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
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.
The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict is the title of the game being developed by the Islamic Association of Students, a government-sponsored organisation which announced this week it had completed initial
phases of production.
News of the computer game came as Tehran played host to the country's second International Computer Games Expo. Press TV, Iran's English language propaganda channel said (maybe alluding to the Salman Rushdie fatwa game):
The organisers considered the event as an opportunity to introduce Iranian culture, value and Islamic identity to international computer games designers and producers.
Three years ago, the student
association and Iran's national foundation of computer games asked students across the country to submit scripts for the game and the top three were handed over to video developers. But development of the game made slow progress.
Little has been
revealed about the game but its title suggests players will be asked to implement Khomeini's call for the killing of Rushdie.
Australia has just passed a law allowing an R18 rating for its video games and according to Tom Pullar-Strecker's story on Stuff, the introduction of the new classification could mean games with strong violent or sexual content are likely to be
more readily available in New Zealand from next year too.
While New Zealand has had an R18 rating for years, most of the disc-based games we get are distributed through Australia, and the Australian-based Interactive Games and Entertainment
Association says often games with adult content bound for New Zealand have been censored so they can meet Australia's current MA15+ rating.
The article quotes IGEA's chief executive, Ron Curry saying:
have seen is New Zealand getting modified product that was going on sale in Australia as opposed to the full versions of games. The advantage for New Zealanders now is they will more than likely get products as they were released, he said.
Australia's christian lobby has ludicrously called on the government to ensure that the level of sex and violence allowed in the new R18+ category for computer games is no greater than that for the present MA15+ level.
The government announced
last week that a R18+ category for video games would be introduced on January 1. However, the rules for the new category are still to be determined by the Australian Classification Board.
The managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby,
Jim Wallace, spewed:
I expect the new [R18+] classification to be described no differently to MA15+.
If [R18+] is described in looser terms, or is less demanding than the existing MA15+ - which
is already letting in things that shouldn't have been there - then it's not going to work.
We already know that some of the games that are sold in Australia are unacceptable and should never have slipped in under the old rating.
Wallace then said he wanted a new, stricter MA15+ category to complement the R18+ rating.
A spokesman for the Australian Classification Board, Simon Ferguson, said the details of the new R18+ rating were yet to be finalised. He
It is anticipated that the new MA15+ category will be more stringent than the old.
The Australian Federal Parliament has approved a rating of R18+ for gaming, which will allow games that have long been banned in the country to be sold at retail. The new rating will come into effect at the start of 2013.
These are important
reforms over 10 years in the making, said Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare to News.com.au:
The R18+ category will inform consumers, parents and retailers about which games are not suitable for minors to play and
will prevent minors from purchasing unsuitable material. The reforms also mean that adults are able to choose what games they play within the bounds of the law.
The shadow attorney-general George Brandis got in on the act too:
The passage of this bill will no doubt be welcomed by adult gamers all across Australia. The industry has been waiting for this change for some time.
An online video believed to be linked to a Montreal murder and dismemberment case has stirred debate about web hosting, user-submitted content and legal responsibility.
Reports indicate police are weighing whether the owner of BestGore.com, an
Edmonton-based website specializing in gruesome content, should face charges for hosting a video that purportedly depicts a naked man being stabbed with an ice pick and eventually dismembered.
Police believe the chilling video, titled 1 Lunatic
1 Ice Pick, may depict the death and dismemberment of a 33-year-old Chinese student at a Montreal university. Web surfers were able to access the video on BestGore.com until Montreal police identified Luka Rocco Magnotta as a suspect in the death of
Jun Lin, said Marek.
Speculation has abounded about whether website owner Mark Marek can face obscenity charges for carrying what is thought to be real footage of a grisly murder. Multiple reports indicate charges are pending, but Marek says he
hasn't heard from police. He wrote in an email to the Canadian Press:
Up to this point, the police have not made contact with me. I removed the video on my own terms, not on the request by the police,
Canadian Cannibal killer suspect Luka Magnotta has been linked to a violent video game starring Christopher Walken as a futuristic serial killer called Vince Magnotta who is addicted to butchering his victims.
Hollywood actor Walken starred
in the 1996 video game Ripper , a gruesome adventure which sees a brutal serial killer terrorising New York in the year 2040.
The game can have a number of different endings depending on the path the player follows and although the Vince
Magnotta character is ostensibly a police officer investigating the murders, one outcome sees him as the Ripper .
The game begins with the serial killer sending an email to a newspaper saying he is addicted to butchering his victims. Luka
Magnotta, who changed his name from Eric Clinton Newman in 2006, is understood to have sent an email to a British newspaper in which he wrote: I can't stop killing .
The director of Hitman: Absolution has apologised for any offence from the game's trailer.
