MPs Seek to Speed Up PEGI Introduction

January 8, 2010 -

As time winds down to the general elections, the UK government is attempting to push-through the Digital Economy Bill.

MCVUK reports that, while some aspects of the bill are still hotly contested, politicians are hoping to fast track at least some elements of the bill, including making the Pan-European Game Information PEGI ratings system enforceable by law.

Don Foster, Bath MP, stated:

Swiftness is the essence of why we are here today. It is vital that we get back on to the statute book, as quickly as possible, legislation that provides protection against the sale of inappropriate material to children and counters the ability of people to sell pirate DVDs and so on.

Shadow Culture Minister Ed Vaizey added:

The Digital Economy Bill will amend the 1984 Act and bring video games into a system of statutory classification using the European rating system known as PEGI—pan European game information. Broadly speaking, hon. Members of all parties support that. Everybody recognises that video games should be classified under a statutory system.

The Digital Economy bill recommends that PEGI become the sole method of classifying games, replacing the current structure that uses PEGI and British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) ratings. Another controversial aspect contains a three-strikes law aimed at Internet pirates.

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Age Ratings, Anti-Piracy Subject of UK Digital Economy Bill

November 18, 2009 -

A few details regarding Britain’s Digital Economy Bill were touched on this morning as part of the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, in which the monarch outlines the coming legislative agenda.

Among the forthcoming actions will be a mandatory age rating on all videogames aimed at children ages 12 and above, reports the Guardian. The Bill calls for the adoption of the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system as the method of classifying games in the UK, replacing the current practice of using both PEGI and British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) ratings.

The Digital Economy Bill would also tackle piracy, proposing a tough policy much like France’s three-strike Hadopi Law. Those caught committing piracy will receive a warning letter, followed by a second, more stern letter that will caution the user that “technical measures” could be implemented in order to stop them from stealing files.

Failing the second warning, a pirate would be placed on a “serious infringers list” which would allow ISPs to disconnect them from the Internet. Those about to be disconnected will have 20 days to appeal their case before an independent body. They will also be able to appeal the case if they lose, again within 20 days. The Guardian has a flow chart that illustrates the full process (PDF).

First Secretary Lord Mandelson does not expect widespread disconnections as a result of the pending legislation:

Technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions resulting. The British government's view is that taking people's work without due payment is wrong and that, as an economy based on creativity, we cannot sit back and do nothing as this happens.

The government hopes to cut piracy by 70% before April 2011.

The Open Rights Group believes the proposed disconnect laws to be illegal, adding that “Evidence cannot show who may have infringed copyright, only what connection was used.” They urge people to contact their MP to oppose “these draconian proposals.”

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) applauded the outline of the Bill, stating:

ELSPA believes the proposed UK adoption of the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) classification system to be an important step in ensuring child safety when gaming. The video games industry offers its full support to the Government in this.

On the other side of the fence, while noting that the Digital Britain report was announced with “grand ambition,” the Guardian calls the Digital Economy Bill “more plumbing than poetry, in many places little more than a series of disconnected tweaks to existing legislation.”

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BBFC Dishes on Gay Tony Content

October 21, 2009 -

The British Board of Film Classification has bestowed an 18 (Adult) rating upon Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City, the bundle which features both The Ballad of Gay Tony and The Lost and The Damned.

In doing so, their report contains a few spoilers from both games, which we won’t detail here. The BBFC noted that “at least four uses of very strong language that crop up in some of the cut scenes” bounced the rating up from 15 to 18. “Strong sex and violence and hard drug use” also contributed to the higher mark.

There is also sex scenes, which are “quite strong, but always masked and the characters concerned are invariably fully clothed (no nudity).” Portrayals of cocaine, in addition to references to drug trafficking, are also spread liberally throughout the game.

Additionally:

“There are blood spurts as people are shot and stabbed etc. and pools of blood form on the ground. However, there is never any discernible injury detail and it is not possible to inflict post-mortem injuries, although there is considerable ragdolling as dead bodies are shot.”


Click through to see the whole BBFC report, and don’t worry, sections that contain spoilers must be expanded to be read.

|Via EuroGamer|
 

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Modern Warfare 2 Gets Adult Rating in UK, Loses Dedicated Servers?

October 20, 2009 -

Activision’s latest entry in the Call of Duty series has received an 18 rating from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

MCVUK notes that all the previous entries in the series were rated wither BBFC 15 or PEGI 16+. The only statement made in the BBFC’s rating memo was that the game “contains strong bloody violence.”

In related news, it appears the PC version of Modern Warfare 2 will no longer be the beneficiary of dedicated servers. A EuroGamer story states that developer Infinity Ward will roll out a new proprietary service, called IWNet, which will focus on matchmaking.

This news served to irritate PC-based fans of the series, who immediately started an online petition demanding dedicated servers. At the time of this post, there were more than 96,000 signatures on the petition.

