Interviews// Michael Rawlinson: General Manager ELSPA

Posted 22 Sep 2008 16:48 by
Michael Rawlinson: General Manager ELSPA
Michael Rawlinson: General Manager ELSPA
SPOnG: A UK government in its current state is going to have a big problem bringing a European classification system into the UK. You're going to get Daily Mail and Daily Express headlines with ?Johnny Foreigners? telling us what our kids can see and what are kids can't see. So, what level of lobbying and how is that level of lobbying working in government to bring the PEGI rating system into play legally. Because if that's not done what we have here is a toothless initiative.

Mike Rawlinson: PEGI will become legally enforceable through a UK body, that's clear. The recommendation... the consultation document lays out a way in which that could happen through a UK body that's been involved in video games classification since 1994. It has a huge amount of experience of the process and the requirements. So, it's not like some new body's going to be made that doesn't have a clue about it.

PEGI would be brokered through the Video Standards Council. And the VSC would review all UK-relevant PEGI ratings. That wouldn't just be a sort of half-hearted exercise, that would be a very thorough process of review to ensure that the PEGI rating is correct.

The British Board of Film Classification one should not forget is not a government agency. It is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. It is totally independent of the government and the government has no authority over the BBFC. The government designates power to the BBFC to get on and enforce the Video Recordings Act.

The Video Recordings Act does not determine what should be classified at what age. The BBFC does that on the basis of what they call ?Extensive consumer consultation? that they believe puts them in step with consumer requirements in the UK, which is so effective that we never hear any complaints from the consumer about the way the BBFC rates game... er... rates films, I don't think.

If you take The Dark Knight there was a huge furore around that. You should be aware that, I think it's 94% of games that are released in the UK carry PEGI ratings, about 6% carry BBFC ratings. The PEGI system very rarely has consumer complaints over the rating of content.

SPOnG: Is this also down to the fact that we have consumer misunderstanding of video game ratings?

Mike Rawlinson: I think the reality is that the sort of consumer media, the mainstream media, want to make all sorts of nonsense over things so they may well write a headline that ?We don't want the Europeans telling us what we can or can't see?. The reality is that if I took the PEGI criteria into the street and did a reality check of those with consumers I'm not sure, if I didn't say to the consumer , ?Oh, this is a European standard?, if I just said, ?These are the standards under which games are rated?, I don't think I would get very much backlash from consumers over the rating system. I don't think we'd get it.

I think you could whip it up if you wanted to, but the reality is on an everyday basis, I don't think consumers complain about ratings that much on games. The games that the mainstream media get aerated about ? things like Manhunt 2, things like Grand Theft Auto ? who are rating those games currently anyway? Who is the body that has got consumer confidence around this adult rated product that is working so well?

I'm not so sure that we don't need this overhaul so that we can go out and say to consumers, ?Games are not just for children. They have a broad spectrum of players. Some are adult and those games are for adults will be labelled appropriately. Look out for this label, look out for this PEGI label, that tells you it's interactive. When it's got an 18 on that means it's for an adult audience, take note of it.?

I can tell you from ? and you will know from the comments that are written by consumers on blogging sites and in response to articles ? that many consumers go in and say, ?Oh, it's only a game, I'm not taking any notice of that BBFC 18 certificate.? So, it doesn't work is the answer and we want to be able to communicate clearly to the consumer going forward to take note and take responsibility. That's what the games industry wants to do and that's why it wants to back the PEGI system.

We are making very strong representations to the government through this consultation period to ensure that they fully understand that this is not about the industry trying to take a light approach but the industry taking a very robust approach to child safety and for consumer confidence in the product they make and distribute.
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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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