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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Games violence study is launched
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The government is asking for evidence for a new study of the effect of violent computer games on children.

Psychologist Tanya Byron will head the study, which will also examine how to protect children from online material.

The review is due to be launched by Dr Byron - together with Schools Secretary Ed Balls and Culture Secretary James Purnell - at a school in east London.

The games industry's association Elspa said it would co-operate - but it was too often blamed for society's ills.

Paul Jackson, of Elspa (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers' Association), said the body had already met with Dr Byron and would work with the government on the review.

We are very responsible and keen to ensure that our products are only played by those who they are designed for
Paul Jackson, Elspa

But he said the industry was "too often blamed for everything from obesity to youth violence".

He said: "It is just not true and it's not appropriate."

He added: "We feel quite positively about this review. It's clear the review is about making sure parents are properly informed about what their youngsters are playing and what they are accessing on the internet."

Dr Byron told BBC News 24: "The study will be about what industry is doing already to protect children and what more could be done to ensure they have a positive experience on the internet and with games."

Speaking at the launch of the review at a school in Barking, Essex, she said: "Video gaming and the internet themselves are a very positive and important part of children's and young children's growing up and learning and development. But it is also about saying where are the risks?"

The review is expected to last six months.

'Singled out'

Veteran developer David Braben, of Frontier games, asked why games were being singled out.

"A review might be useful but it should not just look at one media, especially when media are intersecting," he said.

He added: "Historically there has always been in government a Luddite sentiment - whatever the new industry is tends to take the blame of the latest ailment of society.

"We do tend to be the people who get the blame first at the moment. And that is a tragedy - because this industry is one of the most interesting media."

Philip Oliver, chief executive of Blitz games, said more education was needed for parents.

"They aren't paying attention to the certificates. That is partly because they don't understand them and have a distorted image of games - that either they are harmless or totally evil."

The review is launched a day after the British Board of Film Classification refused a certificate for Manhunt 2 for a second time.

Mr Oliver said the decision was proof "the system is working".

According to Elspa, only 2% of games released in the UK receive an 18 certificate and the average age of a gamer is 28.

'Higher standards'

Mr Jackson said: "We are a very important British industry. We are very responsible and keen to ensure that our products are only played by those who they are designed for."

Margaret Robertson, a video games consultant and former editor of Edge magazine, said the industry felt it was doing as much as it could.

"The games industry is holding itself to higher standards than the film industry. This is a solved problem.

"Allowing that, everyone is united in not wanting material for older gamers to get into the hands of children."

She added: "This report may start finding some wider ways to do that."

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