U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

July 30, 2008 -

In the ongoing debate over which content rating scheme to use, British government officials appear to be coming down on the side of the BBFC rather than the PEGI system favored by the video game industry.

As reported by the Telegraph, on Thursday government ministers will issue proposals to tighten rules concerning ratings and expand the role of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in rating games:

All computer games will have to carry cinema-style age classifications under new Government plans to protect children from scenes of explicit sex and disturbing violence.

 

Online computer games where players interact with strangers via the internet also face new classification rules for the first time.

The official action is being taken in response to recommendations made by Dr. Tanya Byron (left). The TV psychologist undertook a government-funded study in 2007 to examine the effects of video games and the Internet on children.

The Telegraph predicts a "fierce backlash" from UK game publishers:

Many games makers have strongly opposed moves to expand the BBFC's role in classifying games. The [game industry] group will today host a meeting in London of software chief executives to discuss how best to resist the expansion of the BBFC's role in rating games.

 

Games makers are mounting a lobbying campaign to discredit the BBFC, arguing that it lacks the expertise for the task. Games makers argue that parental education about games is more important than new classification rules.

While the industry may think the BBFC too restrictive, at the other end of the spectrum, Conservative Parliamentarian Julian Brazier believes the organization isn't tough enough:

The guidelines are too weak on the part of the BBFC. I don't believe it is an adequate guarantor of standards. Only the [video game] industry can appeal the BBFC's decisions, so in practice, classifications can only be reduced. We should have a system like that in Australia, where any member of the general public can ask for an age classification to be reviewed.

The BBFC is best known in the gaming community for its controversial 2007 decision to ban Manhunt 2. That ruling was later overturned on appeal.

The Telegraph is also running an FAQ on the government plan which mentions the government timetable:

Ministers will on Thursday open a four-month consultation on their proposals, trying to win agreement from the games industry for tighter classification. The final rules will be drawn up after that and are likely to be implemented next year.

 

Comments

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

 Thank CHRIST the decision is not up to certain commenters on this website, that;s all I can say.

Also, for people who supposedly love freedom, some commenters Stateside seem awfully eager to tell other people what's best for them.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

If you go to this place:

http://www.pegi.info/en/index/id/176/

and scroll down a bit you will see something called

'english assesment form'.

his form is pretty descriptive of what each ratings means. To take an eaxmple, Mass Effect only has the violence icon (the clench fist) on the back of the box; there is no mention of sexual themes or partial nudity, quite simply because it is a) optional b) considered nudity that it is in the game. A breast or bottom is not considered nudity by PEGI standards - nor would almost anyone in Europe care about young adolescent (and children perhaps?) seeing these things in videogames. [Now, real sex just for the sake of sex people in South Europe seems to care about while people in North Europe are more worried about the violence... so PEGI has to do a lot balancing out the scales here].

I don't understand why everyone seems so against the UK government is deciding that the BBFC still should rate games. In most of Europe, we have system where the people elect the parliament, who then elects the government. The government then sets up something like the BBFC or the Danish Media Council to deal with things like these. These institutions are completely (or so it is ideally) independent from the government and the government can't decide what they should mean about something, not even how they should rate a movie or a game. In the US, you have a Presidential system where the President appoints almost everyone; the President would also then appoint the members of a ratings boards which could mean that the President could exercise pressure on this board. Not so, ideally, in the BBFC's or in Danish Media Council's case.

 

Let us not forget that the BBFC did rate Mass Effect OK for 12 years and up...

 

 

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Umm... The President appoints what?

Our ratings boards ARE independent of government in that they are COMPLETELY voluntary. The government has no say whatsoever over whether a movie or video game that ISN'T rated by the MPAA or ESRB (respectively) can or cannot be released. Because of this the government isn't regulating speech, but neither are these voluntary ratings organizations. Their purpose is ONLY to inform with their ratings -- not dictate the sale of a game. They don't get to tell the movie or game industry, "Such and such doesn't pass our testing, therefore it cannot be sold." Publishers and developers can simply choose not to go through the ESRB and leave their game unrated but in a society where all of our woes are blamed on gaming it would only hurt them to not inform people of the content in their games.

I honestly believe that no rating board should ever have the power to dictate whether or not a game can be sold or not. That's just censorship and it stifles productivity.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

PEGI - doesn't ban games

BBFC - can ban games

 

Game industry prefers PEGI.

