To buy or not to buy is a burning question for many parents faced with children begging for the latest games. But thankfully, there is a system in place to make purchasing decisions so much easier.
You may have seen the age rating boxes on the packaging of games available to buy in the shops. These are regulated by an organisation called PEGI (which stands for Pan European Game Information). It is the sole age rating body for videogaming in the UK and it also used in European countries.

The ratings are helpful guides for parents when making decisions about appropriate content. They clearly show what age a game is suitable for and they are backed up by content descriptions.

There are five age categories (3, 7, 12, 16 and 18) and eight content descriptions (violence, bad language, fear, sex, gambling, drugs, discrimination and online).
Additionally, some titles also feature the BBFC rating logos which again are helpful guides for parents when making decisions about appropriate content. They look identical to the age-rating guides you see on films.

Parents

The age ratings provided by PEGI are intended to be a guide rather than hard and fast rules. The ultimate decision is in the hands of parents or parental guardians. By becoming more familiar with how the ratings work, you will be better able to judge suitability.

Here are some tips:

  • Always look for the age classification on the game package or via the search engine on this website.
  • Try to look for a summary or review of the game content or ideally play the game yourself first.
  • Play video games with your children, watch over them when they play and talk with them about the games they play. Explain why certain games are not suitable.
  • Be aware that online games sometimes enable the download of extra software that can alter the game content and eventually the age classification of the game.
  • Online games are usually played in virtual communities requiring players to interact with unknown fellow players.
  • Tell your children not to give out personal details and report inappropriate behaviour.
  • Set the limits by using the parental control tools of the game console or pc.

The ratings

  • 3 – suitable for those aged three and above
  • 7 – suitable for those aged seven and above
  • 12 – suitable for those aged 12 and above
  • 16 – suitable for those aged 16 and above
  • 18 – suitable for those aged 18 and above

PEGI ratings are double tiered. They state an age and they also provide additional information which make buying decisions easier. It is essential to understand that not all games are made for children. A large proportion of adults play games and there may be content in non-adult titles which are unsuitable for the very young.

So a PEGI 7 game is only suitable for those aged seven and above and an PEGI 18 game is only suitable for adults aged 18 and above. The PEGI rating considers the age suitability of a game, not the level of difficulty.

  • Violence – Game contains depictions of violence
  • Bad language – Game contains bad language
  • Fear – Game may be frightening or scary for young children
  • Sex – Game depicts nudity and/or sexual behaviour or sexual references
  • Gambling – Games that encourage or teach gambling
  • Drugs – Game refers to or depicts the use of drugs
  • Discrimination – Game contains depictions of, or materials which may encourage, discrimination
  • Online – Online game

Health

Anything done to excess is bad for you and videogames are no exception. When played as part of a balanced life, however, they are enriching and pose no danger to health.

Although some aspects of gaming should be noted (not least Nintendo’s warning that children under the age of six should avoid playing on the Nintendo 3DS console) with 33.5 million people in the UK now playing video games and 22% of these are under 18, perceptions are changing (Internet Advertising Bureau UK)

There is in fact increasing evidence that playing video games can have health benefits to children and adults alike:

  • Canadian research showed that after 10 hours of gaming over a month, vision in young players had improved with participants being able to read two extra lines of an eye chart
  • German neuroscientists asked 23 people to play Super Mario 64, for at least 30 minutes a day for two months. MRI scans showed some players experienced growth in specific areas of their brains:The Hippocampus which is responsible for orientation and spacial navigation, the cerebellum: the area which co-ordinates fine motor skills and the right pre frontal cortex: which is responsible for planning and organisation, all showed growth and improvement.
  • With the huge social side to gaming the gamer is no longer alone. Social game play is said to have made an effect on levels of depression amongst children with communication and team work being a large part of today’s video games.

(source: BBC iWonder)

Online Games and In-App Purchases

F2P games can be of great value to consumers and developers alike. This is because the F2P business model allows consumers to play extremely high quality games entirely free before actually spending any money. A report published by TIGA in 2013 showed that typically 95 per cent of consumers playing a F2P game don’t spend any money at all.

However, it is important that the video games industry adheres to high standards. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) (now the Competition Markets Authority) has developed a set of Principles for Online and App-based Games with which all games businesses selling games to UK consumers have had to comply with since April 1st 2014. The eight principles have been developed after extensive consultation with TIGA, games businesses and other interested parties. They ensure that consumers, particularly children, are protected from commercially dubious practices.

The CMA has published a short guide providing advice to parents and carers about these games. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/buying-features-in-online-games-advice-for-parents-and-carers

The eight principles are:

  1. The costs associated with playing should be clear, accurate and displayed “prominently up-front” before a consumer plays.
  2. All other material information about a game should also be clear, accurate and displayed “prominently up-front” before a consumer plays.
  3. Information about the games business should also be provided to the consumer, including whom they ought to contact in case of queries.
  4. In-game promotion of extra paid-for content and the promotion of other products or services should be clear, distinguishable from gameplay and the explanation should be tailored to the consumer’s age.
  5. A game should not give a false impression that payments are required or are an integral part of the way a game is played if that is incorrect.
  6. Games should not include aggressive practices, or those otherwise having the potential to exploit children’s inexperience, vulnerability or credulity.
  7. A game should not include direct exhortations to children to make a purchase or persuade others to make a purchase for them.
  8. Payments should not be taken from the payment account holder unless expressly authorised.purchase for them.

The ratings

Ages

  • 3 – suitable for those aged three and above
  • 7 – suitable for those aged seven and above
  • 12 – suitable for those aged 12 and above
  • 16 – suitable for those aged 16 and above
  • 18 – suitable for those aged 18 and above

PEGI ratings are double tiered. They state an age and they also provide additional information which make buying decisions easier. It is essential to understand that not all games are made for children. A large proportion of adults play games and there may be content in non-adult titles which are unsuitable for the very young.

So a PEGI 7 game is only suitable for those aged seven and above and an PEGI 18 game is only suitable for adults aged 18 and above. The PEGI rating considers the age suitability of a game, not the level of difficulty.

  • Violence – Game contains depictions of violence
  • Bad language – Game contains bad language
  • Fear – Game may be frightening or scary for young children
  • Sex – Game depicts nudity and/or sexual behaviour or sexual references
  • Gambling – Games that encourage or teach gambling
  • Drugs – Game refers to or depicts the use of drugs
  • Discrimination – Game contains depictions of, or materials which may encourage, discrimination
  • Online – Online game