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: So, those were her sort of defining principles if you like. And we just think that particularly around the area of clarity for consumers we think that the hybrid fails miserably.

One of the reasons why we believe that we're in the situation where consumers are unclear at the moment is that we've been running two systems. One shouldn't forget that really, pretty much since 1994 when the ELSPA system was introduced for the content that was not covered by the Video Recordings Act, the BBFC have rated around 3% of all games and the industry has rated the other 97%.

So, that was the ELSPA UK system, and when we introduced PEGI in 2003 that became PEGI. So, they do a little bit more than that now because of things like Blu-ray and HDDVD - the capacity's so big (that) the publishers are putting linear content (cut scenes) on the discs which has to be rated by the BBFC, so they're getting other stuff, but it's not because of games getting an exemption.

So, we think the confusion exists because consumers have been seeing two logos on games boxes for some time. Byron's sort of perpetuating that if you like.

We think that the Byron recommendation doesn't work because, as we move more and more online, games being different from films ? games containing an interactive experience means that ratings games from a UK perspective doesn't give enough protection.

Byron talked about three Cs in her report. She talked about 'Content'. She talked about 'Contact' and she talked about 'Conduct'; contact between players and conduct between players. In some sense that was coming from the Internet but of course that applies to very much to online gaming. Unlike a film where your only experience, your only interaction is with that linear content for an hour, two hours, three hours, whatever it might be; so you're only concerned with the content, in a gaming world there is 'Contact' because players now don't just play against the artificial intelligence of the computer but they play against the real intelligence, the real person in the virtual world who maybe sat next them, who may be down the street or the other side of town or they could be in another country. So, that's the contact; voice over IP and text messaging and the gaming experience itself.

Then, of course (there is) the 'Conduct' of players; user-generated content. I can build something within the game world. Someone told me that even within LEGO games where you can take LEGO blocks and start constructing things it doesn't take very long for someone to start constructing something that's very phallic by nature.

So, there's all sorts of... the three elements in a gaming world are not just the content as in the film world. And it's for those reasons that the games industry wants to find the right solution for child protection.

SPOnG: Let's say I'm an ELSPA member... Is it ELSPA's role to look into child protection or is it ELSPA's role to look into my protection as an industry member; a member of ELSPA?

Mike Rawlinson: It's ELSPA's job to protect the industry however that is needed. In this particular context there is a question around the rating system. The question, and the problem if you like, has been framed in the context of providing the right solution for child protection. Therefore, for the industry, we have a two-fold job to do. We have to protect the industry in context of child safety if you see what I mean.

So, it is absolutely about giving the industry the best opportunity to do their business. We are here to make their business possible and to enable that. But they need to do that in the context of protecting their consumer.
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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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