Meddelelse fra Kommisjonen til Europaparlamentet, Rådet, Den økonomiske og sosiale komite og Regionskomiteen om beskyttelse av forbrukere, spesielt mindreårige, når det gjelder bruk av videospill
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The 2002 Council Resolution on the protection of consumers through the labelling of certain video and computer games (1) stressed the need to provide clear information as regards the assessment of contents and rating by age group. Clear and simple rating systems must be promoted in all the Member States to ensure greater transparency and the free movement of video games. The Council also stressed the importance of cooperation between all interested parties.
The Resolution calls on the Commission to review the various methods for assessing the content of video and computer games, as well as their rating and labelling, and to report back to the Council.
Playing video games is one of the favourite leisure activites of Europeans of different ages and social categories (2). Although purchased for entertainment value, the best games bring other positive benefits, not least promoting analytical and strategy skills and making young people accustomed to interaction with information technology. There are also promising opportunities for a strong interactive games industry in Europe, with a specific European character, and which can be the bearer of cultural diversity. The increasing popularity of on-line video games is also a key driver for the uptake of broadband telecommunications networks and third generation cellular phones.
In 2006 the European market for video games, which includes console and handheld games, PC games and online games including wireless games, had a total revenue of more than € 6.3 bn, and this is expected to rise to €7.3 bn by 2008. Its value is half that of the entire music market in Europe (3) and already exceeds the cinema box office. It is the fastest growing and most dynamic sector in the European content industry, with a higher growth rate than in the US (4). There is an emerging trend to provide for free online version of popular video games that are essentially supported by advertisiean system.
As with other media, freedom of expression both for creators and gamers must be a paramount concern for policy makers. This must take into account changes in the market. Indeed, video games are increasingly a cross-generation phenomenon, played by children and parents alike and moving from the children's room to the living room (5). The average age of European gamers has increased, and more adults are now playing video games with adult themes. At the same time policy makers have responsibility for the health of gamers and there is a need for high protection standards for minors. Owing to the strong psychological effects of video games on minors, it is important to ensure that gameplaying by minors is safe. This requires in particular graduated levels of access to video games for minors and adults.
In April 2003, the self-regulatory Pan European Games Information age rating system (PEGI) (6) was adopted after very close consultation with industry, civil society, such as parental and consumer associations, and religious groups. PEGI is a voluntary, self-regulatory system, designed to ensure that minors are not exposed to games that are unsuitable for their particular age group. PEGI replaced a large number of existing national age-rating systems with a single Europ
An independent "Study on the rating practice used for audiovisual works in the European Union" (7) was carried out for the Commission in 2003. It identifies increasing technological and societal pressure towards homogeneity of ratings, which could be achieved by common rating criteria. Another conclusion refers to regular exchange of good practices between different media platforms as a first step towards greater uniformity of rating practice across different media.
The European Union has endeavoured to ensure the best possible protection for children through legislative proposals and other actions, while respecting the subsidiarity principle: the European Parliament and Council Recommendation on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity and on the Right of Reply (2006/952/EC) (8) refers to action concerning illegal activities harmful to minors on the Internet and co-operation among bodies which deal with rating or classification. The INSAFE network, co-funded by the Safer Internet Programme (9) and managed by the Commission, deals with awareness-raising about the use of new media, including video games, by children.
The Internet offers new forms of media consumption and new opportunities for cultural diversity, including video games, but it can also be a means for spreading illegal and, particularly for minors, harmful content. This creates specific challenges in terms of protecting young people. PEGI On-line (10), which was launched in June 2007 and co-funded by the Safer Internet Programme, is the logical development of the PEGI system, designed to better protect young people against unsuitable gaming content and to help parents understand the risks and potential for harm within this environment.
In December 2007, the Commission adopted a Communication (11) on a European approach to media literacy in the digital environment. Media literacy can be summed up as the ability to access, understand, evaluate and create media content. It relates to all types of media, including video games. The Communication highlights the importance of media literacy among the younger generations, especially regarding online content. Furthermore, video games are being used increasingly in school curricula (12).
1 Council Resolution on the protection of consumers, in particular young people, through the labelling of certain video games and computer games according to age group, 1 March 2002 (2002/C65/02), OJ C65, 14.3.2002, p.2.
2 Nielsen report on "Video Games in Europe – 2007", p. 12-15
3 Interactive content and convergence: Implications for the information society. A Study for the European Commission (DG Information Society and Media) by Screen Digest Ltd, CMS Hasche Sigle, Goldmedia Gmbh, Rightscom Ltd, p. 34, 45, 96 [broken link removed]
4 PricewaterhouseCoopers, Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2007 – 2011, p. 38
5 Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 13.05.2007, p. 28: "Computerspiele erobern das Wohnzimmer" (FAZ.NET: http://www.faz.net/s/RubE2C6E0BCC2F04DD787CDC274993E94C1/Doc~EB0EA103E1B...)
8 OJ L 378, 27.12.2006, p. 72–77.
11 COM(2007) 833 final
12 The Interactive Software Federation of Europe is for instance working with the European Schoolnet to assess the use of educationally-oriented games in school and to help exchanging best practice