The trailer for the game attracted a bit of stick from the tabloids. However the majority of HuffPost readers in a poll said they didn't take
offence at the trailer, but now the game's director Tore Blystad has apologised anyway.
In an interview with IGN, Blystad said:
We're sorry that we offended people, that was truly not the intention of the
Of course we understand, this has been a very big topic for us and we've been reading as much as we could of the articles and responses.
We were surprised that it turned into such a huge topic... We
just wanted to make something cool, it wasn't the intention to stir up anything.
The Hitman games as a series has always been extreme in many ways. It tends more towards sixties exploitation movies -- these were a fascination [for
us] because they were so extreme.
The British Association of Anger Management has warned that the youngsters start to withdraw from family life and interaction with friends but many parents ignore the problem in order to avoid confrontations,
It surveyed 204
parents of children aged nine to 18 about their use of computer games. 46% said their sons or daughters had become less co-operative since they started playing video games.
44%said they were more rude or intolerant
towards others , 40% said they were more impatient, 36% reported an increase in aggressive behaviour , 29 per cent cited more mood swings and 26% said their offspring had become more reclusive.
28% admitted their
children spent 16 hours or more a week playing com- puter games.
If I had a pound for every game I've seen where the female characters walks in, and the camera follows her gently wobbling buttocks into shot, rather than her face, I'd have at least 23 quid. Maybe 24.
House of Commons, Questions re Culture, Media and Sport, 16th May 2012.
Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport whether his
Department has any plans to place further restrictions on the content of video games following the testimony of Anders Breivik.
Edward Vaizey (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Culture, Communications and
Creative Industries), Business, Innovation and Skills; Wantage, Conservative)
The Government is currently moving towards strengthening the laws in respect of video game regulation. We have recently announced our intention to
designate officers of the Video Standards Council as the authorities responsible for the classification of video games. When that process is complete, it will for the first time be a legal requirement for all video games suitable for those aged 12 or
over to be classified. It will be an offence to supply a video game in breach of its classification. In addition, there is one extra safeguard in the UK that is not part of the general Pan European Games Information scheme that we will be using: in the
UK, there will be the option of refusing classification where a video game cannot fit within the published PEGI criteria. If a game that |s not exempt has no classification, it will be an offence to supply it to anyone.
To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport how many representations his Department has received from the Pan European Game Information Service in relation to newly-published video games.
The Pan European Games Information system is the mechanism by which video games are rated. The bodies that implement the scheme are independent of Government and have not made
any representations about newly-published video games
Attempts to link last year's Norway shootings to Call of Duty are spectacularly misguided. Moral panic about violent video games is based on prejudice, ignorance and the selective use of flawed research
Labour MP Keith Vaz has worked tirelessly in recent years to demonstrate the link between violent video games and historic acts of violence, tracing the correlation right back to the tragic consequences that Rome: Total War inflicted on the Gauls. As far
back as 2004, he was attempting to link the murder of Stefan Pakeerah to Manhunter, undeterred by the minor point that his killer didn't have the game. By 2010 he was using an Early Day Motion to tie Counter-Strike to pretty much every newsworthy use of
a gun that year.
In recent weeks the tireless MP has used the 2011 Norway attacks to put Call of Duty in his sights. In a new EDM he asks the House of Commons to note that in his submission of evidence to the court [Anders]
Breivik describes how he trained for the attacks using the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare; and to declare that he is disturbed that Breivik used the game to help hone his 'target acquisition' and the suggestion that the simulation
prepared him for the attacks.
Dealing with Vaz's various claims it's tempting to take him out to a pub, get him extremely drunk, and have correlation does not equal causation! tattooed on his forehead while he sleeps.
Before that, though, it's worth putting all this in context. Let's start by recounting a brief history of video games and violent crime, told through game releases and British Crime Survey figures. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin:
The Royal College of Nursing passed a motion calling for more education and awareness about the risks of children playing adult-rated games. At their annual conference in Harrogate, they claimed exposure to these images could harm children.
Nurses said some products on the market were littered with explicit references to violence, sex and drug-taking.
The nurses cited the case of Anders Behring Breivik, who was said to have trained for the attacks he carried out in Norway last summer by using games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and the World of Warcraft.
Xbox LIVE will use the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC)'s well-known ratings for content sold via the Xbox LIVE Zune video marketplace, allowing users to make informed choices about the content that they purchase for themselves and their
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, says We're delighted to add Microsoft's Xbox LIVE to the roster of customers using BBFC services. In the digital age the variety of content platforms available means that, more than
ever, the BBFC has a role to play as a trusted guide to content. The public, especially parents, have told us it's important for them to see classification ratings they can trust before choosing entertainment for themselves or their children and by
joining the BBFC's voluntary service Xbox LIVE is helping its users make informed and confident choices about what they watch.
