Pan European Game Information
|Formation||9 April 2003|
|Purpose||Video game classification|
|Interactive Software Federation of Europe|
Pan European Game Information (PEGI) is a European video game content rating system established to help European consumers make informed decisions when buying video games or apps through the use of age recommendations and content descriptors. It was developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) and came into use in April 2003; it replaced many national age rating systems with a single European system. The PEGI system is now used in 39 countries and is based on a code of conduct, a set of rules to which every publisher using the PEGI system is contractually committed. PEGI self-regulation is composed by five age categories and eight content descriptors that advise the suitability and content of a game for a certain age range based on the games content. The age rating is not intended to indicate the difficulty of the game or the skill required to play it.
PEGI has five age categories.
|The content of games with a PEGI 3 rating is considered suitable for all age groups. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to frighten young children. A very mild form of violence (in a comical context or a childlike setting) is acceptable. No bad language should be heard.|
|Game content with scenes or sounds that can possibly be frightening to younger children should fall in this category. Very mild forms of violence (implied, non-detailed, or non-realistic violence) are acceptable for a game with a PEGI 7 rating.|
|Video games that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy characters or non-realistic violence towards human-like characters would fall in this age category. Sexual innuendo or sexual posturing can be present, while any bad language in this category must be mild. Gambling as it is normally carried out in real life in casinos or gambling halls can also be present (e.g. card games that in real life would be played for money).|
|This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. The use of bad language in games with a PEGI 16 rating can be more extreme, while games of chance, and the use of tobacco, alcohol, or illegal drugs can also be present.|
|The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes a depiction of gross violence, apparently motiveless killing, or violence towards defenseless characters. The glamorization of the use of illegal drugs and explicit sexual activity should also fall into this age category.|
The current design was introduced at the end of 2009. Black and white icons were used until June 2009, when the colour-coded PEGI icons were announced, with green for 3 and 7, orange for 12 and 16, and red for 18. Plus signs were removed from the icons, and the background text changed from 'ISFE' from the old, black-and-white icons to 'PEGI' from the new, colour-coded PEGI icons. That design was slightly altered at the end of 2009, by removing the watermark and locking the URL bar underneath the age rating icon. Reprinted games from 2009 or before often still display the old designs.
In Portugal, two of the PEGI categories were aligned with the age ratings of the film classification system to avoid confusion; 3 was changed to 4 and 7 was changed to 6. Finland also used a modified scale, where 12 became 11 and 16 became 15. Finland fully adopted PEGI on 1 January 2007, and the standard ratings were fully enforced as well.
|Standard||PEGI 3||PEGI 7|
The nine content descriptors are:
|Icon||Content descriptor||Explanation||Corresponding age ratings|
|Violence||The game contains depictions of violence. In games rated PEGI 7 this can only be non-realistic or non-detailed violence. Games rated PEGI 12 can include violence in a fantasy environment or non-realistic violence towards human-like characters, whereas games rated PEGI 16 or 18 have increasingly more realistic-looking violence.|
|Bad Language||The game contains bad language. This descriptor can be found on games with a PEGI 12 (mild swearing), PEGI 16 (e.g. sexual expletives or blasphemy), or PEGI 18 rating (e.g. sexual expletives or blasphemy).|
|Fear (PEGI 7) / Horror (PEGI 12)||This descriptor may appear on games with a PEGI 7 if it contains pictures or sounds that may be frightening or scary to young children, or on PEGI 12 games with horrific sounds or horror effects (but without any violent content).|
|Gambling||The game contains elements that encourage or teach gambling. These simulations of gambling refer to games of chance that are normally carried out in casinos or gambling halls. Games with this sort of content are PEGI 12, PEGI 16, or PEGI 18.|
|Sex||This content descriptor can accompany a PEGI 12 rating if the game includes sexual posturing or innuendo, a PEGI 16 rating if there is erotic nudity or sexual intercourse without visible genitals, or a PEGI 18 rating if there is explicit sexual activity in the game. Depictions of nudity in a non-sexual context do not require a specific age rating, and this descriptor would not be necessary.|
|Drugs||The game refers to or depicts the use of illegal drugs, alcohol, or tobacco. Games with this content descriptor are always PEGI 16 or PEGI 18.|
|Discrimination||The game contains depictions of ethnic, religious, nationalistic, or other stereotypes likely to encourage hatred. This content is always restricted to a PEGI 18 rating (and likely to infringe national criminal laws).|
|Online||May contain online interactions. This descriptor was discontinued by PEGI in 2015, with the majority of present-day games and all consoles allowing for online interactions. Still appears for games classified before July 2015.|
|In-Game Purchases||Introduced in 2018. May contain additional paid content, such as microtransactions or downloadable content, that can be purchased with real money inside the game.|
As of December 2015, PEGI has rated more than 25,300 games. 42.2% of these games were rated 3, 15.8% rated 7, 22.3% rated 12, 12.7% rated 16 and only 7% were rated 18.
