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PEGI - Pan-European Game Information Rating System Explained Print E-mail
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Written by Christophor "SuperGuido" Rick   
Friday, 09 November 2007

[OpEd]

As it is one of the longest running centers of civilization in the world it comes as no surprise to me that Europe has one of the best-balanced video game rating systems I looked at. Sure PEGI -  the Pan-European Game Information System is a little number happy in that they have, a 5-tier age-based rating system. Of course the ages vary slightly from country to country so some have double numbers. In addition to the age rating system they also have a set of content descriptors. They don't go overboard and break things down into 15 sub-categories like the Americans and they don't even split Love and Sex like the Japanese. They're not nearly as restrictive or militant as the Australians and they're not nearly as paranoid as the Germans. It's a nice easy-going system to carry you into the weekend.

 To show you just how easy-going the system is, it is voluntary. The ratings are determined in-house at the developer via an online assessment form. For each content category an age is established based on the answers given by the game maker. All proposed 16+ and 18+ are checked by NICAM before the rating is awarded. Meanwhile all 12+ and a sampling of 3+ and 7+ are checked after the rating has been awarded for accuracy measurements. The PEGI assessment form can be found here and gives you an exact reading on what age the game will be approved for.

Once the rating is assigned the game maker is given a license by NICAM to display the appropriate symbols (See Below.) There is a one year difference in some countries and instead of forcing them all to the same format PEGI said...OK. That is why it looks like there are a lot of age ratings but there aren't.



The age appropriate ratings are self-explanatory so I will just give you some examples of games that have received each recently.

3+/4+ - Eye Toy Play - Astro zoo, Professor Brainmaniac, FIBA Basketball Manager 2008, Football Manager 2008, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008

7+/6+ - City Life 2008, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Avatar the Legend of Aang, Crash of the Titans, Mario Strikers Charged Football

12+/11+ - Alien Hominid, Armored Core 4, Blue Dragon, Folklore, Need for Speed Carbon

16+/15+ - Brothers in arms DS, Call of Duty 3, Heavenly Sword, Lair, Blitz: The League (Notice this is a game that was refused classification in Australia), Bullet Witch

18+ - Bioshock, Clive Barker's Jericho, Conan, Def Jam: Icon, DRIVER Parallel Lines (on the Wii!), Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, Resident Evil 4



Like CERO in Japan, PEGI has opted to classify games with content descriptors. I like it because it shows you what to expect in the game and if you are particularly averse to say sexual content or really hardcore violence you can skip that particular game. Here's the run down of the content descriptors from them.

Violence. You know it, you love it. Unfortunately it is all around us. Someone once described it as a fist, foot or lead pipe moving rapidly towards someone else. Of course gun-play, sword-fighting and throwing an opponent over the top rope in the squared circle all fall into this category as well. Too bad we can't just limit violence TO video games and live violence-free lifestyles in the real world.
Recent titles: 300: March to Glory, 50 Cent Bulletproof, Bioshock,Call of Duty 3

Sex. The game depicts nudity and/or sexual behaviour or sexual references. It's natural, almost everyone (who can manage it) does it and we all know we do it. Of course the children don't need to know about it just yet so it's a good idea to know if it's in a game. You know what I mean? So if you see it in the game you should see this icon first. Now it's time for some naked...er nevermind.
Recent titles: CSI Hard Evidence, Dead or Alive 4,Silent Hill 3

Roll them bones, place that bet, up the ante. It's time for some Gambling. Take me to Monaco, drop me at Casino Royale, slap some chips in my hand and off I go. These games that encourage or teach gambling. Oddly much of Europe has embraced gambling as a perfectly acceptable pastime yet we still need to alert those who might not embrace Lady Luck like I do. Let Luck be a Lady tonight, I need to get lucky. Oh wait, that would be the previous icon.
Recent titles: Bioshock, Brothers in Arms DS, CSI Hard Evidence

EWW SPIDERS! Yes folks, this is all about Fear. These games may be frightening or scary for young children and maybe even older children like myself. Some games just beg the question "Do you fear what I fear?" Darkness, creepy crawlies, things that go bump in the night (that don't fall into the Sex category) and generally startling game will be in this list.
Recent titles: ECHO NIGHT BEYOND, Bionicle (not many games get this icon I noticed)

Sex, Drugs, Rock N Roll. Drink a six-pack, smoke a bowl, Game refers to or depicts the use of drugs. Actually I just noticed there is no alcohol and tobacco use icon. So either Europeans simply accept it as a normal part of life, as it should be, or it gets rolled into a big fat blunt...icon, with a needle. Well, I guess it's not so blunt then is it. Considering that places like Amsterdam exist here in Europe is it any surprise that there's just a tiny little icon for drugs?
Recent titles: Virtua Fighter 5, Blitz: The League, Overlord

Now here is an icon that has no equivalent in the other systems and it makes me proud to call Europe my home because they are aware of Discrimination. They are so aware of it that they in fact warn you when a game contains depictions of, or material which may encourage, discrimination. Personally I detest racism and discrimination of all kinds. It's far easier to love, or at least only mildly dislike everyone. To hate is a lot of work and even when I did hate I could only maintain hatred for two people at a time max.
Recent titles: I could not find any.

D****IT! Can you believe this ***T They actually have a F******* icon for this S***! Well of course they do because some people find some words extremely offensive. It just so happens that I now know those words in about eight languages. Games with this icon contain bad language. And I can tell you what the bad stuff is in almost half the official languages of the EU. Don't tempt me.
Recent titles:  Bioshock,Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas, Far Cry Instincts Predator, Colin McRae DiRT



There you have it folks. Like I said an easy laid-back approach in a voluntary self-policing vein. From what I have read on their site PEGI has been designed to meet varying cultural standards and attitudes across the member states and is supported by the majority of relevant Member State Government Agencies and all interactive leisure software trade organizations in Europe. So the games companies are behind it, I'm behind it...you too should be behind it. And even if you don't agree with some of it, at least you now know all about it and we hope this information will come in handy someday for someone.

If someone wants you to get them a game and you're not sure about the content then you can head off to the PEGI Database and search for it. The only thing I wish they had was a search based on when the rating was assigned. It would also be nice to have a search by content but I guess that would be so rarely used it wasn't worth the work.

One more icon I almost forgot. The PEGI Online icon. This is important because it warns you that this game connects to the internet. In MMO (Massive multiplayer Online) games thousands of people may gather and play at the same time. No one can be totally responsible for everything that goes on in a virtual environment like that and so in order to protect your children adequately you need to know when the game connects online and how. If you see this icon my suggestion is that you sit down with your children when you install the game and watch it be played or better yet PLAY IT YOURSELF. You might find out you enjoy it and you will get valuable information about the game  to know if you made a good decision.

There is no substitute for sitting and talking with your children about the games they play. There is also no substitute for you. If you as a parent or otherwise responsible adult take the time to educate yourself and watch what the children in your life are doing it will help make the world a safer and better place. Aren't your children worth that much?

 

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 07 November 2007 )

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