Pan European Game Information
|Purpose||Video game classification|
|Europe, Canada (Quebec only), Israel|
The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) is a European video game content rating system established to help European consumers make informed decisions on buying computer games with logos on games' boxes. It was developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) and came into use in July 2003; it replaced many national age rating systems with a single European system. The PEGI system is now used in more than thirty countries and is based on a code of conduct, a set of rules to which every publisher using the PEGI system is contractually committed. Not all of Europe uses the PEGI rating system. PEGI self-regulation is composed by five age categories and eight content descriptors that advise the suitability and content of a game for a certain age range based on the games content. The age rating is not intended to indicate the difficulty of the game or the skill required to play it.
On 30 July 2012, PEGI became the sole system for age classification of video games in the United Kingdom. As a result, games no longer have to be rated separately by the BBFC. Products with PEGI ratings are regularly available in countries outside Europe, having been exported for language reasons (e.g. games in French in Canada, or games in Spanish and Portuguese in Latin America).
PEGI has five age categories.
- 3: Suitable for children aged 3 or over. A game with this rating can contain very mild violence in an appropriate context for younger children, but no profanity or frightening scenes are allowed.
- 7: Only suitable for children aged 7 or over. A game with this rating can contain mild or unrealistic violence (including violence in a cartoon context), or elements that can be frightening to younger children.
- 12: Unsuitable for persons under that age. A game with this rating can contain violence in a fantasy context or in a sporting action, some gambling, mild or infrequent uses of strong language, mild sex references, mild sexual content or sexual innuendo.
- 16: Suitable for ages 16 and older. A game with this rating can contain realistic violence, more frequent uses of strong language, moderate sexual references or moderate sexual content, more gambling, or encouragement of drug use including tobacco and/or alcohol.
- 18: Only suitable for adults. A game with this rating can contain graphic scenes of violence with blood and gore, very explicit language, partial nudity, strong sexual content, lots of gambling, drug glamorisation, or a discrimination.
The current design was introduced at the end of 2009. Black and white icons were used until June 2009, when the colour-coded PEGI icons were announced, with green for 3 and 7, orange for 12 and 16 and red for 18. Plus signs were removed from the icons, and the background text changed from 'ISFE' from the old, black-and-white icons to 'PEGI' from the new, colour-coded PEGI icons. That design was slightly altered at the end of 2009, by removing the watermark and locking the URL bar underneath the age rating icon. Reprinted games from 2009 or before still mostly display the old designs.
In Portugal, two of the PEGI categories were aligned with the age ratings of the film classification system to avoid confusion; 3 was changed to 4 and 7 was changed to 6. Finland also used to adopt a modified scale, where 12 became 11 and 16 became 15. Finland fully adopted PEGI on 1 January 2007, and the standard ratings were fully enforced as well.
The eight content descriptors are:
|Icon||Content descriptor||Explanation||Corresponding age ratings|
|Violence||Contains scenes of other characters getting killed, often by weapon use. A game with this content descriptor can also contain gore and blood-letting.|
|Profanity||Contains mild, infrequent or strong profanity.|
|Fear / Horror||Contains scenes or elements that are frightening to younger children.|
|Sex / Nudity||Contains some sex references. A game with this content descriptor can also contain nudity and characters dressed in suggestive clothing.|
|Drugs||Contains references to illegal drugs or a fictional substance that has parallels to real-life illegal drugs (in use, possession, or sale).|
|Gambling||May contain elements that encourage or teach gambling. In practice, only a small portion of video games contain gambling elements. If any game would offer the option to gamble for real money, it would be subject to specific gambling legislation in every country where it is released. Currently, no video games use the Gambling content descriptor just to gamble for real money.|
|Discrimination||Contains scenes or references to cruelty or harassment based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, ability, or sexual preferences.|
|Online||Contains an online game mode.|
As of December 2013, PEGI has rated more than 21,800 games. 45% of these games were rated 3, 14.3% rated 7, 22% rated 12, 12.5% rated 16 and only 6.2% were rated 18.
