesn't mean it will play at the level that Sony themselves say is appropriate.

The only way to guess at the restriction level is to check what the the rating is in the USA because both Skyrim and Dead Island are set to the same "M 17+" in the States and the manufacturer obviously just copied over the restriction from that.

Now this isn't Sony's fault per se; it's up to the manufacturer to set the level and if they can't be bothered to change it for various countries that's their fault; but it would be much more highly obvious if the level and the rating used the same scaling system.