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The gaming industry often suffers attacks from the media for various incidents that happen.

As soon as a young person commits a heinous act, video games are the first to be blamed. Big game titles such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Mass Effect have been blamed for almost everything, including drink driving and murders to bullying. A survey conducted by Childcare.co.uk found that 86% of those who answered don’t follow age restrictions on video games and over half of these people had no knowledge of their child playing an 18+. From this, 43% said they noticed their children using offensive language after playing a game. 

Why are games the exception?

Most of us have experienced not being able to play a video game due to an age restriction. Most of us have also played a video game with an age restriction when we were not old enough, most parents are very strict when their children watch age-restricted movies or music with explicit lyrics, but when it comes to video games, it’s a whole new level of awareness. It seems as if there are no restrictions at all. Why is the idea of a child watching an adult-rated movie so bad, but games aren’t seen as a problem?

Interview

To find out more, we reached out to the Video Standards Council (VSC) where we spoke to Craig Lapper who is one of the two administrators of the PEGI system, principally responsible for issuing 12, 16 and 18 ratings to games. 

Firstly, we asked Craig What their rating criteria is. Craig replied with “We have clear rating criteria stating the levels of violence, horror, sex, drugs, bad language and other issues that are allowed at each of the different age ratings. The criteria were developed by experts in child welfare and protection, and by experts in media regulation. We also listen to the views of parents and young people to ensure the ratings remain up-to-date and reflect current views about what’s appropriate for children of different ages to play.”

Secondly, we wanted to know what makes a game 16+ and 18+, so Craig told me the criteria of both. “There are a number of reasons why a game might be rated 18, rather than 16. Most commonly it’s for the stronger forms of violence, such as horrific depictions of death or injury towards human-like characters, depictions of violence towards vulnerable or defenceless human-like characters, or depictions of apparently motiveless killing or serious injury to multiple innocent human-like characters. An 18 may also be awarded for other reasons, including for depictions of sexual violence or threats, for stronger sexual material, for detailed descriptions of criminal techniques, or for the glamorisation of the use of illegal drugs.” And for a 16+, “A game can be rated 16 for several reasons, including more realistic depictions of violence towards human-like characters, graphic violence towards fantasy characters, any depictions of sexual activity, any depictions of illegal drug use and any use of strong language.”

Some people disagree with some age ratings so we asked Craig if the VSC receive criticism for games that are either rated too low or too high, his response was; “It’s inevitable with any rating system that some people will disagree with aspects of the criteria or with individual decisions; perhaps especially where a particular decision is on the margin between two ratings. People can contact us if they have comments about ratings and, if we notice any trends, we may decide to raise this with the various panels of experts we use, or undertake further research to see whether changes to any criteria are required. However, it’s important that any changes we make to the rating criteria reflect what the majority of parents want and expect.”

Many people still play age restricted games even when they aren’t old enough, so we asked what their views are on this. Craig replied with, “Under UK law, it’s only illegal to supply a 12, 16 or 18 rated game to a person below those ages. Once a game enters the home, it’s ultimately up to parents and other carers to decide which games children can play. To help them make informed decisions, we offer not only the age ratings and content descriptors (eg ‘violence’, ‘sex’) but also additional information on our website about the specific content of each game we rate. Parents can look up a game and read the exact reasons why the game received the rating it did. We also provide information on our website about how to set up parental controls on different consoles and devices so they can more effectively supervise what their children play.”

Lastly, we asked if parents should do more to prevent their children from playing games that are too old for them. “All children are different. They develop at different rates and some are more sensitive to certain types of material than others.  For example, some children enjoy scary content while others don’t. Ultimately, parents and carers are best placed to know their own children. As such, we see our main role as providing them with the information they need to make informed decisions about what their children play, and providing them with information about the parental controls tools they can use to ensure gaming remains positive and healthy.”

Gaming is meant to be fun, not change children’s behaviours. There are reasons as to why there are age restrictions and these answers are valid. Our parents and family need to be more aware of what their child is playing, is the media right to challenge video games for various incidents? 

For more information on age restrictions visit: https://pegi.info/index.php/page/pegi-age-ratings

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