Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Electronic Arts (EA)



1.   What are the benefits of video games to (a) children and young people, (b) society, (c) the economy? (Please refer to paragraph 3.2)

  Video games are at heart entertainment. They provide incredible enjoyment and pleasure to many people young and old. They also contribute to skills development unlike other passive entertainment media such as film, TV and music. There are many studies on the benefits of gaming including one authored by Dr Winston in "Child of Our Time". In that study, he showed that game playing children demonstrated a number of development skills such as teamwork, strategic and tactical thinking, puzzle solving and fine motor skills.

  Professor Stephen Heppell refers to the power of games in children's development and education. As games are "synonymous" with children, he has studied and believes that children can learn more quickly and effectively using a video game style mechanic as the learning aid. In one study, he used games as a way of allowing children to safely act out actions, and consequences to those actions, and inter-personal relations in games such as in The Sims. He also echoes the thoughts of Dr Winston.

  In addition, video games are increasingly becoming a family oriented activity, providing family members with a common interest around which to spend valuable family time. And more and more people are playing video games with other people around the world through online services rather than playing alone, illustrating the continuously growing social aspect of gaming.

  While playing video games provides enjoyment, it's also a safe kind of leisure time activity for kids. As it happens mostly at home, parents can and should monitor the content to which their children are exposed. The new consoles and Windows Vista on the PC have easy to manage parental control systems that can block inappropriate content. This is not the case of TV where programming can be viewed by audiences of all ages.

  A February 2007 Nielsen research report into video games found that they are differentiated from other media options, such as watching movies or television, in terms of their ability to offer a greater degree of creative and cerebral stimulation: providing food for the imagination and mental challenges.

  When questioned, 55% of respondents agreed that video games stimulate the imagination (compared to 51% for movies and 36% for TV), and 47% felt that video games make you think (compared to 41% for movies and 38% for television).

2.   What are the opportunities presented by video games to (a) children and young people, (b) society, (c) the economy? (Please refer to paragraph 3.2)

  Video games are an interactive media unlike film and TV. They require participants to actively participate with the content and therefore play out actions and consequences. It allows people to experience what it is like to drive an F1 car, be a professional footballer or golfer. It can teach people the consequences of the decisions they make in these environments and to enable them to adjust behaviour. A child can act out being an England football star with a ball in the back garden and then become that star within the video game.

  People simulation games like the Sims can educate players about social interaction, or the importance of adult responsibility such as holding down a job. A game like SimCity can help players learn about city building, planning and environmental issues.

  Radio, music CDs, movies and TV fit less and less into the media leisure time interests of many people. Instead, consumers are now looking for media opportunities which are challenging and engaging and which consider their own abilities, interests and preferences like video games do.

  Social gaming now also plays a huge role in the way people play. Devices like the Wii allow families to play together when parents aren't familiar with traditional joypad controls. Many players also like to compete (or cooperate) with players from other parts of the world online. This opens up a brand new way of interacting with people from diverse cultures. 60% of PS3 and Xbox 360 owners play via the proprietary online systems.

  Games are great fun which shouldn't be ignored. They provide a degree of escapism as do other forms of leisure activity and entertainment but in an involving manner. We are seeing more and more people play games over the years as the awareness and accessibility increases. The business generates a growing £2bn a year to the UK economy and employs 30000+ staff.

3.   What are the potential and actual risks to children and young people who engage with video games and how should the Review approach defining and measuring the risks? (Please refer to paragraph 3.3)

  The perceived risks to children who pay games are often greater than the actual risks. There are two main areas where fears have been raised : addiction and increased aggressive behaviour.

  Video game addiction : The great majority of gamers do not have problems with knowing when to switch off, and through many studies that have been done in this field, researchers have found that there is little empirical evidence to support the notion of true video game addiction.

  However, parents should always take care to ensure that leisure time activities are balanced. As interactive entertainment isn't addictive itself, it could be a symptom for other life problems when a gamer has addictive gaming behaviour. The question is rather: why are they spending so much time gaming? Do they have any experiences of success in real life?

