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 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.