The Games Rating Authority, a part of the Video Standards Council, will take over video games censorship from the BBFC next month. The group will use PEGI ratings and symbols, as used across Europe, eg age restrictions will be set at 12, 16 and 18.
The PEGI ratings have been used for sometime on games not featuring realistic video but now they will be used for all games.
Laurie Hall is the director general of the Video Standards Council, the organisation that handles the PEGI rating process in the UK. For clarity sake the Video Standards Council will use the name Games Rating Authority for its new role.
The new mantra for the GRA will be: Games aren’t just for kids. Be responsible . For Hall, the real problem is with parents not realising that games content can now be every bit as graphic as anything in a movie. A lot of parents wouldn’t allow their 12-year-old to watch an ’18’-rated film, Hall agrees: But play an ’18’-rated game? They’re more inclined to. We’ve got to get the message across.
PEGI is stricter than the BBFC, insists Hall somewhat censorially: We’re not ashamed of that at all, because the methodology of rating films is not appropriate for rating games. Games and films are totally different
And with the enthusiasm of a new censor, he stresses: We will have the power to ban a game in the UK. And he outlines the process for banning games, that he considers transparent, fair and legally tight, and which required the Government’s approval.
An Appeals Panel has been set-up, chaired by Baroness Kennedy, a barrister. And beyond that, there’s an Expert Advisory Panel, comprising Tanya Byron, media violence specialist Dr Guy Cumberbatch, and Geoffrey Roberston QC.
Why we set up the Expert Advisory Panel is the ability to ban a game under the law is very complex – it’s an expert matter. We can only ban something if it is likely to cause harm to the viewer or society in general. You interpret that!
The Panel will not be making the decision – what they will do is advise the designated officers of the factors they must consider in reaching their decision. It was put in place to make sure if a banning decision ever was made it was as watertight as it possibly could be.