  Generally speaking, interactive entertainment is not the only important leisure time activity children and young people should deal with. Excessive gaming for a period of time is not problematic (in the same way that excessively reading Harry Potter or playing football is not problematic) but overall there should be a balance. This is primarily the responsibility of the parents. For that reason it is important for them to show an interest in what their children are doing as this is the best way is to know what kind of games they are playing and how much time they are spending doing it.

  Links between game playing and violent behaviour : Although the media have often been known to regularly link aggressive acts by individuals with video games that they have been known to play, suggesting that this is the cause of their violent behaviour, there are innumerable volumes of research that conclude that there is no evidence of a causal link between video game playing and real life behaviour.

  Many studies have tried to establish a link between virtual violence and physical aggression, and have found very little empirical evidence to suggest there is any significant link between the two. See:

    —  Does viewing violent media really cause criminal violence? A methodological review. Aggression and Violent Behaviour—Dr. Joanne Savage, 2005

      —  Key Finding: Dr Savage concludes that there is no causal link between media violence and violent crime, quoting: "The question addressed here is not whether or not the effect is plausible, but whether the effect has been demonstrated convincingly in the scientific literature-and the answer is "not so far".

    —  Review of Research on the Impact of Violent Computer Games on Young People—Raymond Boyle and Matthew Hibberd, Stirling Media Research Institute, 2005

      —  Key Finding: The research evidence of a direct link between video games and violent behaviour in society remains contradictory... /playing violent video games increases arousal and the possibility of aggression in some players however this evidence is often disputed and cannot be simply read as evidence that game playing translates into violent social behaviour

    —  "Playing With Fire? How Do Computer Games Influence the Player?"—the Danish Government and the Unesco Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media, 2004)

      —  Key Finding: It is not possible to say anything conclusive about the potentially adverse effects of violent games. The empirical evidence is too limited and the criticism of the extant research too serious....We can say that the question of the extent to which computer games in general have an adverse effect on all or on many gamers is too broad for a specific answer

    —  Video Games and Real-Life Aggression: A Review of the Literature"—Washington State Department of Health: Office of Epidemiology, 2000

      —  Key Finding: At present, it may be concluded that the research evidence is not supportive of a major public concern that violent video games lead to real-life violence

    —  Evaluating the Research on Violent Video Games—Dr. Freedman University of Toronto

      —  Key Finding: There is substantial, though far from overwhelming or definitive evidence that people who like and play violent video games tend to be more aggressive than those who like and play them less... /there is not the slightest evidence that playing violent video games causes any long-term or lasting increase in aggressiveness or violence

    —  It was reported in 2006 that social scientific data to demonstrate a causative relationship between perceived harms associated with violent video games remains unproven (Source: Chicago University).

  A third area of frequent concern is the idea that children should play only with content that is deemed suitable for their age. PEGI, the industry age rating system, bases its ratings on content, not skill. Parents and users have a responsibility to understand that they shouldn't put a child in front of an 18+ rated game, just as they wouldn't a film.

  A simple review of the PEGI rating system shows the overwhelming minority of games that are published with an 18+ or adult rating. The gaming industry is not an "extreme" content provider, and the content offered that is deemed for adults is no different than that offered to adults in films or books.
Age class Total Percentage
3+ 3,590 48%
7+ 746 10%
12+ 1,868 25%
16+ 939 13%
18+ 334 4%
Total 7,477 100

  Equally important to note is that in Europe, the average age of a gamer is today 28—adults who make their own informed entertainment choices.

4.   What do (a) children and young people and (b) parents know already about the potential and actual risks of playing video games? (Please refer to paragraph 3.3)

  We are not aware of any negative impact on children, youths or adults from gaming beyond those associated with other media such as television. The industry works to advise players that they shouldn't play for extended periods, and take breaks, and offers tools such as rating systems to help parents understand the medium of choice for their kids.

  The PEGI system supports informed adult choice. It provides European parents with age rating recommendations intended to inform their buying decisions regarding content that is suitable to their children.

  Research by Nielsen (February 2007) shows that awareness of the PEGI system is high amongst video game consumers. Findings from this study include:

    —  Six in ten European gamers claim to be aware of a European age ratings system for video games, and when prompted with the PEGI age rating symbols, recognition is near universal (94% of respondents indicated that the visual marks of the PEGI system are well known).

