We may not still be a British colony, but if the Brits have their way, the American gaming industry could shortly be following suit, making it more difficult for teen gamers to gain access to their favorite games. Particularly at risk: gamers who play car racing games. Britain’s plan? They will be converting their video game rating system to more closely match the rating system used for movies, in an effort to protect children from the savagely realistic games that are appearing in great numbers on the market.
Because graphics are nearly as life-like as movies, and come with adult themes and realistic-looking violence, Britain’s culture minister, Margaret Hodge, believes the new rating system is appropriate and necessary. She cites Grand Theft Auto IV as an example of a game that has pushed the envelope over the edge, requiring the new rating system. Gamers who play car racing games know that Grand Theft Auto IV is a car racing video game in which the gamer plays the role of a gangster. Characters in the game include prostitutes and one of the actions gamers can take is to do a drive-by shooting.
Like America, Britain currently uses a classification system that is voluntary and indicates a suggested age. However, the age restrictions are not heavily enforced in either country, and that concerns both parents and child psychologists alike. The ratings used in the American system include: “Early Childhood” (EC), “Everyone” (E), “Everyone 10 and older” (E10+), “Teen” (T), “Mature” (M) and “Adults Only” (AO). If the push for a new, stricter rating system gets approval in Britain later this month, American gamers should be on the lookout for the industry to follow suit here. There has long been a push to have stricter controls over the age gamers must be to access the more violent games, and Britain’s latest ploy may just give this country the leverage it needs to do the same.
Gamers who play car racing games should watch closely what happens over the next several months. American gamers argue that the hype about violent video games is just that, citing a 2005 review of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, in which less than 13 percent of all video games required the “mature” (M) or “adults only (AO) rating that indicated excessive violence and adult content, and 86 percent of the games were clearly within the realm of EC to T. In addition, gamers who play car racing games contend that the multiple versions of games like Halo and Grand Theft Auto inaccurately reflect the actual number of unique violent games on the market. Regardless of the reality, Britain’s push for tighter ratings will probably result in advocates of video game regulation here trying even harder to tighten the access.