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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab).
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 (opens in new tab) 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.