Interviews// Rating Games for a Living

Posted 14 May 2008 16:17 by
So, there are still very mixed feelings regarding how video games are rated. The government is apparently going to change the system 'immediately' based on the Byron Review's recommendations.

Industry body, ELSPA, wants the current system junked and moved entirely to the European PEGI system. This is largely a cost issue, but also because unlike the BBFC which reviews movies as well as games, PEGI specialises in the latter.

For now, at least, we remain under the watchful eye (and blue pen) of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). So, we thought we'd find out just what it takes to sit around all day and judge games before telling people if they can or can't play them - as opposed to what we do which is to sit around all day playing games before telling people if they should or should not play them...

The BBFC's press officer, Sue Clark was kind enough to stump up the answers. You might be surprised by some of them - the salary for a start; but also the fact that you have to have an interest in film. The average time played shocked us as did the average age of an examiner... we won't spoil it for you, so read on.

SPOnG: How do you source your game examiners?

Sue Clark: We advertise in the national press and in some games publications. We also have our own website for job vacancies -

SPOnG: How long do they tend to stay?

Sue Clark: Well, so far we haven't had any of the games examiners leave! We have a very low turnover of examiners generally.

SPOnG: Where do they examine?

Sue Clark: In our offices in Soho Square. There are rooms around the building and we have a special room set up for games playing.

SPOnG: What qualifications do they need?

Sue Clark: They have to be good at playing games. There are no 'formal' qualifications for being a BBFC examiner, but you do have to have a good level of education and a good grasp of English as you are required to produce well argued written reports.

You also have to have an interest in film because games examiners don't just classify games. It also helps if you have an understanding of child development because the majority of the works classified are for people under the age of 18.

SPOnG: So, your game examiners also examine films?

Sue Clark: Yes.

SPOnG: Does one examiner concentrate on one game or do several people judge?

Sue Clark: Most games are played by at least two examiners and if necessary several may play the game.

SPOnG: What is the average age of your game examiners?

Sue Clark: Probably mid to late thirties.

SPOnG: What's the average playing time?

Sue Clark: There is no 'average' but a straightforward game will probably be played for around two to three hours. More complex games will take longer and could be played for up to five hours or more. This is of course with all of the cheat codes so we can play them quicker than people at home.

SPOnG: What does an examiner get paid?

Sue Clark: The salary scale is 33.950 to 45,758

SPOnG: Is there an even gender / race split?

Sue Clark: No, we have a total of 32 examiners of whom 13 are women. We specifically appoint examiners who speak Chinese and Indian languages because we classify a lot a material from South Asia and China.

SPOnG: How are the reports filed? E.G. are we talking about tick-boxes or free-form or a mix of these?

Sue Clark: The only 'tick box' element is when we are counting swear words as the number does impact on the classification a work, whether a film or a game, gets. Otherwise they are free-form and very detailed.

SPOnG: You say that game examiners also examine films. Are game examiners hired specifically for their games knowledge?

Sue Clark: Yes and then trained up to do film.

All new examiners undergo an intensive three month training programme and then spend another three months working alongside experienced examiners before they are let loose on their own.

That includes the games examiners who have to learn about how the BBFC classifies games and the guidelines we use to do that. Being a good games player is only the beginning.

SPOnG: Is there any communication between BBFC and PEGI examiners?

Sue Clark: Not on a regular basis, but the BBFC does keep in touch with PEGI and our Director, David Cooke sits on the PEGI Advisory Board.

SPOnG: How could I become a game examiner?

Sue Clark: Watch out for ads on the jobs website and in the national press. We DO NOT keep CVs on file so don't send any in on spec as we won't be able to keep them on file.

SPOnG: Thanks for your time, Sue.

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