    —  A third of European respondents claim they find the symbols useful when deciding whether to purchase a video game.

    —  Awareness is highest in the UK, standing at 81% in comparison to other European countries.

    —  Demographically, awareness is driven by males (62% vs. 47% among females), and also skewed towards handheld owners (65% vs. 60%-61% among PC and console owners).

    —  Parents in particular appear to place an additional premium on the system, with half claiming to find it helpful

    —  Three in ten adults in Europe feel the symbols are a useful tool when purchasing a game for a child

    —  Six in ten (59%) respondents claim to be aware of a European age ratings system for video games.

    —  Recall (unaided memory) by responders of the symbols, reaches in excess of nine out of ten (93%-98%) in the majority of European countries, with recall peaks among respondents in the UK at 58%. Recall among parents reaches 40%.

    —  On a five point scale, a third of respondents (34%) feel the PEGI symbols are of more value ("extremely useful" or "very useful")

    —  Further analysis of the data reveals that some subgroups place an additional premium on the age ratings system: the system appears to be of particular help to parents (49% "extremely useful" plus "very useful"), females (47%), and respondents aged 25+ (44%).

  The UK trade body, ELSPA, proactively promotes As a company, EA support these education efforts with a very visible link from its UK home page:

  EA also works elsewhere in Europe to ensure that parents and children have accessible, understandable information to help them make infirmed choices about gaming. One example is the website :, operated by EA Spain since 2004 to proactively educate parents about what to expect from each game offering, the type of experience they'll find inside the game and the age appropriateness.

5.   What do (a) children and young people and (b) parents think and feel about the potential and actual risks of playing video games? (Please refer to paragraph 3.3)

  With an easy to use, easy to understand age rating system that can be enforced, there is very little risk associated with playing video games.

  The risk will lie in the adult society's understanding of PEGI as an aid for consumers to make appropriate content choices for game play. Many adults are not game players, and as a result, harbour misperceptions about video games. Exaggerated media reports, often authored by those with little or no hands on experience with gaming, contribute to parents" fears and doubts about interactive entertainment. People under 30 generally understand that games are safe and fun.

  Some of the misunderstanding about the risks associated with video games stems back to the age rating system and a potential lack of awareness that it is content, and not skill, driven.

  Away from the risks, research shows that there are educational benefits to be had from video gaming, and that academia is largely in favour of using video games as part of the learning process in schools.

  This view was demonstrated in a survey conducted by EA and NESTA Futurelab (2006) which found that more than 60 percent of educators in the UK support using video games in education, a stark contrast to the perpetual media frenzy over the potential negative effects of videogames on the developing minds of minors.

  Further to this, 91% of respondents in the survey of 1000 primary and secondary school teachers in the UK, believed that playing games developed children's motor-cognitive skills, while over 60% thought that players would develop their higher order thinking skills and could also acquire topic-specific knowledge.

  This attitude towards the positive use of video gaming in a child's upbringing is not limited to the UK. In 2007, the University of Alcalá & UNED in Spain conducted research into the educational benefits of video games which drew the following conclusions:

    —  "Multiple media and platforms need to converge in classrooms".

    —  "In collaboration with teachers, certain specific educational uses of games were progressively discovered".

    —  "A big attitudinal change took place in teachers and families as they learnt to appreciate digital games or other media as educational agents".

    —  "Digital games play a meaningful and natural role in the everyday life of children and young people".

    —  "The worlds of games provide them with new experiences, interesting stories, social events, fun, challenges, excitement and also many moments of learning".

    —  "In informal situations the power of video-games to generate creative ways of thing and writing is much more clearly revealed".

    —  "If the twenty-first century needs to look for innovation, videogames are turning out to be one of the most powerful cultural tools which populate our real everyday lives".


