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UK to Start Legally Enforcing Video Game Ratings

By - Source: via The Verge | B 21 comments

Retailers in the United Kingdom may face prosecution if they're caught selling adult-rated video games to underage customers.

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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  • 16 Hide
    ohim , August 2, 2012 11:13 AM
    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.
  • 14 Hide
    memadmax , August 2, 2012 10:10 AM
    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...
  • 12 Hide
    memadmax , August 2, 2012 12:34 PM
    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.
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    killbits , August 2, 2012 9:27 AM
    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?
  • 4 Hide
    alidan , August 2, 2012 9:48 AM
    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.
  • 6 Hide
    alidan , August 2, 2012 9:54 AM
    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.
  • 7 Hide
    s3anister , August 2, 2012 9:54 AM
    Quote:
    i would call halo a E game

    Sorry, I actually lol'd there.
  • 8 Hide
    rantoc , August 2, 2012 10:06 AM
    And they think it will reduce violence? What it will do is more likely add to the violence, what does some teenagers do when they have nothing to do ? That this is from England seems hardly surprising, big brother there seem to want all aspects of life under strict goverment control!
  • 14 Hide
    memadmax , August 2, 2012 10:10 AM
    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...
  • -7 Hide
    techguy911 , August 2, 2012 11:13 AM
    Doesn't work parents,relatives buys the game for kid there is now way to stop that other than a fine for adults doing this otherwise it will not work.
    Stores selling games in Canada don't sell to kids same thing happens an adult buys the game for kid and he still gets to play it or the adult buys game for himself and kid still gets to play the game.
  • 16 Hide
    ohim , August 2, 2012 11:13 AM
    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.
  • 7 Hide
    Djhg2000 , August 2, 2012 12:21 PM
    And yet they wonder why piracy is a growing issue...
  • 12 Hide
    memadmax , August 2, 2012 12:34 PM
    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.
  • 8 Hide
    bobusboy , August 2, 2012 5:31 PM
    More heavy handed nanny state policies in the UK, no surprise.
  • 8 Hide
    tacobravo , August 2, 2012 5:55 PM
    Good. Now they need to kick them out of games they shouldn't be playing online. Those kids are the evilest people in multiplayer....
  • 9 Hide
    bad_student , August 2, 2012 6:01 PM
    At least this is one mistake that the U.S. hasn't yet made.

    In case you weren't aware, California (Schwarzenegger) tried to implement a law similar to Tom's description of this one. The US Supreme court ruled it was unconstitutional and would be unable to help with a problem that CA could not demonstrate existed. Additionally, the court summaries indicated that several of the justices felt that this law was largely to advance personal political careers.
    http://www.nationaljournal.com/tech/supreme-court-strikes-down-california-s-nobr-video-game-nobr-law-20110627
  • 8 Hide
    bigdragon , August 2, 2012 7:36 PM
    I can't stand one-size-fits-all rating systems. When I was 8 I had played Wolfenstien. When I was 9 I had played Doom. At 11 I played Duke Nukem 3D. All of these are FPS games with ratings way over my age at the time. There are countless more examples where I played games I was not supposed to be able to. People, at any age, are individuals and we really should treat them as such more often. The government can't know what is appropriate for every individual, and making sweeping generalizations about segments of the population doesn't help.
  • 0 Hide
    dalethepcman , August 2, 2012 11:18 PM
    Cartoon violence is ok, you can hit the coyote in the head with an anvil, and blow him up with a grenade, and its ok for children to see this because its a cartoon. If this is the only input you have, then you might grow up thinking its ok to blow up a movie theater with grenades and shoot everyone with a rifle, because the roadrunner thought it was funny.

    Violence should be portrayed accurately for younger audiences. They need to know that if you hit someone in the head with a baseball bat, their going to bleed and possibly die, and then you will get raped in jail for the rest of your life. If it scares them and gives them nightmares, then good, that is what it should do. We shouldn't be desensitized to seeing people disemboweled with pruning shears and a spatula.

    Fantasy violence should have a higher maturity rating than life like violence, because it takes a more mature mind to understand the concept of fantasy.
  • 0 Hide
    alidan , August 3, 2012 5:22 AM
    dalethepcmanCartoon violence is ok, you can hit the coyote in the head with an anvil, and blow him up with a grenade, and its ok for children to see this because its a cartoon. If this is the only input you have, then you might grow up thinking its ok to blow up a movie theater with grenades and shoot everyone with a rifle, because the roadrunner thought it was funny.Violence should be portrayed accurately for younger audiences. They need to know that if you hit someone in the head with a baseball bat, their going to bleed and possibly die, and then you will get raped in jail for the rest of your life. If it scares them and gives them nightmares, then good, that is what it should do. We shouldn't be desensitized to seeing people disemboweled with pruning shears and a spatula.Fantasy violence should have a higher maturity rating than life like violence, because it takes a more mature mind to understand the concept of fantasy.


    i forget where i first heard that line of thought, but i agree with it... to some extent...

    im living proof that you can be desensitized by all kinds of violence, i shouldn't be able to see the Luka Rocco Magnotta video and the only reaction that it gets out of me was a yawn
  • 0 Hide
    pscgod , August 5, 2012 1:47 AM
    wish the ratings mattered..... sucks that parents just buy mature games for their kids and hope that entertains them while they zone out after a hard days work. Should have just aborted it would have been cheaper...
  • 0 Hide
    alidan , August 5, 2012 12:45 PM
    pscgodwish the ratings mattered..... sucks that parents just buy mature games for their kids and hope that entertains them while they zone out after a hard days work. Should have just aborted it would have been cheaper...


    individual maturity.

    i beleive most people are starteing to not care about bad words,
    most are starting to not care about violence
    because lets be honest, bad words are an expression, knowing them doenst make you use them, you would feel the same way before or after, the fact is you now have a word you can use.
    violence doesnt matter because unless you are retarded in some way (actual retarded, as in medically) we all know that you cant kill other people or go full gta.

    but the only problem we have left is sex, and in america, a kid seeing sex is seen as just slightly less damaging than the kid being molested.

    that is really the last problem area that we have when it comes to content.

    am i saying a seseme street game should talk like san andreus, show realistic and graphic dental torture, followed by an elmo orgy on the side... no, but somehow thats what people thing will happen if everyone stops trying to censor games, and make no bones about it, a law that makes it a legal requirement to be over 18, when it wasn't previously, and the decision is base purely on content, is censorship.
  • 0 Hide
    echondo , October 26, 2012 10:01 PM
    alidanand 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.


    If you actually paid attention to the Autistic kid story, you would know that he modded his Xbox Live profile to obtain a special Halo armor by cheating his achievements. His account did NOT get hacked, he modded his gamerscore and got labeled a "Cheater". He could still play online and the "Cheater" label isn't visible to other people, only the owner of the account.

    The kid LIED and Microsoft verified it with the News channel. Even though I do agree with you that Microsoft isn't the best company in the world, but next time know what you're talking about.
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