AskAboutGames editor and freelance journalist Will Freeman discusses PEGI ratings and how it pushes the boundaries of gaming
I’ve never been one for being too well behaved. I migrated directly from The Beano to Viz when I was much too young to start reading the latter, and both have always defined to me a spirit of mischief I adore.
I’ve never been a true troublemaker, admittedly, but I’m equally guilty of being a contrarian idiot, even well into my thirties. I spent my teenage years a middle class wannabe-punk with a bad mohican haircut and ill-considered views on authoritarianism.
So it might seem strange that I’ve recently stepped up as editor of AskAboutGames. After all, isn’t the Ukie and Video Game Standards Council co-funded initiative about stifling how people enjoy games? Of course, it isn’t that.
Conceived as a portal to inform families, parents, guardians and anybody interested in learning more, AskAboutGames aims to educate people about playing games; the benefits, pleasures and risks.
But part of that is explaining and highlighting the PEGI ratings system; the age rating system incorporated into UK law in 2013, and administrated by the Video Game Standards Council Ratings Board.
Some might feel age ratings are the very definition of limiting what games can be to players. But I think quite the opposite is true. The PEGI ratings system gives the medium a chance to breathe and flourish, and the wider aims of AskAboutGames let people get the most out of time spent playing games.
Today, there are so many games. There are adult ones and experimental ones. There are good games and poorly designed games. There are those best for families, and titles made for the gallery wall. No single person can ever play them all, so we may as well stick to the ones we can get the most from.
"PEGI ratings, in protecting youngsters, also let adult games explore adult themes."Will Freeman, AskAboutGames
And that’s where PEGI ratings come in. Certainly, a PEGI rating stops youngsters from being exposed to content that may disturb or upset them. It means they can focus on games that bring the many benefits we recognise today, from educational and social gains to inspiring creativity and promoting critical thinking.
That’s all obvious, of course. But it is my firm belief that PEGI ratings, in protecting youngsters, also let adult games explore adult themes.
Because an 18-rating doesn’t just stop children playing a given game; it also frees up that release to be mature.
There’s nothing wrong with a game being adult for the fun of it. Horror games might just look to scare their audience, and if you’ve more courage than me, that can be delightfully exciting.
But adult games – like books, films, poetry and music for an older audience – can do much more than entertain. From exploring societal themes and prompting debate to wrangling with the human experience and tackling conflict, grief and parenthood, games have so much to offer adults.
All those reasons are why I’m thrilled to help AskAboutGames inform players. It means children’s and family games can keep doing their great work, while adult games can push the boundaries of what our beloved form can exist as.
Will Freeman is a freelance video game journalist, author, event curator, script editor, copywriter and consultant. Having recently stepped up as AskAboutGames editor, he continues to work on a freelance basis