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: Why would the industry ? and I think that's a very important point ? why would an industry that relies, not exclusively, but a very important part of their customer base is children (whether they're paying the money or not they are the consumers of the product); where is the benefit to the industry to do something that is negative to their consumer? None at all. If they upset parents by doing something that parents feel is irresponsible then that does not serve their purpose at all.

Therefore it is absolutely right for the industry to back a solution to the problem that Byron was investigating, namely child safety. It is absolutely right for them to back and stand four-square behind the solution that they think is right for child safety.

I want to make the point that the industry is fighting for PEGI and is demonstrating support for PEGI, not because it's commercially the best thing for them to do, but because it's the best thing for child safety.

SPOnG: How is PEGI any better for child safety than the BBFC?

Mike Rawlinson: It's better because it's consistent with product that is sold in the shops and product that is sold online. The same criteria and the same rating process is consistent. More and more games are being... are containing an online gaming element. Therefore ? and this is a very important point ? if I am a parent and I go... I use the analogy of a shop with two entrances on different streets. Street 'A' is the UK entrance into the shop. Street 'B' is the European entrance into the shop. But the shop that you enter is the same shop ? the same gaming world.

If I'm a UK consumer I want to know that the sign that's on the outside of my door telling me about the shop I'm about to enter ? the game I'm about to enter ? has exactly the same information as the people entering from the other side of the street. Otherwise I'm being given false expectations, I'm being mis-sold, I'm being given misinformation.

If the BBFC ? and we know this to be true on many occasions ? if the BBFC rates a game as being suitable for 12 years old and upwards but PEGI rates that game as being suitable for 18 year olds and upwards, I as a UK parent think, ?Oh, it's all right for my 13 year-old to enter this world, there will be other 13 year-olds in this world; this world has been constructed as being suitable for this child of mine. The European consumer will enter this thinking, ?This is an adult world. I can conduct myself and have contact with other players as if we are all adult.?

This is where the Three Cs become so important. This is not just about the world that I'm viewing and analysing but it's about the way in which I interact with the other players within that world. So, it's absolutely important ? absolutely vital ? that the criteria, the standards by which that game world are judged are consistent for the players that are entering it.

The other element is that PEGI is not just a one-trick pony. It's not just about the classification system, which is PEGI, but it's also about the online safety code ? PEGI Online ? which is not about classification. PEGI Online does not classify content, that's already done under the standard PEGI scheme, but PEGI Online is a safety code that the publisher signs up to and provides the information to the consumer such that the consumer is then aware and therefore able to deal with the world that they're entering into.

I can't ? just as we can't rate the words that I'm going to say because I haven't said them yet, they're not recorded, they're not laid down in any way; you can only deal with what I say after I've said it. Unless we put a time delay and a third-party sits in the line and hits the button at the appropriate point with things that we may feel are inappropriate in the conversation, you can only deal with that retrospectively.

But at least if the parent knows what are the guidelines ? is the voice restricted? In some games you can't have voice in the game, you can only have chat from pre-determined menus so as a parent you know that no one can write something inappropriate in that game because it's not permitted.
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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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