Brussels wants better warnings on violent video games
The European Commission on Tuesday (22 April) said all EU countries should use the same age-rating system when it comes to video games and make that system known to citizens.
It also called for an EU-wide code of conduct on the sale of video games to minors to be introduced within two years.
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Video games are "a very important industry for Europe," but also one "that impacts on society," Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for the information society and media, and Meglena Kuneva, EU consumer commissioner, said at a joint press conference in Strasbourg.
Currently, the value of the video games market has reached half that of the music industry, with one third of the global gaming market European, according to commission data.
In addition, 42 percent of Europeans spend between one and five hours playing video games "in a typical week", while 11 percent spend more than 15 hours on this activity.
That is why "we have to develop a good level of information on the content of games," in order to protect children – but also young adults – from the most violent elements contained in some of them, Ms Reding said.
Since 2003, the vast majority of EU member states have been using an age-rating system called PEGI – Pan European Games Information – developed by the video games industry itself, in order to protect the youngest users from games judged too violent.
The system includes five age categories and uses content descriptors for bad language, discrimination, drugs, fear, sex, violence or gambling.
It is currently applied by 20 member states, while three use other legislative measures. Cyprus, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovenia have no age-rating system in place.
"PEGI, as an example of responsible industry self-regulation and the only such system with almost pan-European coverage, is certainly a very good first step," commissioner Reding stated.
"However, I believe it can be greatly improved, in Europe and beyond, by making the public more aware about its existence," she added.
Despite its concern that some video games could cause "aggressive behaviour" in individuals however, the commission admitted that a direct link between video games and violence is difficult to establish.
Instead, commissioner Kuneva said, "we need to work … on the precautionary principle".
For his part, Belgian Christian Democrat MEP Ivo Belet from the European Parliament's Committee for Culture and Education backed the commission's call for a generalised European system of age-rating and product information, and for increasing "the media literacy of young people".
But he also warned against the possible banning of some video games.
"Forbidding violent games or taking them off the market will not yield the result we want, as young consumers can get hold of them anyway online or via illegal downloads. Often x-rated games will only make games more attractive to young gamers," Mr Belet stated.
The commission also said it wanted "most of all" to inform parents and educators and "let them take their responsibility" when it comes to buy or not a certain game.
At this stage, four EU states – Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK – have taken the step of prohibiting video games judged too violent.