In the wake of the Byron Review, tension is beginning to simmer beneath the surface of the normally peaceable games ratings industry. Dr Tanya Byron’s recommendations put the UK ratings board, the BBFC, in a strong position to take on more responsibility (and work, and pay cheques presumably) but its rival, PEGI, is not out of the running yet. Big names in the industry like EA and Microsoft have come down in favour of the European-wide PEGI service.
With each service being looked at to defend its turf, the BBFC has lashed out at its rival. Speaking to The Times, David Cooke, the director of the British Board of Film Classification, said “The trouble is that it is not clear who PEGI is.” “Administration is handled by the Dutch film regulator, who subcontracts to a couple of blokes [the Video Standards Council] in Borehamwood.”
In response to EA’s doubts, Mr Cooke observed that large games publishers like Electronic Arts have a vested interest in seeing PEGI take on more responsibility because it can rate games for a wider area. However, he also pointed out the Britain is far from the only country to have its own individual ratings system and that cultural differences are a very important factor too.
“Look at what happens in film – there are different cultural sensititives in each country. The French give Tarantino films 12 certificates; I’d be out of a job tomorrow if I did that. But the point is that there is no reason why those cultural differences go to sleep when it comes to games.”
He pooh-poohed two of EA’s more sensational claims: firstly that this change would cause games to take longer to reach the UK. “I think that is a red herring; Germany and the US have their own systems,” Mr Cooke said, adding “It takes eight days to review a game for classification, and the fee is £300”.
Secondly, EA’s suggestion that the additional responsibility would force the BBFC to leave their current London office and set up a new one “the size of Milton Keynes” was categorically pointed and laughed at. “They are absolutely wrong,” stated Cooke. “We would have to review another 300 to 500 games every year under the new proposals, and we think we can do that without taking on any new staff at all.” Don’t send in your CVs yet, basically.