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As our name suggestions, we aim to answer your questions about video games, no matter how big or small. If you have an unanswered question, read of our frequently asked questions below and if they don’t help, simply fill in the form to email our editor.

FAQ

What are age ratings?

Age ratings ensure that entertainment content, such as films, videos, DVDs, and computer and video games, is clearly labelled for the minimum age group for which it is suitable. Age ratings provide guidance to consumers to help them decide whether or not to buy a particular product.

Previously, in the UK, age ratings for computer and video games came under two complementary systems: the voluntary European PEGI system, which stands for Pan-European Games Information, and the mandatory BBFC system, which stands for British Board of Film Classification.

Now, PEGI is the sole system used for new games. PEGI is used and recognised throughout Europe and is supported by the European Commission. Many thousands of games have been PEGI-rated since the scheme was devised and introduced in early 2003.

Essentially, the PEGI rating on a game confirms that it contains content suitable for a certain age group and above.  So, a 7 game is suitable for everyone who is seven or older while an 18-rated game is deemed suitable only for adults. It is not, however, a measure of who will enjoy the game or how difficult that game is.

When buying a game for anyone under the age of 18, always look at the age rating to check it is suitable for the intended end-user.

Further information on age ratings.

Why have age ratings?

Computer, console and handheld gaming is now a mass-market leisure activity, with millions of players throughout Europe. In the UK, at least one in three people played a video game in the last year. And many of these players are adults: in fact, the average age of games players is now over 33.

While most games are suitable for players of all ages, there is a huge older market and, just like film and video, there are games that are only suitable for people over 18 years old.

It is not a massive proportion of games – in fact only around 27 of titles released in 2011 were certified with the 18 recommendation – but it is important that parents and others buying games for children are aware of the content of the games. And that’s where age ratings come in.

PEGI age ratings are one type of information that can help players of all ages make the best choices about the games they play on their own and with their family.

More information on Age Ratings.

What do the symbols mean?

Computer and video games are age-rated according to the PEGI (Pan-European Games Information) system, and all packaging is visibly marked, front and back, with the traffic light age bands 3, 7, 12, 16 and 18.   The square symbols on the left of this page are examples of the PEGI ratings.

Where necessary, icons found on the back of the box indicate the content to be found in the game: drugs, bad language, sexual, violence, discrimination or fear. These are called game descriptors and are shown on the left of this page.

Everyone in the UK adheres to this system, including the major console manufacturers such as Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, as well as by publishers, developers and retailers.

Note that there are also historic ratings under the Video Recordings Act of 1984 where some games were referred to the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) and may have a BBFC rating, usually 15 or 18, as our examples show on the left of this page. Additionally, older games will have the black and white versions of the PEGI badges with a plus next to each number. This is only a labelling difference and still represents the same age criteria.

More Information about PEGI Age Ratings.

What are the legal penalties for someone who abuses the age rating system?

From the summer of 2012 the PEGI system has been effectively incorporated into UK law and the VSC has been designated as the body responsible for the age rating of video games under the PEGI system. Video games will be age rated at one or other of the following age levels.

You will see the age ratings marked on the sleeves.

Mandatory: It is important to note that the age ratings 12, 16 and 18 age ratings are mandatory and that it is illegal for a retailer to supply any game with any of these ratings to anyone below the specified age.

Advisory: The age ratings 3 and 7 are advisory only. The PEGI age ratings will enable parents and carers to make an informed choice when buying a game for their children.

Retailers have the obligation to train their staff properly in order to minimise the risk of breaking the law. If a member of staff supplies an age restricted product to someone under age it is the member of staff and the retailer who can be prosecuted. Responsible retailers have been training their staff on the subject of age restricted products under the VRA since 1985.

More information about the PEGI ratings.

Is it possible for my child to become addicted to games?

Gaming is a hobby, like reading, listening to music or playing a sport. As with other hobbies, those participating in playing games can engage with it deeply and passionately. There is no conclusive research identifying a link between games themselves and addiction. In a few cases people have been known to play games excessively, but this is often likely to be down to the individual playing the game and not the content or medium. If you are concerned about the health of someone who is playing games excessively then you should consult your GP.