Update:  A 13-page thread on the Infinity Ward forums details the cancellation of many pre-orders for the game by those upset over the lack of dedicated server option for the PC version of Modern Warfare 2.

A sampling of comments:

I also cancelled my preorder. I've got better things to spend my money on than that. A great Singleplayer? that's no comfort to me. -.-

I work at EB games in a shopping center here in Australia. We got hit with an onslaught today, 193 total preoders for Modern warfare 2 on PC, today alone we lost 78!

Four of my co-workers went to GameStop at lunch yesterday to cancel their pre-orders. They said the guy working told them that there had been a slow but steady stream of people coming in to cancel pre-orders throughout the morning.


And, just to be fair:

I walked into my local game store and... ...went ahead and paid for MW2 in full after putting $5 down on it a couple of months ago. You people that are canceling are going to miss out on a great game.


Update 2:
Infinity Ward developer Robert Bowling has taken to his blog in an attempt to further explain/clarify some aspects of the online experience PC users will face.


Image via Cheezburger.com

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BBFC Says It Investigated Crystal Meth Recipe in GTA IV

June 22, 2009 -

The British Board of Film Classification, which last week lost the battle for control of U.K. video game ratings to industry-favored rival PEGI, once investigated whether Grand Theft Auto IV contained a genuine recipe for manufacturing crystal meth.

The Times reports that the discovery prompted "crisis talks" with developer Rockstar. In testimony last year before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons, BBFC head David Cooke discussed his organization's review of GTA IV:

We did examine [GTA IV] extremely thoroughly and we are the only regulator I know of who looked, for instance, at the particular issue where... there was a concern about whether you were being given instructional information about how to make the drug crystal meth.

 

We actually took independent advice on the point and eventually were able to satisfy ourselves that some of the crucial ingredients and techniques were missing so it was not a genuine cause for concern.

UPDATE: College News (leave it to those crazy college kids) explains where the so-called crystal meth recipe can be found in GTA IV:

The suspected recipe for crystal meth can be discovered in the video game as a posting on the fictional Web site Craplist --a parody of the popular real life Web site Craigslist.

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Tanya Byron Applauds PEGI Decision

June 19, 2009 -

Dr. Tanya Byron has thrown her support behind the British Government's recent decision to award the U.K.'s game rating chores to PEGI over the BBFC.

MCVUK reports that Byron, who in 2008 completed a review of the role of video games and the Internet in the lives of British children, said:

Video games were the big issue in my review, specifically their classification system. I didn't have time to outline a new classification system entirely, but I did outline principles for how it should look.

My suggestions then went to consultation and the Government have this week made their decision, which is an enhanced PEGI system. My recommendations have been upheld and it's a really great decision which I thoroughly support.

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It's PEGI Over BBFC in British Video Game Rating Battle

June 16, 2009 -

After more than a year of consideration, the British Government has selected the Pan-European Game Information system, better known as PEGI, will handle video game content rating chores in the U.K.

The announcement was made a short time ago and is contained in Lord Stephen Carter's Digital Britain report.

The U.K. video game industry is sure to be pleased with the news. British game publishers association ELSPA lobbied hard for PEGI during the 15 months since Dr. Tanya Byron's review recommended that there be a single content rating system for the U.K. ELSPA boss Mike Rawlinson was ebullient over the announcement:

The Government has made absolutely the right decision for child safety. By choosing PEGI as the single classification system in the UK, British children will now get the best possible protection when playing videogames either on a console or on the internet.

Parents can be assured that they will have access to clear, uniform ratings on games and an accurate understanding of game content.

On the other hand - as in the United States where the ESRB handles ratings - some will question whether the video game industry can be relied up to effectively self-regulate.

For its part, the BBFC issued a statement reflecting its disappointment but vowing to support the Government's decision:

The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.

Among the video game community the BBFC is best known for the controversial nationwide ban it imposed on Manhunt 2 in 2007. That edict was later overturned by Britain's High Court.

Via: TechRadar

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PEGI or BBFC for U.K. Ratings? We'll Find Out This Morning

June 16, 2009 -

The British Government's long-awaited decision as to which agency will take control of video game content rating chores in the U.K. should come this morning.

gamesindustry.biz reports that the release of the Digital Britain report by Communications Minister Lord Stephen Carter (left) will follow a statement in the House of Commons. From gi.biz:

The report, which is expected to cover a number of videogames industry issues, including the decision on game ratings, will also cover off a number of high profile issues, such as the UK's broadband infrastructure and the future of analogue radio.

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PEGI or BBFC? U.K. to Announce Ratings Choice Next Week

June 11, 2009 -

Who will be in charge of video game ratings in the U.K.?

That long-awaited answer will come next Tuesday, according to MCVUK. As GamePolitics readers know, a pair of entities have been competing for the assignment ever since Dr. Tanya Byron completed her review of the effects of video games and the Internet on British youth in early 2008.

