You may or may not have caught the news that the age rating legislation for videogames is to be decided circa July 30th 2012 solely via the PEGI classification system. Up until then it was a joint effort made by BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) and PEGI (Pan European Game Information). The reason the change has occurred is to supposedly reduce the confusion that consumers faced on seeing two different age ratings on a product. Many parents buying videogames for their kids have allegedly thought up until now that the age ratings indicated the skill-level required playing the game, as opposed to the maturity of content therein. The sole PEGI system is also now legally enforceable, meaning retailers will get in serious shit if they’re caught flogging one to an underage customer.
Why Has PEGI Taken Precedence Over BBFC?
I have no idea, because it makes no sense to favour PEGI over BBFC: the BBFC is widely recognised by anyone who has ever picked up a VHS videotape (remember them?) or watched a DVD, Blu-ray or indeed any film, ever. Therefore the BBFC classification system could have been effortlessly wheeled in to govern game ratings and be instantly understood on its own terms. PEGI also has a bizarrely inflexible approach to explaining a videogame’s content: various symbols include a spider to indicate scariness and a fist for violence. Wouldn’t it have been more articulate to just state what specific content to watch out for like the BBFC does for films, ‘contains scenes of violence and strong language’? Instead we get a caveman ‘ugg’ in visual form.
It is not enough to rely on abstract images lined up on the back of a videogame box for disinterested parents to suss out. If the government thinks that parents are going to visit the PEGI website for clarification, then they still don’t truly understand that a large majority of parents will buy any videogame for their child whether it’s inappropriate or not. And this isn’t me being judgmental, but there is clearly a palpable and wilful misunderstanding that propagates itself. Implementing a sole BBFC rating system would have set a strong message to parents that rely on good ol’ ignorance to evade responsibility.
It also becomes obvious that the real reason for favouring the PEGI system is due to financial and geographical reasons: PEGI is a system that is used across Europe, and the annoyingly cumbersome content symbols don’t require translation costs to reproduce overseas. This leaves us with the unfortunate conclusion that ‘radical’ changes to the videogame age-rating system have been compromised to save money. I wouldn’t be surprised if saving money was the real motivation for the legislation changes to begin with.