With the PEGI ratings system gathering momentum - in the UK specifically it could become the new legal standard any time now - it's more important than ever that everybody in the industry is in agreement that it's the best possible solution.
Here, Guillaume de Fondaumiere - co-founder of Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream but also chairman of the European developer trade body, EGDF - outlines his reasons for pushing the creators of games to be a part of the decision-making process.
Q: The EGDF has approached ISFE to propose that developers are more involved in the PEGI ratings process - can you just explain why you feel that's important?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: Ratings have become, in the past few years, a highly polemic subject - and one that's been debated without, really, taking the developer's perspective into account. A lot of people - politicians, publishers - have been kind of playing ping pong in bringing up arguments and talking about basically our creations.
We've never really heard authors, game creators, speak out on the subject, outside of certain exceptions with people coming forward and expressing some frustration or anger at some points over some games being banned.
So I think it's high time for us game developers to take some responsibility and to really be at the forefront of this debate. That's why, as the chairman of the EGDF, I asked ISFE in December if we could join the PEGI board and be really involved in crafting the politics of the PEGI ratings system - to be able to discuss how the ratings work.
I think it's particularly important today because there's a shift in paradigm in the industry. Today - I don't know the exact percentage, but more and more games are being published online, directly from the developers to the consumers.
I know that ISFE has now established PEGI Online, but we developers are absolutely not involved in the PEGI system. I think it's high time for us to be part of it, so I hope that ISFE is going to accept our proposition for joining the board.
Q: Have you had any indication as to the response?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: We had a first meeting with [ISFE's] Simon Little, and he's been listening to us. He said he found it interesting - but I think it's time now to move forward and make it really happen.
Q: And do you have a sense of the thoughts of other developers, the EGDF members, and so on - are they keen to have a voice?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: I think it's a very, very serious matter, and I don't think that as we, as game developers, can be outside certain decisions that affect us, or may affect us, tremendously. We have to take a responsibility - we have to bring forward the arguments, and when there's a debate we have to make sure that any policy that's made takes the creator's vision into account.
Within the EGDF it's been unanimously agreed that we need to move forward and talk to ISFE. I'm pretty certain that an overwhelming majority of game developers will welcome this move.
Q: The PEGI system seems pretty popular now, and pretty much everybody agrees that parents need a strong set of guidelines - you feel that can only become stronger and more representative of content with the involvement of developers?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: As of today, the rating is something that's only taken into account by the developer very late in the process. It's usually only at the end of development that the publishers and developers start talking about it. It's a serious matter and I think that if we're not involved as game developers, we can't take it into account from design onwards.
I think that if we're involved, we're going to be more responsible - this is why this move is a very important one for the industry.
Q: And it's important that it's done on a European level?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: Of course - the PEGI system is a pan-European system -
Q: Although not technically pan-European - does it have enough momentum that one day it can truly be representative of Europe?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: Well, except for certain territories such as Germany, for instance - that's a big exception for me - the PEGI system is clearly established as the system of reference. ISFE has done a tremendous job in the past ten years in promoting it and making sure it's the system of reference.
We've seen, especially in the UK over the past few years, that there's a certain pressure to establish either a parallel system - there's now the BBFC - which to me is a bit confusing. I think that what parents and gamers want is clarity.
This is why I'm a strong advocate for a pan-European system that would be established in all countries. In Germany, for instance, the USK system is very interesting one because it's one in which developers are involved. GAME, which is also a member of the EGDF, is involved in that system, and I think that the fact developers are on the board of USK has enabled the system to better take developers' perspectives into account when policies are made and changes are brought forward.
I think that we can have the same thing on the PEGI system - and maybe one day that will be the only system of reference throughout Europe.
Q: Would something similar work in the US?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: Well, it's not for me to talk about how it's going in the United States, but I think that whenever game developers can step forward, fight for what they're doing and what they believe in, they should do it.
Q: Just finally - now Heavy Rain is out there and sales are flowing, what's been the mood of the team?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: The mood of the team is pretty high - we've been working for three and a half years to deliver on a very strong promise. As I always say, reviews are important, sales are even more important, but the most important thing for David [Cage] and I was to deliver on the promise.
I think this is really something that we've tried hard not to under-deliver on. It's always great when you see the specialised press and the gamers see it and reward it with great reviews on one hand and with good sales on the other. It's a very exciting time.
I think that Heavy Rain's success is also a very important sign to the industry. There is space for innovation, and we are - to a certain degree - a relatively conservative industry. An industry where it's sometimes difficult to push the boundaries, so whenever there's a success such as Heavy Rain, it fuels a lot of hope for all the people out there who try to do things differently, and try to expand the market.
So I'm very happy for Quantic, of course, but to a certain degree - if I may - happy for the industry, because I think it really contributes to making this industry more vibrant, more innovative, and reaching a broader audience.
Guillaume de Fondaumiere is chairman of the EGDF, and co-founder of Quantic Dream. Interview by Phil Elliott.