The U.K. game industry has voiced a strong preference for the Pan-European Game Information rating system, better known as PEGI. Some in government, however, are believed to favor the British Board of Film Classification. The BBFC is best known to gamers for banning Rockstar's bloody Manhunt 2 in 2007. That decision was later overruled by the British High Court.

MCVUK reports that industry group ELSPA planned to do some last-ditch lobbying on PEGI's behalf new Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw. ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson told MCV:

We are encouraged that Ben’s previous work as a BBC news correspondent will mean he has first-hand knowledge, experience and understanding of the problems facing the creative industries sector.

We look forward to meeting with Ben soon and discussing how our industry can continue to work with the Government to ensure games retain their place as a world leader in the sector.

We will, of course, also be explaining the significance and importance of PEGI becoming the single classification system for games in the UK. We wish him well in the post.

Thanks to: GamePolitics correspondent Mark "Beemoh" Kelly...

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BBFC Sees No Racism in Resident Evil 5

March 2, 2009 -

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has weighed in on Resident Evil 5 and finds no evidence of racism, reports Eurogamer.

Complaints of racial insensitivity in RE5 have cropped up periodically ever since a trailer for the game was released at E3 2007. Most recently, Eurogamer's report on a pre-release look at RE5 code renewed concerns about possible racism in the game.

But the BBFC's Sue Clark dismissed the racial angle in a scene fretted about by Eurogamer:

It's the bit where you see "a white blonde woman being dragged off, screaming, by black men", as our preview put it... [BBFC's] Clark responded, "In the version [of the scene] submitted to the BBFC there is only one man pulling the blonde woman in from the balcony, and I can't say the skimpiness of her dress impressed itself on me. The single man is not black either.

"As the whole game is set in Africa it is hardly surprising that some of the characters are black, just like the fact that some of the characters in an earlier version were Spanish as the game was set in Spain," Clark continued.

"We do take racism very seriously, but in this case there is no issue around racism."

Odd that both Eurogamer and Kikizo reported it was black men doing the dragging, but presumably we were given an earlier version of the code than the one submitted to the BBFC.

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BBFC: 74% of British Parents Want Something Like the BBFC

February 27, 2009 -

The battle for control over U.K. game ratings rages on...

The quasi-governmental British Board of Film Classification has released survey results which indicate that 74% of UK parents want video games to be rated by an independent (i.e., non-industry) body.

Like, say, the BBFC...

The content rating body, which has been locked in a bitter struggle for control of UK game ratings dominance with the PEGI system favored by the industry, reports that its figures come from a poll conducted on the British YouGov portal. Among its other conclusions:

  • 74% of parents are concerned about the content of some video games.
  • 79% of parents think video games may affect the behaviour of some children.
  • 74% of parents believe video games should be regulated by an independent regulator.
  • 77% of parents believe video game ratings should reflect the concerns of UK parents.
  • 82% of parents believe it would help them if video games used the same ratings as films and DVDs.

BBFC head David Cooke (left) commented on the survey data:

This poll clearly shows parents support a regulatory system for games that is independent of the industry and UK based, reflecting UK sensibilities and sensitivities... The BBFC has been classifying games for over 20 years and our decisions reflect the views of the public.  Our classification systems and symbols are known and trusted by the public and in a converging media world they want to know what their children are playing as well as watching.

Meanwhile, website techradar takes the BBFC to task, dismissing its survey as "hokum," The site criticizes the sample size (1329 parents) and suggests that leading questions were employed.

For its part, UK game publishers' trade group ELSPA promised to throw money at the problem:

Our first concern is to protect British children... The independently administered PEGI system is the right solution for child safety.

Naturally we will support the PEGI system with a multi million pound campaign that helps parents understand that the right system for real protection of their children is PEGI.

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U.K. Watchdog Disappointed, Wanted Madworld Banned

January 16, 2009 -

Yesterday GamePolitics broke the news that the British Board of Film Classification had issued an 18 rating to Madworld, Sega's upcoming Wii gore-fest.

In doing so, the BBFC ignored a demand from Mediawatch-UK that Madworld be banned in the British market.

Spong is now reporting that John Beyer, head of the media watchdog group, has expressed disappointment over the BBFC's decision to approve Madworld for sale:

I'm disappointed but not surprised. I think my view is pretty well known. It's what I expected.

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Madworld Rated 18 for British Market

January 15, 2009 -

It's hardly a surprise, but the British Board of Film Classification has officially rated Sega's upcoming Madworld with an 18 certificate.

The BBFC noted that Madworld "contains very strong, stylised, bloody violence."

No edits to the game were required. As GamePolitcs reported last August, Sega was said to be working closely with the BBFC to avoid a ban such as was imposed on Rockstar's controversial Manhunt 2 in 2007.

