UK to Start Legally Enforcing Video Game Ratings

Europe's PEGI rating system this week became the single system for video games ratings in the United Kingdom. The change means customers shopping for video games in the UK will no longer see the government's BBFC ratings on titles. Instead, all games will carry a PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) rating designed to help consumer make informed decisions about which games they're buying.

Though PEGI ratings have appeared on games in the United Kingdom before, they weren't legally binding. That all changes this week as the system has been incorporated into UK law and Video Standards Council will be responsible for the age rating of video games under the PEGI system. The UK government's BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) rating system for video games will be dropped in order to simplify things.

The Games Rating Authority (part of the Video Standards Council) will be responsible for the age rating of video games under the PEGI system. Video games will be rated at PEGI 3, PEGI 7, PEGI 12, PEGI 16, or PEGI 18. If a retailer supplies a video game with a PEGI rating of 12, 16, or 18 to an under age customer, he or she is breaking the law. The  PEGI 3 and PEGI 7 ratings are advisories only and not enforceable by law.

According to the Video Standards Council, a PEGI 3 title is considered suitable for all ages. Some violence in a comical context is acceptable (think Looney Toons) but the child shouldn't be able to associate the characters with real life characters. Obviously, there can't be any bad language or nudity, either. PEGI 7 is much the same as PEGI 3, but games with this rating are allowed to feature some possibly frightening scenes or sounds and partial nudity as long as it is not in a sexual context.

The VSC describes PEGI 12 titles as games that show violence of a 'slightly more graphic nature' towards fantasy characters and/or non-graphic violence towards human characters or recognizable animals. Games that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature will also fall into the PEGI 12 category. Bad language is allowed as long as it doesn't include sexual expletives.

If the depiction of violence or sexual activity reaches the point where it resembles real life, the game will get a PEGI 16 rating. Ditto for extreme language, the encouragement of smoking or drugs, or the depiction of criminal activities.

Lastly, PEGI 18 will be applied when the level of violence is "so visually strong that it would make the reasonable viewer react with a sense of revulsion." This rating would also apply to games with explicit sexual activity (there's mention of genitals showing) and any game that glamorizes drug-use.

Interestingly enough, only physical stores will be legally bound by the new law. Online and digital purchases remain exempt because these methods typically require a credit or debit card, which in turn can be monitored by parents.

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  • ohim
    I grew up without any of this bullshit, i watched porn underaged , i watched violent movies underaged, was drinking bit of beer while underaged and yet i`m not a maniac serial killer who rapes little girls. I have my own job, socialize normally with people and i`m in no need for any therapy. This kind of regulations only makes us more stupid in my opinion. The parents have to educate you, and a good neighbourhood will be enough to grow up normaly, not ratings on movies/ games and shit.

    Look at americans how stupid they got trough all these kind of regulations, you can`t even give your child a Kinder surprise because they might choke on eating the toy inside, i didn`t see europeans choking on Kinder Surprise. We were not told not to try this at home while watching Coyote and RoadRunner. Imposing regulations only makes us dumber because we have to be told what`s good and what`s not , we won`t be able to take that decision for ourselves.
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  • memadmax
    I know people that religiously follow government nanny controls, their kids end up being f'd up when they reach adulthood(yes, I am that old)......

    Symptons?
    Unable to cope with adult life(because they weren't exposed to it), resulting in suicide... this is the big one. I also noticed that this kind of stuff tears the family apart because the kid ends up being a snotty little brat, and on top of it, the parents just plain don't know what to do(because their parents didn't bother trying to raise them either)...

    Welcome to the fruit of the Barney era, where the kids that were raised by Barney are now all grown up... Should be interesting...
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  • memadmax
    bak0nI know more that are dead and in jail that didn't have any controls whatsoever. I also possess a degree in therapy even though I'm not practicing with it right now and can show you many statistical examples of how no control is the worse option.


    This is basically what I'm talking about. Parent(s) don't know how to raise their kids now a days and they are letting the government do it for them...
    Trouble is, government is not raising their kids. So your point is what I'm trying to make.
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  • Other Comments
  • killbits
    Nice article, but American readers like me might be curious how the new laws are different from the old. Would have been helpful if you contrasted the new enforcement laws with how the old laws were (apparently) not legally binding? How do the new/old ratings compare to ESRB ratings, which are seldom enforced except by a few stores, and don't really have any punishment for offending retailers?
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  • alidan
    got to love that rateing system...

    in the us a nipple can get you almost a ao rating, with only major publishers really able to get away with it, and in europe, fine for anyone age 7, but you show blood your getting a 16 rating.

    i dont like the legaly binding thing though, because cod or halo, lets be honest, those are really just T games, hell i would call halo a E game, these rateing don't put correct context to the violence, or even play the game... can you honestly say a kid cant play halo just because it says M on the box?

    and the notion of leagly binding just takes individual maturity out of the equation all together.

    i was on the wrong end of this type of crack down once with everquest, i started playing it when i was 11, but a year and a half later, they decided no one under 13 can play our game anymore and i got locked out. luckily parental consent allowed me back on after a tech support call. but imagine that if they enforce this with online gameplay too... they cant ensure that the online section of the game will be the same rating as the game, so imagine everyone who plays online there, a game like forza, gran trismo, streetfighter, are no longer able to play online because they were stupid enough to use their real birthday, and not fake it over 18... i know its slippery slope kind of thinking, but say you are 8, and you love streetfighter, and now you are locked out till you are 13, if not 18, due to online... what im suggesting isn't impossible, and what i head about microsoft customer service in the past... they don't care about you at all... remember autistic kid and his live account. forget that someone hacked his account for the kid, it took how long and mass media attention for them to even respond, imagine what they will do with this.
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  • alidan
    killbitsNice article, but American readers like me might be curious how the new laws are different from the old. Would have been helpful if you contrasted the new enforcement laws with how the old laws were (apparently) not legally binding? How do the new/old ratings compare to ESRB ratings, which are seldom enforced except by a few stores, and don't really have any punishment for offending retailers?


    esrb is not used in europe, its mostly just a standardized rating for everyone. the main difference from what i gather, is its not you cant sell a game to someone under the age on the box... i hate that so much when its store policy... its not legaly binding in america, but with out a government id on me, i cant buy games... you know i have a full facial hair, and i in no way look under the age of 17, much less 21, but i get carded EVERY TIME for a video game, and i usually just have cash on me.
    6