6.   What are the range of mechanisms that exist to help children, young people and parents manage the potential or actual risks of playing (a) hard copy video games, (b) games downloaded from the internet, (c) games played on line? (Please refer to paragraph 3.4)

  There are a number of robust mechanisms already in place to protect children and assist parents when purchasing video games including BBFC ratings and the PEGI rating system. However, while the former is a recognised and trusted guide to parents and children, it does not provide a comprehensive guideline as it only applies to video games which meet certain criteria:

    —  Games which will have an 18+ rating.

    —  Games that contain clips / trailers from other games.

    —  Games that contain real movie clips.

  The PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) system is the first ever pan-European system of harmonised age ratings. PEGI affords parents and other gatekeepers independently checked, reliable and easy-to-read recommendations to make informed buying decisions pertaining to interactive software, whatever the platform. It offers clear, visible and easy to understand on-product information: age rating, visual icon and written descriptor.

  PEGI operates under stringent measures—in 2007, 42 games were rated 18+ by PEGI and also referred to the BBFC. Of those:

    —  The BBFC gave 21 of them a lower rating (50%).

    —  19 of the games received a 15 rating.

    —  2 games received a 12 rating.

  The record of PEGI complaints speaks to the efficiency of the system : 2 complaints from consumers between April 2003 and March 2007; 8 since then, 7 of which from publishers, all of them aimed at getting lower ratings.

  PEGI Online : In addition to the consumer information provided for hard copy games, PEGI has effectively scaled users of online games through PEGI Online and the PEGI Online Safety Code.

  EA is a signatory of both PEGI and PEGI Online.

  The PEGI Online Safety Code, referred here as the POSC, applies to all online gaming providers who are signatories of the POSC. The term "online gaming providers" refers to all publishers or website operators to the extent they provide online services through which interactive software products allowing on-line game play, including videogames, computer games, and education/reference works on CD Roms. The POSC also applies to all associated advertising and promotion of such online services.

  The POSC is based on a Code of Conduct that reflects the interactive software industry's commitment and concern that information be provided to the public in a responsible manner with regards to the content of interactive software products. The industry's contribution is intended to complement existing national laws, regulations and enforcement mechanisms.

  The POSC provides parents and educators with an assurance that online gaming services displaying the PEGI Online Label (POL) are operated by publishers who have committed to abide by its provisions. Equally, the POSC reflects the interactive software industry's commitment not to produce, advertise, distribute or promote any product in breach of human decency.

  PEGI Online and its signatories address the main concerns related to online game play:

    —  The online service will only include game content which has been appropriately rated under the PEGI system or under other recognised European systems such as—but not limited to—those operated by the BBFC in the UK and the USK in Germany.

    —  The PEGI Online label (POL) provides a direct hyperlink to a dedicated website where appropriate information is given regarding the risks arising from the fact that content created in the course of game play may be unknown to the original publisher. Alternatively and where appropriate, signatories display the url associated with the said dedicated website in a prominent position visible to users of online services.

    —  The POL is displayed in a size that permits the message to be clearly visible to, and perfectly legible by, the public, in accordance with templates provided by ISFE. The same principles will apply to any making available of interactive software to the public through other means apart from sale, such as rental or loan.

    —  Licence holders ensure that the POL is used only in accordance with national legal requirements and that, in particular, it is not used in countries where the products carried on the online services concerned are prohibited or subject to compulsory legal classification.

    —  Should products available on online services carrying the POL be subject to such classification in any country or countries, the use of the POL is accompanied by a conspicuous reference to any consequent conditions covering game play on the said services.

    —  Licence holders use their best endeavours to ensure that online services under their control are kept free of content which is illegal, offensive, racist, degrading, corrupting, threatening, obscene or might permanently impair the development of minors. When online services under the control of the license holders also contain user generated content, the license holders use their best endeavours to immediately take down user generated content which is illegal, offensive, racist, degrading, corrupting, threatening, or obscene.

    —  Where possible, removal of undesirable links or "hyperlinks" is also actioned.

    —  Licence holders ensure the incorporation in their terms of business, with online subscribers of certain provisions usually included under the heading of so called "community standards'. These provisions will contain prohibitions against those subscribers introducing content or indulging in online behaviour which is illegal, offensive, racist, degrading, corrupting, threatening, obscene or might permanently impair the development of minors.

