Video game safety: less legislation, more information

2009 elections - Culture - 25-02-2009 - 10:39
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"Video games are in most cases not dangerous"  - Toine Manders, MEP

Computer illustration of a video game console ©BELGA

It's easy to demonise violent video games, but a report making its way through parliament says that "video games can have beneficial effects upon young people." We want to know what you think, click below and tell us whether you think video games are good or bad.

The own-initiative report from Dutch Liberal Toine Manders - "The protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games" - follows a study by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, which found that certain video games can in fact stimulate visual perception skills and memory.
Game violence doesn't necessarily lead to real violence

Fact Box

  • 2008 gaming industry sales totalled over €7 billion
  • Average age of an EU gamer - 33
  • 80% of EU gamers game for "fun"
  • 3.2% of children aged 6-17 use internet cafes without supervision
While some video games contain violent and graphic content, the study also found that game violence does not automatically lead to children acting aggressively in the real world.
Mr Manders said, "video games are in most cases not dangerous and can even contribute to the development of important skills". These skills can include increased creativity and better visual-spatial recognition.
The positive links between computer games and stimulating autistic children are well documented. Benefits have also been noted for those suffering traumatic brain injuries, people with muscular problems and stroke victims, the report said.
Harmonised regulation essential
Not all computer games are suitable for children and the MEP wants the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) harmonised rating system to be enforced across the EU. PEGI rates games in a similar way to films but it is not compulsory and many games are unrated.
"I think PEGI is an excellent system and should become the standard, not only in Europe but also in the rest of the world. What we see at the moment is that several EU Member States have their own rating system which is confusing consumers," Mr Manders said.
"Red button" to regulate usage
Mr Manders is calling for a "red button" to be fitted on gaming devices, allowing parents to control and stop a child's gaming.
"PEGI is 'only' a rating system. It depends for its information on feedback from consumers; ideally the 'red button' would also send a signal to PEGI so they can act upon it," Mr Manders said. "Especially with the development of more and more internet video games it's difficult for rating systems to do their work. Moreover, retailers should be responsible and not sell video games with an 18+ rating to minors."
The idea is not want to ban video games across Europe, but to get tighter regulation and stricter compliance from Member States in enforcing the PEGI system. As a second line of defence, the red button would give parents direct control.
The report will be debated in Parliament the week of March 9. But first we want to know what you think.
Video games- good or bad? - click below to take part in the discussion.
REF.: 20090223STO50154