Microsoft's goal has always been to provide parents and caregivers with the tools and resources
necessary in managing age-appropriate entertainment experiences on Xbox 360 for children, says Stephen McGill, Microsoft Ltd's Director of Xbox and Entertainment. Alongside use of the forthcoming PEGI ratings system for video games, deploying BBFC
classifications for film and video content on Xbox LIVE will allow parents to make more informed choices regarding what they and their families watch on our service.
The BBFC's service for streamed and downloaded content was
launched in 2008 to provide its trusted and recognised classifications, category symbols and Consumer Advice to set-top box, video-on-demand and other online content providers. The BBFC worked closely with the home entertainment industry to develop a
voluntary regulatory service that would bring the benefits of the DVD classification system to content delivered online. When the public was surveyed about the new service, 82% of parents said that they preferred to download films that were classified
with the trusted BBFC symbols and content advice. Government ministers and other Parliamentarians are on the record as supporters of the BBFC's work in this area.
Microsoft Ltd joins other key affiliates to the BBFC service
including Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Europe, Warner Bros., Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal, BT Vision, Tesco/Blinkbox, TalkTalk, Picturebox and Netflix, bringing the total number of members to 38.
I was overjoyed to see that Wolfenstein 3D has been released again as a free to play browser version. I was less pleased to find out that as I'm in Germany I am not able to actually play it. It's an interesting reminder that this World Wide Web isn't
quite all as worldwide as we might think.
The game that paved the way for Doom was released by iD Software 20 years ago, and Bethesda has written it up in handy cross-platform browser form.
The original Wolfenstein 3D was banned in Germany
because of the Natzi-related content. And it is still banned: attempting to use the browser version tells me that I cannot because of the country I'm in. Wolfenstein cannot be even given away in Germany.
The publisher behind forthcoming fantasy video game Tera has responded to the angry fan response to news that the European version had been censored to secure a 12+ PEGI age rating.
Frogster's community manager has assured players that
the publisher had been taking the complaints seriously. He said:
We sincerely ask you to understand that we take all these issues very seriously, he wrote.
As you have all noticed, the blood
effect slider was removed from the OBT client. We want first of all to apologise to you for not communicating this change as it should have been. We understand the importance of being transparent with our community.
He then confirmed
that Frogster has decided to reinstate the aforementioned slider, via a post-launch patch due in May. But then added that the game would still be censored:
The European release version of the game will still have to be
slightly different from the North American and Korean build: the only threat to our 12+ classification was the blood splattered on your screen when you are slaying certain monsters. This effect is slightly modified in the European version..
Raven also clarified that changes had been made to the appearance of the game's Elin race.
[It was] not to comply with a demand from any official board, but because those characters in particular could
have attracted to the game a population of unsavoury users, and it is part of our responsibility to protect our younger audiences from them, he explained.
All partners involved in the project decided to ask Bluehole Studios for a
solution, so they created new textures and designs for Elin wear. We are sure you all agree that this effort for child protection was the right thing to do.
The main change is to change the lower body armor skin to give the appearance
that the young looking female characters are wearing trousers as opposed to knickers. See article from
The game will be released in Europe on 4th May 2012. with a PEGI 12 rating. The game is rated as Mature (M) in the US which is a '17' age rating.
Early day motion 3014: VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES (No. 2)
Primary sponsor: Keith Vaz
That this House is reminded of the consequences of the ineffectual Pan European Game Information (PEGI) classification
system for video games following the testimony of Anders Breivik about the tragic events in Norway in July 2011;
notes that in his submission of evidence to the court Breivik describes how he trained for the attacks using the video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare ;
is disturbed that Breivik used the game
to help hone his target acquisition and the suggestion that the simulation prepared him for the attacks;
is concerned that PEGI as a classification system can only provide an age-rating and not restrict ultra-violent
content; recognises that in an era of ever-more sophisticated and realistic game-play more robust precautions must be taken before video games are published; and
calls on the Government to provide for closer scrutiny of
aggressive first-person shooter video games.
The Walking Dead , the video games adaption of the TV show has not made available in Australia or New Zealand. Many assumed it may be something to do with classification, and that assumption seems to be correct.
After being asked why the
game wasn't available on Telltale's official forum, a member of staff responded with the following...
Sorry, but due to the OFLC ratings laws in Australia and New Zealand, and the fact that this is a mature game, we do
not currently have plans to release the game there on consoles.
One can only assume that Telltale didn't think it was worth the cost (and risk) of attempting to classify the game in Australia.
Hopefully this will be one of the
last causalities of Australian censorship, as it is hoped that an adult game rating will be available from next year.