Gov't prefers BBFC.

 

Can't say I'm surprised.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

PEGI - Not based in the UK, and not taxable
BBFC - Based in the UK, and therefore taxable

Government prefers BBFC.

Can't say I'm surprised.

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Now your grasping at straws. What pray tell is the government taxing?

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

The point is that we can all play the 'ulterior motive' game if we think hard enough.

Anyway, if you read the BBFC's terms page, that the system won't let my link because it thinks it's spam, you can see that sales tax (VAT) has to be paid on BBFC fees.

The same will be true of PEGI, but you would be paying that tax to the government of PEGI's country, and not the British government.

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

The government makes more money in VAT on a game like Manhunt 2 than it would through BBFC fees being taxed so your conspiracy theory falls flat I'm afraid.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Hey Chuma,

Your kind of late to this party, you usually jump into these debates like a rocket :)

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

With people like Beemoh around, I figured I was wasting my breath...

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

At least he can argue properly, something you can't say for Zippy.


 

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I doubt thats the reason at all tbh. The amount of money generated is quite frankly a drop in the bucket.

But there may be a level of truth to the other part of your post, it could be down to Europe. Europe comprises of a lot of countries each with different cultural and sociopolitical values. To the best of my knowledge PEGI doesn't really factor this in. Go on, just try and tell the Germans what to do :)

 

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

The point is that we can all play the "ulterior motive" game if we think hard enough.

Either way, in getting a rating from the BBFC and from PEGI, the publisher has to pay a fee to the board in question.

When the publisher pays the BBFC for a rating, they pay for it within the UK, and therefore must pay VAT (sales tax to non-Brits). This is outlined within the BBFC's own terms: http://www.bbfc.co.uk/customer/cust_terms.php

Fees are non-refundable, in whole or in part, for any work carried out by the Board and the customer shall remain liable for the full amount. The customer shall pay all value added tax at the rate prescribed by law.

When the publisher pays for the PEGI rating, they pay for it in the country PEGI is based in, and must pay any taxes that nation levies.

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Customers pay VAT on everything (except food, book, children's clothes and a few other things) anyway whether it's rated by PEGI or the BBFC. You are muddying the issue with irrelevent boilerplate.

Incidentally, VAT under various names is common in every single European country (barring a few principalities) and I believe in a number of US states.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

If PEGI got the job as the games classifier in the UK they could ban games too.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I suppose it could but as the organization exists now, that's rather unlikely.  PEGI does not refuse classification and its highest rating does not carry a de facto ban like America's AO rating does.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Bearing in mind that the classification decsions they make will be required to make will fall within the purview of the video recordings act. They will be required to refuse classication if media they are rating is in breach of that act.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Which would turn it into the BBFC making the entire thing pointless.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Thinking about it, there is another option that may come into effect if PEGI were adopted, a changing the video ratings act.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I agree, which means that the PEGI/BBFC debate really comes down to what methodology is used for rating and which set of little pictures are better. The well known BBFC logos with their text based summary on the back of the box or PEGI symbols with content glyphs.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

And the answer to that is obvious; BBFC wins out as everyone in  the country is already familiar with both the DVD/Games logos and the Cinema ratings system that is identical.

Also a big plus mark to BBFC for actually playing the games rather than handing out tick sheets.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

That being the case the UK is better of sticking with something it's familiar with.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Oh good lord, we're not back to talking about this fabled and paranoid idea that the BBFC is some secret branch of the UK government. I don't know where that frankly imbecilic idea came from but all the US posters seem to constantly harp back to it whenever any mention of the BBFC comes up.

It's an independent appointed body tasked with rating media to within a legally enforced set of age ratings.  That's all the government doesn't tell them what to do, and they don't make money from rating things as someone seemed to imply earlier.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

The BBFC are appointed by the government under the Video Recordings Act. The government give them the powers they have and the government can take them away.

(If that wasn't the case, then we wouldn't be having this discussion, which is attached to an article about the government deciding who gets to rate games)

As well as that, the government enforce the BBFC's decisions, and the government disallows any work to be sold in the UK that hasn't gone past the BBFC first.

It is worth pointing out that technically PEGI would be government appointed if said government choose them.

Compare this to the ESRB, whom the US government have no official control over at this time.

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Hey Beemoh!  We didn't land on the moon... discuss.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Bye bye, freedom of expression in the United Kingdom.

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

What a bizarre and ill-informed comment.