Of all the games that were rated in 2013 (1542 games in total):
- 59% (916) have the Violence content descriptor
- 29% (458) have the Online content descriptor
- 22% (340) have the Profanity content descriptor
- 10% (159) have the Fear / Horror content descriptor
- 3.5% (55) have the Sex / Nudity content descriptor
- 1.5% (23) have the Gambling content descriptor
- 0.7% (11) have the Drugs content descriptor
- 0.0% (0) have the Discrimination content descriptor
PEGI and the European Union
A consumer survey commissioned by ISFE in 2012 demonstrated that the PEGI age rating labels are recognised on average by 51% of respondents in 16 different countries (highest: France - 72%; lowest: Czech Republic - 28%), while 86% of all respondents found them to be clear and 89% percent found them useful.
PEGI is an example of a European harmonisation. The European Commission supports the PEGI self-regulation: "PEGI appears to have achieved good results and PEGI On-line is also a promising initiative, making of PEGI a good example of self-regulation in line with the better regulation agenda." Moreover, the European Parliament in its last report on protection of consumers "takes the view that the PEGI system for rating games is an important tool which has improved transparency for consumers, especially parents, when buying games by enabling them to make a considered choice as to whether a game is suitable for children."
Rating process and boards
To obtain the ratings for any piece of software, the applicant submits the game with other supporting materials and completes a content declaration, all of which is evaluated by an independent administrator called the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audiovisual Media (NICAM). It is based on the Dutch Kijkwijzer system as well. Following the evaluation the applicant will receive a license to use the rating logos. If the applicant disagrees with the rating, they can ask for an explanation or make a complaint to the complaints board. Consumers may also make complaints to this board.
Although PEGI was established by an industry body (ISFE) the ratings are given by a body independent of the industry and the whole system is overseen by a number of different Boards and Committees. There is the PEGI Council, composed mainly by national representatives for PEGI, that recommends adjustments to the code in light of social, legal and technological developments. Members of the PEGI Council are recruited for their skill and experience from among parent/consumer body representatives, child psychologists, media specialists, civil servants, academics and legal advisers versed in the protection of minors in Europe.
There is also a Complaints Board with experts from various European countries. They deal with complaints related to breaches of requirements of the code of conduct or to age rating recommendations. Should a complaint be received from a consumer or publisher regarding a rating given to a game and no satisfactory settlement can be reached by the PEGI administrator through discussion, explanation or negotiation the complainant may formally request the Complaints Board to mediate. Three board members will then convene, hear the complaint and decide on a ruling. Publishers using the PEGI system are bound by the decision of the Complaints Board. Consequently, they are obliged to carry out any corrective actions required and, in cases of non-compliance, are subject to sanctions as laid out by the code.
In 2013, PEGI introduced the International Age Rating Coalition at the 2013 London Games Conference. IARC is a cooperation of rating boards on all continents and it aims to streamline the rating of digitally distributed games by providing a single online system that produces age ratings for all participating regions. By filling out one questionnaire, a publisher instantaneously receives ratings from PEGI, USK, ESRB, ACB and others.
There are three committees; a criteria committee, a legal committee and an enforcement committee.
- Criteria Committee: The Criteria Committee is made up of representatives from ISFE, NICAM, VSC and the industry. It works on adapting and modifying the PEGI questionnaire and the underlying criteria to take account of technological and content developments and recommendations made by the Advisory Board or circumstances brought to light by the complaints procedure.
- Legal Committee: Since PEGI is a voluntary system it runs in conjunction with, and is subordinate to, existing national laws, whether they prohibit certain content or establish mandatory rating systems. The Legal Committee's role is to advise ISFE of any changes to national legislation within participating countries that could have an impact on the voluntary age rating system.
- Enforcement Committee: The Enforcement Committee is charged with implementing the recommendations of the Advisory Board and, more generally, of ensuring the enforcement of the provisions of the PEGI Code of Conduct, including conclusion of the Complaints Board. The Enforcement Committee is made up of ten members, five of which are publishers, and five of which are chosen from the PEGI Council.
In 2007, the PEGI Online division of PEGI was formed as an addition to the PEGI system for online games. Goals include giving young people in Europe improved protection against unsuitable online gaming content and educating parents on how to ensure safe online play. This project is supported directly by the European Commission:
PEGI On-line, which was launched in June 2007 and co-funded by the Safer Internet Programme, is the logical development of the PEGI system, designed to better protect young people against unsuitable gaming content and to help parents to understand the risks and potential for harm within this environment.
