Pegi ratings explained: behind the scenes of the Pan European Game Information system

Infographic with the Pegi ratings explained. All you need to know about how games are reviewed and rated all across Europe!

What is PEGI?

PEGI is a system providing recommendations regarding the age suitability of games, based on their content. Created in 2003 by ISFE, an independent federation of European trade associations and publishers, it is used in 30 European countries, where it has replaced a number of national systems.

Three entities deal with its day-to-day management and development:

PEGI S.A., a Belgian non-profit organisation with a social purpose.
NICAM, the Dutch independent body checking 3 and 7 rated games.
VSC, UK based body tasked with 12, 16 and 18 rated titles.

In most countries, PEGI ratings are not mandatory by law but all main console manufacturers (Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony), PC game publishers and retailers require their presence, making unrated titles very rare.

The PEGI system is also used in Iceland, Malta and Israel.

Labels

PEGI icons at a glance
PEGI icons at a glance

Labels on the front and back of the game packaging display one of the following age levels: 3 , 7 , 12 , 16 and 18 .

Descriptors on the back of the packaging display the main reasons for a particular age rating: violence, bad language, fear, drugs, sexual, discrimination, gambling and online gameplay with other people .

Less than 6% of the 20157 titles rated by PEGI warranted an 18+ rating, while 46% were for all audiences.

Process

Prior to release of each version of a game:

►The publisher completes an online form assessing the game in terms of violence, sex and other sensitive content.
PEGI allocates the according provisional age rating
NICAM or VSC confirm the rating through an "examination pack", containing all the relevant information and materials.
►The publisher is then authorised to use the rating labels.

Publishers using the PEGI System are contractually committed to a Code of Conduct, with fines up to 500.000 EUR for those who break specific rules on age labeling, promotion and advertising.

Questionnaire

The PEGI rating questionnaire is a top-down questionnaire: as soon as content potentially harmful to a specific age group is found, the game automatically receives the rating for that age category.

For example: If a game contains 16-rated violence, but also contains fear (7), it will only get the 16 violence content descriptor and not the fear descriptor.

Also, while other systems contextualize content, and thus allow more freedom, PEGI does not.

As an example, The King’s Speech movie contained swearing that would normally get a 15 rating by the British Board of Film Classification, instead it was given 12A certificate because it was speech therapy and not an insult.In an equivalent situation, PEGI would not contextualize, leading to a 16 rating. This is deliberate, as PEGI is a multi-national system and what might be contextually acceptable in one country may not be so in another.

Ratings

PEGI 18

PEGI 18
PEGI 18

The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes "gross violence", causing revulsion in the viewer.

Games with this rating may contain:

VIOLENCE
►Depictions of gross violence, which includes torture, dismemberment, sadism and horrific depictions of death or injury towards human-like or animal-like characters
►Depictions of apparently motiveless killing or serious injury to multiple numbers of innocent human-like characters
►Depictions of violence towards vulnerable or defenseless human-like characters
►Depictions of sexual violence or threats (including rape)
►Detailed descriptions of techniques that could be used in criminal offences

SEX
►Depictions of sexual activity with visible genital organs

DRUGS
►Glamorization of the use of illegal drugs

DISCRIMINATION
►Depictions of ethnic, religious, nationalistic or other stereotypes likely to encourage hatred

BAD LANGUAGE
►Sexual expletives or blasphemy

GAMBLING
►Moving images that encourage and/or teach the use of games of chance that are played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling

The discrimination descriptor is rarely used, as most jurisdictions forbid any content encouraging hatred.

PEGI 16

PEGI 16
PEGI 16

The level of violence (or sexual activity) depicted in the game is equivalent to what would be expected in real life. This includes strong language, the concept of using tobacco and drugs, and the depiction of criminal activities.

Games with this rating may contain:

VIOLENCE
►Depictions of realistic looking violence towards human-like or animal-like characters
►Sustained depictions of death or injury to human-like or animal-like characters (except arcade style or sporting action)
►Depictions of arcade style or sporting action showing violence containing blood or gore
►Glamorization of crime

SEX
►Depictions of sexual intercourse without visible genitals
►Depictions of erotic or sexual nudity

BAD LANGUAGE
►Sexual expletives or blasphemy

DRUGS
►Encouragement of the use of tobacco or alcohol
►Depictions of the use of illegal drugs

GAMBLING
►Moving images that encourage and/or teach the use of games of chance that are played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling

Despite being the exact same game, 2010’s "Iron Man 2" was rated 16+ on Xbox 360/PS3 but 12+ on Wii, simply because killed enemies vanished on the latter. A technical limitation that also made the violence unrealistic, thus changing the rating.

PEGI 12

PEGI 12
PEGI 12

Videogames with slightly graphic violence towards fantasy character, non graphic violence towards recognizable humans and animals, or slightly graphic nudity. Any bad language must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.

Games with this rating may contain:

VIOLENCE
►Depictions of realistic looking violence towards fantasy characters
►Depictions of non-realistic looking violence towards human-like or animal-like characters
►Moving images that depict any minor assault on a human-like character that does not result in any obvious injury or harm (whether or not it is realistic looking violence)
►Depictions of arcade style or sporting action showing violence

SEX
►Words or activities that amount to obvious sexual innuendo or explicit sexual descriptions or images or sexual posturing

BAD LANGUAGE
►Mild swearing and/or offensive language

GAMBLING
►Moving images that encourage and/or teach the use of games of chance that are played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling

Although actual discrimination warrants an 18+ rating, racially and gender offensive words are considered mild swearing.

PEGI 7

PEGI 7
PEGI 7

Any game that would normally be rated at 3 but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds.

Games with this rating may contain: VIOLENCE
►Depictions of non-realistic violence towards fantasy characters
►Depictions of non-detailed and non-realistic violence towards non-detailed human-like characters
►Depictions of implied violence to humans where the actual violence is not shown
►Depictions of violence that is humorous and is set in a cartoon, slapstick or child-like setting, and is likely to be disturbing to younger children.

FEAR
►Pictures or sounds likely to be scary or frightening to young children

PEGI 3

PEGI 3
PEGI 3

The content is considered suitable for all age groups. Some cartoon-like violence in a comical context is acceptable, but the child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters. The game should contain no sounds or pictures likely to scare young children and no bad language.

Games with this rating may contain:
►Depictions of nudity in a nonsexual context
►Depictions of violence that is humorous and is set in a cartoon, slapstick or child-like setting.

Sources http://www.pegi.info http://www.isfe.eu/ http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2011-04-14-is-pegi-too-tough-article http://www.pegi.info/en/index/id/1184/media/pdf/383.pdf


Alain Dellepiane

Alain Dellepiane @gloc247 02 March 2013
Alain is the founder of team GLOC. Want to read more about localization? You should probably try this blog's Best of, which has a dozen of the best articles ready to read. (View all posts by Alain ➜)

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