The Byron Review – the government’s high-profile investigation into the effects of video games and the internet, led by child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron – has recommended a mandatory film-style age rating system using a single recognisable set of symbols for use in all video games.
At present only games depicting sex or extreme violence require a BBFC rating and the alternative Pan-European Game Information system has been described as ‘ineffective’.
Dr Byron explained that the current system was confusing and not strict enough on those that defy it. In addition to the mandatory ratings, she has proposed larger, more visible age ratings, along with cigarette style health warnings and tighter controls on game advertising.
In the run up to the publication of the Review, it was widely rumoured that it would recommend a mandatory system, but that could have granted powers to either UK’s own BBFC or to the European PEGI system. Nothing has been set in stone yet, but the description of a film-style system and specific age ratings seems to point directly at the BBFC.
The Times is reporting that the PEGI system “is considered to be ineffective because it uses symbols that are confusing and distributors effectively chose their own ratings by filling in a form about their product.”
Despite growing hysteria about whether violence in interactive media could influence violent behaviour in children, the report has taken an extremely level headed approach to the problem.
Dr Byron has called for a massive campaign to improve parents, teachers and childcarers both about the dangers presented by the digital world, but also the huge amount of benefit that it can offer if taken with the right amount of caution.
“You would not send your child to the pool without teaching them to swim, so why would you let them online without teaching them to manage the risks?”Dr Byron said.
The Review also recommends the statutory requirement for game ratings should be lowered to 12 – which is also in tune with the film-ratings system.
BBFC (via GamesIndustry.biz)