    —  Any licence holder engaging in the online collection of personal information from subscribers will also maintain an effective and coherent Privacy Policy fully in accordance with all applicable European Union and national Data Protection laws. The Privacy Policy will encompass the responsible collection, distribution, correction, and security of the personal details of subscribers who shall be given full details of the licence holder's Privacy Policy before the finalisation of any subscription to an online service.

    —  Subscribers are also be given the opportunity to comment on any perceived misuse of their personal details and therefore be fully advised as to ways, for example, of avoiding unsolicited or unwanted email contact.

    —  In keeping with one of the main objectives of the POSC, licence holders adhere to stringent standards ensuring the protection of children from any unsuitable content and behaviour associated with any website aimed at children. These standards include, where appropriate;

      —  the publication of warnings about the supply or display online of private email addresses.

      —  the promotion of responsible purchasing practices where minors are concerned.

  POSC signatories ensure that online services comply with existing and future laws and regulations at EU and national level.

  The European interactive software industry has put in place five different instruments to fulfil its objectives, four of which are common to the POSC and the PEGI Codes and so maintain the consistency of both systems.

  These instruments are:

    —  The PEGI Advisory Board (PAB), established to interpret the provisions of the PEGI Code of Conduct and to suggest appropriate implementation tools. This body ensures that the POSC responds to ongoing social, legal and technological developments. The PAB is made up of :

      —  parents/consumer organisations.

      —  child psychology experts.

      —  media experts.

      —  lawyers expert in European minor protection laws.

      —  academics.

      —  a representative of the PEC.

      —  a representative of ISF.E

      —  the PO Administrator.

    —  The independent PEGI Complaints Board (PCB) which again includes representatives from key stakeholders, and is entrusted with management of the following three matters:

      —  conflicts between applicants and the PO Administrator.

      —  complaints about the consistency of advertising, marketing and promotional activities of any POSC signatory with the provisions of the POSC.

      —  disputes about the implementation of POSC by signatories.

    —  The PEGI Enforcement Committee (PEC) charged with implementing the recommendations of the PAB Board and, more generally, of ensuring the enforcement of the provisions of the POSC, including decisions of the PCB.

    —  A Legal Committee, also common to the PEGI system, which will ensure the ongoing coherence and consistency of the POSC Licensing System with national legal frameworks.

    —  A Licensing System operated by ISFE with the assistance of an Administrator, for issue of licenses to use the PEGI Online Label (POL), whereby assurance is given to the public that the licensee has committed to abide by all provisions of the POSC.

  26 EU member states + non EU countries such as Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein adhere to the PEGI rating system.

  We refer to the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) in the United States as an example of a similar system in place to help manage the risks of gaming, and recommend that the Byron Review team consult with that organization as a means to gather additional evidence of age rating systems, online protections and retail enforcement mechanisms.

7.   To what extent do (a) children and young people and (b) parents understand and use the video games age classification system and/or other descriptions of content? (Please refer to paragraph 3.4)

  The Nielsen research results referenced above point to the conclusion that the PEGI rating system is generally well recognized. However, the understanding of the system and its icons must be further addressed for full effectiveness.

  While heavy gamers are familiar with the descriptive symbols, the PEGI website and the process that consumers can use to file complaints to PEGI about inappropriate behavior, many less frequent gamers have lower awareness of the PEGI symbols, complaints process or website existence.

  Further consumer education could greatly improve the understanding of the rating system, most notably that the ratings are based on suitability of content as opposed to the level of skill required to play the game.

8.   In what other ways do a) children and young people and b) parents seek to manage perceived risks of video gaming and how do they feel about their ability to do so? (Please refer to paragraph 3.4)

  As said above, there are a number of measures in place. In the UK, Ask About is a good existing source for parental and consumer information in the UK.

  High on the ELSPA agenda is a review of the additional resource required to broaden public awareness of video games and their rating system.

9.   How well do these different approaches and mechanisms work? (Please refer to paragraph 3.4)

  The general age rating systems in place to protect children from inappropriate content are working well for consumers, as evidenced in questions 4 and 6.

