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Age Ratings Do Exist, You Know

Fortnite is a smash hit video game based around basic building and shooting mechanics, with its most popular and talked about mode taking the games concept online in a 'battle royale' - an all v all arena combat mode between 100 players. It has recently crossed the $1 billion-mark in 2018 for developer Epic Games and is on track to generate more than $2 billion before the close of the year (according to the gaming intelligence company SuperData). In addition, with a recorded 125 million users worldwide (as of June 2018), it is fair to call it hugely successful. In fact, it has very quickly achieved something few other games have (besides possibly Halo, Grand Theft Auto, and Call of Duty): mainstream cultural recognition/appeal. This has been achieved primarily through its whacky dance moves inspiring various football stars’ goal celebrations, a whole wave of online dance content, and now even spawning summer dance classes for kids across the UK.

This article will examine the troubling casual nature of hypocrisy from parents regarding “violent” video games, with Fortnite as the primary example. A consistent occurrence, as violent stories are reported in the media (school shootings, terrorist attacks, etc.), is that news outlets and many parents are quick to question the ethics of violence in video games, as well as lay blame on them as the sole cause of said violent events. The following are examples of recent dramatic headlines regarding this issue:

The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) is a legally enforced content rating system established to help European consumers when buying video games or apps. This is the standard used by the UK for game rating. The system primarily utilises age recommendations and content descriptors, which are located on the retail boxes (front and back), or within product descriptions of rated products.

Hypocrisy is displayed when many parents complain of violence in video games, yet simultaneously allow their children to play games rated above their age, such as Fortnite or GTA (rated PEGI-12/Teen and PEGI 18/Adult respectively). This can be seen with such news articles as the following - a piece referring to a 10 year old child, allowed to play the game by his mother (despite Fortnite carrying a PEGI 12 rating), which led to considerable debt.

Fortnite earned its PEGI 12 rating for the following key aspects:

  • The online competitive mode can make the player angry in failure;

  • Violence includes destroying the enemies with whatever items the player gets;

  • Online multiplayer chatting can allow profanity;

  • Crucial and scary sound effects; and

  • The game pushes the player to make in-game purchases.

When parents allow their kids to play games with a rating above their age, yet complain about the level of violence in lawfully rated games and apps, it shows a disregard for the legally-required age rating. This situation is akin to allowing a 10-year-old to see a violent, 18-rated film.

Contrary to many vocal individuals’ beliefs, studies over the years have shown that violence in video games have a minuscule, if any, impact on players and their moods. Studies such as these have even shown that co-operative games can boost positive moods and improve open cooperation (albeit by a small margin comparable to any negative impact). Despite these studies, the hypocritical opinions and actions from parents persist, with many calling for games to be controlled for their content. Fortunately, there is already a legal system in place which is intended to: control the target audience, identify suitable content, and assign an appropriate age rating for the product. This is the aforementioned PEGI ratings system.

PEGI ratings are placed on the packaging of rated products, as well as being placed within most marketing materials used, to ensure that consumers are aware of its suitability for certain ages. This is similar to the BBFC rating system which is used for films. Interestingly, this area of media experiences significantly less criticism regarding the link between its content and real-world violence.

For a thorough rundown of the PEGI ratings and the related imagery used on product packaging, click here.

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