Byron Report Released in U.K. - Ratings Will Change, Laws Will be Passed

March 27, 2008 -


Dr. Tanya Byron's long-awaited review of the effects of video games and the Internet on children has been released in the U.K.

While much is being written about Byron's report, the key points, as described by the Mirror, include:
-Giving video games a more "robust" movie-style age classification.

-Making it illegal for retailers to sell any video game to a child younger than the age rating on the game box. At present, only the most violent and sexually explicit games are regulated.

-Developing a new code of practice aimed at regulating social networking sites, such as Bebo and Facebook, including introducing standards on privacy and harmful content

-Undertaking a new publicity campaign for parents to understand the sort of digital material their children are accessing on the Internet and how they can block it.

-Introducing new laws banning Internet-assisted suicide.

-Creating a national council to implement the strategy.

The British government has reportedly confirmed that all of Byron's recommendations will be implemented. For her part, Byron told BBC Radio:
In the same way you wouldn't let your 11 to 12 year-old watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is an 18-rated film, you really shouldn't be letting them play 18-rated video games.

The Guardian reports that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was quick to support Byron's recommendations:
If our children were leaving the house, or going to a swimming pool or going to play in the street, we would take all the care possible about their safety. Is there proper policing, is there proper safety?

When a child goes on to the computer and on to the internet or on to a video game we should be thinking in the same way. It's really difficult for parents because we didn't grow up in the computer age, many of us.

We've got to make it easier for parents and get the information to them in a more simple form. We've got to get the classification clearer so that people know 12-plus. When someone is trying to sell a game they've got to give the proper information.

Byron added:
I'm making some pretty tough recommendations to the prime minister, to the government, about the video game classification system and about the internet generally and how we can empower parents and teachers and all adults to help children be safe.

I'm asking the prime minister to change legislation so that from 12 upwards children or parents can't buy games unless it's for the right age of the child.

A widely-cited Times Online report, which carried the headline, Computer Games to Get Cigarette-Style Health Warnings seems to overstate the case a bit. While Byron does call for a revamped content rating system as well as ratings that appear on the front of game packaging, GP found no reference to "cigarette-style" warnings in her report.

Those who were rooting for either the PEGI or BBFC classification systems to be favored by Byron will be disappointed. As Next Generation reports, Byron recommends:
Reforming the classification system for rating videogames with one set of symbols on the front of all boxes which are the same as those for film. 

Lowering the statutory requirement to classify video games to 12+, so that it is the same as film classification and easier for parents to understand.

Her report recommends a blending of PEGI and BBFC:
In the context of this Review, where my remit has been to consider the interests of children and young people I recommend a hybrid classification system in which:

- BBFC logos are on the front of all games (i.e. 18,15,12,PG and U).
- PEGI will continue to rate all 3+ and 7+ games and their equivalent logos (across all age ranges) will be on the back of all boxes.

GP: The Byron report will have far-reaching effects on the video game industry in the U.K. In addition, readers can expect that it will be closely studied by political figures, activists and industry types in the U.S.

UPDATE: PC World's Matt Peckham has a rant about the "cigarette-style" warning labels...

WANT A COPY ? Click: Byron Report (report + supporting materials)

Comments

@Mr Blackett

I think I understand what you mean, but that's a bit of a stretch, isn't it, to say that "the legal system is independent of the government"? Isn't it the U.K. government that is promising to put the Byron Report suggestions into law? Maybe we are using different definitions of "legal system" and "government."

In any case, although incorrect, please understand that it's easy for us to consider the BBFC a government agency (even though technically it is not -- I do understand that). In the U.S., it is hard for us to imagine any law being made or enforced, directly or indirectly, by an authority that is not somehow accountable to the people, either directly or indirectly.

As odd as it seems to us to have the government make rules that restrict free expression, it seems even odder that these rules would be based on the recommendations of an independent organization that doesn't have any direct accountability to the electorate.

I thought she'd sell games up the river for politics, but she didn't. It's actually good to know there are people out there willing to really do the work and look at the results, instead of trying to shpe the work to meet a particular result.

