The European Commission has called on the games industry to tighten up its measures preventing the sale of mature video games to minors.
An announcement from the Commission states:
?In the Commission's view, industry must invest more to strengthen and in particular to regularly update the PEGI (Pan European Games Information) system so that it becomes a truly effective pan-European tool. Also, industry and public authorities should step up cooperation to make classification and age rating systems better known and to avoid confusion caused by parallel systems. A Code of Conduct for retailers should be drawn up within two years on sales of video games to minors.?
The Commission has also stated that individual countries need to ?incorporate PEGI into their own classification systems and make sure people know about it?. It goes on to assert that a new way of checking consumers' ages needs to be found.
The EU and PEGI disagree on how many of the EU's 27 member countries actually use PEGI. The announcement tells us, "4 Member States (Cyprus, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovenia) have no system in place." PEGI, however, tells us that its classification system applies to all four of those countries.
The EU Consumer Protection Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva, has acknowledged that there is no proven link between violent games and violent behaviour. "We want to work in this environment on a precautionary principle", Kuneva said?
The announcement does make mention of ?public concerns that video games can cause aggressive behaviour?, however. It claims that these concerns have been ?heightened by school shootings such as in Helsinki (Finland, November 2007), have led several national authorities to ban or block video games such as 'Manhunt 2'.? So, while the EU notes there is no proven link between games and real world violence, it has no qualms about stirring up public concern that such a link does exist.
The EC could, of course, have implemented its own legally-enforcible system. It is encouraging that the Commission has not taken such a heavy-handed approach.
"Video games have become a strong pillar of Europe's content industry and are experiencing booming sales across Europe. This is welcome, but implies greater responsibility for the industry to ensure that parents know what kind of games their children play", said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. "PEGI, as an example of responsible industry self-regulation and the only such system with almost pan-European coverage, is certainly a very good first step. However, I believe it can be greatly improved, in Europe and beyond, by making the public more aware about its existence and fully implementing PEGI Online. I also call on Member States and the industry to govern the sale of video games in shops to respect the fundamental need to protect minors."
"All consumers need clear, accurate information to make informed choices. But this is particularly about children ? some of the most vulnerable consumers in society. And our clear message today is that industry and national authorities must go further to ensure that all parents have the power to make the right decisions for themselves and their child", Kuneva added.
Paul Jackson, the director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers' Association (ELSPA), supported PEGI, saying ?Importantly, it protects children as games move increasingly online and therefore should be adopted by UK regulators. We look forward to discussing this at the forthcoming UK consultation??
In the UK we have just seen the results of the Byron Review into the effects of mature games on children published
, with findings that are not a million miles from the EC's recommendations (you can see SPOnG's exit interview with Dr Byron here
). Meanwhile, a separate investigation
is under way by a Parliamentary sub-committee. How the EC's demands will fit with these reviews remains to be seen.Update:
SPOnG contacted the Department of Culture, Media & Sport for comment on the Commission's statement and was simply told the following - "In her recent report, ?Safer Children in a Digital World?, Dr Tanya Byron recommended a consultation on the options for improving the classifcation (sic) of games. The Government has accepted her recommedantions (sic) and we'll be producing a consultation soon."??Source: Reuters