Friday, 6 November 2015

Exploding Sheep?

I recently got a phone call from someone who was worried about their seven year old son playing “Minecraft” of all things – normally it’s seven year olds who’ve been let loose on “Call of Duty” or “GTA V” - so you can imagine my surprise when this was raised.   It was evident that the caller rarely engaged with video games and I pressed them as to what was the problem exactly.  It seems that they objected to Minecraft because it allows the user to blow-up animals – sheep in particular!  Though I have limited experience of Minecraft myself, I do know that the graphics are pretty simplistic and that there isn’t exactly much to see.  I pointed this out to them and they admitted that they hadn’t actually viewed the game in action, but had ‘heard explosions followed by the sound of a braying sheep.’   Do sheep bray?  Let me know if you have the answer.

Their judgement was based solely on something they had heard and they believed that such ‘cruelty’ to animals was not something they wanted their son to engage with even in a somewhat simplistic and unrealistic video game – fair enough!  I tried to explain that rating systems tend to be something of a blunt instrument which cannot take into account each and every individual reaction to a video game.  They appreciated this, but still thought the PEGI 7 was incorrectly applied to this game.

This example typifies the lot of the regulator –  it would seem from most of the correspondents on the PEGI website that we either rate material too highly or too lowly – there never seems to be a happy medium.  However, we recognise that you can’t please all of the people all of the time which is why we provide quite a comprehensive amount of supplementary info on our website.  PEGI provides pictorial content descriptors and the Games Rating Authority (GRA) provides detailed additional consumer information – use the game search function on the website – which outlines what a game contains and how it is portrayed.  From this we hope that consumers can make an informed buying decision rather than relying on the sales patter of game store staff or even their own children.

As to our caller... we had a good chat about the kind of games that might be more suitable for their son, but it was difficult to convince them to get involved or interested in what their child is playing.  Nevertheless, they understood that it is probably easier to wrestle a greased weasel than it is to find the absolutely ‘correct’ rating for a video game.  Let’s hope the kid never discovers “Super Exploding Zoo” or “Lemmings”... I know it traumatised me and I’ve never kept a pet since!

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Games Rating Authority.

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