It's also sad that I've become so cynical because of all the bashing and posturing that has come before. I can't wait for Thompson to see this.

[...] has the fullreport. [...]

@GoodRobotUs

I think it means that for all games rated for player 12 years and older, that children and parents cannot buy them unless it is intended for someone who meets the age requirement on the lable.

I don't know how they can tell for whom the parent is buying the game. As a parent and adult I can buy any rated game for myself. But if I decide to buy a teen game for a preteen how will they know? Weird.

To those asking about the "intended for" thing in limiting games being purchased...

How do you think it works for alcohol, or smokes, or infact existing violent media rules?

If you have good cause to suspect they are going to give it to a child, you say no.

@mbkerr

Are you a parent?

British gamers are screwed. I´m deeply sorry for them. I really hope someday they can make a stand to reject this ridiculous report and laws.

@Bones

No, I disagree. I interperated the recommendations as saying the BBFC logo should be displayed on the front but the only legal requirement to do so is for 12+ certs. Other classifications can be issued but they have no legal requirement to be displayed.

@Buncha I think the overhaul bit is more to do with parent's perception than changing the system. Or that's the impression I get from reading the report.

Gift.

@ Buncha Kneejerks

I don't recall saying anything in particular against the Byron Report. I know i have said a lot about the BBFC, just not the Byron Report.

@ Buncha Kneejerks

"In the UK, movies at the cinema and DVD’s have to be classified by the BBFC. The ratings are enforced through law. In the UK a parent cannot take a 15 year old into an 18 cert movie."

How about buying an 18 cert DVD and bringing it home and showing it to your 15 year old child? Is that illegal in the UK?

@ All

No it is not illegal for a parent to purchase an 18 rated game/film and take it home and allow their child to watch/play it. The legal restrictions relate only to sale, not to viewing.

The report says NOTHING about criminalising parents who buy games for their children who are below the recommended age. I reckon she's been quoted out of context in the Guardian interview, in the report NOTHING is written about it at all, and even if it HAD been, it's unenforcable and therefore would never pass.

/lesson on UK constitution.

BTW, @ All American posters, you can stick your first amendment where the Sun doesnt shine, it's an overused piece of legislatory hell that allows your feral press to wreck the lives of innocent individuals at a whim and has created your ridiculous culture of the media dictating your ideas.

I'm referring to the period where African's were removed from their homes and sent around the world. You know, the famous 'time'. Of course you're right that slavery has existed throughout history and it's always been disgusting but it's never been anything like the BBFC rating video games. The comparison is, at best, melodramatic and, at worse, crass and offensive.

I'm not interested in arguing the other points any further. Rest assured, I see your argument and still disagree...and sometimes you're just plain wrong. I also think you should put more care into your analogies. I still love you though.

Finn,

"Which is why I’m trying to get the US mindset as to why, being able to prosecute people for selling rated games to underage kids is seen as a bad thing."

There is no compelling state reason to prosecute the sale of any video game/movie (Exception: Obscenity/Pornography) to children, regardless of age. You seem to laboring under the impression that there are ill effects of media, a la tobacco, and there are not. Media's effects are largely overstated, as this Byron report is well pointing out. But where it fails (yet, I haven't read all 260 or so pages) is it assumes the video games that are violent have an undue effect - they do, BUT only in parental absentia. A parent can use the violence in most games as a teaching moment, if not, then stop their kids from playing.

So what reason WOULD you have in prosecuting the sale of rated games to minors. Here in the States, if a store sells M games to minors, it goes under simply from angry parents buying somewhere else. Why else would EB/GameStop, one of the (if not the) largest game retailers ask for ID for EVERY sale of an M game? Because consumers have enough recompense outside of law. Our system works, so does yours.

I prefer the one where the people have more power, but I'm not going to call your BBFC oppresive - just OLD media rules trying to force new media to fit.

The issue, as many have stated, is what your legislature does with the Byron Report (and from her quote it doesn't look good), and this will effect us across the pond - as much as we ran your Redcoat asses into the sea during the Revolution :p - our laws mirror yours and often borrow precendent.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

Speaking of people in the US being unable to comprehend it, how long before some wise guy supporting such things in the US brings this up as a reason that [The US] should do the same?

