EC calls for parental warnings for vid games


BRUSSELS -- The European Commission has called for parental warnings and age restrictions on the sale of "obscene and perverse" video and computer games.

European Union justice commissioner Franco Frattini has written to EU justice and home affairs ministers urging "common sense" regarding games he blames for violent or bullying behavior among children.

When the ministers meet in Brussels next month, Frattini will call for a range of possible measures to deal with the rising number of games that, according to him, "glorify violence, sometimes extreme violence."

In his letter, Frattini singled out as particularly offensive "The Rule of Rose," a game for Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 2 console, which involves psychological and physical violence inflicted on a young girl.

"This has shocked me profoundly for its obscene cruelty and brutality," Frattini wrote. "Games where you are supposed to shoot down ordinary people walking on the streets, or where you have to bully children at schools are other examples of such, in essence, obscene and perverse games."

The move is part of Frattini's effort to set up an EU strategy to safeguard the rights of children. "These types of 'recreational games' are dreadful examples for our children and may provoke or encourage violence or bully behavior by children," he wrote. "Whereas of course it is first and foremost the responsibility of the parents to protect children from such games, I nevertheless think that we at member state and European level also have to take responsibility to protect children's rights."

The EC will hold a conference with industry and experts early next year to seek a voluntary approach to violent gaming. "It is obvious that we should simultaneously involve all relevant stakeholders with a view to establishing, if relevant, a public-private partnership," Frattini wrote. "Such partnership could, for instance, explore the usefulness of and necessity for a voluntary code of conduct on the production of interactive games for children."

EC officials have raised particular concerns about the current rating system for online games which addresses more the technical quality of the software rather than the suitability for minors.