The Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) launches a website, askaboutgames.com, next month, to dispel confusion about the age-rating system for video games.
Games that are age-rated by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) should not by law be sold to people below the relevant age. A retailer who sells a BBFC 18 game to someone under that age can be fined or jailed. But ELSPA, the trade body for the UK’s computer games publishers, says its research found that some parents think the age-ratings relate to skill levels, rather than warning of content unsuitable for younger children.
The new ELSPA site has the support of the department for education and skills, which says in a statement: “The department is very keen to develop a more informed approach to purchasing by all adults so as to ensure appropriate access to games by younger children.”
Some of the parental confusion is being caused by the two parallel age-rating systems being used in the UK. The Pan European Games Information (PEGI) system, developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) with the support of the European Commission, is purely voluntary, and is backed by the major software publishers and console manufacturers. It uses a series of icons on packaging to indicate age ratings and the presence of bad language, nudity, drugs and so on.
However, in the UK, in addition to the PEGI rating, if a game contains realistic moving images that depict human sexual activity, mutilation, torture of humans or animals or acts of gross violence, it must be submitted to the BBFC for assessment.