TechRadar recently caught up with David Cooke, director of the British Board of Film Classification, along with Mark Dawson, one of the BBFC’s leading games examiners, to discuss, among other things, the recent Byron Review, the Manhunt 2 saga and to find out more about what the BBFC thinks about the future of videogame classification and age-ratings in the UK.
(You can read the first part of this interview here)
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TechRadar: There have also been concerns and questions posed by ELSPA about things like funding and logistics. Who pays for BBFC examiners such as Mark here? Who pays the BBFC? And second to that – might there be questions of additional delays to games coming to market, because an extended BBFC system might take longer to classify games?
David Cooke: Well the second point is the easier part of that question to answer. We are faster than PEGI, at the moment. And we’ll try and keep it that way. We turn round games, on average, in ten calendar days (not working days) which is at least as fast as PEGI, probably faster.
TechRadar: Is there an average time it takes for you to examine and rate a game?
Mark Dawson: It generally depends on the game. With a game like Grand Theft Auto IV, for example, which is one of the most recent titles we have rated, it was something like 15 or 16 hours, for each of the two examiners playing it.
David Cooke: But that is of course exceptional. There’s a hell of a lot in the game!
Mark Dawson: I would say that we probably allocate around 5 hours per game on average.
David Cooke: On the money front, I think we’ve calculate that there are around 25% of the games that we do that work out cheaper than PEGI, then there is a chunk that are more expensive.
We are entirely independent of government and funded by the fees that we charge. So yes, I suppose it is valid to say that there will be cases where, going from the Byron recommendations, publishers will have to get stuff classified by us as well as by PEGI. But then, that’s no different really from the other top games buying countries, in terms of market size – us, Germany, Japan, the US. And we are the only one that is in PEGI. To some extent, if you have big national jurisdictions, you have to play by their rules and you have to pay for the regulation that they do.
But we are not allowed to make a profit. We operate purely on a cost-recovery basis. We try to make it as cost-efficient as we can. So it’s not going to be that much in the greater scheme of things and maybe we can find ways, in collaboration with PEGI, to get these costs down further.
TechRadar: One of the other issues raised by ELSPA has been the whole area of online gaming and the classification of online games. They are suggesting that PEGI has a more robust system for classifying online games and online content that the BBFC. What is your response to that?
David Cooke: Well, yes and no. PEGI has PEGI Online, which I was involved in devising. It’s a pretty decent attempt to deal with a very difficult set of problems, as you get all of these post-releases issues that kick in with online games. What PEGI Online ISN’T is well-resourced. There is one person in PEGI trying to run PEGI online as well as trying to do lots of other things.
Let’s start a bit further back, here. Tanya Byron has recommended pretty much the same thing online as she has recommended for physical product, which is that games to be rated 12 and up should come to the BBFC. So there are two routes we could go here. We could either set up something which we are already doing – called BBFC Online – as a competitor to PEGI Online or we could feed into PEGI Online, given that PEGI Online already recognises BBFC symbols.