I love you Gameclucks.

@Dick Ward

Trust me, I worked in a store that sold games of all kinds... I would regularly see kids come in with money their parents had blindly handed them before they walked out the door that day, just because the said "hey mom, I want to buy a game, can I have some money?"

These parent's need, badly, to be educated that "game" does not equal "kids toy" and that they should actually be paying attention.

Just out of curiousity, does anyone have any idea what the minimum age that US retailers enforcing ESRB ratings will sell a mature title too?

@ GusTavToo

Dude, I'm a Londoner - I get the difference, trust. And I;m sure most Americans will too. But from what I understand of American media, the word "state" tends to be used mostly in the context of socio/communist countries like China and Cuba. And that won't sit well with their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

@ DarrelBT

I would struggle to say 'good' or 'bad'. That probably depends on your baseline view on personal liberty/regulation.

It's certainly even-handed and well researched.

Rather than get caught up in the US vs UK way of doing things, it might be better to just emphasise that the major changes are:

Current practice:
BBFC review all games that are certified 18 and 15.. PEGI do the rest.

Proposed practice:
BBFC review all games that are certified 18 and 15 and 12. PEGI do the rest.

Of course, how they pick the ones that will have the 12 certificate in advance seems a bit odd. I guess the game devs will go through the PEGI checklist first. But the thing to understand is that there are no new legal/regulatory processes being put in place. This is no new Videgame Censorship bill.

Saying that "Parents should be able to show horror/porn films to their children if they want to, it my right as an American" should understand that the UK has had this debate, and decided that this shouldn't be the case*. The BBFC is a respected institution that is almost 100 years old. We are quite happy to let them get on with their jobs. I understand some Americans might be aghast at this, but the fact that they have this power doesn't mean they abuse it. They've a good record so far, over a very long period of time. Yes they have banned films they considered obscene, and demand cuts from some films, but they have not interfered with Political Free Speech, which is the central issue here.

*Of course, those Brits who are under 18 probably feel differently, I know I did, all those years ago. :)

@ Buncha Kneejerks

I don't know why you bother sometimes. GoodRobotUs and BlackIce stopped trying to educate/pacify each and every American spoiling for an argument ages ago. Can you imagine if we trolled USA-orientated threads in the same way, with corresponding cries of "our system is way better, you're dumb/bad to disagree"?

Right, some choice, relevant quotes for those unable to make up their own minds (looks at DarrelBT)

Taken from this article: BYRON: THE INTERVIEW

Next-Gen: "One of the fears for the games industry or for adult games players is that somehow your recommendations might stop people from playing adult games. Is there any way that this might come out as a result of what you’re recommending?"

Byron: "Absolutely not. That’s certainly not what I’m recommending. I’ve worked with a lot of gamers throughout the review and I do believe that adults have the right to make decisions about the content that they access, whether it’s viewing or interacting.

There’s a huge moral debate around content in videogames. I’m very clear, that wasn’t the remit of my review to pass judgment on that and I do believe that content for adults is content for adults. It should be rated that way.

I can understand that gamers fear that there will be a ‘you can’t play these games anymore.’ I’ve not said that, I’d never say that, and certainly if I heard people beginning to use my review to try and imply that I will be very quick to say that that was not and will not be a recommendation of mine."

Next-Gen: "I don’t want this question to sound facetious, but what makes a game appropriate for a twelve year old as supposed to say a ten year old? Give me an example of something that would trigger that."

Byron: "When I started I looked at the way the classification system changes [in movies] around twelve you begin to get more realistic violence, you begin to get sexual innuendo. For me it’s really about not just the age rating but the content description on the back of the game. If a parent sees a game they evaluate it against what they know about their child, that’s their choice.

Some ten year olds are more mature than twelve year olds and some twelve year olds are less mature than some ten year olds. For me it’s not about having a Nanny-State approach and saying this is exactly what you have to do, but it’s about providing enough information and support for industry, retail, and parents to make the right choice for the individual child that’s standing in the shop asking for the game."

