EU working up regs for violent games

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BRUSSELS -- European Union justice commissioner Franco Frattini said Wednesday he will present plans next year for parental advisory warnings and age restrictions on the sale of video and computer games as part of a wider children's rights proposal.

Frattini wants to set basic standards at different points in the production of a game -- during the design stage, production and retail sale. He pointed out that children account for 90% of the target audience for games, and that the market alone cannot be counted on to ensure they will be spared extreme images.

"The protection of the rights of children is a priority of the European Commission," he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. "Violence and sadism in video games is clearly a worrying issue."

The issue is due to be discussed at a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Dresden, Germany, next month. Frattini has been backed by British Home Secretary John Reid, who said he has been concerned for some time about violence in games.

Frattini blames games that glorify violence for violent or bullying behavior among children. The EC is holding a conference with governments, game manufacturers and children's experts early next year to seek a voluntary approach to violent gaming. Frattini said he also will propose new rules next spring on cyber crime. "This is not a technical problem but one of public health, which needs an educational element and penal measures," he said.

Although the industry operates a self-regulated ratings system for video and computer games -- the 2003 Pan European Game Information -- retailers in most EU countries are not legally obliged to restrict the sale of adult classified products. There also are wide differences among EU nations in regard to what constitutes unacceptable material and there are fears that it will be extremely difficult to impose common standards.
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