Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 18:23 UK

Divide on games industry ratings

By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Some games carry the Pegi logo on the front

A row has broken out between the games industry and the UK's content classifiers over who should regulate video games in the future.

UK games industry body Elspa has called on the government to replace the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) role's in assessing video games.

The industry favours its own voluntary system, called Pegi.

The BBFC's Peter Johnson said Pegi was a "box ticking exercise" based on "no consultation with parents".

The two systems have different approaches to classification. The BBFC system is enforced by law and based around the symbols used to classify films, while Pegi is a voluntary code.

Mr Johnson, head of policy and business development, said the BBFC system was superior to Pegi because games were more thoroughly examined and decisions were made in the light of both the context of the game and the content.

Elspa has said it backs Pegi because it was "designed specifically for interactive software".

Paul Jackson, director general of Elspa, said only Pegi "fully assessed" all games content.

Mr Jackson, speaking to MPs and the media at the Westminster Media Forum, in London, said Pegi was the "gold standard" for classification.

The row comes a few months after Dr Tanya Byron concluded at the end of her report into the impact of games on children that both systems should be used.

She recommended that BBFC symbols should be used on the front of game boxes in shops and Pegi classifications on the back. She said that the two bodies should work together on areas such as online game classification.

Our symbols carry statury force and we have the power to reject games that we feel pose serious risk of harm
Peter Johnson, BBFC

Acting on her recommendations, the government said it would initiate a public consultation before reaching a definitive decision.

Mr Jackson told the forum: "For the games industry, when we talk about child protection, we talk about Pegi.

"Pegi is the solution for today, and the solution for tomorrow," said Mr Jackson.

Margaret Hodge, minister for culture, creative industries and tourism, speaking at the forum, encouraged the two sides to work together.

"Please try and prevent this from becoming a battle between two regulatory frameworks," she said.

'Senior partner'

The BBFC's Peter Johnson said: "Our view is that Dr Byron spent six months looking at all the evidence and all the arguments, including those of Elspa, and her conclusion was that the BBFC and Pegi should work together to achieve the best possible outcome.

"She placed the BBFC as the senior partner in that arrangement."

Mr Johnson said the BBFC was "disappointed that Elspa is trying to unpick Dr Byron's careful analysis".

People are not stupid and shouldn’t be treated as such
Paul Jackson, Elspa

He said Elspa's view were not representative of every quarter of the UK games industry.

'Greater trust'

"Our symbols carry statutory force and we have the power to reject games that we feel pose serious risk of harm.

"Sixty nine percent of the public think the classifier should have reject powers. Our symbols carry far greater trust and understanding with the public."

He added: "The British public deserve independent oversight."

He accused Pegi of "crying wolf" through "over-rating" games.

He said: "If you over-rate games then parents will disregard those ratings.

"You have to apply a rating that fits the content, and the content is dependent on the context."

Government consultation

Mr Jackson said it was essential "there there be a classification system which protects both now and in the future, both online and offline".

He said: “People are not stupid and shouldn’t be treated as such. When they see an 18 roundel on a box, they know what it means, regardless of the current classifier."

Mr Johnson said it had tried to engage Elspa in dialogue ahead of government consultation so that any new system could "hit the ground running".

He added: "Unfortunately, Elspa have said they don't want to talk to us about that until after consultation.

"They have also encouraged some of their members not to talk to us."

Plaudits and concern over Byron
27 Mar 08 |  Technology
Video games ratings face overhaul
27 Mar 08 |  Technology
At a glance: The Byron Review
27 Mar 08 |  Technology

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