Of all the games that were rated in 2015 (1855 games in total):
- 64.7% (1201) have the Violence content descriptor.
- 25.4% (472) have the Online content descriptor.
- 18.4% (341) have the Bad Language content descriptor.
- 7.7% (142) have the Fear content descriptor.
- 4.7% (88) have the Sex content descriptor.
- 1.4% (26) have the Gambling content descriptor.
- 1.2% (23) have the Drugs content descriptor.
- Overall 5 games have the Discrimination content descriptor.
PEGI and the European Union
A consumer survey commissioned by ISFE in 2012 demonstrated that the PEGI age rating labels are recognised on average by 51% of respondents in 16 different countries (highest: France 72%; lowest: Czech Republic 28%), while 86% of all respondents found them to be clear and 89% found them useful.
PEGI is an example of European harmonisation. The European Commission supports the PEGI self-regulation: "PEGI appears to have achieved good results and PEGI On-line is also a promising initiative, making of PEGI a good example of self-regulation in line with the better regulation agenda." Moreover, the European Parliament in its last report on protection of consumers "takes the view that the PEGI system for rating games is an important tool which has improved transparency for consumers, especially parents, when buying games by enabling them to make a considered choice as to whether a game is suitable for children".
To obtain the ratings for any piece of interactive software, the applicant submits the game with other supporting materials and completes a content declaration, all of which is evaluated by an independent administrator called the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audiovisual Media (NICAM). It is based on the Dutch Kijkwijzer system as well. Following the evaluation the applicant will receive a license to use the rating logos. If the applicant disagrees with the rating, they can ask for an explanation or make a complaint to the complaints board. Consumers may also make complaints to this board.
Although PEGI was established by an industry body (ISFE) the ratings are given by a body independent of the industry and the whole system is overseen by a number of different Boards and Committees. There is the PEGI Council, composed mainly by national representatives for PEGI, that recommends adjustments to the code in light of social, legal and technological developments. Members of the PEGI Council are recruited for their skill and experience from among parent/consumer body representatives, child psychologists, media specialists, civil servants, academics and legal advisers versed in the protection of minors in Europe.
There is also a Complaints Board with experts from various European countries. They deal with complaints related to breaches of requirements of the code of conduct or to age rating recommendations. Should a complaint be received from a consumer or publisher regarding a rating given to a game and no satisfactory settlement can be reached by the PEGI administrator through discussion, explanation or negotiation the complainant may formally request the Complaints Board to mediate. Three board members will then convene, hear the complaint and decide on a ruling. Publishers using the PEGI system are bound by the decision of the Complaints Board. Consequently, they are obliged to carry out any corrective actions required and, in cases of non-compliance, are subject to sanctions as laid out by the code.
Global cooperation in IARC
In 2013, PEGI co-founded the International Age Rating Coalition with USK and the ESRB. IARC aims to streamline the rating of digitally distributed games and apps by providing a single online system that produces age ratings for all participating regions. By filling out one questionnaire, a publisher instantaneously receives ratings from PEGI, USK, ESRB, ACB and others.