Next-Gen: "You said you went over to the United States recently. Do you think your ideas will be looked at carefully over there or is that just not relevant, what those guys are doing?

Byron: "It’s entirely relevant. The internet, the online space, and videogaming, it’s global. It’s about children living in global landscapes now, you know? This is what the online landscape gives children. It’s amazing, it’s a fantastic opportunity for children to grow, for communities to develop in a way that’s positive."

@ Buncha Kneekerks: I don't know why you bother sometimes, BlackIce and BoodRobotUs stopped trying to educate/pacify every American new poster spoiling for an argument. Can you imagine the reaction if we trolled USA-orientated threads in the same style, with corresponding comments of "our system is way better than yours, you're mad/bad/wrong to disagree"? [shudder]

Anyway for those unable to make up their own minds (looks @ DarrelBT), you should find the following interview both interesting and relevant, originally found on Next-Gen.biz.

Next-Gen: "One of the fears for the games industry or for adult games players is that somehow your recommendations might stop people from playing adult games. Is there any way that this might come out as a result of what you’re recommending?"

Byron: "Absolutely not. That’s certainly not what I’m recommending. I’ve worked with a lot of gamers throughout the review and I do believe that adults have the right to make decisions about the content that they access, whether it’s viewing or interacting.

There’s a huge moral debate around content in videogames. I’m very clear, that wasn’t the remit of my review to pass judgment on that and I do believe that content for adults is content for adults. It should be rated that way.

I can understand that gamers fear that there will be a ‘you can’t play these games anymore.’ I’ve not said that, I’d never say that, and certainly if I heard people beginning to use my review to try and imply that I will be very quick to say that that was not and will not be a recommendation of mine."

Next-Gen: "I don’t want this question to sound facetious, but what makes a game appropriate for a twelve year old as supposed to say a ten year old? Give me an example of something that would trigger that."

Byron: "When I started I looked at the way the classification system changes [in movies] around twelve you begin to get more realistic violence, you begin to get sexual innuendo. For me it’s really about not just the age rating but the content description on the back of the game. If a parent sees a game they evaluate it against what they know about their child, that’s their choice.

Some ten year olds are more mature than twelve year olds and some twelve year olds are less mature than some ten year olds. For me it’s not about having a Nanny-State approach and saying this is exactly what you have to do, but it’s about providing enough information and support for industry, retail, and parents to make the right choice for the individual child that’s standing in the shop asking for the game."

Next-Gen: "You said you went over to the United States recently. Do you think your ideas will be looked at carefully over there or is that just not relevant, what those guys are doing?"

Byron: "It’s entirely relevant. The internet, the online space, and videogaming, it’s global. It’s about children living in global landscapes now, you know? This is what the online landscape gives children. It’s amazing, it’s a fantastic opportunity for children to grow, for communities to develop in a way that’s positive."

@ thomas

I have also seen a parent buy an 18+ game for their 11-12 year children, but insisting that they pay for it themselves out of their pocket money. I have also seen a video store clerk advising that GTA should only be played by those over 18+ - but the grandparent or parent bought it anyway.

I understand your pain, but I also don't think it should be respsonsibility e bringing up people's children. You can tell them what's in the game, and tell them what the rating is, and maybe tell them a little bit about the game's content. And then let them decide...

I just thought that in the UK, the 18+ and 15+ raings are enforcable by law? The only thing that's about to change is that the 12+ rating now will be enforcable by law...

I don't mind people getting more informed about how to use the parental controls in XP or Vista, but I find them very easy to use, especially, as I understand it, in Windows Vista...

On an interesting side note, there is an article that discusses the issue of British teens on TIME's website.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1725547,00.html

@ ~the1jeffy

Read my (extra-long) post above. To whit:

Byron: "Some ten year olds are more mature than twelve year olds and some twelve year olds are less mature than some ten year olds. For me it’s not about having a Nanny-State approach and saying this is exactly what you have to do, but it’s about providing enough information and support for industry, retail, and parents to make the right choice for the individual child that’s standing in the shop asking for the game.”

