TechRadar: The ELSPA interview

Paul Jackson: I think that is a very big question. I can tell you that everybody in the industry is absolutely up for a significant contribution. We do expect to play a very significant part in that. And, as an industry, with award-winning marketing over the last 10 years, we’re in a very good position to do that.

There are real concerns though that without significant government support and partnership in this, we’re never going to succeed in getting the message across properly. These are the questions that need to be addressed both by government and by ourselves over the next 18 months of consultation.

TechRadar: Some more outspoken cynics, such as renegade games marketeer Bruce Everiss, have gone as far to dismiss the Byron Review as a “waste of taxpayer’s money”.

Paul Jackson: [laughs] Well, I would disagree completely with that. Tanya Byron has succeeded in putting a stake in the ground about parental awareness and about how parents should interact with their kids and with new technologies. It will be a standard that we will be working to for years to come. It needed saying, and it needed saying by someone of Tanya’s stature and understanding, and ELSPA welcomed it for exactly that reason.

TechRadar: David Reeves [Managing Director of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe] recently commented that he wanted PEGI to ‘have teeth’ – what did he mean by that?

Paul Jackson: What’s being referred to there is PEGI having the same legal basis as the BBFC. That is, that PEGI would be legally enforceable at retail and it would be illegal for a retailer to sell a game to an under-age person.

TechRadar: So that’s currently not the case?

Paul Jackson: It is where the BBFC logo is also being used on an 18-rated game… What Tanya Byron was balancing were two very simple things. One is that you bring the BBFC logos down the age-range and that gives legal protection one way. Or, the other way would be to extend the legal protections to the PEGI symbols. So it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other!

TechRadar: So, on a practical level, there are questions as well – if as the Byron Review suggests, you have a PEGI rating on the back of the box and a BBFC rating on the front (for 12s, 15s and 18s) – then who is paying for this? And are there going to be any ‘logistical’ problems delaying games coming to market due to classification?

Paul Jackson: You’ve raised a number of questions there. I’ve never come across anyone in the videogames industry who has the slightest concern about the money when it comes to protecting children. We set up our own age-rating system 15 years ago, without any requirement from government, exactly because we wanted to protect children. Logistically, these are the sorts of questions that we need to deal with during the consultation period following the Byron Review over the next 18 months.

Tanya Byron has promised us 18 months of consultation, which was right and proper because she has raised some very complicated issues. In actual fact, we shouldn’t be de-railed into just talking about PEGI and the BBFC, when the wider report is very powerful. And we’ve got 18 months to figure out the technicalities of how the relationship between those two systems will work out.

TechRadar: The BBFC claims that its games testers are able to assess a game taking into account issues of tone and context, whereas it claims PEGI is just a questionnaire-based system, not capable of doing that.

Adam Hartley