PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

September 24, 2008 -

As GamePolitics readers know, the British video game industry has been lobbying forcefully to have the government declare content ratings the exclusive province of the PEGI system.

But, as reports, ratings rival BBFC was quick to fire back to a recent attack launched by U.K. publishers group ELSPA, pointing out that both a government committee as well as Dr. Tanya Byron support the BBFC. From a statement issued by the group:

The BBFC rejects ELSPA's claims. They should be judged against the fact that both the Byron Review and the House of Commons CMS Committee have recommended a greater role for the BBFC in games classification. The BBFC's case will be developed in its response to the current government consultation.

As to the paranoia promised in this article's headline? Kotaku reports that a public relations firm representing PEGI agreed to answer its questions about the dust-up, but with the implication that it would do so only if Kotaku agreed to support PEGI beforehand and provided its transcript of a similar interview with the BBFC. From the P.R. firm's letter:

Is there any way that we could have confirmation from Kotaku’s editor that he supports PEGI – that way it might ease the way to getting an interview set up. Also, can you find out to me how many unique hits Kotaku gets in the UK. The reason is ELSPA may come back and say Kotaku is just US based. The fact that Kotaku is a US blog might make things tough – just trying to help set this up...


Also if you could provide the transcript for the BBFC interview that’d be useful.


Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

If I understand you correctly, then, you prefer PEGI simply because they were set up to rate games, whereas the BBFC were set up to classify films? If so, then on this point our differences are intractable. Having read the GameSpot and Joystiq interviews I'm utterly convinced that the BBFC's methodology is as sound as it can reasonably be expected to be.

For me, each ratings body's history is less important than how well they perform their present functions. In that regard, giving an independent "expert" hands-on time with the game always outweighs a check-box system as filled in by the game's creators/stake-holders.

FWIW, recognition of the symbols is of secondary importance IMHO, as it's nothing a good PR campaign couldn't fix. Were PEGI to clearly demonstrate their independence from the publishers and platform holders, as well as taking on some of the BBFCs methodology, then no doubt my position would shift.

-- teh moominz --

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

For provisional ratings of 12+ and over the PEGI administrator pre-examines the game prior to a rating being confirmed.

And from the PDF linked at

7.4.2 Where the provisional rating is +12, +16 or +18, the PEGI administrator shall view the product in full prior to granting a licence to use the logo and descriptors.

One independent expert, at your service- who actually gets through the full game, not just the highlight reel/bits they can be arsed playing the BBFC see.

PEGI, as I've already explained below are no less independent of the games industry then the BBFC are of the film industry. But either way, the board is subject to the independent scrutiny of the Netherlands' censorship board, the Video Appeals Committee, and its own independent advisory and complaints committees. (Which, ironically, includes David Cooke)

Oh, and the governments of the entire continent. But not Germany, obv.


Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

In one breath your complaining about them treating games as second rate medium and that it should be treated differently from movies and then in the next breath you are saying that "look at how these game are treated differently from movies, thats so unfair!"

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

"Different" and "Not Equal", at least in this case, are two very different things.

Games and films are very different artforms, and need to be rated accordingly using different methodologies, this I am willing to agree with- this is treating them equally, rating based on each form's strengths, weaknesses and differences.

With that in mind, I have not mentioned any rating discrepancies along the lines of Mass Effect, either between it and PEGI or it and 12-rated films. This is a matter concerning individual works.

However, the BBFC's attitude that it isn't their place to ban films, but it's perfectly okay to ban games is what is problematic. This is a matter concerning the entire artform.


Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

The BBFC do use different methodologies for rating games and films. Thats a fact.

The BBFC do refuse classifications to films, take "BumFights" for example or how about the film "Murder Set Pieces."

The thing is, just because you are drawing a parallel betwen Eastern Promises and Manhunt 2 does not mean they are equivalent.

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

I'm going to argue that the refusal to classify BumFights was taken due to its method of production rather than its content- they refuse to classify snuff films for a reason. :D

While I didn't say that the BBFC don't ban films, the content in MH2 is much, much closer to the content of Eastern Promises than it is that of Murder Set Pieces- and don't think that I can condone them banning that, either.

And, of course, I can't condone the comments made about EP.


Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

"Perfectly okay" is a bit of a leap - Manhunt 2 and Carmageddon are quite obviously the exceptions, rather than rule, as I'm sure you've obsereved by experience.

Cue a bunch a US posters chiming in about 'slippery slopes', thereby missing the point.

-- teh moominz --

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

It doesn't matter if it's two or two hundred- to ban a game then almost immediately claim that it's not their place to ban films- especially when the two are being criticised for very similar reasons- to me shows a dangerous kind of different-standard-having.


Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

I accept that you no doubt disagree with the BBFC, but for fellow readers may I present a few quotes in which the BBFC address the perceived disparity in their views between banning games and movies:

Q: Isn't that the same case for movies and TV shows [that they "will end up being played by younger kids"]?

David Cooke: It can be but the difference is, and this is one of the main points Tanya Byron was making, that at the moment games and games classifications are less well understood than film and DVD classification.

So there isn't quite the same view taken of San Andreas as there might be of Hostel or Saw, not that I'm trying to compare the two.

Until we can get the levels of awareness up, which I think was one of the thrusts of Byron, then you do have to be a little bit more cautious.