A British family values group, Mediawatch-UK, has called for a ban on the bloody Wii title.

Madworld is scheduled to launch on March 31st in the U.K. Here in the United States, Madworld is set for March 10th release. The ESRB has not yet issued a rating.

UPDATE: Edge is reporting that Madworld has also been cleared for sale in Australia.

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GTA Chinatown Wars Rated 18 For British Market

January 9, 2009 -

No surprise here.

The British Board of Film Classification has assigned an 18 rating to the upcoming Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

No edits to the game were required, although the BBFC issued warnings that GTA Chinatown Wars "contains very strong language and drug references".

The game is scheduled for a March 20th release in the UK.

UPDATE: GameSpot notes that the 18 rating assigned to GTA Chinatown Wars is the first ever assigned to a DS game by the BBFC. The game's rating for the North American market is not yet listed on the website of the ESRB.

In Parliament, Lively Debate on Video Game Ratings & Green Cross Man

November 14, 2008 -

The House of Commons had a lengthy and entertaining debate on video game issues yesterday. Also under discussion was the issue of Internet safety for children. Both topics, of course, were the focus of the well-known Byron Review.

MPs, including Labour Party game critic Keith Vaz argued about game ratings, game violence and whether the government does enough to support the British game biz.

The session had to be gaveled to order at a couple of points and Vaz made reference to a "secret tea" attended by Conservative MP Edward Vaizey and game industry execs. And, as if the ongoing turf war between PEGI and BBFC for U.K. ratings dominance wasn't complex enough, yesterday's debate also featured the light-hearted suggestion that British road safety icon the Green Cross Man (left) somehow be tied into the game rating system.

In this report, we've omitted the Internet bits to focus on the video game debate. Here's our abridged transcript:

John Whittingdale (Conservative): ...If one looks for empirical, hard, factual evidence that viewing a particular video or playing a video game has led someone to go out and commit a crime such as a rape or an act of violence, there is very little. Our view was therefore... that we should act on the probability of risk. Where there is a probable risk that someone would be influenced by exposure to such material, that is sufficient cause for intervention...

Tanya Byron did a great deal of work on that. Her other conclusion, which was shared strongly by the Committee, was that we cannot completely insulate children from material that might pose a risk. Part of educating children involves teaching them how to deal with risks. If we insulate them to the extent that they never encounter risks, they will not know how to deal with them...

Providers such as Microsoft told us about the parental controls that they have installed into products such as the Xbox... We were impressed by the commitment that almost every major industry body, including internet service providers, social networking sites and hardware manufacturers, has shown regarding the protection of young people, but there is no commonality...

I want to talk about video games in the final part of my remarks. I know that Keith Vaz... has several concerns about this issue, so he has arrived [late] at just the right moment.

Part of the problem with video games... is that there is no hard evidence to prove that playing a game will lead someone to go out and commit a crime or physical attack. Nevertheless, we agree that there is a probability that it could occur, and there is anecdotal evidence to support that view. The Video Recordings Act 1984 provided that games should be classified, that it is necessary to restrict certain games to people over a certain age... and that there would be games that should be banned entirely. That system has been generally successful since then, although there is often controversy about individual games...

Edward Vaizey (Conservative): I invite my hon. Friend, in the tone of his remarks, to make the point that when we talk about harmful video games and films, we are talking about a small minority. Does he agree that it is incumbent on hon. Members to remind the House as often as possible, when they talk about video games, that we have a most successful video games industry in this country, which employs thousands of people?

John Whittingdale (Conservative): My hon. Friend is entirely right. The video games industry is increasingly important and generates more money than the film industry. It is something that we are very good at. We are a creative nation, and many of the most successful games were developed here. We strongly support the games industry's efforts to ensure that it remains strong in this country and is not poached by other countries such as Canada, which is attempting to attract it there.

Keith Vaz (Labour): ...The fact remains that some of those games, even though they are a minority, are very violent. The hon. Gentleman and I have both commented on the video internet game "Kaboom" in which people replicate the activities of a suicide bomber. It cannot be right that the makers of those games should choose such storylines to provide entertainment, especially on the internet, where our children and under-18s can access them more easily than if they were going into a shop to buy them, as with non-internet games?

John Whittingdale (Conservative): This is a very difficult area and "Kaboom", which has been around for a little while, is an interesting example. It is a remarkably crude, cartoon-type game and is not in the least realistic, as many games now are. It is undoubtedly tasteless and might be offensive to a large number of people. I suspect that it is probably distressing to anyone who has suffered a bereavement as the result of a suicide bombing. Does that mean that it should be banned? I am not convinced that it should, because it is so crude, and other games pose greater concerns.