Millions of people play games because they enjoy them; and some people enjoy them more than others. Playing video games is simply another daily activity that can give people pleasure. In fact, UK gamers aged 16-49 spend most time surfing the internet (83% spending more than six hours a week) or watching TV (71% spending more than 6 hours a week). Only 24% spend more than six hours per week playing console or PC video games, less than the proportion who read books for that long (28%).

Games should be played as part of an active and healthy lifestyle and can have many beneficial effects. They help people of all ages to develop social skills such as collaboration and turn taking and nurture strategic thinking. Playing active technology and fitness games can also improve physical health, and offer other general health benefits that result from this.

However, regular breaks are vital for healthy game play. UKIE recommends that players should take regular breaks – at least five minutes every 45 – 60 minutes as a rule of thumb.

We recommend that parents use the parental controls systems available on all main games consoles to control how their children play games: parental controls can be used to restrict the amount of time spent playing games, limit internet access and control access to age appropriate content.

For further information, an independent assessment of this issue was undertaken as part of the government’s Byron review. Another useful report is the BBFC’s research “to improve understanding of what players enjoy about video games and to explain their preferences for particular games.”

Can computer games cause epilepsy?

The key point here is that the current research shows that video games don’t cause epilepsy but can trigger a seizure in the extremely small number of people, who already have Photosensitive Epilepsy. This is similar to how their condition could be triggered by watching television, disco lights, or light flickering through trees.

The Consumer Safety Unit of the governmental department formally known as the Department of Trade and Industry, together with the National Epilepsy Society, has carried out exhaustive study into this area, which found that epilepsy cannot be caused by playing computer games.

The report has shown that an extremely small number of people, who already have Photosensitive Epilepsy, might discover their condition by playing games, just as they could discover it by watching television, from disco lights, or light flickering through trees.

If you experience symptoms such as light-headedness, altered vision, eye or face twitching, jerking of arms or legs, disorientation, confusion, or momentary loss of awareness it is recommended that you immediately stop playing and consult a doctor.

Parents should watch for or ask their children about the above symptoms. Children and teenagers are more likely than adults to experience these seizures.

To reduce the risk of Photosensitive Epileptic seizures you can consult your doctor prior to playing video games if there is a history of Photosensitive Epilepsy in your family. Sitting farther from the television screen and playing in a well-lit room is also advisable as it to avoid playing when you feel drowsy or fatigued.

Are videogames bad for my health?

Video games can sometimes falsely be perceived as a sedentary activity. However, our partnership with the Department of Health’s Change4Life Campaign indicates the positive role video games can play in promoting an active and healthy lifestyle.

Nintendo’s Wii Fit Plus is sold with the Change4Life logo on the box. Following the success of the Nintendo Wii series, Microsoft have launched the Kinect console, where your body becomes the controller and a series of cameras and microphones recognise movement and voice to reproduce it on screen. Similarly, Sony have also released their own motion-sensitive PS3 Move controller meaning that the top three console manufacturers all have active gaming systems.

Can playing computer games cause Deep Vein Thrombosis?

Studies suggest that any situation in which someone spends hours sitting in one place can increase the risk of a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). But this can happen with any stationary leisure activity – including watching television, listening to music or reading a book.

It is advised that  prolonged periods of inactivity should be avoided whether you’re playing a game, reading a book, or taking a flight. Take regular breaks and move around to stimulate blood flow through to the extremities. You should also stop playing should you feel unwell and, if symptoms persist, consult a doctor.

Will computer games affect my child’s behaviour?

There is no evidence to suggest that people’s behaviour is negatively affected by playing video games. For example, there is no conclusive evidence directly linking violence in individuals to the games they play. Academic studies in support of this statement include those published by the Harvard Medical School Centre for Mental Health, the Journal of Adolescent Health and the British Medical Journal.

Research undertaken by ULTRALAB at the Anglia Polytechnic has shown that children can very clearly distinguish the difference between violence in computer games and the types of violence they hear about on the news. Video games have been in the home for more than 20 years, and there has not been a single proven case that they are causing children to become violent.

