Laws banning the sale of 18-rated games to children need to be enforced more strongly and warnings on boxes should be clearer, according to the UK's trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt.
While all games in the UK carry the PEGI voluntary rating indicators, which have been criticised in some quarters for being unclear and unfamiliar to parents, in general only those rated 18 carry the legally enforceable BBFC 18 certificate.
However, many retailers openly ignore the 18 rating on videogames - even while enforcing it on sales of DVDs - and while praising the UK's "vibrant games industry", Hewitt has expressed concern that many children are playing adult games with "high levels of violence".
"Adults should be treated as adults and children as children," she commented. "It is important that retailers respect the classifications and do not sell games with high levels of violence to minors."
"Equally parents need to know what they might be buying for their children," she continued. "Video games are different to films or videos, and not all parents have grown up playing games in the way our children do. We need to look carefully at how we improve content warnings and strengthen sales enforcement."
Under the current law, retailers who sell 18-rated games to children can face a fine of up to UKP 5,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months, but this law is routinely left un-enforced at present.
The question of minors having access to violent games was raised in parliament earlier this year after British tabloid newspapers reported that a videogame had been implicated in the murder of a 14 year old boy by another teenager in Leicester.
Although police who investigated the case dismissed any link between the game, Rockstar's violent action title Manhunt, and the killing, there were calls for a number of violent games to be banned.
However, the British government has shown no enthusiasm for the concept of banning violent titles outright, thanks not least to the intervention of industry representative body ELSPA, and has preferred to focus on the problem of children having access to unsuitable material.
Culture, Sport and Media secretary Tessa Jowell backed Ms Hewitt's comments, saying: "You wouldn't let your child watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You wouldn't let them go to a strip club. So you shouldn't let them play an 18-rated game. It's the same principle - adults can make their own informed choices, but children can't always and need to be protected."
Source: BBC News Online
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