Edward Vaizey (Conservative): May I make a point to my hon. Friend? In his response to Keith Vaz, he has implied that "Kaboom" is somehow a legitimate video game that breaches the boundaries of taste, but it is not. It was created by an individual in his bedroom. To say that we should ban "Kaboom" is, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, slightly missing the point."Kaboom" is not subject to any legal constraints. It cannot be submitted to a regulator to be classified, because it is made by an individual, effectively illegally, outside the mainstream... It is not at all part of the mainstream video games industry. (more after the jump)

Media Watchdog Group: Gamers Sent Us Nasty E-mails

November 12, 2008 -

mediawatch-UK can dish out criticism, but apparently has trouble taking it.

The self-appointed media watchdog group complains that it was flooded with e-mails from angry gamers in August after the head of the organization called for a ban on Sega's upcoming Madworld.

mediawatch-UK's autumn newsletter contains a whinge about the e-mails, which started when the organization's director, John Beyer (left), told the Daily Mail that he hoped the British Board of Film Classification would deny Madworld a rating, effectively banning the game in the U.K.

Within hours of these remarks being published a rain of hostile emails from gamers poured into our office telling us to "shut the f*** up", suggesting that we have "got our knickers in a twist", demanding, as though we were on trial for an heinous crime, to know what right we had to impose our "narrow minded bigotry" on them and stopping them playing an "adult" game of their choice.

Others, of a more sober character, asked reasonably why we should be so concerned about games when there was so much violence in films and on television!  We were also accused us of being "cowards" for not responding properly to belligerent strictures and one ‘emailer' observed glibly that "violent acts are not a symptom of video games and films, but rather the human condition".  Another said: "If you don't like violent content, don't view or use it"...

Feature articles, grossly exaggerating the significance of our comments, were written in computer game magazines exonerating the multimillion pound games industry and headlines were achieved on Google News UK and dismissive remarks made in The Guardian newspaper... 

mediawatch-UK's conclusion from all of this?

It is evident from this that the battle for standards has rather shifted away from television towards games and the internet. 

GP: Make up your mind, mediawatch-UK. If you want to be a player in this debate, learn to deal with people who not only have an opposing view, but will be directly affected by the censorship for which you are lobbying. Moreover, your whining about negative media coverage is silly. Why shouldn't those in the media who disagree with your advocacy of censorship speak out?

There's an old saying about the heat and the kitchen that seems applicable in this case.

Via: Mediasnoops

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ELSPA Green Lights New Color-coded Ratings

October 28, 2008 -

ELSPA, the trade group which lobbies for game publishers in the U.K., plans to introduce a color-coded rating scheme.

The move comes in the midst of ELSPA's bitter struggle with the British Board of Film Classification for control of game content ratings in the U.K.

According to Gamasutra, ELSPA's new system is based on something that's familiar to everyone - traffic lights.

The new color codes would be layered on to the existing PEGI rating categories. Games with 16 and 18 ratings would get a red light, a yellow for 12s and green for games suitable for young children.

Of course, with three colors and five ratings, not all of the kinks have been worked out.

Gamasutra writes:

The new rating system is in response to the UK government's upcoming consultation into video game ratings on November 20 and to child psychologist Dr. Tanya Byron's recommendations in her recently published report on the effects of video games on children.

Not surprisingly, BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark criticized the ELSPA plan:

There is a system in place already which people know and understand and which in fact uses the traffic light colours, and it's called the BBFC system.

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It's a Mystery: Underage Game Sales in the U.K.

October 16, 2008 -

In the United States, secret shopper surveys conducted by the Federal Trade Commission offer a pretty clear idea of how well the video game industry is doing at enforcing ESRB ratings.

But, how often are mature games sold to minors in the U.K.?

No one really knows.

Unlike in the United States, in the UK, BBFC ratings are backed by force of law. But, according to Spong, the British government doesn’t collect data concerning inappropriate game sales to minors.  When questioned about the number of retailers selling video games or DVDs to underage customers over the years, U.K. Labour government minister Vernon Coaker said:

Information on the number of recorded offences of retailers selling video games or DVDs to underage customers is not collected centrally. This is a summary offence and is not included in the police recorded crime statistics.

While Coaker was able to obtain data on “the number of police cautions issued, the number of fines imposed and the average fine,” these figures include both DVD and video game sales.
 
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen.

 

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BBFC Head: Spat with PEGI? What Spat with PEGI?

October 8, 2008 -

Unless you've been hibernating for the last few months, it would have been difficult to miss the simmering feud between the BBFC and PEGI.

Both are in contention for the job of rating video games in the U.K., where PEGI enjoys the support of ELSPA, the U.K. game publishing lobby, while the BBFC appears to be favored by the government.

In a guest column for Edge Online, BBFC head David Cooke plays down the rivalry, which has gotten fairly nasty at times:

I have been reading recently that there’s a spat between the BBFC and ESLPA or the BBFC and PEGI. I don’t recognize this so-called spat. I have great respect for ELSPA and for PEGI and for the games industry...