Some games deal with adult themes in the same way that films, television programmes and books do. In each of these cases the PEGI age ratings will help families decide who is able to engage with what is happening on screen in a mature manner.

For further information, an independent assessment of this issue was undertaken as part of the government’s Byron review. Another useful report is the BBFC’s research “to improve understanding of what players enjoy about video games and to explain their preferences for particular games.”

What are the health risks/side effects posed to regular gamers?

As with all hobbies, if games are played sensibly then there are no health risks posed to regular gamers.

Millions of people play games safely every day and playing video games is simply another daily activity that can give people pleasure. In fact, UK gamers aged 16-49 spend most time surfing the internet (83% spending more than six hours a week) or watching TV (71% spending more than 6 hours a week). Only 24% spend more than six hours per week playing console or PC video games, less than the proportion who read books for that long (28%).

Games should be played as part of an active and healthy lifestyle and can have many beneficial effects. They help people of all ages to develop social skills such as collaboration and turn taking and nurture strategic thinking. Playing active technology and fitness games can also improve physical health, and offer other general health benefits that result from this.

However, regular breaks are vital for healthy game play. UKIE recommends that players should take regular breaks – at least five minutes every 45 – 60 minutes as a rule of thumb.

The games industry takes the health and well-being of all consumers very seriously – especially children and has a number of measures in place to ensure that games can be enjoyed safely and sensibly. These include PEGI,  robust age rating system, and we have parental controls on all consoles that help ensure adult games are not played by children.

And don’t forget to take an interest in the games that your children are playing and get an understanding of the content and technology they are using.

How can my family play games more healthily?

Video games, played appropriately can be a great addition to other activities you do as a family. Here are some key points to remember for parents:

  • The PEGI ratings system helps you make informed decisions about which  video games to choose for your family
  • A PEGI rating gives the suggested minimum age that you must be to play a game due to the suitability of the content
  • As parents you can take direct control of what games your children play at home, how they play them and for how long through parental controls on video game systems
  • Choosing and playing video games as a family is the best way to understand and enjoy them together
  • The stories, worlds and characters in video games offer playful ways to engage with a wide range of subjects and fuels creativity, interests and imagination

To take advantage of these benefits our safe and sensible gaming tips for parents are as follows:

  • Engage: Find out what your children are playing and take an interest. Better still, join in the fun and play alongside them yourself!
  • Lighten up: Games should be played in well-lit rooms. Darkened rooms, where games are played on old CRT (cathode ray tube) TV sets, have been known to trigger epilepsy issues amongst some children.
  • Take breaks: Some games can be especially intense, so regular breaks are vital for healthy game play. Encourage your children to take regular breaks – at least five minutes every 45-60 minutes as a rule of thumb.
  • Use parental controls: In addition to clear age rating symbols and descriptor icons, all of today’s consoles offer parental controls. parental controls can be used to restrict the amount of time spent playing games, limit internet access and they allow control of access to age appropriate content.

The PEGI ratings system helps you make informed decisions about which  video games to choose for your family

A PEGI rating gives the suggested minimum age that you must be to play a game due to the suitability of the content

As parents you can take direct control of what games your children play at home, how they play them and for how long through parental controls on video game systems

Choosing and playing video games as a family is the best way to understand and enjoy them together

The stories, worlds and characters in video games offer playful ways to engage with a wide range of subjects and fuels creativity, interests and imagination

The recently re-launched askaboutgames.com website provides further information about video games ratings and offers  real family stories and suggestions on how video games can be a creative and collaborative experience for all the family

What steps should a retailer take to verify a child’s age?

A retailer is quite entitled to use his/her judgement, but it can be tricky working out how old someone is in the 10-14 age range.  We always recommend checking ID and it must be photo ID.  For younger people, the only options are a passport or, alternatively a Citizencard which can now be loaded with cash to pay for purchases.

Do the new regulations apply to legacy PEGI ratings?

Games rated by PEGI prior to 30th July, both the old-style black and white logos and the newer traffic light logos, are also legally enforceable and will not have to be reviewed again.

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