The Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system was established to help European parents make informed decisions on buying computer games. It was launched in spring 2003 and replaced some national age rating systems with a single system now used throughout most of Europe.
The system is supported by the major console manufacturers, including Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, as well as by publishers and developers of interactive games throughout Europe. The age rating system was developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE).
Age ratings are systems used to ensure that entertainment content, such as films, videos, DVDs, and computer games, are clearly labelled for the age group for which they are most suitable. Age ratings provide guidance to consumers (particularly parents) to help them decide whether or not to buy a particular product.
Interactive computer game playing is now a mass-market leisure activity, with millions of players throughout Europe. While most games are suitable for players of all ages there are many that are only suitable for older children and young teenagers. There are also some games that are made for adults only (over the age of 18).
The rating on a game confirms that it is suitable for a certain age group. Accordingly a 7+ game is only suitable for those aged seven and above and an 18+ game is only suitable for adults aged eighteen and above.
PEGI is used and recognised throughout Europe and has the enthusiastic support of the European Commission. It is considered to be a model of European harmonisation in the field of the protection of children.
PEGI age rating labels appear on front and back of the packaging at one of the following age levels - 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+. They provide a reliable indication of the suitability of the game content in terms of protection of minors. The age rating does not take into account the difficulty level or skills required to play a game.
PEGI 3+ - The content of games given this rating is considered suitable for all age groups. Some violence in a comical context (typically Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon-like forms of violence) is acceptable. The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to scare or frighten young children. No bad language should be heard and there should be no scenes containing nudity nor any referring to sexual activity.
PEGI 7+ - Any game that would normally be rated at 3+ but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category. Some scenes of partial nudity may be permitted but never in a sexual context.
PEGI 12+ - Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.
PEGI 16+ - This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16+.
PEGI 18+ - The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes depictions of gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since in a lot of cases it can be very subjective, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.
Descriptors shown on the back of packaging indicate the main reasons why a game has received a particular age rating. There are eight such descriptors: violence, bad language, fear, drugs, sexual, discrimination, gambling and online gameplay with other people.
Bad Language (Game contains bad language)
Discrimination (Game contains depictions of, or material which may encourage, discrimination)
Drugs (Game refers to or depicts the use of drugs)
Fear (Game may be frightening or scary for young children)
Gambling (Games that encourage or teach gambling)
Sex (Game depicts nudity and/or sexual behaviour or sexual references)
Violence (Game contains depictions of violence)
Online gameplay (Game can be played online)
Over the last few years, the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system has provided parents in Europe with detailed recommendations regarding the suitability of game content for young people. The PEGI system offers reliable information that is easy to understand, in the form of age-rating labels and content descriptions on game packaging, thus enabling informed buying decisions.
PEGI Online is a new addition to the PEGI system. Its purpose is to give young people in Europe better protection against unsuitable gaming content and to help parents understand the risks and potential for harm within this environment.
PEGI Online is based on four cornerstones:
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). These requirements include the obligation to keep the website free from illegal and offensive content created by users and any undesirable links, as well as measures for the protection of young people and their privacy when engaging in online gameplay.
The PEGI Online Logo will appear on the packaging of the game if sold on a CD/DVD or on the game website itself. The Logo will show whether the game can be played online, and also whether the particular game or site is under the control of an operator that cares about protecting young people.
Games that are not played online but on consoles or on a PC will continue to be rated under the current PEGI system or other recognized European rating systems already in place.
An online game is defined as a digital game that needs a live network connection in order to be played. This includes not only games played on the Internet, but also those played online through consoles, across mobile phones or via peer-to-peer networks.
The launch of Microsoft’s Xbox Live gave a push for console game providers to develop online elements. Xbox 360 enables players not only to play against each other but also to communicate by voice through a headset. PlayStation 2 and the latest handheld consoles (Nintendo’s DS and Sony’s PSP) allow multiplayer gaming via a WiFi connection and the new generation of consoles, such as Sony’s Playstation3 and Nintendo’s Wii, offer full online gameplay capabilities via the Internet.
A mobile game is a video game played on a mobile phone, smartphone, PDA (personal digital assistant) or handheld computer. Mobile games can be played using the communications technologies present in the device itself such as text messaging (SMS). However, games that are downloaded to mobile phones via the mobile operator’s radio network are more common and these are then played using a set of gaming technologies in the device itself. Peer-to-peer networks rely on bandwidth and computers instead of servers to enable multiplayer gaming.
Games that do not require an active network connection for gameplay but only use the Internet to post high scores, download game elements or exchange data, are excluded from this definition.
PEGI OK (Game can safely be played by players of all age groups because it does not contain any harmful elements at all)
The PEGI OK label is a PEGI rating for small online (casual) games. Whenever you see a game on a website that has been labelled: ‘PEGI OK’, it means that the game is ‘OK’. In other words: it can safely be played by players of all age groups because it does not contain any harmful elements at all.
A PEGI OK label indicates that the strict PEGI rating criteria have been applied and it has been ascertained that there is nothing in the game that would lead to a higher rating than the standard 3+ category.
To learn more about PEGI rating go to PEGI.info