Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Thursday, 27 March 2008

Plaudits and concern over Byron

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

The Byron Review
The Byron Review aims to improve the ratings system

The games industry has welcomed the recommendations of the Byron Review but concerns have been raised that ratings still need to be future proofed.

Dr Tanya Byron has recommended that the role of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) be expanded.

BBFC director David Cooke said the body was well placed to deal with task of rating all games for ages 12 plus.

But leading industry figures have said the self-regulatory system Pegi should have been given more emphasis.

Pegi is a pan-European self-regulatory system used by developers and publishers.

There has also been concern expressed about how the online and offline gaming ratings will mesh.

Dr Byron has said that Pegi should classify online games but many titles now have both an online and offline component.

"Our key concern is that we really want a future proofed system," said Paul Jackson, director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association.

"As our industry is going online so rapidly, it's critical for us that the system works for on the shelf and online.


Tanya Byron's reasons for overhauling the video games ratings system.

"The things that concerns us is that you might buy a product on the shelf with a BBFC rating and then find you are buying an online element of that game and it has a different Pegi rating.

"We need to weave a way through that minefield so that it works and parents understand it."

Keith Ramsdale, Electronic Arts' vice president for the UK, Ireland and the Nordic countries, said the review could have gone further with its recommendations.

"In our evidence to the review we were very clear, unanimously clear as an industry, that we want a single system and that single system should be Pegi.

"That would be much clearer to the consumer."

Dr Byron has recommended that BBFC ratings are shown on the front of game boxes while Pegi ratings and guidelines sit on the back.

"I think that's unnecessary. We should have had a single unified classification system," said Don Foster, the Liberal Democrats culture spokesman.

The Conservative Party also criticised the review's recommendation of a hybrid ratings approach.

"This is a missed opportunity and one that risks leading to greater confusion for parents and industry," said the shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

He said Pegi had proved to be more stringent than the BBFC.


Paul Jackson, of the gaming industry body Elspa, backs Dr Byron's findings but recommends changes.

Mr Ramsdale said: "Pegi is a European system geared up totally for video games. The BBFC clearly is as movie classification board."

"Last year Pegi gave 42 games an 18 plus rating, while 19 of those titles were given a 15 rating and two a 12 rating by BBFC.

"Pegi are proving to be tougher than the BBFC, which benefits the consumer."

He added: "We don't believe it needs to be legislative we believe it could be self-regulatory, with some very sharp teeth."

Dr Tanya Byron has said the BBFC logos are more familiar to parents and consumers.

Neil Thompson, head of Xbox in the UK, said Microsoft also favoured a single system.

Halo 3
There are concerns of a gulf between online and offline ratings
"Her recommendations seem sensible. But we've been very open about the fact we preferred Pegi as the single system."

"We felt Pegi was scalable. Dealing with the volumes of titles involved, and the growing range of online and offline components, means that the rating system needs to be joined up and consistent.

"We believe Pegi offers that."

He added: "We're going to have to work with the BBFC to help them deal with the scale and volume issue they are going to have to step up to.

"It will be a significant increase."

But Mr Cooke told BBC News that the BBFC had the resources and expertise to deal with the increased workload.

"I don't have a resourcing problem. We're used to a world in which we have seen DVD intake jump from 7,000 in 2000 to 16,000 now.

"We can certainly do that without a detriment to the service we provide. We don't believe this jump will be as big."

Mr Cooke said the BBFC would be launching a public consultation to find out what their concerns were about games and whether attitudes were changing.

He said there was a discrepancy between people's understanding of how ratings worked for films and DVD and how they worked for games.

Ours is a system that can take context and tone into account, unlike Pegi.
David Cooke, BBFC
"It's pretty clear games have a big catch up job to do. It's clear that we have symbols that are recognised and trusted.

"There is evidence that the Pegi pictograms are not liked and not understood."

He said the BBFC would working to deal with the changing nature of games and that impact on ratings.

"Ours is a system that can take context and tone into account, unlike Pegi.

"That extends to modes of gameplay."

Richard Wilson, head of Tiga, which represents developers, said the body applauded the recommended awareness campaign for parents but said industry should not be required to fund it alone.

"Games developers already face intense competition from government-subsidised Canadian games developers. The last thing the games industry needs is for the UK Government to impose additional costs on it."

Video games ratings face overhaul
27 Mar 08 |  Technology
At a glance: The Byron Review
27 Mar 08 |  Technology
Rating video games globally
29 Aug 07 |  Technology

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