Q: Some in the games industry has expressed concerns that as a medium it is being singled out and treated more unfairly than cinema. Could you not appeal to the industry by agreeing not to reject titles?

David Cooke: We won't rule out use of the reject power but it's only in very very exceptional periods. We've only used it twice in the past ten years, so you can easily exaggerate this.

We do reject films as well, we rejected something earlier this year called Murder-Set-Pieces. My view is that Murder-Set-Pieces is several degrees beyond anything in Saw or Hostel.

The point I want to get across about this is - I've got people in this building, about ten examiners who do games, and these are some of the best gamers I've ever come across and these are people who are passionate about games and know a great deal about it.

I know the Pegi testers as well, and I think the people here have a greater expertise and knowledge of games. The thing that's getting lost in this argument is that we actually like games and we're enthusiastic about games and we do buy into the argument that some games are beautiful and aesthetically satisfying. Bioshock and Shadow of the Colossus and so on.

So beemoh, I'm not sure that disparity in their ethos is as marked as you make out, given that both films and games are rejected alike. I suppose the only real difference is that with games, the rejections don't stick! At the very least they address your concerns directly, thus demonstrating their transparency.

That said, I'm not sure I entirely agree with Mr Cooke when he says that we have to be a bit more cautious about rating games, simply because there's a lack of awareness about the medium within the mainstream. IMHO, whilst a rating has to take societal factors into account by neccessity, I'd prefer they remain as objective as possible. IMHO it is up to the publishers and retailers (and possibly Government) to improve the general public's awareness of videogames and isn't something a ratings body should be overly concerned with.

Even so, on balance I do think that the merits of the BBFC vastly outweigh those of PEGIs, simply due to the BBFC's superior methodology, transparency and accountability.

-- teh moominz --

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

Until we can get the levels of awareness up, which I think was one of the thrusts of Byron, then you do have to be a little bit more cautious.

This proves that they are rating games higher simply because they're games. However, I really have to pull some other quotes apart. The thing is, it's very easy to say things like

these are some of the best gamers I've ever come across

these are people who are passionate about games and know a great deal about it.

I know the Pegi testers as well, and I think the people here have a greater expertise and knowledge of games.

When it's your organization and your employees- if Cooke isn't big on gaming himself, what yardstick does he have to say things like this? In primary school, not liking football and having never seen a premiership match, I would have said things like

these are some of the best footballers I've ever come across

these are people who are passionate about football and know a great deal about it.

about my classmates- this isn't something he is in a position to objectively say. How has he decided that they're the best gamers? Did he trawl the internet, looking for people with high scores on Quake servers, or did they just beat him at Mario Kart on his annual visit to the games team?

I'm also going to say stuff like

I know the kids in class 2B as well, and I think the people here have a greater expertise and knowledge of football.

if the teachers are deciding which class to play in the local inter-school league. You can't take the BBFC's word on these topics- they can think they're doing a good job all they like, but that doesn't make the job they're doing good.

Even so, on balance I do think that the merits of the BBFC vastly outweigh those of PEGIs, simply due to the BBFC's superior methodology, transparency and accountability.

In my opinion, it's results that matter- to continue this post's theme of overstretched metaphors, I can design the most cost-efficient, aerodynamic, comfortable aeroplane the world has ever seen, but if I make them out of stone then they're useless, even if I come back later offering to make them out of Aluminium, or whatever they build planes out of- and the BBFC have built two too many stone planes.

Besides, how do you know that you wouldn't get the same merits you describe from a BBGC?


Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

To your point on the qualities of the BBFC's testers, I refer you back to the Joystiq and GameSpot interviews. They seem like a pretty darn well-informed group to me, with the content of those interviews backing up Cooke's statements.

With regards to a BBGC, if it was run in a similar fashion as the BBFC then I would have no objection. But a BBGC is a purely hypthetical construct that is not part of any proposals on offer and therefore must be discounted. The only choice on offer is either entirely PEGI (as proposed by ELSPA), or a joint system (as proposed by Dr Byron). The joint system is the preferable route, to my mind, for the reasons stated above.

-- teh moominz --

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

We do prefer the BBFC the symbols are easily recognised by everyone and are generally trusted by the populace to make a reasonable decision.

I personaly feel a commonality of symbols in the US may help a bit as well but that is me just probably being an ignorant Brit who likes our way of doing things.

Your description of manhunt 2 is almost correct basically instead of going direct to the courts the decision was questioned by the video appeals committee and the bbfc challenged the VAC which led to the court case.

As for a Brittish Board of Gaming Classification i could see that working but as it stands the BBFC is big enough to handle both forms of media and possibly can start (wild leap of faith coming here) rating games more along the lines that they rate films (end of wild leap of faith)

Finally the relationship between the BBFC and the Goverment is that the BBFC is an independant body but it's decisions are held enforcable by law. Which basically states that you cannot sell persons below the rated age that product (well basically, going to the cinema etc has the same type of clause),   It is basically what the US retailers do off their own back but here they are accountable if they dont adhere to the principles.

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

Which kitten is the BBFC? The one about to get his head chopped off or the one holding the sword? 

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

Go Pegi :D Stop those censor/banning lovers.

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia

Nice trolling there.

-- teh moominz --

Re: PEGI vs. BBFC - Fight! ...Now with Bonus Paranoia


Not that I'm bias... >.>

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