Interviews// Michael Rawlinson: General Manager ELSPA

Posted 22 Sep 2008 16:48 by
Michael Rawlinson: General Manager ELSPA
Michael Rawlinson: General Manager ELSPA
Michael Rawlinson is the general manager of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA). This is the trade body for the UK video game industry. ELSPA has recently been strongly supportive, even vociferous, in its support of PEGI ? the Pan European Game Information service ? over and above that of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

We decided to ask Mike a few simple and straightforward questions regarding that support. We did so and he responded openly. What follows is a transcription of that interview.

SPOnG: Good afternoon Michael, basically, what we'd like you to do is outline ELSPA's view ? and explain its support ? for the PEGI rating system over either the British Board of Film Classification or a hybrid of them both.

Michael Rawlinson: I think the first thing we want to say is that what we're trying to do is put the Byron review in context to gamers ? we're not sure that they fully engaged with the arguments and understood why the industry's taken the stance its taking.

So, what I'm going to say to you is by way of background briefing. If you want to lift anything out of that, then please do.

We as the trade association represent our members, and we have virtually all the major players ? we have all the major players in the UK market as our members ? so this is an industry position.

Very brief history then: Byron did a review of harmful and potentially harmful content in the Internet and in video games from October '07 to March '08. She came out with her recommendations end of March. We broadly accepted everything she said. We just had some issues around the actual recommendations for the implementation of the rating system ? which I'll come to in a moment.

What she recognised though was that she may not have got it right and there maybe other views and elements to take into account, and she therefore said there should be a public consultation on the age classification system as one of her recommendations. The government accepted that and launched a recommendation at the end of July on the age classification system.

The government have come out with four options:

Option 1 is the hybrid system that Tanya Byron recommended.
Option 2 is the BBFC with one or two enhancements.
Option 3 is the PEGI system with enhancements.
Option 4 is an enhanced status quo if you like ? it's what we've got at the moment: the BBFC doing some, PEGI doing some, but with a code of conduct on top of that.

I'd like to start by saying why we don't think the hybrid system that Tanya Byron recommended is the right answer and then to tell you why we think PEGI is the right answer.

In the Byron review, Tanya Byron recommend... highlighted some key characteristics of a system that works.

She said that it must be clear for consumers, it must be easily communicated ? what it is that happening in the classification system. It needs to be future proof; it needs to work for both product that's sold in the retail shops and product that is both sold... downloaded online and accessed and played online. I don't want to go into too much detail but that's what she meant of course. In other words it needs to cover all gaming experiences.

She said it needs to be legally enforceable if you're buying it in the shops and there needs to be a right to effectively ban a product in the UK. I think she was referring to that in a retail context because I think that banning from an Internet context could be quite an interesting concept ? but certainly from a retail context.

It needs to work for retailers and that really meant clear for consumers and legally enforceable. It needed to work for the industry.
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Andronix 11 Sep 2008 12:59
Excellent meaty interview.
Rawlinson makes some good points such as the example of an online world rated 18 for adults in Europe and and 12 in the UK leading to pre-teens mixing with adult themes.

However I dont share his concern that games MUST have a different classification from the BBFC just because they are interactive. The movie rating system is one that is universally understood in the UK, most people, gamers including dont take any notice of the grey PEGI logo that emphasises the PEGI initials more than the game rating!

Also, I have serious concerns that the PEGI ratings could move out of the UK into Europe. What this means is that rather then independent ratings for each country, there will be a PEGI rating that could be legally enforceable in all of Europe. Look at Gears of War. It is banned in Germany. With a universal EU standard this would mean a lowest common denominator approach would mean more decisions/bans that dont make sense to UK gamers.

A dual body approach is just confusing.
PEGI is industry funded and has no widespread recognition, or legal bite. I hope BBFC have the stamina to fight their case.
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