A parent’s guide PEGI age ratings

Do you know about the PEGI age rating system for video games? Here's a useful guide for parents.

The video game Fortnite has attracted a lot of publicity recently. My eldest daughter, Helen, who is on the cusp of turning 10, was adamant she didn’t want to play it because of an incident involving another kid. She then discovered the game features some popular dance moves. Having learned of this and loving to dance, she recently sidled up to me and asked if I would buy it for her. The first thing I did was take a look at the PEGI age rating and I was very surprised to discover it was 12 years of age.

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I was inspired to produce this parent’s guide to PEGI age ratings because of my lack of knowledge of the age rating system. Pic credit: JEShoots on Unsplash.

Why was I so surprised? Well, loads of her friends are playing the game. Not one of them has reached 12 years of age. Worse still, I know of children who have been allowed access to games such as Call of Duty from the age of eight.

I know that playing a video game is slightly different to going into a corner shop as a 14-year-old and nervously trying to buy a bottle of White Lightening cider. Even so, this is not the first time one of my children has asked to have access to age inappropriate games or apps “because Bob / Phil / Sandra / Felicity is allowed to play it.”

What this experience made me realise was that my knowledge of the PEGI system was very poor. Knowing I couldn’t be the only parent coming up against this, I decided to speak to the Video Standards Council and produce this Parent’s Guide to the PEGI Age Rating system.

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Unsure how much attention you should pay to this symbol? read on to find out.

I’ll start with a comment from Ian Rice who is Director General of the Video Standards Council Ratings Board. When I asked him what he felt parents need to know about the PEGI system, he said:

“The PEGI ratings system is primarily designed to ensure that children are not exposed to material which may affect their development and general well-being.  Many modern video games are no longer the simple, blocky, arcade-like media they used to be.  Contemporary games often deal with difficult and harrowing themes and can include strong, graphic content that younger children especially may find upsetting, frightening or disturbing”

With Ian’s words in mind, here’s what you need to know.

What is a PEGI rating?

I’ll start with the very basics. PEGI stands for Pan European Games Information system. It’s essentially the age-rating system for video games and is used in 30 countries.

The system provides visual information you’ll either find online or on a game’s packaging, depending how you download it. However you download the game, you’ll find a series of age logos and pictograms like those pictured below. They show both the recommended age group and the major content issue within the game; violence, sex, bad language, etc.

If you’re British and reading this, you may be slightly alarmed by the word “European,” what with the UK’s impending departure from the European Union. The PEGI system will continue to be used in the UK post-Brexit. It is not an EU or Governmental body so there will be no impact.

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The PEGI age rating symbols.
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PEGI content descriptors. These show what the content of a video game may contain.

What are the various ratings?

The PEGI ratings are divided into the following age categories:

PEGI 3 – suitable for everyone up to 6 years of age

PEGI 7 – suitable for those aged 7 and upwards

PEGI 12 – suitable for those aged 12 and upwards

PEGI 16 – suitable for those aged 16 and upwards and

PEGI 18 – suitable for those aged 18 and upwards.

PEGI ratings 12, 16 and 18 are legally enforceable. This means games cannot be sold or hired to anyone under those ages. Any retailer that does so could be fined or even imprisoned.

What criteria are games rated against?

A few different criteria will influence a game’s rating. The main criteria are scenes / dialogue centered around gambling, drugs and violence (be it physical, verbal or sexual). Bad language, fear and discrimination are also taken into consideration.

It’s important to stress the PEGI criteria deal solely with the content within the game. External influences, such as online communication between players, cannot be rated.

Where does the Video Standards Council come into things?

Things get a little geeky at this point. Put simply, the Video Standards Council Ratings Board in the UK assesses and issues PEGI ratings in mainland Europe for any game rated PEGI 12, 16 or 18 rating.  PEGI 3 and 7 ratings are undertaken by the Dutch NICAM (Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audiovisual Media.) 

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The Video Standards Council is responsible for setting PEGI age ratings for many games.

Further information

The VSC Ratings Board website is a good source of information for any parents wanting further information. On the site you’ll find additional information for consumers about all the games the VSC rates.

