TANYA BYRON: I didn’t want to be too prescribed. I just felt I didn’t have enough experience of your industry to be able to make those definite decisions. What I know is child development and how children think – that was my remit. I tried to put to bed unnecessary, inappropriate criticisms of your industry, which I think take the debate nowhere.
Because the research, the academic element, is so polarised, it’s literally getting industry in a room to bang on the table – saying “our methodology’s better than yours”. We don’t want that.
The difficulty for me as far as methodology goes is there is research that chimes with a lot of moral views in America that says video games make children do violent things.
I’ve deconstructed that research quite robustly, saying that the work they study has a short-term effect in terms of kids feeling a bit more aggressive when they play a violent game, but you cannot:
(a) Generate the same conclusions from the short-term and long-term effects of these games;
(b) Extrapolate them into the real world;
It’s important to consider what the child brings to the game – how their minds will mediate the experience and the effect it has. But I’ve said very clearly that there comes a point when children are too young to cope with certain types of content.
I was very clear that I wanted the PEGI system to remain part of the UK ratings process. I felt it worked really well at the end of the applications and I wanted the industry to continue to have that relationship.
This is about the BBFC putting their logo on other games with their own system. I hope and expect both systems can work together to make that happen. If that becomes a problem, then it really blows the recommendation out of the water. The recommendation stands because both systems work well at certain things. PEGI needs to remain – not least because of where we take online games ratings.
PJ: A lot of what you said at the start of that response was about the research you’d witnessed and done yourself. Dare I say it, but friend and confident Keith Vaz put a release out on the day of the Byron Review that said you’d drawn a very clear line between violence and video games. I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.
TB: I met Mr. Vaz and Giselle Pakeerah as part of the process and it was a difficult meeting that had to be handled sensitively and carefully. IT was, after all, the mother of a child who had been murdered. I felt it was an important meeting, as I know Mr. Vaz has many criticisms of the games industry - and these are often reported widely and can be quite damaging for the industry. I talked to him about my positive experience of the industry – and my experience of ELSPA members in this room. I think different people will pick up different elements of the report and that’s fine – I’ve been surprised that it’s met so many needs for so many people. But my biggest fear is that it will be used for currency – whether that’s political or currency within the industry. I don’t want that to happen.
The recommendations I have made are about children and young people. The context is of child development – and the way children think. The research that exists is very polarised, but we do know that very young children lack the crucial evaluation skills needed to handle violent content, or content of a sexual nature. They lack the ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality, particularly is they are exposed to a hostile environment elsewhere.
That’s not to say, however, that it’s as simple as violent games making people violent. I’ve never said that, and would be sure to disagree with anyone who inferred that from the Review.