All games could soon get BBFC age rating

Speculation grows that government will ditch PEGI ratings

All games could soon get BBFC age rating

We've been keeping an eye on the mainstream media, which has been pretty rife over the past week with speculation an upcoming study into violent video games will lead to all games requiring classification from The British Board of Film Classification.

Dr Tanya Byron has been tasked by the government to look into violence in both video games and on the internet, and will publish her findings next month.

Last weekend, The Guardian newspaper reported the government is likely to subsequently rule all games are rated using the uniform 'cinema style' method as opposed to the current BBFC/PEGI shared system.

Currently, only certain games – including those featuring realistic violence towards people or animals – need to be submitted for rating by the BBFC.

PEGI (Pan European Game Information), meanwhile, is a voluntary ratings system that was established in 2003 with an aim to provide parents with guidelines as to the content of games.

A PEGI spokesperson from the Interactive Software Federation of Europe today spoke out about the possible ruling, telling industry website MCV that any move to back the dropping of the PEGI ratings would be a 'mistake' and a 'backwards step' for the UK.

Director general Patrice Chazerand said the body's research shows that the current PEGI/BBFC shared system is trusted and understood by parents and also voiced concerns the UK would regret the decision if games distribution evolves online.

He added: "I would resent that idea of equating games to movies – it's not the same experience."

Naturally, the BBFC sees things differently. It says it would back any move that makes it responsible for rating every game and that it recognises flaws in the PEGI system. Its own research shows parents can be confused by some of PEGI's ratings. "BBFC is a rating people understand from film and DVD, so it might give parents a bit more piece of mind," said spokesperson Sue Clark.

With Manhunt 2 on PSP (pictured) the latest game in the limelight of the long-running violent video games debate (currently, the BBFC is arguing in the courts about Video Appeals Committee's decision to overturn its original decision to ban Rockstar's game), this latest government report and the current speculation surrounding it just ensures the gaming's most controversial offerings stay in the news, meaning the Daily Mail has something to fill its pages with.

But clearly it's an issue that requires discussion. Whether compulsory BBFC ratings will make any difference in ensuring violent or otherwise mature games stay out of the hands of minors is arguable, though. Especially since, according to the BBFC, a significant proportion of games are already submitted voluntarily for classification.

We suspect the issue lies elsewhere, and in style of journalism we've learnt from the tabloids, we'll simply blame the parents. And the shop keepers, obviously.

Now that we've got that out of our system, we'll make sure to report back on the findings of the government report next month.

Kath Brice
Kath Brice
Kath gave up a job working with animals five years ago to join the world of video game journalism, which now sees her running our DS section. With so many male work colleagues, many have asked if she notices any difference.