A PEGI app is also available to download for iOS and Android devices. The app provides ratings information about various games and has parental control information about various consoles and devices. It comes highly recommended for parents and the VSC says is gets lots of great feedback from mums and dads who use it.

Finally, the Askaboutgames.com website has information and advice for families about games and the PEGI rating system. Part funded by the VSC, it also features a range of guides to popular games that parents may find useful.

I hope you found that guide useful. I’d be interested to know of your experiences. Do your children pester you for access to games that are age-inappropriate? Do you have any thoughts on the PEGI system? Are you driven to distraction by your child’s peers having easy access to games that are meant for older children and adults? Please do leave your thoughts below or leave a comment on one of my social media channels where you’ll find me as @dadbloguk.

Post shared to #ThatFridayLinky.

15 thoughts on “A parent’s guide PEGI age ratings”

  1. It amazes me how many parents ignore PEGI ratings. There’s nothing unambiguous about them yet I’m aware of primary school kids playing the likes of GTA, Call of Duty and the latest Tomb Raider (Lara has got a lot more violent in recent years!) My kids haven’t asked about Fortnite yet but it’ll be a flat-out no if and when they do. Ratings are there for a reason and there are plenty of age-appropriate titles that offer great gameplay. If they want to see the Fortnite dance moves, all they need to do is watch Dele Alli’s goal celebrations. Job done!

    1. Yes, it amazes and annoys me in equal measures. I find myself being badgered by Helen for access to all manner of games that she shouldn’t be playing and it’s largely because some kids at her school have access to games meant for people that are much, much older. I’ll keep your advice in mind regarding Dele Alli’s goal celebrations.

  2. This is a really good guide and makes things clearer. Having children of different ages I will admit that we often ignore the rating and go by what we think is appropriate for our kids. My eldest daughter, 13 has played some of the higher rated games, but we don’t let her play anything with too much graphic violence or language, or things she can’t cope with. For instance, she has played Call of Duty, but not the zombies. And she always plays with an adult in the house. My younger daughter 11 has played Call of Duty but only the ‘props’ mode which is basically a hide and seek game. They have all played Fortnite but not enjoyed it. My older (adult) kids only play their games in their rooms or after the younger ones are in bed. Seriously, some of them freak me out. I say you can’t go wrong with Mario Kart 🙂

    1. Edit: I know I started this with saying we ignore the ratings…but in fairness, we still don’t let our kids play whatever they want and all play is monitored. I just wanted to point that out 🙂

    2. Haha, yes, it was easier when games were like Mario Kart! I think that’s the point Ian Rice was making, game shave changed and there needs to be a system in place. I know age ratings aren’t fool proof. That said, you seem to be mitigating this and you do monitor things. Strikes me many parents don’t.

  3. It can be hard for our children when they feel like they’re the only ones not playing a particular game. However the ratings are there for a very good reason. One of my sons friends bought COD around to play and was upset that I wouldn’t let him play it. It’s up to his parents what they allow but I will not allow it myself #thatfridaylinky

    1. I salute you for taking that stance! Let him be upset. His parents also need to get the message that was not acceptable. Hopefully you have made them think.

    1. Alas, i think you are correct. Some mums and dads don’t care and that’s really sad. I dread to think what you have experienced as a teacher.

  4. Sadly the ratings are often ignored by parents as children put pressure on parents to play unsuitable games. Ratings are there for a reason and I have done my best to adhered to them really interesting post john Thanks for linking to #Thatfridaylinky hope to see you next week

    1. Yes, I have always adhered to the rating Nigel. They are there for a reason. Giving a, 11.5 year old access to a game for 12 year old may not be a huge issue, but when an eight year old is playing Call of Duty or GTA, thatt’s when there’s something wrong with the world.

  5. I dont agree as my son plays gta5 and call of duty and hes 12. it wouldnt be fair for him to not play with his friends besides i have seen the games he plays and I dont mind it’s his way of chatting and playing with his friends and I’m not gona stop him from socialising.

  6. Any article on PEGI which mentions the role of NICAM gets a thumbs up from me. As this article says, NICAM are in charge of our PEGI-3 and PEGI-7 ratings and a couple of years ago they were awful. We had sexual content, fake apps and horror content sitting on Google Play with PEGI-3 and PEGI-7 ratings. I’m hoping things have improved.

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