The new PEGI icons for use in the UK. Note that PEGI has picked up trends that promote gambling in games and the fact that games that have online chat systems are open to abuse from other players and online stalkers.

While this is something that Miklós would normally pick up, its something that irks me enough that I feel this is a great step forward to enforcing the way mature games are sold to underage players. The current rating system (the BBFC) has, for years, never been enforceable because of government legislation in the UK and because it was competing with the PEGI system for relevancy.

Many proponents that supported the adoption of the PEGI rating pointed out that the BBFC was a little less strict and would often hand down lower ratings for mature games because the reviewers panel didn’t think it deserved a higher rating. While having a bit of leniency to how a game, film or other video content is rated is a good thing for certain titles, in the case of underage minors being exposed to the content it raises a question of who’s responsible for them getting it in the first place. 

Its the parents, right? No, its never the parent’s fault. Thanks to the new laws, it’s now solely the shop’s fault for selling the content, at least that’s what the new legislation enforces in terms of who’s responsible. As the stricter rating system comes into effect and becomes legally enforceable, shop owners now have to worry about being duped by minors willing to use the system to mess with more honest stores.

If you’re found guilty, as a shop owner, to have sold mature or highly rated content to a minor you can be sentenced to six (6!) years in prison and a fine of £5000 (approx R65,500). Its a hefty sentence but then its designed to protect the kids who buy games and the shops who sell them. If a cashier today isn’t smart enough to ask for ID when someone’s buying a 16+ or 18+ game then they should be liable to be fined. But I guess that since many people don’t play games themselves, they don’t see any harm in it. The real issue is that this doesn’t change anything, really.

If you’re a gamer of questionable morality and you buy a Call of Duty game for your kid or a friend who isn’t old enough to play it then there’s nothing the cashier can do about it. They can’t refuse the sale unless the cashier has prior knowledge that the game is being bought on behalf of a minor who can’t legally buy it himself/herself. So while its great that there’s now an enforceable law that now forces shops to ask kids to show some ID if they buy a highly age restricted game, it doesn’t change the way some parents view what their kids play or how it affects them in the long-term.

“If you kick my ass one more time, I’m calling mommy!” “You do that, I’m bringing in dad’s chainsaw the next time you cheat.” Vreeeeeeem!

That “they see enough violence on TV” excuse is a load of rubbish  because it actually affects younger kids even more if they’re the ones committing violent acts, even in a virtual world. Granted, many mature gamers today that read NAG did play age restricted games when they were younger and most came out completely fine – but its not the same for everyone. If you’re exposed to violence and violent acts while little and live in a home that doesn’t have a safe environment to grow up in (or that has your best interests at heart), then there’s every chance that playing violent games will negatively affect your thinking and your actions.

I’m not saying that little Johnny from next door playing Battlefield 3 will turn out to be a real-life Dexter, but there’s a slightly higher chance of something equally bad happening if they’re constantly exposed to violence (from all forms of media, not just games) from a young age. Maybe they grow up to be bullies and negatively affect the lives of other kids they go to school with, or they fall in with the wrong crowd because its something they’re familiar with. Discerning reality from fantasy becomes particularly hard if you’re already in a bad situation that affects you mentally and acting out on your fantasies sounds like a pretty good idea when you’re a kid who doesn’t know better.

Think about the kids, guys. If you’re in your favourite games store and you overhear someone asking about buying a game for their kid/grandchild/younger friend, try pipe in and ask how old the kid is and see if the buyer will choose an age-appropriate game for the kid. Its good karma for you, its your duty as a responsible gamer and goes a little way to protecting a childhood that should be innocent and carefree.


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