There are a number of committees to ensure the system keeps functioning properly.
- Experts Group: The PEGI Experts Group is made up of academics working in the fields of psychology and sociology, and representatives from NICAM, VSC, and the games industry. It works on adapting and modifying the PEGI questionnaire and the underlying criteria to take account of technological and content developments and recommendations made by the PEGI Council or circumstances brought to light by the complaints procedure.
- Legal Committee: Since PEGI is a voluntary system it runs in conjunction with, and is subordinate to, existing national laws, whether they prohibit certain content or establish mandatory rating systems. The Legal Committee's role is to advise PEGI s.a. of any changes to national legislation within participating countries that could affect the voluntary age rating system.
- Enforcement Committee: The Enforcement Committee is charged with implementing the recommendations of the PEGI Council and, more generally, of ensuring the enforcement of the provisions of the PEGI Code of Conduct, including conclusion of the Complaints Board.
In 2007, the PEGI Online division of PEGI was formed as an addition to the PEGI system for online games. Goals include giving young people in Europe improved protection against unsuitable online gaming content and educating parents on how to ensure safe online play. This project is supported directly by the European Commission:
PEGI On-line, which was launched in June 2007 and co-funded by the Safer Internet Programme, is the logical development of the PEGI system, designed to better protect young people against unsuitable gaming content and to help parents to understand the risks and potential for harm within this environment.
PEGI Online is based on four principles:
- The PEGI Online Safety Code and Framework Contract which is signed by all participants
- The PEGI Online Logo which will be displayed by holders of a licence
- The website for applicants and for the general public
- An independent administration, advice, and dispute settlement process
The licence to display the PEGI Online Logo is granted by the PEGI Online Administrator to any online gameplay service provider that meets the requirements set out in the PEGI Online Safety Code (POSC).
PEGI is the standard age rating system for video games in 38 European countries and Israel, but products with PEGI labels can be found across the globe alongside other rating systems as a result of import for linguistic reasons (e.g.: English versions in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, Spanish or Portuguese versions in Latin America). The official status of PEGI ratings varies from country to country, depending on the way national legislation deals with age classification and the protection of minors. In some countries, PEGI is the de facto standard without specific regulation, other countries have officially acknowledged PEGI as the sole system for age ratings, while yet another number of countries have incorporated the PEGI rating system into laws governing the age classification of media, making the labels enforceable in retail.
Asterisks denote European Union membership.
|Albania||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Austria*||PEGI is legally adopted and enforceable in the region of Vienna . Other regions allow the choice between PEGI and USK, with the exception of the Salzburg region, where USK labels are mandatory. Represented in the PEGI Council.|
|Belgium*||Officially supports PEGI, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Bulgaria*||Officially supports PEGI and is represented in the PEGI Council, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Croatia*||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Cyprus*||Officially supports PEGI, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Czech Republic*||Officially supports PEGI, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Denmark*||Officially supports PEGI and is represented in the PEGI Council, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Estonia*||Officially supports PEGI, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Finland*||In Finland, games with PEGI ratings are exempt from mandatory classification with national age symbols. Both classifications are enforced by the penal code. Represented in the PEGI Council.||KAVI|
|France*||France has adopted legislation making classification of video games with age labels mandatory. Represented in the PEGI Council.|
|Greece*||Officially supports PEGI and is represented in the PEGI Council, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Germany*||The USK system is adopted and enforced. PEGI is not formally recognised, although PEGI labelling can be found on games along with the USK rating. Not represented on the PEGI Council.||USK|
|Hungary*||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Iceland||PEGI is officially supported and age classifications are mandatory for video games by law.|
|Ireland*||PEGI ratings are exempt from mandatory classification by IFCO, which adopts PEGI. IFCO is still legally empowered to ban certain video game content from the market. Represented in the PEGI Council.|
