Game Critic Keith Vaz Supports PEGI Ratings, Says ELSPA Head

July 24, 2009 -

Labour MP Keith Vaz (left), a longstanding critic of the video game industry, is apparently lending his support to the use of PEGI as the UK's sole rating system.

At least, that's the word from ELSPA. A press release issued today by the UK game publishers group reports on a "quick meeting" between ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson and Vaz:

London, United Kingdom – 24 July, 2009: ELSPA’s Director General, Michael Rawlinson, met with Keith Vaz MP this week. During the meeting the Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman made it clear he supports the single rating system being introduced for videogames and also commended the improvements to PEGI.
 
“We had a quick meeting with Mr Vaz and he made it apparent that he believes it is important to have a single, rather than a confusing dual, rating system in the UK,” said Michael Rawlinson. “Mr Vaz added that he was keen to see the changes being made to the PEGI system and acknowledged the UK games industry’s commitment to an advertising and education campaign around the new age symbols and content descriptors when they are introduced to further protect players.”

"Quick meeting" leaves a lot to the imagination: Hallway? Elevator? Men's room? We've asked ELSPA for clarification and whether we can expect any type of announcement in which Vaz states his position for himself.

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British Government Forms Video Game Committee

July 23, 2009 -

The British government will establish a "video games committee," reports MCVUK.

The concept for the new group came out of a meeting last week between representatives of UK game publishers' group ELSPA and Siôn Simon (left), the government's new Minister for Creative Industries. The committee will have representatives from a number of British Cabinet offices, including the Departments of Culture, Media and Sport, Business Innovation and Skills, Health, the Home Office and Children, Schools and Families.

ELSPA head Michael Rawlinson told MCVUK that he was encouraged by the decision to create a video game-specific government committee:

The news was indeed upbeat. The Minister assured us that the Government is confident of being able to introduce pro-PEGI legislation before the next election.

We also covered the other hot topic of the moment: tax breaks for the industry. Siôn Simon confirmed that the Treasury is now open in principle to the idea of tax breaks for the country’s video games industry.

But endlessly calling for tax breaks is not enough. What is obvious is that hard evidence has so far been very lacking so the Minister has now asked ELSPA to help further the debate by furnishing that evidence. This, of course, we are happy to do.

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In Parliament, Suggestion of "Global Regulatory Future" For Video Games

July 21, 2009 -

In Parliament yesterday, longtime video game industry critic Keith Vaz (Labour) quizzed Siôn Simon (left), Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport about PEGI ratings and the controversial Japanese game RapeLay.

Conservative Mark Field jumped in on the topic, appearing to suggest the pursuit of a global content rating system for video games. Surprisingly, Simon said that the UK's recent adoption of the European PEGI system was viewed by the Gordon Brown government as "the building block to moving towards a global regulatory future."

The conversation went something like this:

Keith Vaz: What recent discussions has [Simon] had with pan-European game information on the age classification of video games?

Siôn Simon:
I have spoken to the Video Standards Council—the current UK agents for the PEGI system—about the classification of video games and have another meeting scheduled with it very soon. I have also had discussions with the British Board of Film Classification. Both organisations are working hard to ensure the success of the new system.

Keith Vaz:
I thank the Minister for his answer and welcome the steps that the Government are taking on this issue. However, it is still a matter of concern that a game such as "RapeLay", which shows extreme violence against women, can be downloaded from the internet. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that such games are not accessed from the internet, so that children and young people are properly protected?

Siôn Simon: We should be clear that [RapeLay] was not classified, but was briefly available on Amazon and then was banned. The point that my right hon. Friend is making is about games that, like other brutal, unpleasant, illegal content, can be available on the internet. All steps that apply to any other content on the internet will apply to games. Specifically, as part of the Byron review we set up the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to work with content providers, internet service providers and all aspects of Government to make sure that such content cannot be accessed, particularly by children.

Mark Field: The Minister will know that Britain is a great leader in video and computer games, and while I take on board many of the concerns expressed by Keith Vaz, will the Minister recognise that this is a global industry, not simply a European one, and in so far as we are going to have the safeguards to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, we will clearly also need to have global regulation along those lines?

Siôn Simon: The system of regulation for which we have opted—the PEGI system—is pan-European, and as such, we see it as the building block to moving towards a global regulatory future. The key principle is that the markings on games should make it clear to parents which games are suitable for adults and which are suitable and unsuitable for children and young children. Adults should be allowed to access adult content; children most certainly should not.

GP: Readers, what do you think of the idea of a global content rating system? Is it even possible? If so, is it desirable?

Source: They Work For You

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ELSPA Head Details New Strategy For Lobbying UK Government

July 13, 2009 -

Michael Rawlinson (left), who heads British game publishers group ELSPA, details his organization's new - and apparently successful - approach to dealing with the U.K.'s government bureaucracy in a guest column for MCVUK.

