PEGI: How to understand the age labels for video games?

PEGI video games Labels - Credit : PEGI

How can you be sure that a game will not expose your children to inappropriate images? The PEGI system was created to guide parents in this difficult task.

There is no need to try and keep up with all the video games that are released to find out which ones are inappropriate for our little ones. Every day, dozens and dozens of titles are released on numerous platforms, consoles, PCs, mobiles and tablets.

For parents who know nothing about this medium and who don’t play themselves, making sure that software is suitable can be difficult. Fortunately, in France (but also in many European countries and even in some others outside the Old Continent), a system of signs has been put in place to assess the content of a game at a glance. The good news is that it is well respected. Its name: PEGI, for Pan European Game Information. It was launched in 2003.

A systematic minimum recommended age

The icon with the recommended age is the most important. It is a green, orange or red square with a white number inside: 3, 7, 12, 16 or 18. Why is it no lower than 3? Well, because it is not recommended for children to be near screens before that age!

Contrary to what some may think, this is not a sales ban. The cashier at WALMART will not prevent a 14 year old from buying a PEGI 18 game. The figure is only there as a guide, mainly for parents and their offspring.

Pictograms of sensitive content often present

Another logo may sometimes appear next to it, describing the types of sensitive content that may appear in the game. Violence, foul language, horror, nudity: note that these pictograms are also age-appropriate. Violence shown in a PEGI 7 game will not have the same impact with, for example, cartoon characters, as perfectly realistic violence in a PEGI 18 game.

However, a pictogram should alert you if you spot it: in-game purchase.

in-game purchase - PEGI-pictogram
in-game purchase - PEGI-pictogram / Credit : PEGI

They are particularly present in free-to-play games, which children, preteens and teenagers may be particularly fond of, and involve the possibility of making purchases to unlock game elements (such as costumes, for example). This icon is often indicated but not always. Nevertheless, a mention or a small sentence equivalent to it appears on the vast majority of application download portals.

If this is the case, warn your offspring about the mechanisms that drive players to spend and make sure that they do not have access to your credit card. Be particularly careful of platforms that pre-register your card details, for example if the device is shared by the whole family. There is a risk of unpleasant surprises on the bank account.

How do I find this PEGI rating?

If the game is purchased in a boxed version, then it is easy: the age is systematically indicated at the bottom left. The minimum age is also indicated on the back, along with pictograms, if applicable (or, failing that, a simple description of the sensitive content).

However, a lot of software is downloaded and no longer goes through any boxed format. If you want to check the PEGI rating of a dematerialized game, there are several solutions. The official PEGI website allows you to search for titles that have been rated, even if they have not been released in shops.

As the efficiency of the site is not good enough, you can also search for the game on the portal of the system used. This can be done directly from the machine in question or via any browser.

You can search the information by using the mobile application for iphone and android phones.

On the PC purchase platforms Steam and Epic Games Store, no indication appears on the game’s files. If in doubt, refer to the official PEGI website or use the same methods as for the console versions to obtain the information. For Apple devices – iPhone, iPad and Mac computers – the PEGI logo does not necessarily appear, but an equivalent sign exists.

Finally, note that most parental control software has settings to block games that have a PEGI rating that is too high for your taste, such as on the Switch. This way, there is no way to bypass the family’s instructions!

Look at what your children are playing!

Nevertheless, you are always advised to discuss with your children the titles they play and wish to play. This rating is broadly based, even if it means that a program that could be suitable for a 13-year-old child is rated PEGI 16.

If your child is trying to convince you that this title is the right game for them, even though it has been flagged as unsuitable for their age, let them show you videos and screenshots. Also, do your own research so that you can make an informed and educational decision. Even if the answer is “no”.

What do you think?

Written by Mohsen

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