We're talking a rating system here not removing freedom of speech.

Not to mention that the BBFC system can be by-passed by imports anyway. Banned videos and DVDs have been being imported into Britain for years.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

 ROFL.

Two words: Gay. Marriage.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Just a hypothetical for the North American posters, would you prefer the ERSB was replaced by PEGI in the US?

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Umm... The ESRB is a voluntary rating system for one. Two, it was designed SPECIFICALLY for games. On top of that it's not enforced by law so there isn't any worry from us that the government may meddle with it.

I'll admit, I don't understand the BBFC and government connection but it would be a frightening prospect for me, as an American citizen, if our government could legally enforce a rating system. Our government tends to screw up a lot as it is so I can understand why a lot of Americans would be leery of a government -- any government -- being able to control something such as this. I don't know how competent the UK government is but I certainly wouldn't be comfortable with the US government having this kind of power.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I didn't mean the BBFC, I'm talking PEGI, the pan European system created in 2003 for rating games. Would Americans be happy to replace the ERSB with PEGI, both of which are voluntary?

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Given that was something designed particularly for European gamers I can't say. Honestly, I think the ESRB should be implemented in place of PEGI since it's much more specific in its ratings. I just don't like the idea of anything that is enforceable or under the control of the government. Besides, the film rating system we have in America, the MPAA, would be wholly inappropriate for rating games. Could it be used? Yes. Would it be ideal? No.

We have two different organizations for rating films and games. Both do rate their respective mediums well. Film and games are two very different animals. I guess, to me at least, it would make more sense to let the BBFC rate films and let PEGI rate games. I will agree, however, that the PEGI system isn't as ideal as it could be.

The PEGI system, in my opinion, is inferior to the ESRB... But then again I'm biased, so take that how you will.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Yes. Yes I am saying that.

Like I said in my post though, I'm biased, so take it as you will. I understand the ESRB ratings a lot better with their letter designations -- because they denote an audience of people, not necessarily an age group. Though in my saying this it becomes quite clear why people in the UK prefer the BBFC. I don't contend your reasons for preferring the BBFC... My only gripe is the government enforceability of their ratings. I find it disturbing that if the BBFC has as much power as it does, but that's the only issue I take with it.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Interesting, thanks Jeff.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

All computer games will have to carry cinema-style age classifications under new Government plans to protect children from scenes of explicit sex and disturbing violence.

err... correct me if im wrong but i dont know any retail computer games that contain scenes of even mildy risky, let alone 'explicit' sex.

Online computer games where players interact with strangers via the internet also face new classification rules for the first time.

I understand the logic behind this, but isnt it slightly flawed? i mean lets face it a kid can 'interact with strangers' in real life. Now which is more dangerous. A physically present stranger, or one on the internet? We dont issue classification rules on leaving the house. ooh going out to the park.. thats 18 rated im afraid. supermarket? sorry 18. i mean its daft!

Hmm do agree with the posters above though, there seem to be alot of stories from the UK , from the 'telegraph' and 'daily mail'. As a uk citizen, i gotta agree these papers are well known for their garbage reporting skills. 1 part fact 999 parts scare story lies and distortion. We really arent all like this!

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

err... correct me if im wrong but i dont know any retail computer games that contain scenes of even mildy risky, let alone 'explicit' sex.

Mildly risky that would be mass effect and the side boobs again then,
 

I understand the logic behind this, but isnt it slightly flawed? i mean lets face it a kid can 'interact with strangers' in real life. Now which is more dangerous. A physically present stranger, or one on the internet?


It is the annonimity of the internet that is the danger,   i.e. the 40 year old men pretending to be 10 year old girls,  but yes this is a knee jerk reaction to something that was blown out of proportion and will continue to be so until more net savvy people are actually in charge and online entertainment is better regulated (mainly speaking about MMO etc. where funnily enough im sure someone was trying to "groom" me or xbl/psn etc. where basically any drivel can be spoken without fear of reprisal).

 i gotta agree these papers are well known for their garbage reporting skills. 1 part fact 999 parts scare story lies and distortion. We really arent all like this!

yup they are total garbage,  i always take news with a healthy dose of skeptism

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

As a parent and a gamer in the uk i have absoultly no problem with bbfc rating games,  it is the rating system that everyone is familiar with, it is simple to understand and is enforced by law.  Again i have no problem with the rating system as it is not illegal to own a copy of say an aged 18 game rather it is illegal for a retailer to sell said game to anyone under the age of 18.