  There is inherent benefit in the existing PEGI system :

    —  Since its inception, the PEGI system of age classification has worked to the satisfaction of European consumers, as evidenced by the Nielsen survey results referenced above. There is broad consumer awareness of PEGI, and in particular among UK consumers who score highest in terms of recognizing the PEGI symbols and acknowledging the usefulness of the system in making purchase decisions.

    —  Across Europe, PEGI has the unique ability to address the distinct interactive characteristics of a game, and rate them according to the specificities of interactive entertainment that are not found in film or TV.

    —  An independent, self-regulated operation has proven to be efficient. The questionnaire based methodology allows for the inclusion of cultural context in the rating criteria, while offering flexibility to adapt rating needs as the needs of industry and society evolve.

    —  PEGI has been effectively scaled to online gaming with the launch of PEGI Online, done in partnership with, and with support from, the European Commission.

    —  A single European rating system eases pan-regional commitment and compliance for companies in the gaming industry, the majority of which operate on a European or global scale. The ease of working within one known and unified scheme encourages game developers" fulfilment of the stated requirements. Adhering to multiple systems would incur extra cost and resource for companies, and would likely also impact parental controls in hardware as these would need to be Europe (or PAL) wide initiatives.

  We encourage the Review team to consider these benefits along with the consequences of a potential shift to single-nation systems that would be challenged to meet the requirements a global, fast paced and evolving industry.

10.   What roles do the retail and advertising sectors play in supporting children, young people and parents to manage potential and actual risks in playing video games? (Please refer to paragraph 3.4)

  Retailers can and should have a large part to play. They should be called upon to assist in the education of the age rating system, and should have robust compliance measures in place when selling to children under the classified age.

  In the UK, ELSPA has been actively engaged with a major representative of the gaming specialist sector. Further enquiry with ELSPA on this activity is recommended.

  As an example from the United States, the ESRB has established the ESRB Retail Council (ERC)—council.jsp which, among other goals, ensures that ERC retail member companies support ratings education and enforcement. The Code commits ERC members to using their best efforts to:

    —  Enforce store policies not to sell or rent M (Mature) rated computer and video games to customers under the age of 17 without permission from a parent or guardian;

    —  Not sell or rent AO (Adults Only) games to customers under the age of 18;.

    —  Display signage in stores describing the ESRB rating system and retailer's policy regarding sale and rental of M- and AO-rated games;

    —  Train store associates about ESRB ratings and game sales procedures/policies;.

  Member companies also participate in at least two "mystery shopper" audits each year to measure and track the level of sales policy enforcement. Results are posted in aggregate on the ESRB website—council.jsp£piechart.

  Each of these biannual audits includes a minimum of 100 retail stores for each ERC member. The audits involve a consumer under the age of 17 attempting to purchase or rent a computer or video game rated M (Mature) by the ESRB, and measures whether the customer was able to complete the transaction. The audit also measures if the store displays signage explaining the ESRB rating system and the store's policy with regard to the sale of M-rated games. The overall and store level results are provided to ERC member retailers for performance improvement purposes. The results charted on their site demonstrate increasing improvement since ERC was created in 2005.

  In advertising, the industry adheres to the rules regarding watersheds and appropriate targeting without any noticeable issues. Age ratings are adhered to for demo disks and the anticipated age rating for the full game to which the demo disk relates.

  When mainstream children's programming refers to video games or promotes games, it is done in a responsible manner, and takes into account the need for suitable content for the target group.

  Games specialist magazines should also follow age related guidelines. It is important that a magazine with a younger demographic not write about or review games of a mature nature.

11.   What opportunities exist for children, young people and parents to learn about safe, responsible and fulfilling video game playing—and do they help? (Please refer to paragraph 3.4)

  Video game safety is an extremely pertinent issue. There is not just one organisation solely responsible for regulation, rather it is the joint responsibility of games companies, ISPs, manufacturers and parents to ensure that children are not exposed to unsuitable material or people whilst playing games both offline and online.

  EA itself works to ensure safety for its users through a number of measures.

  EA standalone product websites have a date of birth request at the point of entry to discourage under age visitors. The same mechanism applies for all videos on for 18+ games available for viewing

  All EA product web pages have clear PEGI rating at the top of the page.

  A number of guidelines are available on EA's website which all online gamers are advised to follow at all times. These guidelines are as follows:

  1. Be discreet. The information you provide is often public, for all to see. Do not share information or images that you do not want the world to know about or see. Think—your information could be passed on.

  2. Be anonymous. Do not share private or very personal information. Never post or send anything that can be used to locate you or another person offline, such as a full name, email or home address or phone number.

  3. Be distant. Do not arrange to meet in person anyone you've met online. If you must, only meet somewhere that is safe and public, tell someone your plans and then bring a friend along. If you aren't an adult, get your parent or guardian's permission first and take them with you.

  4. Be honest. You may be tempted to pretend to be someone you are not. The other person may also do the same thing. They may not be who they say they are.

  5. Be nice. Don't take on bullies or cyber-bully anyone else. If someone taunts you, walk away from the computer. Report the person or behaviour to an adult or administrator. It's supposed to be fun, right?.

  6. Be clean. Do not open, respond to or forward an email or IM unless you know the person who sent it to you and you've checked it for viruses. The content could contain damaging software (such as spyware or viruses) or it might be offensive.

  7. Be secure. Use security software (such as virus scanners). Ensure your system is up-to-date and protected in case an email from someone unintentionally infects your computer.

  8. Be private. Never share your password or password hints with anyone.

  9. Be inventive. Ensure the online IDs you create do not reveal your personal information. Be creative and unique!.

  10. Beware. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Check the facts if you aren't sure about something. And remember—you're in control. You decide which activities to participate in and what information you provide.

  From an online community perspective, EA imposes a number of regulations to discourage inappropriate participation of minors. To post in EA UK forums, users must be over 13 year of age and register as such, and content is monitored by administrators. Any users found to be posting material which is unsuitable in accordance with the rules of operation or found to be underage, will be notified and banned from the forum.

  EA also has rules in operation on all forum boards to which community members have to adhere. These are detailed as:

    We do insist that you abide by the rules and policies detailed below. If you agree to the terms, please check the "I agree" checkbox and press the "Register" button below. If you would like to cancel the registration, click to return to the forums index. Although the administrators and moderators of Electronic Arts UK Community will attempt to keep all objectionable messages off this forum, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the author, and neither the owners of Electronic Arts UK Community, nor Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd. (developers of vBulletin) will be held responsible for the content of any message. By agreeing to these rules, you warrant that you will not post any messages that are obscene, vulgar, sexually-oriented, hateful, threatening, or otherwise violative of any laws. The owners of Electronic Arts UK Community reserve the right to remove, edit, move or close any thread for any reason

  In addition to the work done by EA to ensure member security throughout official sites and forums, it should be noted that a great deal of positive self regulation also takes place within online communities. Community members regularly report fellow users for posting inappropriate material or abusive remarks. Many online communities are very close knit and protective of members, meaning those individuals who join with malicious intent seldom last long.

  With regards to the online purchase of games through EA UK Store, games rated 18+ by the BBFC are accompanied by the following notice, in bold, on the product description page :

  WARNING: This product has been awarded an 18 classification by the British Board of Film Classification ( If you order this product you are confirming that you are 18 years of age or over and that this product is being purchased for your own use and not for the use of someone under 18 years of age. Given this product's age classification you further agree that (i) any purchase of this product is limited to credit card payment; and (ii) you are the holder of any credit card used to purchase this product.

  A similar warning is given for games rated 15+.

  Additional measures are in progress at EA to further enhance protection mechanisms around the purchase of 15+ and 18+ rated games by underage audiences.


12.   What, if anything, could be changed in order to help children, young people and parents manage the potential or actual risks of playing a) hard copy video games b) games downloaded from the internet c) games played on line, and what are the pros and cons of different approaches? (Please refer to paragraph 3.5)

  The best approach is the reinforcement and communication of a single age rating system for videogames. This would allow for technology adjustments to be made pan-Europe wide and give consistent rules to development houses which would ensure content compliance. A pan-European system would also benefit multi-country retailers, and facilitate the implementation of an education campaign for consumers.