Yeah, but some of them aren't happy here. They get antsy when they are forced to think for themselves.

Erik:

"I go with whats presented. Maybe that will change in the future when more is presented, but this is my opinion with what information I have at current."

People have given you tons of information to correct your opinions, you just choose to bury your head in the sand and ignore it. At last count about a dozen people here have told you why you are wrong and explained what the position is in the UK, but you do not want to listen. It's kind of infuriating when you don't even acknowledge what has been said, but pick out 1 sentence in 20, completely out of context, and reply to that instead.

I think people have just given up trying to inform you now and will leave you to rant alone in future.

The feared Byron report. The document detractors claimed would bring about sweeping change. A document that would be critical of the games industry and be used as fodder for destroying the videogames industry. What does it say, the BBFC should include a 12 certificate. Woe is us.

Don't forget, parents should keep an eye on what their kids are up to.

"The evidence on video games is discussed in Chapter 6. There are some possible negative effects of violent content in games, but these only become ‘harmful’ when children present other risk factors:

There is some evidence of short term aggression from playing violent video games but no studies of whether this leads to long term effects.

There is a correlation between playing violent games and aggressive behaviour, but this is not evidence that one causes the other."

How dare she say something so well balanced and informed!

Reading...

Judgment day............so to speak

Let's not jump to conclusions before reading the report. There's a lot that seem reasonable. I'm going to read how they handled academic evidence on video game and give my opinion later.

Ok, So, lemme put it in easy to understand terms for us supposedly (according to Jt) Brain damaged kids.

1. Games may have some effect, but no real evidance supports.
2. Theres no need for major change, but some minor, very logical recomendations are suggested.
3. The report recomends more Parental involvment, not government regulation.

That about right everyone?

@Yuki

Yep, that's about right.

@Darrel

Thanks for confirming that.

Sad to think this was what we were all so worried about.

@ Yuki

I have feeling this report will be largely ignored because its not what they want.

Can someone clear up a question for me? Why does this doctor have a seemingly endless supply of glamor headshots? Is she one of those television &/or book-world celebrity doctors?

Not that this automatically affects how seriously her work should be taken, I'm just curious about it.

I am reading as we speak.

@ Shaesyco

It's ok Shae, I"m to busy playing Ultimate ninja 3 to care right now about this this report anymore. Read it, laughed, and went back to being a ninja.

Just started reading the document but if she is recommending a 12 certificate, don't we already have that? I know Mass Effect has it clearly on the front.

@Shaesyco

Whinge whinge whinge. Seriously mate, get over it.

@Campion
... HEADSHOT!!!

Yeah I wonder that to. Seriously, with that giant row of chompers she has she may want to shill for Crelm Toothpaste (+10 Old School for anyone who gets that reference).

It sounds like she is applauding the ESRB in chapter 7

To tell you the truth, I was never really worried about this. The fact that this woman took this long to finish her review means that she either was told to hold back her "findings" which were simply pre-fed information from all the doomsayers, or that she was doing [I]real scientific study[/I]. Obviously from this report, we can see that she was doing the latter.

I'm glad something like this came out. I just want to see what the crackpots and d-bags that just plain seem to hate videogames (not naming any lawyers or politicians specifically) will say to this one....

@Campion
She's hosted a couple of TV shows about dealing with problem children. I don't really watch that sort of thing, so thats as much as I know

The good: The report seems to make good conclusions, and decent suggestions
The bad: It is peppered with quotes that can be taken out of context to make it seem like the report demonizes video games
The ugly: Byron's face?

WHAT? Thats it. Can't read the now as I'm college but it sounds very lack luster after all that was being said about it. I was even fearing that I'd need to go and move else where to get freedom to play games cause this report would destroy gaming in the UK, and it turns out to be an anti climax!!!

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad she's being sensible over it, and gaming will be relaivly untouched\will not need to worry about only being able to play barbie games for the rest of my life (or time in the UK) but FFS, she had me worried.

Could common sense prevail in Parlament after this. Stayed tuned.

@Deus Payne.

These days ANTHING can be taken out of context.
 
