Singapore Introduces Video Games Classification System

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Gamers in Singapore can look forward to a greater variety of video games with a new two-rating classification system that will be launched end April, the Board of Film Censors (BFC) under the Media Development Authority (MDA) announced today. In line with the new guidelines, consumer advisories will be introduced to allow consumers, especially parents, to make informed choices about the video games available in the market.

With effect from 28 April 2008, the new video games ratings are:

1. Mature 18 (M18) – For persons 18 years old and above. M18 is a restricted category and retailers will need to conduct age checks at the point of sale.

2. Age Advisory – Suitable for persons 16 years old and above. This is an advisory category to assist consumers in making informed choices. While retailers need not conduct age checks at the point of sale, they are encouraged to exercise responsibility by not selling these games to those below 16 years of age.

Both categories will carry rating stickers. Games that do not fall into the above two categories but are approved for general consumption are not required to carry any rating stickers.

Under the content guidelines, games with content which contains moderate level of violence, portrayal of implied sexual activity, nudity without details, coarse language and depiction of illegal drug use may be required to carry an Age Advisory label. Games with mature themes, or which contain realistic depictions of violence and drug use, nudity and frequent use of strong coarse language will be classified as M18. The general guidelines for video games classification can be found on www.mda.gov.sg/videogames.

The video games classification system was developed over a two-year period involving detailed research and extensive consultation with key stakeholders, including members of MDA’s advisory committees, representatives from the video games distribution and retail sectors, as well as parents, academics and gamers. Comments from the Film Consultative Panel members and industry representatives on the video games classification system can be found in the Annexes.

The new guidelines build upon the interim M18 rating, which was introduced in November 2007 to prepare the industry for the video games classification system. Since then, eight games, such as Conan and God of War: Chains of Olympus, have been brought into Singapore under the interim M18 rating.

Said Ms Amy Chua, Chairman, BFC, “The new ratings will provide more choices for gamers. The games distribution and retail industry will also benefit from having a rating system that allows it to make available more games targeted at the different groups. At the same time, the age-appropriate ratings and consumer advisories will help parents make informed choices about the games their children play. This represents a balanced approach in enabling more media choice for Singaporeans while protecting the young.”

Encouraging shared responsibility through industry co-regulation
In line with the BFC’s practice of co-regulating with the industry, the classification system requires companies to declare all games meant for local distribution and sale via an online questionnaire. Companies will be required to submit physical copies of the titles only when the game contains mature content. In addition, the BFC will conduct periodic checks on games declarations to verify accuracy of declarations.

In explaining the benefits of such a co-regulatory system, Ms Chua said, “Getting the industry to declare information about the games will speed up the classification process and facilitate time-to-market for new titles. Such industry involvement is crucial to the classification of video games due to the amount of time required to assess each game. This will also help BFC to focus on content that is not suitable for the young and keep compliance cost affordable.”

Under the system, it costs S$50 and takes six to 10 working days to rate a M18 game. A premium service is available for companies looking to shorten the processing time.

An industry briefing session was held today to prepare the video games industry for the classification system and process.

Educating the public through outreach programmes
To help the public understand the video games ratings, MDA is organising a series of outreach initiatives targeting gamers, parents, teachers and retailers, from end April. Members of the public can also find out more information about the classification system, including ratings of video games that have classified, at www.mda.gov.sg/videogames from 28 April onwards.

In addition, an informational brochure on the video games ratings will be made available at games distributors’ and retailers’ outlets, LAN gaming centres, as well as at other community events. MDA will work with game retail shops and LAN gaming centres to display in-store signs that explain the games ratings. MDA will also partner parenting and gaming publications and online portals to hold promotional activities aimed at increasing awareness of the video games ratings.

More information on the video games classification system can be found at www.mda.gov.sg/videogames.

In : PC

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