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Making sure it IS just fun and games - 22/04/2008

Visual symbols used to indicate violence, bad language, frightening imagery, sex, drugs, discriminatory content and gambling

As public concern grows over a possible link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour, the EU calls on the video gaming industry to establish an effective ratings system.

Is there a link between graphic, no-holds-barred video games and incidents like the Finnish school shooting in November 2007? Some countries thought so, and have banned or blocked video games like "Manhunt 2". What about the more widespread violence on the streets and what seems like a sudden wave of knife crime? While some argue no link has been established, Europeans are not so sure. One thing is clear - parents need to know about the games their kids are playing.

The EU wants a code of conduct on sales of video games to children to be brought in within the next two years, along with a transparent, effective classification system across Europe.

The video games industry within the EU is expected to reach sales worth some €7.3bn this year. EU media commissioner Viviane Reding welcomes the booming sales but thinks it should mean "greater responsibility for the industry". She described the existing pan-European game information (PEGI) system as a good first step.

Twenty countries use PEGI but the goal is to see it applied in all member countries. "Our clear message is that industry and national authorities must go further to ensure that all parents have the power to make the right decisions for themselves and their children," added Meglena Kuneva, consumer commissioner.

What needs to be done?

  • Industry to make improvements to PEGI and PEGI online, and publicise them more
  • Countries to incorporate PEGI into their own classification systems and make sure people know about it
  • New ways of checking the age of buyers to be found
  • A Europe-wide code of conduct to be introduced governing the sale of games to children

These steps need to be taken quickly: games are increasingly available over the internet and mobile phones - 33% of sales will be made this way by 2010. The industry is already worth half the entire European music market and exceeds cinema box office takings.

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