It seems the Government is now considering proposals for implementing a strict classification system for computer/video game content in line with current age-restrictive censorship of the kind associated with cinema/movie film viewing.
This quote from the piece in "The Guardian" caught my attention...
"Discussions have already been held with internet service providers to see if an agreement on a standardised filter can be reached."
If online video games are to have controls, what is going to be next for Internet censorship...?
"'No games in bedrooms', parents advised"
Monday 11-Feb-2008 10:20 AM
"Cinema-style" classification system to be introduced for videogames
The government is expected to advise parents to keep computers and games consoles out of their childrens' bedrooms, as new enforceable classification laws for games look set to be introduced.
According to a report in The Guardian over the weekend, parents will be told to make sure all gaming is done in the living room or kitchen, where the TV is in clear view and activities can be monitored. So no more sneaky games of Resident Evil or GTA for little Johnny.
At present, only games with graphic violence towards humans or animals are subject to strict age limits, yet young children are still able to easily purchase these titles.
Proposals for a new British Standards Institution specification will, however, introduce new filtering systems for game ratings, and make it illegal for shops to sell games to people below the age rating.
This comes as part of an effort to clamp down on young gamers' exposure to unsuitable content in videogames.
A young'un's freedom to browse the web may also be limited as ministers are said to be examining Tory proposals for an internet standards authority that would work with internet providers to filter content available to children.
It's no wonder, considering the bad wrap games have been getting lately, what with the Manhunt 2 ban, and the more recent Mass Effect debacle.
Still, as long as they're not censoring games for us over 18s, it's not a bad thing.
"Ministers plan clampdown on 'unsuitable' video games"
* Patrick Wintour, political editor
* The Guardian,
* Saturday February 9 2008
New rating scheme devised
Keep computers out of bedrooms, parents told
This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday February 09 2008 on p1 of the Top stories section. It was last updated at 08:57 on February 11 2008.
A legally enforceable cinema-style classification system is to be introduced for video games in an effort to keep children from playing damaging games unsuitable for their age, the Guardian has learned. Under the proposals, it would be illegal for shops to sell classified games to a child below the recommended age.
At present only games showing sex or "gross" violence to humans or animals require age limits. That leaves up to 90% of games on the market , many of which portray weapons, martial arts and extreme combat, free from statutory labelling.
Ministers are also expected to advise parents to keep computers and games consoles away from children's bedrooms as much as possible, and ask them to play games in living rooms or kitchens facing outward so carers can see what is being played.
Ministers are also expected to recommend blocking mechanisms to protect children from seeing unsuitable games, emails or internet sites. Discussions have already been held with internet service providers to see if an agreement on a standardised filter can be reached.
A review of violence and video games has been commissioned by Gordon Brown from the former television psychologist Tanya Byron. She is officially due to report next month, but education and culture ministers have a sense of the report's direction. She has previously said she would examine the current classification system to see if it is confusing for parents.
The report's contents, which include a lengthy review of the literature on the impact of video games on children, has been discussed between the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Ministers are anxious to strike a balance between the entertainment, knowledge and pleasure children gain from highly profitable internet and computer games, as well as the dangers inherent in the unregulated world of the net and its overuse by children.
Under the Video Recordings Act, most games are exempt from the British Board of Film Classification and only lose this exemption if they depict, to any significant extent, gross violence against humans or animals. Other games can be classified by a separate, entirely voluntary pan-European scheme administered by the Video Standards Council.
Policing such regimes is difficult as it is possible to buy games over the net and simply tick the box stating the purchaser is over 18.
A new British Standards Institution specification proposed by Ofcom, the communications regulator, and the industry is expected to allow the developers of filtering products to test them against the standard designed to protect children and other users from illegal or unsuitable content. Companies that pass the test will be able to display a child safety online kitemark.
Ministers hope the Byron review will act as a way of calming the debate about video games which has become increasingly polarised and based on prejudice. They say they are also willing to examine proposals made by a Tory MP earlier this week for an internet standards authority to be set up to ensure that service providers offer a two-tier system with users able to pick content suitable for adults or children.
In a further sign of Tory concern, Julian Brazier will bring forward a private member's bill this month giving powers for a new body to appeal against decisions of the BBFC in its classification of video games and DVDs.
Hugo Swire, a former shadow culture secretary, has suggested that the default setting for internet content would be for children, with a password or pin needed for unfiltered material.
"Games ratings: Have we all calmed down now?"
Editorial Assistant, MCV
February 11, 2008
I certainly hope so, because after reading The Guardians article I had no intention of banging my GTA drum and stamping my Manhunt-branded feet.
In fact, leading headline and hyperbole aside, I couldnt have been more pleased with the words of The Guardians political editor.
According to the paper, the government proposes to adopt a wide-spread classification system for all video games, ultimately putting the medium in line with film.
Also, retailers will be legally required to prevent the sale of games to a child below the recommended age. And finally, the government will make a series of suggestions to parents, which includes keeping games consoles out of the bedroom, so parents can keep an eye on what media their children are consuming.
The proposals made no mention of an increase in the banning of video games, just new restrictions on who can play them.
This should be music to the trades ears. At last were being treated seriously, with new measures that will only aid in improving the industrys perception. If the selling of software is properly policed, then maybe the vilification of games by the press will cease. And maybe well see an end to episodes such as the sleep-inducing Manhunt debacle.
Ultimately, if the aftermath of the Byron report is as the Guardian (and indeed MCV) suggests, then I will have no issue in voicing my support for it. A simple, yet effective form of classification, combined with some basic education, is precisely what an army of confused parents need.
How refreshing will it be not to feel threatened by the nanny state, and get back to doing what we do best; creating, selling and playing some spectacular forms of interactive entertainment. Free from sensational and irresponsible headlines and clueless politicians.
In the words of The Guardian:
Ministers hope the Byron review will act as a way of calming the debate about video games which has become increasingly polarised and based on prejudice.
30 July 2012: