Train2Game News Age Ratings for Games and Netflix to be Improved

Today the BBFC has launched an innovative new industry collaboration with Netflix to move towards classifying all content on the service using BBFC age ratings.

Netflix will produce BBFC age ratings for content using a manual tagging system along with an automated rating algorithm, with the BBFC taking up an auditing role. Netflix and the BBFC will work together to make sure Netflix’s classification process produces ratings which are consistent with the BBFC’s Classification Guidelines for the UK.

It comes as new research by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Video Standards Council Rating Board (VSC) has revealed that almost 80% of parents are concerned about children seeing inappropriate content on video on demand or online games platforms.

The BBFC and the VSC have joined forces to respond to calls from parents and are publishing a joint set of Best Practice Guidelines to help online services deliver what UK consumers want.

The Best Practice Guidelines will help online platforms work towards greater and more consistent use of trusted age ratings online. The move is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of the Government’s strategy to make the UK the safest place to be online.

This includes recommending the use of consistent and more comprehensive use of BBFC age labelling symbols across all Video On Demand (VOD) services, and PEGI symbols across online games services, including additional ratings info and mapping parental controls to BBFC age ratings and PEGI ratings.

The voluntary Guidelines are aimed at VOD services offering video content to UK consumers via subscription, purchase and rental, but exclude pure catch-up TV services like iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My 5 and UKTV Player.

The research also shows that 90% of parents believe that it is important to display age ratings when downloading or streaming a film online, and 92% of parents think it’s important for video on demand platforms to show the same type of age ratings they would expect at the cinema or on DVD and Blu-ray – confirmed by 94% of parents saying it’s important to have consistent ratings across all video on demand platforms, rather than a variety of bespoke ratings systems.

With nine in 10 (94%) parents believing it is important to have consistent ratings across all online game platforms rather than a variety of bespoke systems, the VSC is encouraging services to join the likes of Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo and Google in providing consumers with the nationally recognised PEGI ratings on games – bringing consistency between the offline and online worlds.

The Video Recordings Act requires that the majority of video works and video games released on physical media must be classified by the BBFC or the VSC prior to release. While there is no equivalent legal requirement that online releases must be classified, the BBFC has been working with VOD services since 2008, and the VSC has been working with online games platforms since 2003. The Best Practice Guidelines aim to build on the good work that is already happening, and both authorities are now calling for the online industry to work with them in 2019 and beyond to better protect children.

David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said: “Our research clearly shows a desire from the public to see the same trusted ratings they expect at the cinema, on DVD and on Blu-ray when they choose to watch material online. We know that it’s not just parents who want age ratings, teenagers want them too. We want to work with the industry to ensure that families are able to make the right decisions for them when watching content online.”

Ian Rice, Director General of the VSC, said: “We have always believed that consumers wanted a clear, consistent and readily recognisable rating system for online video games and this research has certainly confirmed that view. While the vast majority of online game providers are compliant and apply PEGI ratings to their product, it is clear that more can be done to help consumers make an informed purchasing decision. To this end, the best practice recommendations will certainly make a valuable contribution in achieving this aim.”

Digital Minister Margot James said: “Our ambition is for the UK to be the safest place to be online, which means having age ratings parents know and trust applied to all online films and video games. I welcome the innovative collaboration announced today by Netflix and the BBFC, but more needs to be done.

“It is important that more of the industry takes this opportunity for voluntary action, and I encourage all video on demand and games platforms to adopt the new best practice standards set out by the BBFC and Video Standards Council.”

The BBFC is looking at innovative ways to open up access to its classifications to ensure that more online video content goes live with a trusted age rating. Today the BBFC and Netflix announce a year-long self-ratings pilot which will see the online streaming service move towards in-house classification using BBFC age ratings, under licence.

Netflix will use an algorithm to apply BBFC Guideline standards to their own content, with the BBFC setting those standards and auditing ratings to ensure consistency. The goal is to work towards 100% coverage of BBFC age ratings across the platform.

Mike Hastings, Director of Editorial Creative at Netflix, said: “The BBFC is a trusted resource in the UK for providing classification information to parents and consumers and we are excited to expand our partnership with them. Our work with the BBFC allows us to ensure our members always press play on content that is right for them and their families.”

David Austin added: “We are fully committed to helping families chose content that is right for them, and this partnership with Netflix will help us in our goal to do just that. By partnering with the biggest streaming service, we hope that others will follow Netflix’s lead and provide comprehensive, trusted, well understood age ratings and ratings info, consistent with film and DVD, on their UK platforms. The partnership shows how the industry are working with us to find new and innovative ways to deliver 100% age ratings for families.”

Call of Duty: Black Ops gets 18 rating

Call of Duty Black Ops

The British Board of Film Classification has given Call of Duty: Black Ops an 18 certificate, citing in game violence as the main reason for this. The BBFC report also reveals that Call of Duty: Black Ops contains a lot of swearing, and it reveals some minor spoilers about Treyarch’s upcoming title.

In summary, the BBFC report that Call of Duty: Black Ops “is a military first-person shooter in which the player takes the role of a member of an elite C.I.A. covert action team operating during the Cold War and attempting to stop the threat of a Soviet chemical weapons project. The game was classified ‘18’ for strong bloody violence and strong language.”

The BBFC statement on Call of Duty: Black Ops in full says:

“The violence takes the form of the player’s involvement in gun battles with various enemies in which an array of contemporary weapons such as automatic rifles, pistols, grenades and other types of explosive ammunition are available, along with larger weapons such as missile launchers which are carried on ships, helicopters and road vehicles.”

“The player can also access bladed weapons for stealth attacks and hand-to-hand combat. The battles are intense and conducted from a first-person perspective with impacts registering as blood spurts which vary in strength depending on the weapon and the range at which it is used. More powerful weapons can also cause dismemberment with resultant gory detail and enemies can be set on fire.

“Although dead bodies can sometimes be used as shields against enemy attacks there is no opportunity to inflict post-mortem damage on downed victims. Whilst most of the intense fighting action, in which the player encounters hordes of enemies, does not linger on injuries or carry a personalised edge, some stealth attacks in which a knife is used to slit an enemy’s throat contain more of a focus on the damage inflicted and some of the non-interactive cutscenes contain stronger bloodshed, for example, in the assassination of a political leader where the action plays out in slow-motion.

“It was these stronger, more focussed moments of bloody violence accumulating through the course of the gameplay that went beyond what may be permitted by the BBFC’s Guidelines at ’15’, which state that ‘Violence may be strong but should not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury’, and which determined the ’18’ category.”

Given that previous Call of Duty titles have received 18 ratings in the past, it probably isn’t all that suprising that Black Ops has also been given the highest certificate. Still it’s interesting to see how the BBFC go about rating games.

The Call of Duty: Black Ops rating announcement comes shortly after Activision released the official Call of Duty: Black Ops launch trailer which you can view here. It does seem to imply that there will be violence…as does the Single Player Campaign Trailer.

You can also see more Call of Duty: Black Ops footage in this Multiplayer Feature from Inside Xbox, while details of the new Call of Duty: Black Ops Gun Game have also surfaced. Call of Duty: Black Ops will also have full 3D support.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is released in one week on November 9th, and many retailers will be opening for midnight launches. Call of Duty: Black Ops will be available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.

So Train2Game, what do you think about Call of Duty: Black Ops 18 rating? Does it sound like it is justified? And when you develop games in future, how much will you be thinking about their rating?

You can leave your thoughts on Call of Duty: Black Ops and game ratings here on the Train2Game blog, or on the Train2Game forum.