|Israel||PEGI has been adopted by law as the mandatory classification system for video games in Israel.|
|Latvia*||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Lithuania*||Lithuanian legislation has adopted PEGI which is exempt from mandatory classification with national age symbols. Both classifications are enforced by the penal code as of November 2010.|
|Malta*||Officially supports PEGI and is represented in the PEGI Council, PEGI is the legally enforceable system for game classification in Malta since January 2016.|
|Montenegro||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Netherlands*||PEGI is officially adopted and legislation is in place to enforce age classification in shops where video games are sold.|
|North Macedonia||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Portugal*||PEGI has officially been adopted by the Portuguese Classification Board IGAC.||IGAC|
|Romania*||Officially supports PEGI, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Serbia||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Slovakia*||De facto use of the PEGI labels, but Slovak media law obliges distributors to add national age labels (generally using stickers).|
|Slovenia*||Officially supports PEGI, but there is no specific legislative basis.|
|Switzerland||Switzerland is preparing national legislation to make classification of video games with age labels legally binding.|
|Turkey||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|Ukraine||De facto use of the PEGI labels, no specific legislative basis or official support.|
|United Kingdom||PEGI is the legally enforceable system for game classification in the UK since 30 July 2012. Has official support for PEGI, and is represented in the PEGI Council.||BBFC|
Portrayals of gambling
Games containing minigames resembling casino games and gambling may be subject to heightened ratings due to "12" being the minimum for the "Gambling" descriptor. A 2016 re-release of Pokémon Red and Blue for Nintendo 3DS received a "12" rating (despite receiving the "E" rating from the U.S.-based ESRB) due to its "Game Corner" feature, which includes slot machines that can be played with in-game cash to earn coins redeemable for items. The European release of Pokémon Platinum (2009) was modified to remove the slot machines and replace them with non-interactive "game machines".
In 2019, the basketball video game NBA 2K20 received criticism for a trailer, focused on its "MyTeam" mode, which depicted chance-based minigames styled after casino games such as roulette, slots and pachinko. The visuals were considered to be sensitive due to increasing controversy over use of "loot box" mechanics in video games. After receiving an e-mail expressing concern over the trailer, PEGI clarified in response that the "Gambling" descriptor applies only to games that "teach" and "encourage" gambling, although admitting that the trailer's imagery may have been "too close for comfort" for some viewers, and that PEGI did not base its ratings decisions off singular trailers.
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- Toine Manders, Report of the European Parliament on the protection of the consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games, 2009, p.6. article 24
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- "PEGI Online Website". Pegionline.info. Retrieved 29 June 2011.
- Communication from the commission of the European parliament, the council, the European economic and social committee and the committee of the regions, on the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games, Brussels, 2008, p.3.
- "PEGI Online Safety Code". Pegionline.info.
- "Austrian government page explaining PEGI and its legal status in the regions".
- "Article explaining plans for legal change in France".
- "Text of the amendment proposing the change".
- "Statutes of the USK system" (PDF).
- "Icelandic Media Act (2006)".
- "Article detailing legal requirement to use PEGI in Israel".
- "Legislative text specifying PEGI as the labelling system for video games in Lithuania".
- "Penal code text specifying enforcement of sales restriction of certain media content to minors".
- "Government document outlining the role of PEGI in legal context" (PDF).
- "Swiss federal government announcement".
- "MCV: PEGI ratings come into force today".
- "BBC News: UK enforces PEGI video game ratings system".
- Yin-Poole, Wesley (31 August 2019). "PEGI responds to complaint about NBA 2K20's age-rating following casino trailer backlash". Eurogamer. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
- Towell, Justin. "European Pokemon Platinum's missing Game Corner explained". GamesRadar. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
- Wakeling, Richard. "NBA 2K20 Trailer Is Very Happy To Showcase Its Loot Boxes And Gambling Mechanics". GameSpot.
- "PEGI aware that NBA 2K20 gambling imagery may be "too close for comfort"". GamesIndustry.biz. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
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