back to article ELSPA chief lays into UK censor over games ratings

The British Board of Film Classification isn’t fit for purpose when it comes to videogame classification, the bigwig of a rival game classification body has told the government. Again. Speaking at the Labour Party conference today, the notoriously hard-talking Director General of the European Leisure Software Publishers …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have an idea

    and it wouldn't cost anyone any money on any centralized authority or court cases.

    Shops can sell to who they like, if they wish to block under 18s they can, if they wish to block under 40s why not.

    Censorship in this day and age is so dull, hasn't disgusted from Tunbridge Wells popped her clogs yet, or is this a new Blue rinse generation coming thru.

  2. Craig Graham


    That's interesting- until half way down I was thinking that yeah, ELSPA would want to be the definitive ratings body so they could rate games more favourably and get more sales. It's the ELSPA guy who claims the BBFC consistently reduces the game ratings- making them more available than ELSPA considers appropriate, so maybe there's not the whole story there. Does anyone know of somewhere this can be checked?

  3. jonathan keith
    Thumb Down


    It's perfectly straightforward.

    The BBFC ratings are legally enforceable and people can go to prison if they're found selling games to underage buyers. Just like videos. The BBFC have done a fine job in rating games, and are a lot more liberal than many people give them credit for.

    PEGI is not legally enforceable. It is not even mandatory. Games publishers don't have to have their games rated at all by PEGI, and games unrated by PEGI can be sold without problem.

    So this isn't about the games, or "protecting the children". It's about a powerless but vocal industry-run body that's just looking out for its own interests and those of its members. Nothing more.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Parents lay into UK censor

    If only. Writing as a person that refused a sale of GTAIII (18 and never downgraded) to a six year, but did sell it to his Dad moments later, I have little interest in a pissing contest.Tough on the causes of [in-]game violence or just wanting to look tough?

  5. DavCrav

    On the other hand...

    If he wants a unified organisation, why shouldn't the (independent) BBFC take over all video game classification for all of Europe?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i don't get it

    the vast majority of games rated 18, are submitted voluntarily to the BBFC anyway.

    The problem most people have isn't rating the games, it's when games are altered to get a certain rating. If 18+ was a catch all that fit anything and everything that didn't fall into the younger ratings there wouldn't be an issue at all.

    It's when the bbfc start refusing to rate things that it all goes wrong.

  7. Martin Klefas-Stennett

    ulterior motive

    Perhaps he's using those examples to make himself look better, if he just complains about games getting 'too high' a rating then he'd most likely be ignored. At least if the BBFC are removed there's no legal enforcement to the certificates on any games he might release in the future.

  8. Richard

    Somebody please, think of the children!

    The rating system isn't broken, it never has been. The problem is that parents will still buy their kids games that are rated for ages higher than theirs. Then, "Shock, horror, mature content in a 18-rated game, how could the evil games industry allow my 13 year old son to be exposed to this? Harrumph, Harrumph, Daily Mail, Harrumph!"

    Or you get the Hot Coffee incident were parents are up in arms because their children went on the internet, found out how to modify a game to access content locked by the developers but not completely removed, and then did it. No accidental discovery of filth, these kiddies wanted to see simulated, fully clothed, blocky sex acts. "Harrumph, Harrumph, Hillary Clinton, Harrumph!"

  9. P. Lee

    It isn't about censorship

    A game's rating is part of the marketing package. Just like films which include a single instance of swearing to boost the rating to a 15. Who's going to buy the latest blood&guts FPS if its only rated 12?

    The complaint roughly translates to, "Oi, your ruining our marketing!"

    Why do we need a pan-european organisation for this? To give the organisation credibility of course! Why have mere corporate lobbyists when you can have something only slightly less important than the UN! It all plays to the fallacy that "European" is somehow more important than "British" and should therefore be deferred to, a triumph of political machination over self-determination.

    Pirates, the lot of them. And not in a good way.

  10. Dave Bell
    Paris Hilton


    The BBFC is a bit of a mixture.

    For the cinema, the statutory power is held by local authorities, who accept the BBFC rating as guidance, but can set a different rating, or permit to be shown a film refused a rating by the BBFC. Though the Extreme Porn business has given some special status to a BBFC rating.

    For videos, the BBFC gives a rating which is backed by law, and this is the starting point for rating of games. At least initially, it was the cut-scenes in the game which could get the BBFC involved.

    Personally, I'm not sure the BBFC or ELSPA have really sorted out their thinking: participation by the player makes a game different from a film, and the great experience of the BBFC may be misleading.