Cooke also discussed the U.K.'s bifurcated game rating system, which currently uses both PEGI and the BBFC:

The conclusion that [Tonya Byron] reached was that we should still have a system in which both the BBFC and PEGI were involved for the UK but the BBFC should have a rather bigger role covering everything from age 12 and older.

 

In parallel, the House of Commons Select Committee on culture media and sports looked at the same kinds of questions as Tanya Byron, and they took a lot of evidence from many experts, including ELSPA.  They reached a similar conclusion to Byron.

Cooke also points out the difference between BBFC's mandate and that of ELSPA:

BBFC isn’t a lobbying organization, like ELSPA. It’s a statutory regulator. Our position is we’ll do what the government wants us to do... The key difference between us and PEGI is that we classify in accordance with guidelines that the British public has been consulted about. PEGI doesn’t do that and can’t really because it involves 27 different countries.

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Report: Sega Working Closely with ESRB on MadWorld Content

October 7, 2008 -

Sega, publisher of the upcoming MadWorld, is working closely with the ESRB on the bloody game's content, according to a report on MTV Multiplayer.

Sega's goal, of course, is to avoid a sales-killing Adults Only rating. It's more or less a given that black-and-white (and red) MadWorld will be tagged with at least an M rating in the United States.

Of the cooperation, MTV Multiplayer's Patrick Klepek writes:

Sega is working closely with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to ensure the game receives just an M rating, they told me. The ESRB receives new builds on a regular basis and Sega notes their feedback. Sega wants them to feel “part of the process” of developing “MadWorld” and isn’t looking to surprise them...

 

But don’t let the ESRB’s involvement make you nervous; “MadWorld” is plenty violent right now. It looks like “Sin City” was bathed in a bucket of blood.

As GamePolitics reported in August, Sega is similarly working with the BBFC on smoothing over MadWorld's path to a successful U.K. release. It's unclear, however, whether MadWorld will see release in other violence-sensitive markets, including Japan, Germany and Australia.

Although MadWorld is not scheduled for release until March, the game has already been the subject of at least one call for a ban.

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ELSPA Not Giving Up the Fight over U.K. Game Ratings

October 1, 2008 -

ELSPA, which represents U.K. game publishers, has vowed to fight on in its bid to have content rating chores assigned to PEGI rather than the British Board of Film Classification, gamesindustry.biz reports.

The PEGI-BBFC debate has become rather a long-running sideshow in the U.K., where government officials seem to prefer the BBFC, the industry wants PEGI and no one seems in the mood to compromise. ELSPA boss Paul Jackson spoke to gi.biz of his organization's determination:

Nobody is saying for a second that if government brings in a regulation for a videogames act of parliament that our members won't fight it. Of course they will. At the end of the day we're a very law-abiding industry and we'll fight our corner right the way through. If there's a legislative process we'll fight that as well.

 

I think [government officials are] listening now. I have a real sense that the arguments we're making are so well-founded in fact that they're impossible to not listen to...

 

Fifteen years ago when we set up our own age ratings without anybody asking us to, we did it entirely off our own backs to make sure there was child protection. I don't think there is the slightest doubt that this industry isn't serious, coherent and of one mind of where we're going.

 

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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 gamesindustry.biz 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.

67 comments

U.K. Game Biz Lobbies Against BBFC at Labour Party Gathering

September 22, 2008 -

By now, most GamePolitics readers probably know that the U.K. game industry is keen to see the government assign content rating duties to the privately-run Pan European Game Information (PEGI) service. At the same time, the industry is determined to keep the government's apparent choice, the British Board of Film Classification, at bay.

As reported by gamesindustry.biz, ELSPA, representing U.K. game publishers, has pleaded its case again. At a Labour Party Conference ELSPA boss Paul Jackson adminstered a bashing to the BBFC:

A linear ratings system like the one the BBFC uses is designed for films with a beginning, middle and end where the outcome is always the same. It just can't cope with the infinite variety and complexity of modern videogames, and the interaction between players.

 

The film ratings board continually downgrades games classified 18 by PEGI. They go to BBFC 15 or even BBFC 12. History shows us that BBFC ratings – and the UK – would regularly be out of step with our European neighbours.

34 comments

The Clue that Fallout 3 Would be Watered Down...

September 10, 2008 -

Yesterday, Edge Online broke the news that Fallout 3 would ship worldwide next week with the same gameplay edits that were made to clear censorship hurdles in Australia.

The issue for Australian censors was the game's ability to use virtual morphine as a health power-up. Down Under, of course, the highest rating is MA15+.

After posting about the news, I realized that last week's GamePolitics story which reported that the BBFC had rated Fallout 3 "18" for the U.K. market contained a huge clue that the Aussie edits had gone global (a clue that I failed to fully pick up on). Here's what I wrote then:

Fallout 3 has been cleared for sale in the U.K. with no content edits required...

