A game's front of box age rating warns parents about a title's content, but figuring out what ability is required to play the game is altogether trickier.
That's a problem website Everybody Plays is hoping to address with the launch today of its new EPAL (Everybody Plays Ability Level) system.
Designed to complement the existing content warnings, EPAL gives parents and quick and accessible idea about a game's suitability in terms of what is required of the player – such as do they need to be able read or solve complex puzzles.
We've always said buying games for kids is a bit of a minefield, and that's still true today,” Everybody Plays' Sarah Hadley told MCV. A game can be a PEGI 3+, but if it's a turn based strategy game, or a visual novel, a three year old wouldn't have much luck. It's something we've had our fingers burnt with before.
In the past, we'd tried to give games an ‘age rating for complexity', but we quickly ran up against a few issues. For one, every child is different. Some eight year olds are really keen to explore and experiment in games on their own, while others prefer their hand being held that little bit more, with a bit more guidance. It was also a bit too easy to misinterpret what we meant by ‘Destiny can be played by an 11 year old', when the game's a PEGI 16. We needed a simpler way of getting across what the rating was actually showing, and one that parents would find even more helpful.”
EPAL rates games on a 1-5 scale, taking into account factors such as reading level and skill requirements. The challenge now will be in spreading awareness and ensuring that those in need of this information – which, in our experience, is an awful lot of people – can access it.
Very little of this information is available at the point of sale,” Hadley added. It's one thing seeing a game says PEGI 12 and has a ‘bad language' or ‘violence' icon on the box, but it's another knowing what that actually means for the game, and for your family.
As websites and digital store fronts have space to feature this sort of information – and with retailers like GAME having their own apps, complete with barcode scanners – we could easily deliver our parent's guides straight to the point of sale, empowering parents, and helping drive sales.”
A detailed guide to EPAL can be found here.