A leading UK police officer has said that the UK's current PEGI age rating system is not sufficient to protect minors from the most violent content.
Northamptonshire's police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds wants a US-style Adults Only (AO) rating to help parents identify games with particularly brutal content that goes beyond what could normally be expected in a PEGI 18 game.
Grand Theft Auto V is the cited example, alongside Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. These games contain two infamous examples of game violence – Trevor's torture scene the optional civilian slaughter level No Russian, respectively.
In a report on the issue published today Simmonds claims that one in four children aged between four and 11 have seen online imagery that upsets them, with video games being the most common source. Furthermore, it says that 30 per cent of children have access to content and games for which they are underage, with one in ten saying they had played Call of Duty.
Controversy creates cash,” Simmonds said. Many parents might not be fully aware that these games contain such disturbing scenes. It is time for the industry to play a more proactive role in protecting young minds.”
A new Adult Only rating alongside parental locks on consoles will better support parents in safeguarding their children. If companies fail to do this, games involving extreme violence or sexual content should be banned altogether.”
US ratings body the ESRB has an AO rating (pictured), although its implementation has been rare. Upcoming controversial PC title Hatred has been awarded an AO, as did the pre-edit version of Rockstar's Manhunt 2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was also temporarily bumped from M (Mature) to AO following the discovery of the deleted ‘Hot Coffee' sex scene, although the rating was lowered upon its removal.
UPDATE: MCV has obtained a full copy of the report referenced, which is entitled ‘Online Safety: A Report by Northamptonshire Police & Crime Commission'. It doesn't contain any references to proposed changes to the UK age ratings system, which appears to be a context used only in the Northants Police press release linked to above.