Video game classification under scrutiny

The Government has announced a consultation on a legally enforceable classification system for video games. The move follows a report by clinical psychologist Dr Tanya Byron (pictured) into the impact of gaming on children and young people (MW.co.uk, March 25).

The consultation, which will be announced today (July 31) by Culture minister Margaret Hodge, will look into improving the current classification system.

The Byron report, Safer Children in a Digital World, highlighted that, while video games have the potential for learning, development and enjoyment, children and young people also need protecting from potentially harmful content.

She recommended alterations to the classification system that could be adapted to include games on the internet, and called for a single set of recognisable symbols to be introduced.

Currently, games in the UK are classified by two systems. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has the power to impose legally enforceable age limits on games that depict certain violent or sexual behaviour. In the past, it has banned games for violents content, including Manhunt 2 last June (MW.co.uk, June 21)

All other games are classified by Pan-European Game Information (PEGI), a non-enforceable pan-European system set up voluntarily by the games industry and administered in the UK by the Video Standards Council.

Taking Byron’s report into account, the Government is seeking views on four proposals – a hybrid of current BBFC and PEGI systems, with a legal requirement for the BBFC to rate all games suitable for players over the age of 12; a system based only on PEGI ratings but enforceable by law; a system using only BBFC ratings; or a continuation of the current arrangement, backed up by a code of practice to ensure that retailers and suppliers comply with the system.

Hodge says: “We have seen a big growth in games aimed at a grown-up market, which invariably include scenes unsuitable for young people. The games market has simply outgrown the classification system, so today we are consulting on options that will make games classification useful and relevant again.”

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