PEGI becomes the sole age rating system for UK games. But is there any point when so few people look at them?

Today marks the first day of PEGI-only age ratings on UK games, as the British Board of Film Classification respectfully bows out from video game rating duties. PEGI (which stands for Pan European Game Information) is a European-wide standard, which aims to make it easier for parents to make informed purchasing decisions for their children.

The change has come about after concerns were raised over the BBFC's rating criteria, which was too similar to that used for films. It was argued that the linear, set narrative shown by a film was essentially too different from videogames, which offer different experiences depending on how you play them - and that the BBFC was rating games too leniently as a result.

Today's change means it is now illegal for a child under 12 to buy a 12-rated game (with shops now threatened with jail terms is they fail to comply) compared to previously, where the BBFC's 15 and 18 certificates were the only technically legally enforceable thresholds according to The Guardian.

The first game to receive an age restriction was Night Trap on the Sega Mega CD in 1992. Arguably, it made sense for the British Board of Film Classification to rate that one because it uses full-motion video with real actors to make up the game's visuals. It was pretty much a series of film scenes on a game disc. 

Above: Night Trap - grainy, cheesy and deemed worthy of a 15-rating by the BBFC. Hmmm

However, while the move from two potentially confusing systems into one is probably more easier for idiots to understand, it doesn't take away the fact that evidence suggests most parents simply don't pay any attention to the ratings on the games their children play. We've seen it ourselves in shops - the staff will point out that the obvious gift that an older person is buying is rated '18'. The response is usually one of indifference. It's 'only a game', after all.

We can't help but think that the BBFC logos are more recognisable as a legally-enforcable restriction system. The film industry has done all the groundwork for that so at least the classic pink and red circles mean something when you see them on a DVD case.

Above: At least the PEGI ones are coloured now. Before 2009 they were monochrome

But if some parents can't get past their idea that games can't be as serious as films in terms of the harm they can do to young minds, then let's be honest: It doesn't really matter what shape the logo is or who put it there.




  • jackthemenace - August 5, 2012 6:40 a.m.

    I kinda prefer the PEGI system having teh 16 rating as opposed to the 15 one, because it mean stuff that might've been too dark or violent or whatever for 1 15 might not be booted up to an 18 now. Not that it really matters that much, No-one's parents I know (bar one) actually gives a crap what their kids play, and most of my friends buy their 18's online anyway.
  • bass88 - July 30, 2012 3:18 p.m.

    Does this mean that the BBFC can no longer ban video games? If so, this is a good thing. Either way I'm kind of glad about this. The BBFC rated video games the same as they did with films which isn't the same. GTA gets an 18 while Just Cause 2 gets 15. Both allow senseless slaughter of innocent people but because GTA's protogonist is a criminal it gets the harsher rating. Same with Yakuza. Nothing in the game that warrents over a 15 (after all, you beat people up instead of killing them) but the criminal underworld guarantees the harsher rating. That all said, I do think PEGI is far too harsh (18 for Vanquish - are you nuts) but they do seem to rate it based solely on what you can do in the game.
  • Sjoeki - July 30, 2012 12:50 p.m.

    Parents should pay intrest in what goes on in their child's life, if a box has an age rating on it or not. For people working in shops I do think it's a good idea that they have rules that explain why something isn't availlable for someone not old enough. But I do have a question, I've heard the excuse that the reason we (I live in the netherlands) don't have stuff like netflix or a decent vidstore on our PSN or SEN (whatever you want to call it) is because of all the different rules in all the different countries, so if more countries are switching to the same rating system, will it be easier to get that stuff over here?
  • xx_CaPTiiN_SpAiiN_zz - July 30, 2012 12:22 p.m.

    lol when i was young i just photocopied my passport and changed the year so they let me buy what i want lol. im glad they coloured them now though so that parents can see them better because 14 years olds are far too unruly these days to be playing games like that.
  • ObliqueZombie - July 30, 2012 11:57 a.m.

    I much prefer PEGI's plain presentation on what age this may or may not be appropriate for to ESRB's. ESRB is too general, too ambiguous, and knowing the parents that come in and buy the brats whatever game they desire (unless of course news programs reported said game as the Devil's advocate), they won't pay attention to the rating or have no idea what it means. Or, if they do know, they'll assume every "M" game is sex and gruesome violence (because Halo is so bad) and every "T" game is appropriate for their 13-year-old. (Wow, I don't have a good example, but know some games push their ratings.) At least we know some people are serious about a game's rating.
  • FoxdenRacing - July 30, 2012 9:36 a.m.

    I don't know whether I should be relieved or disheartened that the "Video games are a children's toy, ergo they're all appropriate for children" attitude here in the US also exists on the other side of the pond. That's the single biggest hurdle to getting parents to take games ratings seriously...and no amount of laws or ratings systems is going to treat that core problem. Thankfully as gaming loses its stigmas among young adults, more and more people will have an understanding of what mature-labeled gaming entails. Whether they let their own desensitization cloud their judgement or not, however, is yet to be seen.
  • Kermit1970 - July 30, 2012 8:44 a.m.

    Parents will always ignore age ratings and buy any game for their "little angels" I remember ages ago in Game I was at the counter buying my game and there was a mum with her son and on the top of the pile of games he was holding was The Warriors. He can't have been more than eight and his mum bought it for him.
  • Worrall - July 30, 2012 12:06 p.m.

    It depends on the legality of it, I work in a convenience store and it's illegal for me to sell age restricted products i.e. alcohol and cigs to an adult if I believe they are for some one under age, I could face a £8000 fine and the adult a £5000 fine. If this is the case for games then it could work.
  • wheresmymonkey - July 30, 2012 8:32 a.m.

    I don't understand why its gone this way. The BBFC logos are something everyone recognises and understands. No one gives a damn about PEGI and the harsher ratings doled out by PEGI have only undermined them further lots of games the BBFC gave a 15 PEGI would give an 18, Therefoe many will think the new system is being overly stringent and get 18 rated games that they wouldn't of deemed appropriate for their kids before. PEGI as a rating system just doesn't work. It's vague and generally pish,
  • Joco84 - July 30, 2012 8:30 a.m.

    Parents need to wake up and stop buying innappropriate games for their children. Shops also have a duty to ensure they ask people who the game is intended for when bought, similar to what supermarkets do when buying alcohol/cigarettes.
  • reiku_uk - July 31, 2012 5:03 a.m.

    Unfortunately this isn't correct. The shop has no duty when it comes to the sale of digital media to check who the end user will be, and it is infact a breach of the customer's statutory rights to refuse the sale on this basis. Current law states only that the shop cannot sell the product directly to a minor, if they sell to an adult who then gives that product to a minor that's not the responsibility of the store. If the adult is NOT a recognised guardian of the child then they could be held accountable, but how do you police that? After having worked in a games retail store for 4 years I don't think it's right to put the responsibility on the store staff. As long as they're selling the product to someone who's entitled to buy it their obligation ends there. It's too difficult to enforce.
  • Darkhawk - July 30, 2012 8:15 a.m.

    ESRB is monochrome and we have no problem with it. Plus, the fact that parents are idiots can't really shape the way the system is implemented. The warning labels are out there, games shops are instructed to (and do, at least in North American) enforce age-restricted purchasing, and ads carry better parental advisories than film. So long as parents don't give a shit about raising their kids properly, there really isn't much more that can be done.

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