New ratings for ‘shocking’ video game violence

By Georgie Keate

The UK has enforced a stricter set of ratings for video games in an attempt to protect young children from games featuring high levels of fighting, sex and drugs.

The Pegi (Pan-European Game Information) system, which rates video games at 12, 16 or 18 years, has been made legally enforceable, ensuring retailers selling to children below these ages will be prosecuted.

The old BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) has been dropped to simplify the categories for consumers and retailers.

The new move was recommended in the Labour government's digital report in June 2009, which concluded that "having a dual classification system and two sets of symbols often made things confusing for the consumer".

The launch of the system also follows an outburst of criticism from various game editorials after the E3 video games conference where the violence in many games was described as "shocking".

The Pegi rating system also features diagrams on each game package which tell the customer what features in the content, like bad language, gambling and online game playing.

Games are banned to the under 12s if they include significant nudity, bad language and non-graphic violence to humans or animals.

The 16 certificate is based on  the level of drug references and whether the depiction of violence or sexual activity looks the same as it would do in normal life.

Games that feature a "gross" level of violence that is likely to make the player feel revulsion are stamped with the 18 certificate.

The Games Rating Authority (GRA) does have the power to ban titles if it deems it necessary but expects to do this "very rarely".