Videogames ratings - PEGI or BBFC?

Culture Minister launches Byron Review consultation into games ratings
Culture Minister launches Byron Review consultation into games ratings

Following Dr Tanya Byron's report on the risks to children from games and the internet earlier this year, Culture Minister Margaret Hodge announced a consultation today between the government and the industry to finally decide how best to classify videogames.

It's a far more complex debate than most reports suggest, though roughly speaking, the government is siding with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) system, whereas the industry and the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) is siding with the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system.

The BBFC's 18 rating is currently on around 3% of games sold in the UK – basically, those titles containing sexual material or extremely violent content.

All games are also rated under the PEGI system – the industry administered scheme – which Tanya Byron has criticised for being unclear to parents.

Hybrid ratings scheme mooted

Byron suggests a hybrid scheme would be the better way forward for the games industry with the well-recognised BBFC ratings on the front of a game's box and the industry's Pegi ratings on the back of the box.

Culture Minister Margaret Hodge, said: "The current system of classification comes from a time when video games were in their infancy…The games market has simply outgrown the classification system, so today we are consulting on options that will make games classification useful and relevant again."

To date, ELSPA has criticised the BBFC, claiming the organisation does not have the resources or expertise to deal with the extra work or with the increasing number of games that contain online elements, add-ons and the like.

Give PEGI teeth

ELSPA in turn wants the PEGI system to be given 'bite' (to use SCEE boss David Reeves term) with Michael Rawlinson claiming that the idea of a game having two ratings was ridiculous.

Rawlinson adds, "What we are asking for is the government to empower PEGI with legal backing. We would like to remove confusion and have PEGI rate all games under the umbrella of the Video Recordings Act."

"The compromise that Tanya Byron recommended in her report was not a good one for child safety," he added.

And that, after all, is what is central to this debate. Whether the widely recognised BBFC ratings or a legally-backed PEGI system or the (Byron-recommended) hybrid of the two will replace the current system will soon be seen.

TechRadar will bring you the latest news on the outcome of the Byron Review consultation as and when we get it.

Adam Hartley