Just a quick pointer to a post on Scottishgames.biz (and handily mirrored on the group of the same name, here on 38Minutes...)

The Department of Culture, Media & Sport's consultation into the Byron Report ends on the 20th of November.

They're looking for input on the current ratings system, both the mandatory side, which is overseen by the BBFC and the industry-driven, voluntary PEGI system.

Companies are already required to submit content for approval, but the recommendations from the report, say that any game likely to receive a rating over 12 would have to go for approval.

The costs, approval time and self-censorship associated with this process could have a major impact on the whole business of making games in Scotland & Northern Ireland, especially for the smaller companies focused on casual, online and mobile games...

That doesn't even take into account the impossibility of reviewing some of the new generation of games in any meaningful way. If you have a 'sandbox' type game, where content is generated dynamically, it could be practically impossible to get any sort of meaningful output from a classification process.

If you're involved in any way with the interactive world, take a read through the consultation document and make your feelings known.

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Tags: bbfc, byron, consultation, developers, elspa, games, government, interactive, pegi, report, More…scotland, tiga

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Comment by Kirsty Scott on October 30, 2008 at 20:52
Sigh, Christmas is looming and the game industry’s well into overdrive for it’s busiest period, as the queues in your local Game this weekend will no doubt attest.It's difficult when you're in the middle of seeing both the business side and the moral ethics when you're in games but have kids.

I reckon it’s a bit harder to be an 12yo gamer right now though. For a start, all the really “cool” games are aimed at, or rated for, adults. I mean, even Playstation 2 Official Magazine’s CD is rated as an 18 - yet I’d bet that no news agent in the land would block the sale of the mag to a minor. And games wise, COD4 scrapes through with a 15, as does Halo 3 and what are the chances that even Mario Galaxy’s difficulty curve plateaus at a point most kids under the age of 12 won’t be able to reach?
So what’s a kid to do?

Getting out my overly broad, taring brush, I’d say that the majority of parents (mainly mums) don’t have a clue about what’s in most games, let alone the potential suitability for their darling little cherubs. Chuck on top of that your average games emporium’s spotty teenage sales staff - who aren’t paid enough to give a toss about anything beyond their next fag break - and you’ve got a good percentage of the playground playing anything and everything.
Unfortunately for my sprog, he’s shit out of luck. Admittedly, he jumped on Halo 3 quicker than a greased monkey and sailed through on easy, so his playground bragging rights aren’t exactly in tatters, but that was only after a bit of an um and ah on our part. COD4? Nah. Shooting a couple of sleeping dudes early doors pushed that one out.

Sounds a bit harsh, but there’re a few things that go against him. Age, obviously - he’s not 12 going on 15. And he’s got a bit of a gun fetish that makes me feel very uncomfortable, so watching him play any sorta FPS against NPCs doesn’t sit too well. And Gears of War? I’ve shuffled him out of the lounge in the past when on, although fortunately, the crapness of the game solved that problem in the long run.
I also felt odd watching him play Crackdown. Now, I know that the game has zero morale compass and yes, it is purposefully setup for you blow the f*** out of anything and anyone. But, and I can say this with some confidence, it was made by a group of blokes to let them do just that and have a good giggle while doing it. It’s not a kids game, as he and his chums first outing on it brought quickly home. It doesn’t feature child friendly characters and in a sense, the free form gameplay amplifies the adult friendly nature of the premise. “Here’re some guns, the world’s populated with psuedo bad guys, oh, and it doesn’t matter if you kill the rest of the population while you’re at it. Just go and blow s*** up Agent!”.

I’m not particularly railing against anything here. Boys (big and small) have always thought shiny fast cars and big explosions are cool.
Some of us want to make adult oriented games and to make games that I wanna play and that I think are cool. Preferably with a narrative splash that’s not holding punches when needed, or having to pander to the lowest common denominator. But then, don’t we all? And if I was making an adult game, I’d like to do it without having to think about the problems of kids ultimately playing it. Something that’s very hard to control right now.
Seeing it first hand the last few months just brings the problem to light a little, especially as Xmas lists could get sent out to Grannies with any old tat on them.

Obviously, it’d help if the age ratings had the same sort of meaning that they do for film, and that sale of the stuff was slightly more monitored. Maybe then game nastys like Manhunt could be released, for better or for worse. I don’t see that happening any time soon, although, as more gamers grow old and have kids the problem might not be so apparent. Or at the very least, parental control might not sound so hollow.

I can recognise the irony in writing a big post related to my sprogs playing habits, especially given the games that I’ve been involved on and yeah, give it a couple of years and I doubt I’ll care what he plays at all. But right now I’m not too happy with him playing anything on Live (the service has enough mouthy 12yos on it, anyway), the majority of FPS games are pretty much out of bounds and to be honest, the 360 just isn’t a platform that’s even remotely targeting players of his age. (Yes, yes, Viva, Banjo, 50 retro ports, yadda. No kid can survive on Frogger, cartoon, sports or driving games alone.)

Unfortunately for him, he’s just on the cusp that the industry doesn’t really cover. Verging on too old, or too fashionably driven, to lap up the primary coloured, Sega-blue-sky delights, much beyond the high points of the Wii catalogue (and even then, I’m sure the Wii’s playground cool walks a very thin line at times), and just a bit too young to be wallowing in the shader driven realities offered by the most hyped elements of the 360 / PS3 catalogue.
I’ve no definite ideas as to how you can make “cool” games that aren’t somewhat adult oriented, as that’s a big part of the appeal - playing something (or watching something) not really aimed at you.

Sorry, big post I know but an emotive subject :)
Comment by Lol Scragg on October 30, 2008 at 15:53
The problem as I saw it was twofold:

- firstly a lot of consumers (or rather their parents) don't give two hoots about age ratings. Just look at the amount of parents who queued up to buy GTA IV (a fantastic game btw) for their 8 year olds. There is a distinct feeling of both "its only a game" and/or "well, it saves me having to watch them" which isn't helped by the current explosion of casual gaming.

- secondly, those that did care about age ratings got conflicting advice. Some games rated by one authority with one set of rating iconography, whilst the BBFC rated the 18 games. Now, even though I have been in this hypocritical industry for too long to remember, I have little idea who PEGI or ELPSA or whomever are - but I do know (as do the majority of the country) and recognise the BBFC age ratings.

Why confuse the issue with many different ratings? .. which sort of is agreeing with what Brian is saying.
Comment by Brian Baglow on October 30, 2008 at 11:21

The latest update for you all...
ELSPA (The European Leisure Software Publishers Association) has created a 'traffic light' system outlining the content of games. Green is simple and child-friendly. Red is for mature players. To remove any doubt, there's a great big number in the middle, telling you specifically what audience the game is intended for.

The BBFC are now apparently cross enough to threaten legal action, as they claim this infringes their own system of coloured circles (and triangles) with numbers in.

It's good to see the industry pulling together to focus on the real problems...
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on October 29, 2008 at 20:11
Great post Brian let's keep this discussion thredaing its an important aera for several people on 38minutes. To many industries have been restrained when purposeful classification is over-zealoulsy applied.

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