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  Whatever happened to British games censorship?...

Well the games censor has just awoken from a deep sleep and banned Omega Labyrinth Z


Link Here 16th March 2018
Omega Labyrinth Z The Video Standards Council is responsible for UK video games censorship. Normally the group rubber stamps European PEGI ratings but it retains the power to ban games. And in a rare example of usage of such powers, the group has joined Australian in banning Omega Labyrinth Z.

Omega Labyrinth Z is 2017 Japanese console game by Matrix Software

Banned in Australia and the UK in 2018.

Summary

Omega Labyrinth Z is a dungeon crawler game for the PS4 and Playstation Vita. It was submitted with a provisional PEGI 16 rating for depictions of erotic or sexual nudity. The game is set at the Anberyl Girls Academy and legend has it that a holy grail exists that can grant any wish. It is hidden in one of the ancient caves that is located somewhere in the school grounds. A group of female students set out to explore the caves with the aim of finding the grail.

UK: Banned in March 2018 by the Video Standards Council

The VSC Rating Board has ruled that the video game, Omega Labyrinth Z, will not be issued a UK Certificate of Classification.

This refusal is relevant to physical product only (disc, cartridge, etc.) Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act (1984), the VSC Rating Board is required to consider the likelihood of any game causing harm to the user and, subsequently, to wider society by the way in which the game deals with and portrays images of criminal, violent or horrific behaviour, illegal drugs and human sexual activity. The grounds for this decision are as follows: - The likely harm being caused to a viewer or potential viewer, e.g. children or young people.

The game is explicit in its setting within a school environment and the majority of the characters are young girls - one child is referred to as being a first year student and is seen holding a teddy bear. The game clearly promotes the sexualisation of children via the sexual interaction between the game player and the female characters. The style of the game is such that it will attract an audience below the age of 18.

There is a serious danger that impressionable people, i.e. children and young people viewing the game would conclude that the sexual activity represented normal sexual behaviour. There is a constant theme of sexual innuendo and activity throughout the game that suggests behaviour likely to normalise sexual activity towards children. As a means of reward gained by successfully navigating the game, the player has the means to sexually stimulate the female characters by using either a hand held remote device or touch screen software.

The VSC Rating Board believes this content in a game, which would have strong appeal to non-adult players, is an issue which would be unacceptable to the majority of UK consumers and, more importantly, has the potential to be significantly harmful in terms of the social and moral development of younger people in particular.

Update: Banned in Germany, New Zealand and Ireland

16th March 2018. See  article from bbc.com

In a tweet, distributor PQube said its appeal against the UK ban had been rejected. The game has also been refused a rating in Australia and Germany. PQube said it would also not be available in New Zealand and Ireland.

 

  A bit of a lucky dip...

Games censors and the UK parliament considers whether loot boxes in video games need to be regulated as gambling


Link Here 17th October 2017
loot boxLoot boxes are a revenue creating facility where gamers are assisted in their quests by the real money purchase of loot boxes that contain a random collections of goodies that help game progress. loot boxes are found in many commercially successful games, such as Overwatch, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Halo 5: Guardians, Battlefield 1, Paragon, Gears of War 4, and FIFA 17.

The pros and cons of this method of revenue raising has been passionately debated in games forums and teh debate seems to have widened out to more regulatory spheres.

Last week the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), who rate games for North America declared that loot boxes, despite their inherent randomness, do not constitute a form of gambling. The reason, simply put, is that while you don't know what you're going to get out of them, you know you're going to get something -- unlike a lottery ticket, say, where the great likelihood is that your money is just going up in smoke.

The same opinion is reflected by PEGI who rate games for Europe. PEGI operations director Dirk Bosmans told Wccftech:

In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB. The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling, That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it's done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.

And for solidarity the UK games trade group Ukie agreed. Dr. Jo Twist of Ukie said

Loot boxes are already covered by and fully compliant with existing relevant UK regulations. The games sector has a history of open and constructive dialogue with regulators, ensuring that games fully comply with UK law and has already discussed similar issues as part of last year's Gambling Commission paper on virtual currencies, esports and social gaming.

Not everyone agrees though, a British parliamentarian gave a little push to the UK government by submitting the questions:

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of the Isle of Man's enhanced protections against illegal and in-game gambling and loot boxes; and what discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on adopting such protections in the UK.

It seems that the Isle of Mann already sees loot boxes as being liable to gambling controls.

Tracey Crouch, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport responded in a statement, pointing out that definitions and protections already exist regarding loot boxes and other in-game currencies, referencing a paper published by the UK Gambling Commission earlier this year. She said:

Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.

So for the moment it seems that for the moment the status quo will be maintained, but in this age of cotton wool and snowflakes, I wouldn't bet on it.

 

  A scary thought...

PEGI will consider whether PG rated jump scares will be a lot more scary when young gamers are immersed in virtual reality


Link Here 20th November 2015
PEGI logoEuropean games ratings body PEGI says that it will re-evaluate its ratings system when Virtual Reality games arrive next year.

The firm says it will take a closer look at how it assesses fear and horror in terms of suitability for young audiences. Presumably the group is considering whether a PG rated jump scare could turn out to be far more scary than that in virtual reality.

It follows comments from Sony's Worldwide Studio boss Shuhei Yoshida, who told Digital Spy at Paris Games Week that a new ratings system might be needed for games that could cause 'trauma'.

PEGI operations director Dirk Bosmans told MCV:

PEGI should examine the coming wave of VR products using the current questionnaire, but reserve the right to reassess certain elements -- more specifically the criteria around fear (currently rated PEGI 7) and horror (as in non-violent scary imagery, currently rated PEGI 12) -- once a broader range of products hits the market in the coming period of time.

 

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