 

Curiously, a "consumer advice" note posted with the rating decision does not mention the drug use which got Fallout 3 banned in Australia earlier this year. The only reference to content is "Contains very strong bloody violence and gore."

So, yes, I noticed that the BBFC hadn't commented on the game's virtual drug use but didn't make the connection that it might have been edited out. Doh!

47 comments

BBFC Rates Fallout 3 an 18 with No Edits

September 5, 2008 -

Fallout 3 has been cleared for sale in the U.K. with no content edits required.

That's the word from the British Board of Film Classification, which yesterday stamped the much-anticipated Bethesda title with an 18 rating, meaning that it can legally be sold to those of that age and older.

Curiously, a "consumer advice" note posted with the rating decision does not mention the drug use which got Fallout 3 banned in Australia earlier this year. The only reference to content is "Contains very strong bloody violence and gore."

The BBFC, currently embroiled in a power struggle for control of U.K. game ratings, is best known to gamers for the outright ban it placed on Manhunt 2 last year. That decision was later overturned by Britain's High Court.

28 comments

ELSPA Exec Bashes BBFC

September 4, 2008 -

The political battle over who will handle video game rating chores in the U.K. continues.

In the latest development, Spong cites comments from ELSPA general manager Michael Rawlison concerning the relative merits of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system.

GamePolitics readers may recall that the industry strongly favors PEGI, while Gordon Brown's government seems to be leaning toward the BBFC. Here's what Rawlinson had to say:

The PEGI people are available to go and talk to developers through the development process and look at things in pre-production. [By way of contrast] you can only get a ruling on a BBFC rating once you've finished the product.

 

If we listen to what the BBFC said in print around Dark Knight - 'We analysed this film and we felt that it was borderline around 12 and 15 but in the end we decided to give it a 12', now whether they gave it a 12 of their own free will and volition or whether it was through heavy arm-twisting and pressure, who knows? I certainly have no evidence one way or the other. However, clearly there is no way to pre-determine what the rating of that is going to be until you send them the product.

81 comments

Report: Sega Cooperating with BBFC to Avoid Manhunt 2-like Ban in U.K.

August 25, 2008 -

Given the pre-release backlash from media watchdogs over the level of violence depicted in Sega's upcoming Wii title Madworld, publisher Sega is said to be in touch with officials of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and Pan-European Gaming Information system (PEGI) in an effort to head off the type of outright ban imposed on Rockstar Games' controversial Manhunt 2 last year.

Nintendic reports on the dialogue between Sega and the ratings bodies. Of particular significance is the BBFC. The organization was behind the Manhunt 2 ban, which was later overturned by Britain's High Court. More recently government officials have indicated that their preference is to turn the U.K.'s game rating chores over to the BBFC. The British game industry, however, would prefer PEGI.

Nintendic quotes Sega exec  David Corless:

Yes, [Madworld's] violent. We don’t try to hide that, but as publishers, we see it as a fantasy game - it’s fantasy violence. It’s over the top. It’s cartoony. We also take the violence very seriously. We are working with the age rating boards, with PEGI and with BBFC. We’re not at the end of the game’s development, but we’re working with them now to make sure that we don’t go over the top. The game has been banned in Germany; there’s no getting around that unfortunately. But we are taking it seriously and we’re going to make sure that this game is rated for the appropriate audience.

 

45 comments

Game Biz Guru: Bioshock 2 Next to be Banned in UK?

July 31, 2008 -

Video game industry consultant Vincent Scheurer (left), speaking the Develop conference in Brighton, warned that future game bans were possible in the UK.

As reported by gamesindustry.biz, Scheurer said:

The costs of the Manhunt 2 ban to RockStar were massive - an independent developer would be out of business... Call of Duty and BioShock could be banned under that criteria [that applied to Manhunt 2]… The next game to be banned could be BioShock 2, and then where would we be?

 

...It makes the business of making games that much harder.

Scheurer also spanked ELSPA boss Paul Jackson for praising the Manhunt 2 ban:

While we fail to fight back we will continue to be blamed for all of societies ills… In my view [European game developers group] Tiga was the only association to step up… Tiga realised, where the other's didn't, that this was about more than Manhunt 2.

Gamezine has more on Scheurer's remarks...

And GameSpot UK has even more...

Despite ELSPA Denials, British Govt. Gives Ratings Nod to BBFC

July 31, 2008 -

Some rather curious developments out of the U.K. yesterday... 

Early on, James Kirkup, political correspondent for The Guardian, wrote a story to the effect that the British government would recommend that the BBFC, which rather famously banned Manhunt 2 last year, should rate games for the UK market. Kirkup predicted the official word would come today.

Later yesterday, ELSPA, which represents UK game publishers, called Kirkup's report "speculation" and "scaremongering."

