For games that are sold on the UK High Street, the PEGI classification scheme allows purchasers to check that the game is appropriate for a particular age range, and also be forewarned about any ‘questionable’ content contained within the game, such as violence, sex or drugs references, and so on (e.g. Classifying Games).
At the time of writing, there is no mandated requirement for online games to display PEGI ratings, even if the games are made specifically for the UK market, although PEGI does have an online scheme – PEGI Online:
The licence to display the PEGI Online Logo is granted by the PEGI Online Administrator to any online gameplay service provider that meets the requirements set out in the PEGI Online Safety Code (POSC). These requirements include the obligation to keep the website free from illegal and offensive content created by users and any undesirable links, as well as measures for the protection of young people and their privacy when engaging in online gameplay.
So how do you decide whether an online game is likely to be appropriate for a younger age range? One way is to ‘trust’ a branded publisher. For example, games appearing on the BBC CBeebies games site are likely to be fine for the youngest of players. And the games on CBBC hit the spot for slightly older children. If you’re not too bothered about product placement and marketing, other trusted brands are likely to include corporates such as Disney, although if you’re a parent, you may prefer games hosted on museum websites, such as Tate Kids or the Science Museum.
But what about a game like following, which is produced by Channel 4 and is intended to act as a ‘public service information’ game about privacy in online social networks?
What sort of cues are there about the intended age range of the players of this game? Are there any barriers or warnings in place to make it difficult to gain access to this game on grounds of age? Should there be? Or is it enough to trust that the design and branding of the site is only likely to appeal to the ‘appropriate’ demographic?
Look through the Smokescreen game website and missions. To what extent is the game: a simulation? a serious game?
How does the visual design of the game compare with the designs for games on the ‘kids’ games sites listed above?
PS if you get a chance to play some of the kids games, well, it is Friday… :-) I have to admit I do like quite a few of the gams on the Science Museum website ;-)