    Then, at some point, there will be a Wii attachment and a related game with an explicitly sexual purpose. I hope to be able to watch the argument from a safe distance: another planet, perhaps.

  11. Eddie Edwards

    Made me laugh

    The idea that a venerable old British institution *downgrades* games that ELSPA thinks are 18 is, to me, hilarious.

    Maybe it's ELSPA that is "out of touch" if it consistently labels games as 18 which even the BBFC accepts are 15.

    I assume that ELSPA is arse-covering to the max here, but if it fails to apply realistic certificates to games then its system is fundamentally broken and will be ignored.

    So STFU ELSPA ... again. BBFC FTW.

  12. Paul Fleetwood

    There's no point in games ratings

    I was in Game as few weeks back and in front of me in the queue was a mother with her (I guess roughly) 12 year old son who was holding a copy of the new GTA.

    When the member of staff pointed out that he wasn't able to sell the game to the child the mother said "It's OK, I'm buying it for him".

    Not many kids have the spare £40 a pop games cost, so it really is the parents who are making the buying decisions, and if they aren't willing to believe the ratings are there for a purpose then the whole system becomes pointless.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    18 ratings a marketing tactic, nothng more!

    1. Put in a little bit of sex or violence.

    2. Tip the balance and get an 18 sticker

    3. Get middle England in a uproar and get it in the Daily Mail/Sun/Mirror

    4. No such thing a bad publicity.

    5. BIG PROFITS!!!

    Me, cynical? Never!

  14. Sooty

    re: There's no point in games ratings

    "When the member of staff pointed out that he wasn't able to sell the game to the child the mother said "It's OK, I'm buying it for him"

    And this will continue to be a problem, no matter how much publicity about the drugs, sex and violence contained in them, to the parents they are still games and games are for kids.

    Aside from telling the parent that the game contains graphic violence (with examples, GTA has a few good ones you can rattle off), sex and swearing, are you really sure you want to buy this for a child? There's not much more you can do, I suppose you could knock up some waivers and get the parent to sign one to say they were aware they were buying a game that was classified as unsuitable* for children, that might make them think twice.

    *Just because the child is 12 doesn't neccesarily mean it is completely unsuitable, it's up to the parent to decide, it's all about making sure they can't complain later when they realise they made a mistake.

  15. Colin Wilson

    Showing my age now...

    I happened to come across a video on youtube the other day c/o StumbleUpon (called something like "top 10 disturbing game scenes"), and I have to admit even I was a little shocked about the level of violence in some games - I think one was CoD4, showing a kidnap and street violence, prior to the character being shot in the head. Another clip showed two anime characters, where a boy stabbed a girl and watched her slump to the floor.

    The capability of modern computer hardware to show violence so graphically and accurately now needs to be reigned in IMO.

  16. Chika

    Parental Stupidity

    My own belief is that (a) I totally agree with the above where PEGI is described as an industry body just trying to look out for its own interests rather than any constructive position and (b) some parents would rather abdicate their responsibility for their children to bodies such as the BBFC and PEGI rather than make an informed decision on what their children can do.

    The "C" in BBFC stands for "classification" and, though there are legal reasons why a shop or company cannot sell a video or game to a person under the age that it has been classified for, the rating is meant to inform everyone of its contents, hence a parent should exercise control and deny a title that is unsuitable rather than gripe about it to the media when their neglected child is hauled up because of any antisocial behaviour caused, allegedly, by exposure to a video or game.

    That's why I always viewed the blue-rinse folk as hypocrites of the highest order.

  17. BioTube


    Over here both movie and game ratings are handled by industry associations without any legal force, although since no theater I've ever seen would let a kid into an R rated film(as a matter of fact, they may have to sign off on things like that to get any films rated by the MPAA). Few stores will sell M rated games to minors.

    Of course, like has been said it doesn't work when parents ignore the big 'M' and buy the game for their kids anyway. I like the idea of a "I know this isn't recommended for kids under 17" waiver, though; it prevents the idiots from having any possibility of being taken seriously in court.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    From working in stores which sell age restricted items - booze, cigarettes, movies, games etc; Game seem to be breaking good practice guidelines as well as the law which states/implies that anyone suspected of supplying an age related product to a minor should be refused service. (Though in reality and from experience properly enforcing this leads to a talk with HR and threats of job loss for "upsetting the customers (who are friends with the chavvy manageress *rolls eyes* so I'm not surprised if Game staff are told to ignore the law to avoid "upsetting customers and lowering sales")

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