The only downside i can see is the extra level of work that will be pushed onto the bbfc might mean a delay in some games actually getting to the shelves.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

As a person that actually lives in The UK, I must admit I have certain distaste for the media sources you constantly quote from.  Both The Telegraph and The Daily Mail are right wing, sensationalist minded reactionary rags that are constantly accused of twisting, distorting or lying about whatever source they are quoting from.

 

I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t leave the rest of the audience with the idea that British people are paranoid, Jack Thompson clones.  Would it be that hard for Gamepolitics to actually get a British opinion on the articles, rather then just quoting from rags that are read by thirty something middle Englanders?

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

It's worth pointing out that The Sun didn't even cover it today...

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

If its not those rags then its MCV :(

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

"I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t leave the rest of the audience with the idea that British people are paranoid, Jack Thompson clones.  Would it be that hard for Gamepolitics to actually get a British opinion on the articles, rather then just quoting from rags that are read by thirty something middle Englanders?"

Unfortunately those papers are the only ones who mentioned it at all.  There was nothing in the Guardian, Times, Independent, Scotsman, Herald or FT about the decisions.  I presume the rest of the broadsheets will follow suit and make mention tomorrow, or when some further definitive announcement is made.  Frankly I don't know who you think ought to be commenting on the piece, I'm from the UK and I don't think it was wholly reactionary at all, it's not the best article but at least it's informative.

In the mean time, I think it's a worthy spot to quote the classic piece from Yes, Minister about the UK press:

Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers: The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I apologize for my comments, I meant to say the United Kingdom government.  I hope I didn't offend anyone by my comments, nor did I mean for it to come out like a troll. :(

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

At last! Sanity prevails! Thank heavens for that, I was worried we'd be lumped with PEGI.

Also, Julian Brazier is a right nob.

Didn't the Byron Report

Didn't the Byron Report support Pegi as a unified classification system?  Are we seeing yet another incidence of the british government twisting the findings of the Byron report?

Re: Didn't the Byron Report

Read the fucking article.

Re: Didn't the Byron Report

Can't we get rid of the anonymus posting? Or at least set it so their IPs are public so idiots like this can't troll here so easily.

Re: Didn't the Byron Report

I;d be trolling if ythis info a) wasn't available in the Telegraph's article and b) if the British Govt had ever tried twisting the words of the Byron Report at least ionce so far.

 

What I am is sick of annoying North American posters who prefer to bend the facts to suit their world view than try and see things from a UK perspective. And believe you me, I've been coming here loing enough to highlight that trend with utter certainity.

Re: Didn't the Byron Report

"What I am is sick of annoying North American posters who prefer to bend the facts to suit their world view than try and see things from a UK perspective. And believe you me, I've been coming here loing enough to highlight that trend with utter certainity."

Hey mate, I'm with you 100% on that. I've been reading this site for a good while now (LiveJournal days) and get involved in just about every UK and BBFC related thread and I can agree that your are perfectly spot on with your assesment.

Re: Didn't the Byron Report

What assessment?  All he really did was respond to me by saying "STFU you stupid arrogant yankee bastard, you ignorant twat."  No arguement was lobbied, just an insult.  A blind one at that.

Read the fucking article indeed, I did.  In fact, I even read related articles.  This article states this decision is being made by the suggestion of the Byron report.  However, if you READ the Byron report instead of jumping on the "Americans are Twats" rant train, you'd read that she basically said both programs have their merit and she would like to see a mixture of the two but a unified system rather than a decisive one or the other.  Whatever decision would be reached, however, would be highly beneficial to standardize across Europe and should be acted upon and settled in haste.  That was what the Byron report stated.  It didn't choose sides but instead preferred a compromise between both systems.

As for twisting the Byron report, didn't some bastard in parlament, the day the report was released, say it confirmed the link of violence to gaming and she had to come out and serve up some STFU?  I'm sorry, I'm seeing them state Byron Report as a basis for the actions despite the Byron report saying no such thing.  I am reading the article.

But I forgot... I'm a ghastly American.  A drooling primitive chimp who lacks the ability to string together enough coherant thoughts to fully enjoy a comedy as cerebral as Absolutely Fabulous.  Clearly I have no ability to speak on this.  Moo moo moo, I voodoo curse you... twats.

 
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