Storm brewing over Byron's plans for UK games ratings system

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BBFC 18.jpgGames publishing giant Electronic Arts has hit out against plans to introduce mandatory cinema-style ratings on UK video games.

A recent, high profile review of the rating system (along with internet safety) led by psychologist and TV personality, Dr Tanya Byron, proposed that the BBFC takeover mandatory ratings for games aimed at older children, while the rival Pan European Games Information (PEGI) system will mop up all the rest.

EA, a long time supporter of PEGI, isn’t happy about the proposed changes. Keith Ramsdale, an exec for EA in the UK told The Telegraph: “What we need is a single system.” “There are some video games that are already rated 18 on the current system but would be at 15 on the new cinema model,” he added.

Now you’ll have to forgive us thinking that this is a slightly odd stance for a video games company to take. The point of the Byron Review was not really to bring fire and brimstone to the games rating system or pander to ludicrous tabloid demands for the government to ban all those sick and evil games that corrupt our children.

Either way, that’s not what it did. In fact, the review was generally applauded for its even-handed stance, which was perhaps so evenly handed that some suspect the government is now pushing through its proposed ‘changes’ so as to justify the £275,000 it cost to run it.

EA’s statement seems to lament the fact that a ratings system’s attitude to games could be relaxed under the new guidance. For those of us who have spent a lifetime playing games, including violent ones, and yet have never felt compelled to go out and murder someone, relaxation seems to make a lot of sense. EA is apparently falling on the Daily Mail side of the fence this time though.

The BBFC has now hit back, calling out the publisher’s attempts “to pre-empt, through recent press statements, the forthcoming public consultation on video games classification…”

So why the beef? It is likely that money is becoming the major area of contention. Unfortunately I have no idea how much each ratings body’s service costs nor whether the publishers themselves have to foot the whole bill in both cases. However, one can assume from the fact that PEGI covers Europe and the BBFC only caters for the UK, that PEGI is the more cash effective system.

Consider also that the majority of EA games are aimed at teens. Normally, they would fall outside of the BBFC’s area of interest. But under the proposed changes they would now all require a BBFC rating. That may not mean extra delays as EA has suggested in the past, but it can not be denied that getting each one rated in individual countries will require added resources.

I don’t agree with its sensationalist angle of attack, especially when clouded by obviously selfish goals, however it is certainly true that these proposed changes (which in a practical sense amount to trying yet again to make parents pay attention to games age ratings by making the signs bigger) aren’t going to make it easier on the smaller entities in the games industry.

(via The Guardian)

Related posts: PEGI needs to sort itself out | Byron wants a follow up

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