TechRadar: The ELSPA interview

ELSPA chairman, Paul Jackson

Following our recent interview with the BBFC, TechRadar caught up with Paul Jackson, chairman of the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) to discuss, among other things, the fallout over the recent Byron Review and the hopes and fears amongst games publishers for the future of age-ratings on videogames. Read on to find out what the UK's spokesperson for games publishers had to tell us.

TechRadar: Hi Paul, we just wanted to talk to you in a little more detail about the recent Byron Review [which looked at issues surrounding children’s access to violent games and inappropriate internet content].

Paul Jackson: Yes, well we welcomed the review all along and we’ve worked very closely with Tanya Byron through the whole process to try to brief her and make the right decisions. We particularly like the things she is saying about advice to parents, about use of technology in the home and about parental awareness of children’s activities.

So it’s not good enough, necessarily, to put a computer in your 12-year-old’s bedroom and then just let them loose on the internet. You need to be aware of what they are doing. So we are very supportive of the broad thrust of what she was talking about.

When you look at the technicalities of what she was suggesting, she was suggesting that hardware companies should be working to improve parental locks, and we are very supporting of moving in that direction.

TechRadar: Could you say a little more on that point, because there have been many criticisms of parental locks – generally suggesting that younger children are often more tech-savvy than their parents and thus can ‘get around’ parental locks.

Paul Jackson: To be honest with you, I’m not sure that that’s really the issue, because as long as the parents are given good and accurate information and as long as the systems are simple enough – and it may take us a while to get all these things right – then, it’s relatively easy to know whether or not the parental locks have been tampered with. So, within the home context, it is then perfectly reasonable for parents to be able to manage what their children are doing with those parental locks.

TechRadar: So it just comes down to good, responsible parenting?

Paul Jackson: It does, although in relation to that particular element it is also down to making sure that those parental locks are user-friendly enough and flag up warnings to enable parents to parent responsibly.

TechRadar: So what have Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft said on these lines?

Paul Jackson: Well, I think you should ask them that question! But the industry is fully supportive of better parental locks.

TechRadar: Let’s talk a little about the BBFC. It was obviously very pleased with the outcome of the Byron Review, as it means that it is going to have more responsibility in terms of rating games. ELSPA seems to have had some concerns with this. Can you outline what these concerns are?

Paul Jackson: Yes. We’ve worked very closely with the BBFC for the last 15 years. The BBFC sits on the PEGI council. So there are very close links. Our concern is this – the games industry needs to be reassured that the British Board of Film Classification would be capable of delivering against a new remit. There are two broad areas of concern.

Firstly, it looks as though the PEGI system currently delivers a harsher rating on games than (historically) the BBFC has – and we want to understand why that is happening and, if it’s not right, how we can fix it.

Adam Hartley