PEGI Online is based on four principles:
- the PEGI Online Safety Code and Framework Contract which is signed by all participants
- the PEGI Online Logo which will be displayed by holders of a licence
- the web site for applicants and for the general public
- an independent administration, advice, and dispute settlement process
The licence to display the PEGI Online Logo is granted by the PEGI Online Administrator to any online gameplay service provider that meets the requirements set out in the PEGI Online Safety Code (POSC).
Where PEGI is used
PEGI is used in 31 European countries, French-speaking areas of Canada (especially Quebec), and Israel. The ratings system is partially recognised in other countries such as the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and South Asia since they are considered official PAL regions, although they may import games from regions outside of PEGI's jurisdictions. PAL games officially released in Australia are usually rated by the ACB. Legally enforceable means the ratings are not simply "voluntary" or "advisory" but are enforced by some kind of local regulation or law. ESRB is the primary rating system in Canada, while some French-language products, mainly in Quebec, carry a PEGI label.
|Country||Legally enforced?||Notes||Additional rating
|Austria||Yes||PEGI is legally adopted and enforceable in the Vienna region, but until 2013 there is a transitional arrangement which allows USK as well.|
|Belgium||No||Officially supports PEGI, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Canada||No||Rates some French-language games sold in Quebec and other Francophone communities, primarily those that are imported from France.||ESRB|
|Cyprus||No||Officially supports PEGI and is represented in the PEGI Council, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Denmark||No||Officially supports PEGI and is represented in the PEGI Council, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Estonia||No||Officially supports PEGI and is represented in the PEGI Council, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Finland||Yes||Finland adopts PEGI which is exempt from mandatory classification with national age symbols. Both classifications are enforced by the penal code.||KAVI|
|France||Yes||France has adapted legislation to make classification of video games with age labels mandatory.|
|Germany||No||USK system is adopted and enforced. PEGI is not formally recognised, although PEGI labelling can be found on games along with the USK rating.||USK|
|Iceland||Yes||PEGI is officially supported and age classifications are mandatory for video games by law.|
|Ireland||No||PEGI ratings are excluded from mandatory classification by IFCO, which adopts PEGI but is still legally empowered to ban certain video game content from the market.|
|Israel||Yes||PEGI has been adopted by law as the mandatory classification system for video games in Israel.|
|Lithuania||Yes||Lithuanian legislation adopts PEGI which is exempt from mandatory classification with national age symbols. Both classifications are enforced by the penal code as of Nov 2010.|
|Malta||No||PEGI ratings are not yet enforced in Malta but has intentions to support PEGI as a self-regulatory system.|
|Netherlands||Yes||PEGI is officially adopted and legislation is in place to enforce the age classification in shops where video games are sold.|
|Poland||No||PEGI ratings are not yet enforced in Poland but has intentions to support PEGI as a self-regulatory system.|
|Portugal||No||PEGI has officially been adopted by the Portuguese Classification Board IGAC.||IGAC|
|Russia||No||Used only if the game was published by a foreign publisher.||"Russian Rating System"|
|Slovakia||No||Slovak media law obliges distributors to mark games with national age labels.|
|Slovenia||Yes||Officially supported. No further need for additional restrictions due to extremely low game-related incident history.|
|Switzerland||No||Shopkeepers are obligated to sign a code of conduct in which they are bound to enforce the age restrictions of PEGI. If a PEGI rating is non-existent for a product, the ratings for the German USK system prevails.||USK|
|Ukraine||No||PEGI just as recommendation (No strict laws about game labelling).|
|United Kingdom||Yes||As of 30 July 2012, PEGI is the legally enforcable system for game classification in the UK. Up until then, that responsibility was carried out by the BBFC, with PEGI labels appearing on boxes of games that were exempt from game classification.||BBFC|
||This section has an unclear citation style. (August 2010)|
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- Tom Ivan. "PEGI Unveils New Ratings Symbols".
- "PEGI 2013 annual report, page 13". Pegi.info. Retrieved 2014-06-22.
- "Videogames in Europe: Consumer Study - European Summary Report" (PDF). isfe.eu. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
- Communication from the commission of the European parliament, the council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions, on the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games, Brussels, 2008,p.9
- Toine Manders, Report of the European Parliament on the protection of the consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games, 2009, p.6. article 24
- "PEGI Assessment Form" (PDF). Pegi.info. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- NICAM website[dead link]
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- Communication from the commission o the European parliament, the council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions, on the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games, Brussels, 2008, p.3.
- "PEGI Online Website". Pegionline.eu. Retrieved 2011-06-29.
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