ELSPA has released details of the key findings submitted to the government following the Byron Review consultancy period.
It claims that ratings rival, the British Board of Film Classification, downgraded 22 adult titles already given an 18 rating by PEGI.
"The BBFCs downgrading of games opens up the potential of unnecessary risk for UK children and teenagers when playing games against other non-UK players online," said ELSPA.
"Last year, of the 50 games that PEGI rated 18+ and passed to the BBFC for classification, the film rating board downgraded 22 of them – almost 50 per cent."
However, the BBFC claims that it takes into account cultural factors when rating games, something that PEGI's Europe-wide system is incapable of doing.
"We're British, and I do think it's important even in an online game world to be able to take account of British sensibilities and we consult the public very widely when we revise out guidelines," said BBFC director David Cooke.
"We attached great weight to tone and context, which is virtually impossible to do with a pan-national system," he added.
The BBFC has previously been criticised for being too heavy-handed with games ratings – last year it refused to give a rating to Rockstar's Manhunt 2, although it was eventually granted a release following appeal.
The ELSPA findings also highlighted the growing problem of regulating online gaming, claiming that if the BBFC were the only system to watch over online titles, children would not be protected from harm.
"If the UK were to 'go it alone' on age ratings, children would not be properly protected in the online space which is by far the most rapidly growing segment of the video games market," detailed the report.
However, GamesIndustry.biz understands the BBFCs David Cooke was actually involved in setting up rival PEGI Online, and Cooke has said that he's "very happy to work with PEGI on online" in the future.
The key findings from ELSPA follow:
- ELSPA has played an active role in the discussions and debate begun by Dr Tanya Byron’s Review, met the needs of the UK Government for a "new classification system for video games" and supports the nine "essential elements of a new classification system" laid out by Tanya Byron.
- The UK games industry has taken the lead in a Europe-wide process to strengthen, clarify and update its age rating system to enhance child safety.
- The UK games industry believes only the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system is future proof and has the ability to protect children on and offline in a rapidly changing online environment.
- PEGI is an independent regulatory system which consistently rates games more strictly than any other system and incorporates very strict penalties for ratings infringement, including severe fines of up to and including EUR 500,000 (GBP 392,000).
- The games industry has committed to making the PEGI system well known and recognised as the gold standard for video games classification.
- The industry has committed significant new resources to parental, child, teacher, retailer and gamer community education, adverting and awareness campaigns to ensure the public understands what the PEGI rating symbols mean, are aware of specific games content and what to look for when buying an age appropriate game at point-of-sale.
- PEGI has developed a 'traffic light' colour coding system, and incorporated plain language content explanations to make the system clearer, more effective and more consistent for parents, children and consumers.
- The games industry fully supports Dr Byron’s recommendation that there must be a statutory classification system for all games rated 12 years and above.
- The UK video games industry has always accepted the Government’s wish to retain the power to ban an individual game in the UK.
- The BBFC is not the best body to rate games as it was not designed for games. It is a film censors body which has tried to adapt itself to an interactive media.
- The BBFCs downgrading of games opens up the potential of unnecessary risk for UK children and teenagers when playing games against other non-UK players online. Last year, of the 50 games that PEGI rated 18+ and passed to the BBFC for classification, the film rating board downgraded 22 of them – almost 50 per cent.
- Separate UK rating risks hindering the development of the video games market – one of the UK’s most successful sectors which currently employs 28,000 people in the UK – and reduces the leisure choices of UK consumers.
- The only way to protect British children now and in the future is to have a robust European rating system which operates online and offline. If the UK were to “go it alone” on age ratings, children would not be properly protected in the online space, which is by far the most rapidly growing segment of the video games market.
- The UK video games industry accepts and supports the nine "essential elements of a new classification system" laid out by Tanya Byron and we’ve used these tests to enhance PEGI and PEGI Online.
- The PEGI system has also been subject to an additional six “character tests” to ensure it fully meets the aspirations set out in Dr Byron’s Review and in the consultation document. These six character tests are that the PEGI and PEGI Online systems must deliver: rigour; profile; trustworthiness; speed and efficiency; proper sanctions; and, protection for children and confidence for consumers.
- The UK video games industry believes that updated PEGI and PEGI Online meets the needs of the UK Government for a "new classification system for video games" as outlined in the consultation document.