Software publishers back vid game ratings

PEGI color code system favored by U.K. lobbying group

LONDON -- The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Assn., the U.K. trade organization of gaming software developers, is throwing its weight behind the currently non-enforceable Pan European Game Information system for video game age ratings and classification.

The powerful U.K. lobbying group's decision is a blow to the work of the British Board of Film Classification, which currently issues guidelines for video games that are legally binding, similar to its work for film and video.

ELSPA's decision is part of the organization's submission to a British government study led by Tanya Byron on the way video games aimed at children are classified. The consultation closes Wednesday.

PEGI has developed a "traffic light" color coding system, and incorporated plain-language content explanations to make the system clearer, more effective and more consistent for parents, children and consumers.

In a statement, ELSPA said that the BBFC "is not the best body to rate games as it was not designed for games. It is a film body which has tried to adapt itself to an interactive media."

It highlights the fact that last year, of the 50 games that PEGI rated 18+ and passed to the BBFC for classification, the film rating board downgraded 22 of them -- almost 50% to a lower age rating.

The U.K. games industry also believes that only the PEGI system is future-proof and has the ability to protect children in a rapidly changing online environment

"We've adopted the proposed changes to the rating system recommended by the Byron Review and have also gone further to exceed Dr. Byron's recommendations in order to meet child safety concerns," ELSPA managing director Michael Rawlinson said. "We don't believe the film censors should be rating video games. They don't understand them and there is no reason why they should. Film and video games are completely different businesses."

The U.K. government is expected to announce its final decision in the first quarter.