Forgot your password?
Username :
Password :

Poll

Did Microsoft pay too much ($2.5 billion) for Minecraft developer Mojang?:

Shout box

You're not permitted to post shouts.
Andrew EisenKrono - Many of the people pushing gender issues aren't nice people? I'm sure not everyone's a sweatheart but so far, everyone I've seen with such a critique had absolutely nothing to back them up.09/19/2014 - 10:46am
InfophileI think there's a qualitative difference between a site and a hashtag though. GP can ban anyone from commenting, so they can have the image they want. But anyone can use any hashtag and try to poison it. Granted, that hasn't happened to the other one yet09/19/2014 - 10:13am
E. Zachary KnightKrono, your comparison to GP does not work. We do not need to get rid of GP, because no one associates GP with trolls and abuse. The same can't be said for gamergate.09/19/2014 - 10:09am
Krono@Michael You don't remember the "other hashtag" because no one actually uses it. We're talking 836,983 uses of #gamergate over it's lifetime, and 8,119 for the "alternative". 47,129 uses on the 18th vs 41. With #notyourshield at 140,133 uses & 5,209 uses09/19/2014 - 9:48am
Kronoresearch it. Changing tags to get away from trolls would be like wiping GamePolitics and restarting under a new name to get away from people calling Jack Thompson a filthy names in the comments section.09/19/2014 - 9:35am
Sleaker@quiknkold - seems like all that page is is a bunch of random developer opinions and rumors that we're supposedto do what with?09/19/2014 - 9:31am
Kronoas an opportunity to push back against them. It's one of the things muddling the issue. @conster A new hashtag would do nothing to improve anything. Trolls will simply follow to the new hashtag, and it will confuse the issue for anyone attempting to09/19/2014 - 9:25am
Krono@Andrew aaah. Yes, I'm sure there's some of that. Part of the problem is many of the people pushing gender issues are not very nice people. Basically the latest incarnation of moralists we've seen in the past couple decades. Naturually some will take this09/19/2014 - 9:23am
quiknkoldhttp://www.nichegamer.net/2014/09/real-gamedevs-sound-off-regarding-the-gamergate-controversy/09/19/2014 - 8:35am
MaskedPixelanteMeanwhile, in news that actually DOES matter, Scotland voted "NO" to Scottish independance.09/19/2014 - 8:20am
ConsterSeriously? "We shouldn't make a new hashtag - it's better to associate ourselves with psychos than to decrease our visibility"?09/19/2014 - 7:54am
Michael ChandraI forget what it is exactly, but there already is another hashtag that some use, exactly to separate themselves from the abusive behaviour. So don't bother lying to me.09/19/2014 - 7:06am
quiknkold2 to 3 or more09/19/2014 - 6:53am
quiknkoldMichael Chandra : I'll say this. The only reason they havent used another hashtag is because it would look like a form of dividing the arguement. Using another Hashtag has come up, and they feel like if they made a new hashtag, it'll split the debate from09/19/2014 - 6:53am
Michael ChandraYou want a debate? Build a wall between you and the poisoned well. Make clear you despise it, despise the behaviour. Then get into the other issues you are troubled with, and don't say a single word again about the poisoned well.09/19/2014 - 3:46am
Michael ChandraAnd someone claiming #notyourshield was to be taken serious, when chatlogs show they wanted it going to hide even more harassment behind? Yeah, not buying a word you're saying. You poisoned your own well.09/19/2014 - 3:45am
Michael Chandraallegedly fired over giving a game a mediocre review and the company threatened to pull ads? Sorry but I ain't buying this.09/19/2014 - 3:45am
Michael ChandraBut people arguing this is horrible and just about ethics, even though there's very little support that journalistic integrity was actually violated here, while they never spoke up when a journalist was09/19/2014 - 3:43am
Michael ChandraIf people start with condemning the way GamersGate was used as a misdirection, then use a better hashtag, that would work in convincing me they mean it.09/19/2014 - 3:43am
Andrew EisenOoo, this one came down to the wire! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/749082525/nefarious09/19/2014 - 1:03am
 

Be Heard - Contact Your Politician