Despite some difficult recent years in which most of the political dialogue on video games in the U.K. involved criticism of game violence, the British game biz has scored some big wins of late. Most notable among these was the government's recent adoption of the PEGI content rating system favored by the industry.

At its core, ELSPA's strategy seems to involve working both harder and smarter. Rawlinson writes:

PEGI’s ascent to becoming the sole ratings system for games was a momentous achievement for the industry – and just goes to show how we can really get the Government’s attention when we get our approach right.

 

We’ve deliberately become more professional in terms of our dealings with Government. We’re strategically planning what we do – we don’t just bowl up to meetings, answer questions then leave.

We not only had to convince Government... we also took our arguments much wider, taking in the whole of Westminster, as well as the devolved parliament in Scotland and the regional assembly in Wales as well as the European parliament. Retailers, children’s charities and more were also covered. All of these groups had different needs we had to meet...

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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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PEGI Rolls Out New Rating Symbols

June 17, 2009 -

Fresh on the heels of yesterday's announcement that it would be the sole video game content rating agency for the U.K., PEGI has unveiled an updated set of symbols depicting its age guidelines for games.

gamesindustry.biz reports that the new ratings are 3, 7, 12, 16 and 18, with color coding that runs from green to orange. Current symbols representing additional content information suchas violence, language, discrimination, sex and online play will remain in use.

UPDATE: gi.biz is now reporting that British game publishers trade group ELSPA will foot the bill for a marketing campaign to inform parents about the new PEGI ratings.

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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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Forbidden Fruit Theory 101: Game Content Warnings Make Kids Want to Play

March 2, 2009 -

Content warning labels placed on video games actually increase children's desire to play, according to a new study published in the March issue of Pediatrics.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune:

Researchers tested 310 Dutch children ranging in age from 7 to 17. Participants read fictitious game descriptions and rated how much or how little they wanted to play each game. In every group, the more objectionable the content, the more kids clamored for the controller—"forbidden fruit," the researchers called the games...

 

Authors, Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan and Elly Konijn of VU University Amsterdam... suggest that youth should not be allowed to buy their own games, that parents and physicians be aware of risk factors... and that policy-makers rethink the classifications...

Interestingly, the study began with the hypothesis that mature content ratings issued by the Pan-European Game Information system (PEGI) enticed younger players. With regard to PEGI the authors conclude:

Although [PEGI] was developed to protect youth from objectionable content, this system actually makes such games forbidden fruits. Pediatricians should be aware of this forbidden-fruit effect, because video games with objectionable content can have harmful effects on children and adolescents.

As GamePolitics readers know, PEGI, which enjoys video game industry support, is locked in a bitter struggle with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for ratings dominance in the U.K.

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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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Euro Parliament Moves to Protect Kids from "Potentially Harmful" Games

February 9, 2009 -

We don't have any details on this yet, but the European Parliament has a notation on its website indicating that it will release some type of content and/or retailer guidelines later this week:

Video game safety:  The Internal Market Committee will set out a series of recommendations to improve the protection of children from potentially harmful video games on Wednesday.

In late January the European Parliament gave its endorsement to the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) content rating system.

GP: We'll post more information as we learn of it.

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European Parliament Endorses PEGI Rating System

January 26, 2009 -

The European Parliament has given its endorsement to the Pan-European Game Information rating system, better known as PEGI.

Edge reports:

The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs had recently convened to discuss a report on aiding consumers (particularly minors) in playing the right kind of videogames for their maturity. In their discussions, says ELSPA, the European Parliament had endorsed a single age rating system, and that “the PEGI system provides an elegant solution to the questions raised by the evolving global games industry.”

The Committee’s [concluded]... that “video games are predominantly non-violent, and a winning form of entertainment.” ELSPA adds that the Committee also claimed that games “can also be used well for valuable educational purposes..."

 

Finally, the Committee encouraged its member states to use and promote the PEGI system. The group also acknowledged the shift gaming has taken to online content, stressed the importance of adequate control measures for online purchases, and supported the PEGI Online system in light of this.

Mainland Europe may be settled with PEGI, but in the UK PEGI remains locked in a bitter fight with the British Board of Film Classification for control of the game content rating process.

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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)

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.
 

 

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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.


 

52 comments

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.

 
71 comments

Did ESA Boss Endorse PEGI Over BBFC at E3?

July 24, 2008 -

MCVUK writes that Entertainment Software Association CEO Michael Gallagher (left) endorsed the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) rating system over that of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) during last week's state-of-the-industry speech at E3 in Los Angeles.

From the MCVUK report:

As part of his keynote speech, Gallagher was critical of the Byron Report’s highly controversial backing of the BBFC system – and made it clear that the Entertainment Software Association believes it was the wrong way to go.

