More on the Byron Review


The more you read the report itself and, more importantly, some of the media reaction, the more stupid all this is. You can download the full 226 page review here. Or the 12 page executive summary here.

The review seems more concerned about the internet than it is about games. And quite rightly too. There are forums, blogs and social networking sites full of all the very worst stuff that is hardly fit for right minded adults, never mind children. In comparison games and any problems they may cause pale into insignificance.

A supposed problem is protecting our children from any inappropriate in game material. But this just isn’t a problem. The game industry is brilliant at this sort of control. Far, far better than any other popular media. In fact we are over censorious, regularly giving higher age ratings to game content than the same content would get in a film. And remember that books have no age rating.

Currently all games are PEGI rated (which is the industry successfully self regulating itself) and 18+ games (which are a tiny minority) go on to be BBFC rated. Byron wants all games to be BBFC rated on the front of the packaging. And for most games to also have PEGI ratings on the back (that won’t confuse people). The reason she wants BBFC is that it carries the weight of law, whereas PEGI is a voluntary system.

So what she wants is for the industry to shoulder a huge administrative burden when the current system works perfectly well. Then the government want the video game industry to pay to educate the parents about the age rating system. Why should we? They tax us to run an orderly society, they should shoulder the burden if they want to run a propaganda campaign.

The thing is that kids don’t buy games with inappropriate age ratings, they get their parents to do it. And the parents are happy to, even knowing what the content is. Because they see that it causes no harm to their children. So changing from PEGI to BBFC will have zero effect. Other than costing the industry a fortune.

The press reaction to the Byron Review has been massive, far more than I expected. And much of this is just sensationalist misreporting. Journalists grinding out their own agenda with no regard for the facts. The Daily Mail, for instance said “The government-commissioned report says video games can harm the development of children’s beliefs and value systems and desensitise them to violence”. This is a total lie which deceives and misleads it’s readers. The Daily Mail, in behaving like this, is far more dangerous to society than video games.


  1. Pretty good but I take issue with 2 points.

    Although text media does not have an age rating system like those of both movies and games it is worth remembering that there are laws that concern the context of some books and magazines and their supply to minors.

    Print media also have an argument that in many cases unless you understand what the words mean they do not present anywhere near the risk level of more graphic media.

    Also “all” games being rated by PEGI is a massive assumption. Yes if you go into a shop and see a package you’ll likely see a PEGI or BBFC rating. However there are loads of sites online with free flash games with fairly explicit content that I doubt have ever seen a PEGI rating, and if they have they’re certainly not advertising the fact.

  2. Alex, currently the law is only for boxed games – games sold online don’t need ratings (and games can be imported without you being arrested). Don’t give them ideas, it’d be a useless law if it seek to classify every single game on the internet – the workload alone would be unworkable.

    I’d prefer PEGI. The BBFC have shown they censor content, while the PEGI countries had no problem with the same content (and before that, ELSPA didn’t have a problem either). Doesn’t putting in a BBFC rating also cost quite a bit? Painful to small developers 🙁

  3. The PEGI rating system works perfectly, as Bruce says, good retailers make sure that it works. I had a woman approach my counter with Vice City and a 10 yr old boy by her side. I pointed out that the game was called Vice City which gave an indication of the content as did the 18 certification. Her son announced that his friend had it and so he should have it. The mother told him to go and look at some other games. I then proceeded to describe some of the game’s more adult features. Needless to say it was not purchased. The industry does not support “good” retailers. It supports ASDA and Game. Do you think ASDA would have been able to give that parent that kind of service. Needless to say. I left Video Game retail as quickly as I could once I saw the XBOX360. The writing was on the wall. Prior to owning a video game business I worked at a high level for BT and they had the same problem with premium rate phone calls. Parents calling for the phone company to nanny their kids for them.

    You have forgotten to mention how BBFC rating takes time, must be done after the game is completed and will delay time to shelf compared to other countries. I see most of UK retail going to the video game wall as all users either download or purchase european versions from PLAY.COM which will mean even less income for the Chancellor of the exchequer (PLAY are an import game company, I think in the Guernsey or some tax haven and come in the UK post often avoiding VAT).

    Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

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