Game Over For Old Video Games Age Ratings System

'I can't believe nobody's noticed we're playing Manhunt!'

Brendan Griffiths looks at the future of video games age ratings.

Video games age classifications are to be given the same treatment as cinema films and DVDs. This is a result of the Byron Review, commissioned by Gordon Brown, who has been quoted as saying that he is not interested in censoring the industry.

Games are rarely given the familiar 15 or 18 stamps from the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification). This is usually reserved for the more violent, high profile titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series. For years the games industry has regulated itself with a PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating which includes 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ or 18+ in a box on the bottom left corner of the front cover and again on the back with details of any themes. So what’s wrong with this system?

Apparently parents are finding it difficult to distinguish between the familiar BBFC ratings they see on DVDs and the PEGI system. Many actually believe it is a ‘skill’ or ‘ability’ age recommendation for the game.

So for years parents and well-wishing grandparents have been buying their kids adult orientated titles because they think they’ll be able to play them because they’re good at games. Sometimes this is a result of their own naivety or the children have duped them into thinking so.

So hopefully the new system, which has been welcomed by the games industry, and the BBFC, will sort this out. Sue Clark from the BBFC said:

Our submission to the Byron Review was that the BBFC’s classification of games is more thorough than the PEGI system and that parents understand and trust our system better than the PEGI system.  We proposed that all games should come to us, so we welcome the report.”

It is still debatable as to whether this will stop parents buying their children these games as any games store employee would tell you, that despite them warning parents of a games violent nature they buy it for their children anyway.

Today’s games are more graphic now then ever. Most parents wouldn’t dream of letting their kids watch Saw or Hostel but come the end of April many of them will line up to buy Grand Theft Auto 4 for their underage young. Or even worse: Manhunt 2 on the Wii, which will require the player to simulate stabbing and strangling with the motion sensitive controls.

When asked if it would make retail staff’s jobs easier, HMV’s Head of Press & PR, Gennaro Castaldo said:

Yes, it should do.  It should not be up to retailers to decide what the public should or should not be allowed to purchase.  Our job is to sell it responsibly – in line with any certifications and trading standards best practise.  So, if guidelines are tightened, that has to be a good thing.”

When asked to comment on the new system both Game and Gamestation refused to answer any questions on the matter.

The new regulations are a step in the right direction but retailers hands are still tied when it comes to selling a game to someone when they know they’re going to give it to a minor before even leaving the shop.

If you were to do the same with alcohol the employee at the store, the store itself and the buyer get fined. While that might be too much of an aggressive approach for games, adults need to start being more responsible with what they let their children play, mainly by not buying them adult titles, keeping an eye on what they borrow from friends and keeping their own adult games away from them.

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