MCVUK is referring to this section of the Gallagher speech:

Friends and allies across the globe are facing their own challenges. Our success as a business and entertainment medium has caught the attention and the interest of foreign regulators and governments. Earlier this year we saw the release of the Byron Report, which praised the ESRB's work with retailers to help enforce sales restrictions to minors. We are now seeing a robust debate between the BBFC and PEGI. And while this is a European question requiring a European solution, our American experience proves that industry self-regulation is the best way to provide parents the information they need to make appropriate purchasing decisions.

Frankly, we're not reading Gallagher's remarks as expressing criticism of the Byron Review, although the ESA head's preference for self-regulation is clear. On the other hand, it would be natural for the ESA to back PEGI, as its UK game industry counterparts, including publishers' group ELSPA, have expressed a clear distaste for handing game rating responsibilities over to the BBFC.

We've got a request in to the ESA for clarification on Gallagher's view. In the meantime, you can read the full text of Gallagher's E3 speech here.

15 comments

UK Minister: Keep the Kids in Mind During BBFC-PEGI Rating Tussle

July 9, 2008 -

According to a report on MCVUK, UK Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism Margaret Hodge (left) has urged the video game industry and British Board of Film Classification to act in a "grownup way" as the government sorts out the future roles of the BBFC and PEGI rating systems.

The process has become contentious of late, with the industry voicing a strong preference for PEGI and the BBFC lobbying for an expanded role in rating video game content.

Of the dust-up, Minister Hodge said:

Please avoid this become a battle between two regulatory bodies. Let’s have a shared solution that everyone can buy into... Child safety is very, very important – I get more letters as a minister about this issue than I do about anything else. So your customers – my voters – are demanding we act...

 

Both BBFC and PEGI have their merit, and I’m not going to come down on one side or the other. We do need a system that can reassure parents and teachers that the content is safe. You must accept that most people in the UK know and trust the BBFC ratings. But I do understand that PEGI is much newer and was designed specifically for video games.

 

What we’ve got to make sure, at the end of the day, is that we meet the essential criteria that Tanya Byron set out in her comprehensive review. My challenge to you, the industry, is to respond to that consultation appropriately, but approach it not in a way that it is a battle to be won against government, but a problem we ought to be able to resolve in a grown up way to meet the requirements of all our stakeholders.

 

14 comments

Nintendo, Sega, Ubisoft, EA Back PEGI in UK Game Rating Battle

July 8, 2008 -

A quartet of leading publishers have come out in favor of the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) rating system for the UK market.

The game industry there, including publishers association ELSPA, does not look favorably upon the British Board of Film Classification, which itself hopes to claim a bigger piece of the UK's video game content rating pie. The BBFC is probably best known to gamers for its 2007 ban on Manhunt 2 which was later overturned on appeal.

As reported by Next Generation, ELSPA head Paul Jackson minced no words in remarks to British government officials at a media forum in Whitehall.

PEGI is the solution for today, and the solution for tomorrow.

Execs from Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft and Sega also weighed in, with Sega Europe CEO Mike Hayes adding:

If you look at the PEGI system against the film ratings board in the UK, you will see that PEGI is the only system that has the power to prevent games publishers distributing unsuitable content to children. It can ban a publisher’s entire output, rather than just a single title. This power is backed by the entire industry.

 

21 comments

BBFC vs. PEGI Ratings Tiff Rages on in UK

July 7, 2008 -

As the British government begins to take action based on the Tanya Byron Review, game content ratings are increasingly under the spotlight.

In recent weeks the battle between the British Board of Film Classification (which wants to expand its mandate to handle additional gaming content) and the Pan-European Game Information system (which seems to be preferred by the UK game industry.

BBFC head David Cooke has aired his side of the argument to the Times:

[Game industry critics who say that BBFC couldn't handle the increased workload] are absolutely wrong. We would have to review another 300 to 500 games every year under the new proposals, and we think we can do that without taking on any new staff at all...

 

The trouble is that it is not clear who PEGI is. Administration is handled by the Dutch film regulator, who subcontracts to a couple of blokes [the Video Standards Council] in Borehamwood.

Cooke also disputed industry claims that adding UK-specific ratings by the BBFC would delay game releases:

I think that is a red herring; Germany and the US have their own systems. Look at what happens in film - there are different cultural sensititives in each country. The French give Tarantino films 12 certificates; I'd be out of a job tomorrow if I did that. But the point is that there is no reason why those cultural differences go to sleep when it comes to games.

Via: gamesindustry.biz

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50 comments

Rebellion Exec: Byron Report was Good for Video Game Biz

June 23, 2008 -

The Tanya Byron review may have been controversial in some quarters, but Chris Kingsley (left), Chief Technology Officer of UK developer Rebellion is fine with it, reports gameindustry.biz.

