U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

July 30, 2008 -

In the ongoing debate over which content rating scheme to use, British government officials appear to be coming down on the side of the BBFC rather than the PEGI system favored by the video game industry.

As reported by the Telegraph, on Thursday government ministers will issue proposals to tighten rules concerning ratings and expand the role of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in rating games:

All computer games will have to carry cinema-style age classifications under new Government plans to protect children from scenes of explicit sex and disturbing violence.

 

Online computer games where players interact with strangers via the internet also face new classification rules for the first time.

The official action is being taken in response to recommendations made by Dr. Tanya Byron (left). The TV psychologist undertook a government-funded study in 2007 to examine the effects of video games and the Internet on children.

The Telegraph predicts a "fierce backlash" from UK game publishers:

Many games makers have strongly opposed moves to expand the BBFC's role in classifying games. The [game industry] group will today host a meeting in London of software chief executives to discuss how best to resist the expansion of the BBFC's role in rating games.

 

Games makers are mounting a lobbying campaign to discredit the BBFC, arguing that it lacks the expertise for the task. Games makers argue that parental education about games is more important than new classification rules.

While the industry may think the BBFC too restrictive, at the other end of the spectrum, Conservative Parliamentarian Julian Brazier believes the organization isn't tough enough:

The guidelines are too weak on the part of the BBFC. I don't believe it is an adequate guarantor of standards. Only the [video game] industry can appeal the BBFC's decisions, so in practice, classifications can only be reduced. We should have a system like that in Australia, where any member of the general public can ask for an age classification to be reviewed.

The BBFC is best known in the gaming community for its controversial 2007 decision to ban Manhunt 2. That ruling was later overturned on appeal.

The Telegraph is also running an FAQ on the government plan which mentions the government timetable:

Ministers will on Thursday open a four-month consultation on their proposals, trying to win agreement from the games industry for tighter classification. The final rules will be drawn up after that and are likely to be implemented next year.

 

Comments

Re: Didn't the Byron Report

"But I forgot... I'm a ghastly American.  A drooling primitive chimp who lacks the ability to string together enough coherant thoughts to fully enjoy a comedy as cerebral as Absolutely Fabulous.  Clearly I have no ability to speak on this.  Moo moo moo, I voodoo curse you... twats."

Nor you have the ability to understand how quoting works but I dont think thats an American trait per se. I believe you'll find I was agreeing to the posters characterisation of the tendincy of some North American posters to fail to see a UK perspective and their tendincy to twist facts. But yeah, Ab Fab was pish.

Re: Didn't the Byron Report

 Some bastard in parliament != UK Govt.

Byron favoured the BBFC for rating mature games; PEGI for children and online.

Not opinion; facts. End of.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I'm really not sure that the UK gaming industry has made a compelling case that the BBFC is not up to the job. They rate plenty of films, why do they believe they can't ramp up their operation to rate games?

Having said that, there is probably some merit in having a pan europe rating system. If only because it means that each country does not have to have their own version of the BBFC, and thereby pushing up the cost of rating games.

I would also agree that there needs to be a better explination on the boxes of games about the potential online environment. This is particularly important now that the experience wildly varies between titles now. A simple demonstration of this is the different between the online components of games on the Wii and those of the 360 and PS3, one is pretty safe for small children, the others will more than likely contain unwanted material if the parental controls are not configured correctly.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

"They rate plenty of films, why do they believe they can't ramp up their operation to rate games?"

Here is what I find funny, Pegi has been around since 2003, The BBFC has been rating games since at least the mid 80's. The attitude that the BBFC has no or little experience to rating games is absurd, they have been doing it longer than PEGI and the ESRB combined

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

The BBFC have not been rating games since the mid 80's. Bar two exceptions, the BBFC did not start rating games until the latter part of the 16-bit era/the beginning of the 32-bit era.

Even then, they have been rating the minority of games. If you're going to compare experience of rating games, PEGI has the greater experience having rated a larger number of games.

Besides, why are the BBFC better than PEGI just because theyre older? By that reckoning, my employer should fire me and replace me with my father, despite him having no training, skills or interest in my field- after all, he's been going for longer, so he must be better at my job, right?

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I suppose its easy to rate a large volume of games when your ratings process is a tick boxing exercise.

Your analogy is flawed, The BBFC have been rating games longer than PEGI has been rating games. That is totally unlike your father applying for a job of which he has no experience with. Its more like you and your father applying for the same job for the same money except he has 10 years more experience than you and your prior experience involved reading questionares.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

My analogy is not flawed, the argument did not call for any discussion of the methodology of PEGI versus the methodology of the BBFC, merely the time it has been running for- just taking the "length of time" argument alone is useless for the reason that it is relevant neither as a measure of the organisation's competency in isolation or in comparison to another, on both sides of the debate.