  The adoption of a UK specific rating system such as the BBFC would present a challenge to video game companies which operate, for the majority, on a worldwide or European scale. In addition, the BBFC is a film classifier under the Video Recordings Act which by the BBFC's own view, is inappropriate for games.

  PEGI is scaleable to meet evolving requirement of the industry and society. Already, since 2003, the questionnaire tick box has evolved to incorporate the notion of contextual violence to better assign an appropriate rating in line with common understanding of accepted materials or scenes.

  PEGI could equally evolve to meet any concerns raised as a result of this review.

  The final piece would be an education programme as referenced above. Within such a campaign, consideration should be given to Internet games that are accessed without buying a hard copy of the game, and be subject to the same rating system.

13.   What are the emerging opportunities for developing other ways of supporting children, young people and parents? (Please refer to paragraph 3.5)

  There are possible changes available through parental controls on gaming hardware to establish the age of the player at the start of the play period.

  One measure touted by many groups for regulating the video game industry is age verification to monitor both games sales and content. While systems such as BBFC, PEGI and ESRB can assist with regulation of games sales and US Regulations such as COPPA exist to protect young children, regulation of content through the same system is not so straightforward.

  The key question to address on this issue is "At what point does age verification start to conflict with privacy?" This issue becomes even more central when considered in light of young children.

  In our efforts to protect children from exposure to potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games, the age verification solution can compete with efforts to preserve personal privacy as dictated by law or our accepted social perceptions. As such it is not widely viewed as a viable solution to the problem at hand.

  A certain degree of responsibility lies with the consumer. EA will always take every step to ensure that the online environments it builds are as safe as possible, with proper monitoring mechanisms in place. On top of this, there is an expectation for the consumer to play their part, be vigilant and report any suspicious content or behaviour breaches through the official channels to allow action to be taken.

  As this report lays out, education is the key. If users play their part and are fully informed of the systems in place to deal with inappropriate content, they can work with games developers, ISPs and official bodies such as PEGI to regulate content without the need for over intrusive age verification systems that breach personal privacy.

  Children today are extremely internet savvy and the many are keenly aware not to give out identifiable personal information into a public domain. Similarly, as mentioned earlier, internet communities are very good at self regulation and reporting suspicious activity.

  This does not suggest lax approach from the industry in the effort to provide a comprehensive lasting solution to the question. Education, awareness and responsible commitment from industry are key opportunities for the future.

  One illustration of the industry's intention to participate in establishing beneficial rules and regulations on the Internet is the Online Safety Group of the AeA, the largest association of high-tech companies in the United States, of which Electronic Arts is a member:—OnlineSafety.asp


27.   What impact will new ways of accessing media have on the questions being considered in this review? (Please refer to paragraph 3.10)

  Games are now made for and played on a host of devices including handheld consoles, ipods and mobile phones. Consistency for age ratings and proper protection levels across games being made available for all of these devices—whether hard copy purchase or download—is the best avenue for consumers and for the industry.

  The interactive entertainment industry is evolving quickly with the fast and ongoing leaps in technology. Companies who create and supply digital media are already taking self-imposed steps to ensure child safety. For example, in addition to the games industry, many mobile carriers have set their own guidelines for delivering appropriate content to children.

  The industry itself is well equipped to keep pace with the speed of technology change and evolving requirements for content delivery. As a whole, this responsibility is taken seriously by industry players who are working to establish, and work within, needed guidelines.

28.   Do you have any further comments?

  As an ELSPA Board member, and representing the world's leading interactive entertainment software company, we can state that we and our trade bodies have engaged completely with this review. We are open to discuss all routes that may come to light, and I, Keith Ramsdale, Vice President and General Manager of EA in the UK, and father of two young daughters, am happy to be personally involved to whatever degree is deemed appropriate.

January 2008

  Chairman: We now move on to electronic games. I welcome Paul Jackson, director general of Entertainment and Leisure Software Providers Association (ELSPA), Keith Ramsdale, vice president of EA Games, Dr Wilson, chief executive of Tiga which is the Independent Games Developers Association, and Jason Kingsley, chief executive officer of the Rebellion Group.

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Prepared 31 July 2008