In fact, Kingsley believes the TV psychiatrist's probe into the effects of video games on children was a net plus for the industry:

It helped to raise the profile in a way, and helped to answer a lot of questions. But games is just one section of it, and I think a lot of the challenges are faced by the other sectors are potentially things that we'll be facing in the future. So that will be interesting to watch.

And while ELSPA is currently lobbying for PEGI to become the one-stop content rating shop for UK games, Kingsley told gi.biz he's okay with Dr. Byron's recommendation that game rating duties be turned over to the BBFC:

As long as the BBFC can cope, and I can see some issues with how they rate games - because rating games is a more difficult prospect than movies, which you can just sit down for a couple of hours and you're going to know what's in there. With games there's a lot more content and a lot more potential for missing things, or if you don't quite play the game in the right way, you're not going to see the right things happen.

 

What we don't want to see is regulation getting in the way of the games industry too much, but we'll have to see how that works out in the next few weeks and months, as to what actually happens.

 

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Michael ChandraYou want a debate? Build a wall between you and the poisoned well. Make clear you despise it, despise the behaviour. Then get into the other issues you are troubled with, and don't say a single word again about the poisoned well.09/19/2014 - 3:46am
Michael ChandraAnd someone claiming #notyourshield was to be taken serious, when chatlogs show they wanted it going to hide even more harassment behind? Yeah, not buying a word you're saying. You poisoned your own well.09/19/2014 - 3:45am
Michael Chandraallegedly fired over giving a game a mediocre review and the company threatened to pull ads? Sorry but I ain't buying this.09/19/2014 - 3:45am
Michael ChandraBut people arguing this is horrible and just about ethics, even though there's very little support that journalistic integrity was actually violated here, while they never spoke up when a journalist was09/19/2014 - 3:43am
Michael ChandraIf people start with condemning the way GamersGate was used as a misdirection, then use a better hashtag, that would work in convincing me they mean it.09/19/2014 - 3:43am
Andrew EisenOoo, this one came down to the wire! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/749082525/nefarious09/19/2014 - 1:03am
Andrew EisenI don't doubt that many are truly interested in journalistic integrity. The problem I'm often seeing is they seem to have no idea how or where to talk about it.09/18/2014 - 11:46pm
Andrew EisenDidn't word that well. Busy at work. I've seen people claim that GamerGate is solely about ethics and transparency in games journalism and then go on to show that what they're really after is silencing those who talk about gender issues in games.09/18/2014 - 11:45pm
Kronodebate. Becaus apparently people who only post on Reddit are supposed to police twitter before they're allowed to question anything about the people involved.09/18/2014 - 10:40pm
KronoI highly doubt many, if any are using journalistic integrity as a cover for harassment. The people harassing are essentially trolls. They aren't interested in subtle. More often it's othe other way around. People use "but X is being harassed" to shut down09/18/2014 - 10:38pm
Andrew EisenAnd exacerbating everything is the fact that all the cries of ethics violations have been obnoxious and easily proven false.09/18/2014 - 8:59pm
Andrew EisenProblem is, I would imagine, the sheer number of people who are using journalistic integrity as a cover for their harassing actions or only bringing it up on the false pretense of journalistic integrity.09/18/2014 - 8:47pm
Andrew EisenHaving said that, I can certainly see how one would be frustrated if they truly just wanted to talk about journalistic integrity and someone said they were one of the people harassing Sarkeesian, Quinn and others (though I've seen no examples of that).09/18/2014 - 8:44pm
KronoThat's been the common refrain, that talk of journalism ethics is just an excuse to harass people.09/18/2014 - 8:44pm
KronoLines like "like a partial compromise with the howling trolls who’ve latched onto ‘ethics’ as the latest flag in their onslaught against evolution and inclusion." are taring everyone questioning the ethics as a harasser.09/18/2014 - 8:43pm
Andrew EisenKrono - Except, none of the articles were talking about gamers complaining about journalist ethics, let alone called them white male misogynists. They were talking about the gamers who were harassing others.09/18/2014 - 8:36pm
Kronomakes plenty of sense. It's rather hard to dismiss someone as a white guy running a sock puppet when they've posted proof they're a woman, or black, or another minority.09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronothat any critics of journalists were white guys that hated women, and could be dismissed as such. It seems to have helped some. It's kind of difficult to maintain the white guy narrative in the face of a bunch of women and non-white guys. So the tag09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronothat, someone vented on a #gamergate 4chan thread about being dismissed like that. The suggestion they got in return was to organize their own hashtag in response, with #NotYourShield being suggested. Thus the tag came into use to combat the undercurrent09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronomuch more general problem. And while several of the articles were fairly tame, they spured a bunch of people to dismiss any critics of the journalism involved as misogynistic men. Usually with insults aimed at the geek stereotype. After about a week of09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
 

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