Friday, April 25, 2008

BPN 1079 Improvement of industry codes for video games

The European video games sector is dynamic, with expected revenues of € 7.3 billion by the end of 2008. However, public concerns that video games can cause aggressive behaviour, heightened by school shootings such as in Helsinki (Finland, November 2007), have led several national authorities to ban or block video games such as "Manhunt 2". In response, the European Commission has surveyed existing measures protecting minors from harmful video games across the 27 EU Member States. 20 EU Member States now apply PEGI, an age-rating system developed by industry, with EU support, since 2003. In the Commission's view, industry must invest more to strengthen and in particular to regularly update the PEGI system so that it becomes a truly effective pan-European tool. Also, industry and public authorities should step up cooperation to make classification and age rating systems better known and to avoid confusion caused by parallel systems. A Code of Conduct for retailers should be drawn up within two years on sales of video games to minors.

Video games are increasingly accessible via internet and mobile phones, which are expected to make up 33 percent of total revenues for video games by 2010. The European video gaming sector is already worth half as much as the entire European music market and exceeds the cinema box office.

According to the Commission survey, the PEGI system is currently applied by 20 Member States. Two countries (Germany and Lithuania) have specific binding legislation while Malta relies on general legislation. However, four Member States (Cyprus, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovenia) have no system in place. Fifteen Member States have legislation concerning the sale of video games with harmful content to minors in shops, although the scope of laws varies between Member States. Until now, four countries (Germany, Ireland, Italy, UK) have banned certain violent video games. In the Netherlands the minister of justice announced that he was unable to prevent the sale of Manhunt 2 on the basis of the existing laws.

Adopted in 2003, PEGI labels provide an age rating and warnings such as violence or bad language, empowering parents to decide which game is appropriate for their children, as well as adult gamers to better choose their games. PEGI is supported by the major console manufacturers in Europe. PEGI Online was launched in 2007, co-funded by the EU's Safer Internet Programme, in response to the rapid growth of online video games.The Commission has called for several measures to converge approaches in the Single Market:
- Regular improvement and better advertising of PEGI and PEGI Online by the video games industry;
- Member States should integrate PEGI into their own classification systems and raise awareness of PEGI, particularly parents and children;
- Cooperation on innovative age verification solutions between Member States, classification bodies and other stakeholders;
- A pan-European Code of Conduct on the sale of games to minors within two years, agreed by all stakeholders.

The Commission already supports self-regulation at European level to protect minors using mobile phones. Self-regulation strengthened by cross-border cooperation has also been pursued for audiovisual services under the Television Without Frontiers Directive.

Blog Posting Number: 1079

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