A police and crime commissioner has called for the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) rating system to adopt an Adults Only rating, similar to that used by its cross-Atlantic equivalent the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Introduced in 2003, PEGI was designed to make it easier for those buying games to asses their suitability for various age ranges. At present, PEGI has five overall categories: 3, for games that have nothing more than extremely mild cartoon violence; 7, which ups the level of violence on offer while also adding in frightening elements; 12, which allows more realistic violence in fantasy or sporting contexts and the option for coarse language and gambling; 16, which allows for realistic or even explicit violence, sexual references and drug use; and 18, the highest rating, which allows for graphic violence and torture, mass-murder, sexual content, and other mature topics.
Its US equivalent, the ESRB, dates back to 1994 - the height of the 'video nasty' craze and a time when Nintendo and Sega were finding their consoles and games brought up before US courts for corrupting innocent minds - has equivalents for each of the PEGI ratings, plus one extra: Adults Only (AO), which requires that the buyer is aged 18 or over. For some games, an AO rating is a badge of honour; for others, it can be a killing blow as many family-friendly retail outlets in the US refuse to stock AO titles, drawing the line at the Mature 17+ ESRB rating.
In a report
from Adam Simmonds, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northamptonsire, PEGI has been asked to adopt an equivalent to the ESRB AO rating for the first time. 'Controversy creates cash. However, today’s report shows that children as young as five are being subject to graphic scenes while playing video games that have left them feeling extremely upset,
' Simmonds claimed in his report on the matter. 'Many parents might not be fully aware that these games contain such disturbing scenes. It is time for the industry to play a more proactive role in protecting young minds. A new Adult Only rating alongside parental locks on consoles will better support parents in safeguarding their children. If companies fail to do this, games involving extreme violence or sexual content should be banned altogether.
Key figures from the report claim that a massive 84 per cent of primary school children play online games, while 25 per cent report having seen something online which upset them - rising as high as 42 per cent for five year olds. Nearly a third of respondents have admitted to viewing content online for which they are underage, across games, music and TV programmes.