Put it this way: how can my/my father's prospective employer be absolutely sure that what I say/do will definately be inferior to what my Father says/does, without knowing how I'm coming to my conclusions?

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Methodology aside, the point I was making was that in your analogy was ill fit simply because it implyed the BBFC had "no training, skills or interest" in the field of video game classification.

In terms of methodology its common knowledge the techniques both organisations use. The BBFC involves a showcase reel of key aspects of the game including cinematics/cut scenes and an extensive play thru which is used by the BBFC to form a classification decision. PEGI requires the developer to fill in an online questionare which generates a rating instantly.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I implied that because if you go on length of time alone, which is what the argument was, you don't know if the BBFC have the training, skills or interest- just saying "X" time or "Y" time- if you're going to pull the "time" issue, then why not just hand ratings over to the Christian church, who predate the BBFC by entire millennia, despite not being a ratings board of any description?

Yes, we do know that the BBFC are a ratings board the same way PEGI is- but in my analogy, my employer does not know what I or my father does, just as in the "experience" arguement, it is not taken into account.

EDIT: It also doesn't take into account the end result, which is really what matters, but that's yet another, even longer argument.

/b

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

 

Barring suprious analogies over your parenthoods' I think the agrument is interesting. The BBFC have had the power to rate games since 1984, it wasn't until the CD era that games had the visual capability to even interest the BBFC. I believe 'Night Trap' might have been the first (also one of the games that lead to the creation of the ESRB).

The BBFC have far more experience of rating visual media than most current 'regulators'. It was created in 1912, whereas the MPAA didn't going until 1922. But as you say history only means that you can ensure they have a track record.

In the BBFC's case it is generally a good one. They have no history of over reaction to particular media, and they operate within a very secure sytem of control and overwatch backed up by law. Its methodology and criteria are well publicised and have been operating in the jurisdiction, with general public support, for a long time.

Compare and contrast with the much younger regulatory body, PEGI. It has a much less robust methodology. It has no oversight and legally backed appeal nechanism. There is no public accountablity for its criteria. It also, because of its youth, has no general public support.

The problem with selling PEGI to the UK public is pretty clear.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Here's the compelling case...

Manhunt 2.  Despite worse films being released, BBFC pretty much stamped their foot on the ground and screamed like a child because a game they wanted banned was getting released.  And then they fought and fought and fought it.  Ultimately proving the BBFC is not only sore losers (confirming MANY complaints from directors), but also quite keen on censorship itself.  When you have a rating body that is interested in telling adults what they can and cannot have access to, there is the danger.

Plus, as an added bonus, PEGI rates games.  They know the media itself and undeerstand the dangers therein.  BBFC, simply put, doesn't.  And their eyes ON that prize is simply for the money it will bring in.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Well the key point with the unacceptable banning argument is that the de-facto Manhunt ban was overturned. More than this in the history of the BBFC they have only ever banned two games, in each of these cases they were overturned. Given that they have only actually attempted  to ban two games, it would be more than a little incorrect to characterise them as some mad games banning organisation.

On the note about PEGI understanding games better, I'm not really sure if just because they only rate games means that they understand them better. My understanding of the way in which the two organisations rate games is as follows:

PEGI - A self assement questionaire, or in other words a box ticking exercise.
BBFC - They have a team of reviewers that actually play the games through (as best is possible), in combination with watching material submitted to them by the publisher.

If this is correct (please tell me if it is not), then I would say the BBFC rating system does appear to be more comprehensive. Unless there is something more specific that they are falling down at during the rating process, on the surface level it seems sound.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

You're not English, are you?

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

I know this is going to sound ocmpletely unrelated to the conversation at hand but I'm wondering what Brian May's position on this is.......he is a chancelor at a university in the UK and rock musicians do tend to be saner so I wonder what he would think of all this debacle over the ratings of video games...

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Welcome to Jack Thompson world, aka:THE UK!

 

(No offense to you brits, I know quite a few of you guys)

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Fuck off you patronising cunt.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

he's referring to uk the government, not uk the people

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

It's still rubbish.

Like calling America Jack Thompson land because a number of politicians spread across the country want to bring in stupid bans etc.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Troll much?

-Loudspeaker
"Volume helps to get a point across but sharp teeth are better."

"Volume helps to get a point across but sharp teeth are better."

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

To be fair, it was quite patronising to us from the UK.

Re: U.K. Govt. to Tighten Game Ratings, Favors BBFC over PEGI

Is it just me or has the British become more and more paranoid lately?

 
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