Yet Kirkup has proved prescient. As Edge reports this morning:

A report from the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media, and Sport has revealed that body’s preference in BBFC ratings over the industry self-regulating PEGI system...

 

the committee maintains that BBFC ratings are more “thorough and rigorous" than the PEGI system, and that the BBFC symbols “command greater confidence”... 

Meanwhile, the CMS committee's report itself concludes:

There is a distinct issue about labelling of video games to indicate the nature of their content. Two systems currently exist side by side: the industry awards its own ratings, and the British Board of Film Classification awards classifications to a small number of games which feature content unsuitable for children. The dual system is confusing, and Dr [Tanya] Byron recommended that there should instead be a single hybrid system. We believe that Dr Byron's solution may not command confidence in the games industry and would not provide significantly greater clarity for consumers.

 

While either of the systems operated by the BBFC and by the industry would be workable in principle, we believe that the widespread recognition of the BBFC's classification categories and their statutory backing offer significant advantages which the industry's system lacks. We therefore agree that the BBFC should have responsibility for rating games with content appropriate for adults or teenagers, as proposed by Dr Byron, and that these ratings should appear prominently. Distributors would of course be free to continue to use industry ratings in addition.

Gizmodo terms the CMS recommendation "decisive," adding:

The decision will come as a real blow to the pan-European games rating system, PEGI, backed by games software developer organisation, ELSPA as well as big guns like Microsoft, Nintendo and Ubisoft.
 

 

93 comments

U.K Game Publishers Dispute News Report that Govt. Has Chosen BBFC over PEGI

July 30, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported this morning, a story in British newspaper The Telegraph claims that the U.K. government has already chosen the BBFC over industry favorite PEGI as the nation's future rating system.

MCVUK is now reporting that ELSPA, which represents U.K. game publishers, has disputed The Telegraph's story. An ELSPA rep told MCV:

The reports in parts of Fleet Street are, we would suggest, purely speculation. It is scaremongering and should be treated as such. The Government is now entering into a consulation period in which in which we are assured all the issues are being considered.

No decision has been made, and ELSPA will be fully engaged in this process in the months ahead.

GP: We can't help but note that ELSPA - not the British government - is denying the story about what the British government plans to do.


 

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Papa MidnightWith GTA5 (to date) failing to even provide indication of a PC release, I'm realising that this might be the first GTA game that I have not played (outside of Chinatown Wars) since the series inception.04/19/2014 - 8:14am
IanCSo im guessing a bunch of edutainment games, which a lot of people elsewhere are going gaga over, dot count as classics? Okay. If you don't mind me, i have a sudden urge to play Putt Putt....04/19/2014 - 6:15am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/18/playstation-99-cent-sale-discounts-tokyo-jungle-super-stardust/ Weekend long PSN flash sale. So much stuff is 99 cents for the rest of the weekend.04/18/2014 - 5:59pm
Adam802http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/18/5627928/newtown-video-game-addiction-forum04/18/2014 - 4:14pm
Matthew Wilsonit is a video talking about why certain games/products/consoles do well, and others do not. he back it up with solid research.04/18/2014 - 3:56pm
Andrew EisenI'm not keen on blind links. What is it?04/18/2014 - 3:45pm
Matthew Wilsonthis is worth a whatch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyXcr6sDRtw&list=PL35FE5C4B157509C904/18/2014 - 3:43pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 3: Night Dive was brought to the attention of the public by a massive game recovery, and yet most of their released catalogue consists of games that other people did the hard work of getting re-released.04/17/2014 - 8:46pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 2: If Humongous Entertainment wanted their stuff on Steam, why didn't they talk to their parent company, which does have a number of games published on Steam?04/17/2014 - 8:45pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 1: When Night Dive spent the better part of a year teasing the return of true classics, having their big content dump be edutainment is kind of a kick in the stomach.04/17/2014 - 8:44pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.giantbomb.com/articles/jeff-gerstmann-heads-to-new-york-takes-questions/1100-4900/ He talks about the future games press and the games industry. It is worth your time even though it is a bit long, and stay for the QA. There are some good QA04/17/2014 - 5:28pm
IanCErm so they shouldn't sell edutainment at all? Why?04/17/2014 - 4:42pm
MaskedPixelanteNot that linkable, go onto Steam and there's stuff like Pajama Sam on the front-page, courtesy of Night Dive.04/17/2014 - 4:13pm
Andrew EisenOkay, again, please, please, PLEASE get in a habit of linking to whatever you're talking about.04/17/2014 - 4:05pm
MaskedPixelanteAnother round of Night Dive teasing and promising turns out to be stupid edutainment games. Thanks for wasting all our time, guys. See you never.04/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
NeenekoAh yes, because by building something nice they were just asking for people to come push them out. Consequences are protested all the time when other people are implementing them.04/17/2014 - 2:06pm
 

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