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Japanese industry considering age restrictions on games

Customers may be asked to produce ID to buy games targeted at adults in Japan for the first time under new proposals currently being considered by the industry there, following a political storm over videogame violence.

Customers may be asked to produce ID to buy games targeted at adults in Japan for the first time under new proposals currently being considered by the industry there, following a political storm over videogame violence.

Initiatives being explored by the Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association (CESA) would see retailers and publishers, including the platform holders, committing to enforcing a voluntary age rating system not dissimilar to Europe's PEGI ratings.

The move is designed to head off the possibility that Japan's central government may move to impose regulations on game content, following in the footsteps of some regional governments which are considering a variety of moves to restrict sales of violent games.

Already one prefecture, Kanagawa, has banned sales of Grand Theft Auto III to underage customers, using laws already in place to deal with material classified as a "harmful publication", and others - including Aichi, Osaka, Ishikawa and Saitama - are in the process of introducing regulations.

The prefectures are largely reacting to media reports linking violent games with a number of juvenile crimes in Japan, most recently a case in Tokyo where a 15 year old boy killed his parents and then used home-made explosives to destroy their home.

The media seized upon the fact that the boy was a fan of Grand Theft Auto III, much as they did when a 17 year old who killed a teacher and stabbed three others in his old school in February turned out to be a fan of Resident Evil.

The change in the attitude of the media in Japan seems to be aping the sensationalist backlash against games in the US and UK press over the last few years, and western readers will no doubt draw parallels with the Stefan Pakeerah case in the UK last year - which became a major media circus focused on Rockstar's game Manhunt, despite the police officially denying that there was any link between the game and the crime.

Japan has traditionally been held up as an example of a nation where violent media is widespread but violent crime rates are extremely low; and the media's new obsession with violent games is unusual not least because while it's true that the boys in both cases were game fans, statistically it would be more unusual if they didn't play videogames.

Author
Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.