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VSC: Half of games released in UK are family friendly

Only 11 per cent of PEGI rated games receive 18 rating, but depictions of sex are of greater concern than violence

More than half of all games released in the UK are suitable for the entire family.

According to a report published by the Video Standards Council (VSC) - the regulatory body responsible for assigning PEGI ratings in the UK - 53.3 per cent of the 298 games submitted in the period between July 30 and December 31, 2012 were classified for children aged 7-years or under. More than 33 per cent were deemed suitable for children aged 3-years of under.

This runs contrary to gaming's apparent fascination with violence and mayhem - a frequent preoccupation of prominent industry figures and the press. Indeed, only 11.7 per cent of games submitted during that period were given an 18 classification, with a further 15.5 per cent awarded a 16 rating.

Give that the period between July and December is season for the industry's blockbusters, which are generally base on more adult subject matter, PEGI anticipates that a full-year report would have seen the 16 and 18 ratings come in, "two or three percentage points lower."

However, analysis of the VSC's ratings criteria shows a relatively severe stance on depictions of sex and nudity.

In terms of violence, the PEGI 16 classification is awarded for, " realistic violence and sustained depictions of death or injury to human characters." Furthermore, a PEGI 18 classification is awarded for, "Gross violence and such things as torture, sadism, horrific depictions of death or injury, motiveless killing and violence towards vulnerable people."

By contrast, a game will receive a PEGI 16 rating for showing the, "the sex a non-explicit manner" or "erotic or sexual nudity." If sex is depicted explicitly then that rating would increase to PEGI 18. Theoretically, the, a game that featured sustained, sadistic violence would receive the same rating as a game that frankly depicted consensual sex on one occasion.

This could prove prohibitive for developers interested in exploring sex and sexuality in games - one of the few de facto taboos that remain for the medium - as the VSC "does not take context into account" when handing out ratings. Once a game depicts an act that falls under the PEGI 18 rating, it cannot be awarded anything less.

The VSC was declared the UK's official PEGI body in July 2012.

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Latest comments (8)

Craig Burkey Software Engineer 7 years ago
I noticed the Mass Effect games jumped from BBFC 15 to PEGI 18
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Matthew Handrahan European Deputy Editor, GamesIndustry.biz7 years ago
It would be most unfortunate for developers if the sex scenes in Mass Effect were considered 'explicit'
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development7 years ago
Something has gone very wrong with our public psyche when a bit of nudity or sex is frowned on, yet machine-gunning innocent passers by is more acceptable. We are actually born to procreate. It's what we do. It's all we're for. Everything else is just filler.

I think it comes down to prudes moaning about it for years/decades/centuries that it's gone in and stuck. Whereas games with machine guns are fairly new. Because even though I just wrote that, I wouldn't feel comfortable getting a shag in front of my parents either.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development7 years ago
@Paul, yes we are born to procreate, but there's a very practical reason we don't expose young people to sexually explicit content - perhaps because we are born to procreate and for that reason we don't want to expose them too early before they are ready.

Likewise you probably wouldn't want to expose a psychopath to violently explicit content early on because they're born to kill.

So given young children are more likely to sexually experiment from young ages than violently experiment with guns, I think it's safe to say we've got it right.
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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments7 years ago
"Theoretically, the, a game that featured sustained, sadistic violence would receive the same rating as a game that frankly depicted consensual sex on one occasion."

That's not really a good comparison - 18 is the top rating, so by definition anything that just scrapes in will be sharing a category with something that is included on multiple grounds.

Not considering context presumably applies to violence as well, so a single incidence of torture for valid reasons would tip it into 18 just the same. Don't see it that sex is being targeted more severely.
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Chris Hunter-Brown IT / Games specialist, BBFC7 years ago
A point to note on these stats, PEGI/VSC always used to count each platform separately and this can sometimes skew things. I've no idea if they do this still as there's no link to the detail. 298 looks a little low if we're counting platforms so perhaps it's changed.

As someone else alluded, there will typically be more PEGI 18's than BBFC 18's because "context is not taken into account".

The original Mass Effect actually got a 12 from the BBFC. The other two were 15's.
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Sam Brown Lead Audio Programmer, TT Games7 years ago
Paul's point about people bizarrely being more shocked by sex and nudity than by violence still stands though. There can be no doubt that had Justin Timberlake shot Janet Jackson at the Superbowl instead of tearing her top off there wouldn't have been nearly as much fuss.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany7 years ago
"Depictions of sex are of greater concern than violence"

And that only is reason enough for us to believe that something is really wrong with our culture...
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