New Zealand actually has an rating for adults and The Walking Dead is hardly likely to be a censorship issue. It is just that Australia and New Zealand are paired for marketing purposes. And the New Zealand market alone is too small to make a release worthwhile.
There is a long-lasting and at times intense debate about the possible link between violent computer games and aggressiveness. A group of researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, are now questioning the entire basis of the discussion.
In a recently published article, they present a new study showing that, more than anything, a good ability to cooperate is a prerequisite for success in the violent gaming environment.
A study, authored by Ulrika Bennerstedt, Jonas Ivarsson and
Jonas Linderoth and titled How gamers manage aggression: Situating skills in collaborative computer games , is presented in International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning.
The Gothenburg-based research group spent
hundreds of hours playing online games and observing other gamers, including on video recordings. They focused on complex games with portrayals of violence and aggressive action where the participants have to fight with and against each other. The
situations gamers encounter in these games call for sophisticated and well-coordinated collaboration. We analysed what characteristics and knowledge the gamers need to have in order to be successful, says Jonas Ivarsson, Docent (Reader) at the
Department of Education, Communication and Learning.
It turns out that a successful gamer is strategic and technically knowledgeable, and has good timing. Inconsiderate gamers, as well as those who act aggressively or emotionally, generally do not
In a nutshell, we're questioning the whole gaming and violence debate, since it's not based on a real problem but rather on some hypothetical reasoning, says Ivarsson.
Florida nutters have been writing masses of letters protesting at LGBT elements in the video games Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
It is suspected that the Florida Family Association is directing the campaign aimed
at Entertainment Arts (EA) because of the same-sex relationship content.
The Family Research Council, led by Tony Perkins, is also involved. In a new Star Wars game, the biggest threat to the empire may be homosexual activists! said
EA is standing up for same sex relationships in games despite the nutter 'outrage'.
Every one of EA's games includes ESRB content descriptors so it's hard to believe anyone is surprised by the content. This isn't about
protecting children, it's about political harassment, Jeff Brown, VP of corporate communications told gamesindustry.biz .
The letters have been directed to EA's top
brass. Many of them threaten to boycott EA's titles if the publisher refuses to remove same-sex relationship content. The letters also infer that the LGBT content is somehow forced upon children, exposing them to LGBT themes.
However the M (17)
rated games are not for children, nor do they force LGBT content on a player - it's merely an option for gamers who wish to replicate their real-life sexual orientation.
The introduction of an R18+ rating for video games into Australia has been designed to bring game classification in line with the current system in place for films and other media.
However South Australian Attorney General John Rau has revealed
plans to ban anyone under the age of 18 from purchasing Mature Adult video games - titles the Australian Classification Board has deemed appropriate for audiences 15 and older.
A spokesperson for Minister Rau claims the decision is a
more practical measure than the previous plan of completely removing MA15+ ratings for video games.
Under Rau's proposed scheme, games classified at a national level at the MA15+ level would be labelled R18+ in South Australia, and could only
be sold to legal adults.
South Australian legislation regarding video games is likely to be introduced in State Parliament in May, says Rau in a public statement:
The South Australian legislation will allow the
introduction of R18+ games.
However, my long stated position has been to protect children by creating a clearer distinction between games that may be suitable for children and those that are suitable only for adults.
Therefore, my intention is that the South Australian legislation will prevent the sale of MA15+ games to minors. This move will give parents greater certainty about the appropriateness of games for their children.
The Grand Theft Auto series redefined gaming, pioneering the go-anywhere, do-anything sandbox genre and touching off worldwide debates about sex and violence in videogames. Wired contributor David Kushner tells the riveting history of the
series in a new book, available this week from Wiley, titled Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto.
In this excerpt, we learn how Rockstar used an unorthodox public relations strategy to get British politicians
denouncing the first Grand Theft Auto before the public had ever so much as seen it. Rockstar head Sam Houser was behind the plan, but game designer David Jones had his reservations.
In the United Kingdom, publicists didn't get
much bigger or more controversial than Max Clifford. Having built his career representing everyone from Frank Sinatra to Muhammad Ali, the quick-witted, silver-haired Clifford had become, as one journalist put it, a master manipulator of the tabloid
Blunt and opportunistic, Clifford urged BMG to forget about convention and embrace GTA's criminality in all of its glory. If it's part of the game, he said, it's part of the game.
Clifford recommended not only owning up to the violence, but shoving it down the media's throat. What better way to get people talking? Clifford said he
knew there would be the wonderful elitist members of the establishment that would find something like this absolutely repulsive.
Criminal computer game that glorifies hit-and-run thugs, the Daily Mail duly hyped. Imagine yourself being an up and coming low-life car thief, stealing exotic cars, and then add murder one, cop killing, car-hacking, drugrunning, bank-raids and even illegal alien assassination!