Thinking of buying video or computer games?

Thinking of buying video or computer games?

If you are thinking of buying video or computer games for your child this Christmas, here are a few points you might want to bear in mind.

The age certificates given on the game are a guide to the appropriateness of the content not the difficulty of the game. Games for older children and adults (those aged 12 and above) often include scenes of a sexual nature, have levels of violence that may upset younger children and usually contain swearing and profanities. Our recommendation would be that you choose games and DVD’s that are aimed for primary school children only.

It is recommended that you play the games with your child at least once, so you understand what is happening in the game. Some games involve going online and playing with strangers, and we would strongly advise that you listen to any online ‘chat’ with other players as the language children use whilst playing can sometimes  be unexpected and inappropriate.

If you have any queries about games or online safety there are various websites you can visit including;


There are also numerous magazines you can buy, and some shops will be happy to help explain the differences between the different certificates and ratings. I have included examples of the most common ratings certificates used so that you know what to look for and have indicated those which are appropriate for children at the Pines.



If you have any questions I am happy to help.



Sarah Lucas

Symbol Name Definition/Notes
Universal All ages admitted, there is nothing unsuitable for children over 4.
Parental Guidance All ages admitted, but certain scenes may be unsuitable for children under 8.
12A Cinema only. Introduced in 2002.

Films under this category are considered to be unsuitable for very young people. Those aged under 12 years are only admitted if accompanied by an adult, aged at least 18 years, at all times during the motion picture. However, it is generally not recommended that children under 12 years should watch the film. Films under this category can contain mature themes, discrimination, soft drugs, commonly used milder swear words, and moderate violence/sex references.

12 Home media only since 2002. 12A-rated films are usually given a 12 certificate for the VHS/DVD version unless extra material has been added that requires a higher rating.

Nobody younger than 12 can rent or buy a 12-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game. Films in this category may include infrequent drugs, infrequent use of strong language, brief nudity, discreet sexual activity, and moderate violence.

15 Only those over 15 years are admitted.

Nobody younger than 15 can rent or buy a 15-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game, or watch a film in the cinema with this rating. Films under this category can contain adult themes, hard drugs, strong language, moderate-strong violence/sex references, and mild non-detailed sex activity.

18 Only adults are admitted.

Nobody younger than 18 can rent or buy an 18-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game, or watch a film in the cinema with this rating. Films under this category do not have limitation on the bad language that is used. Hard drugs are generally allowed, and strong violence/sex references along with strong sexual activity is also allowed. Scenes of strong real sex may be permitted if justified by the context.

Restricted 18 Can only be shown at licensed cinemas or sold at licensed retailers or sex shops, and only to adults, those aged 18 or over. Films under this category have material the BBFC does not allow for its “18” rating, thus the violence and sex activity will be stronger in R18-rated VHSs, DVDs and films than those rated “18,” however, there is still a range of material that is often cut from the R18 rating. More cuts are demanded in this category than any other category.[6]



Buying Computer Games? What do the ratings mean?

What is PEGI?

The Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system was established to help European parents make informed decisions on buying computer games. It was launched in spring 2003 and replaced a number of national age rating systems with a single system now used throughout most of Europe, in 30 countries (Austria Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, Norway, Slovenia, Belgium, Estonia, Iceland, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden, Cyprus, France, Israel, Malta, Romania, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovak Republic and the United Kingdom)

The system is supported by the major console manufacturers, including Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, as well as by publishers and developers of interactive games throughout Europe. The age rating system was developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE).

What do the labels mean?

The PEGI labels appear on front and back of the packaging indicating one of the following age levels: 3, 7, 12, 16 and 18. They provide a reliable indication of the suitability of the game content in terms of protection of minors. The age rating does not take into account the difficulty level or skills required to play a game.

The content of games given this rating is considered suitable for all age groups. Some violence in a comical context (typically Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon-like forms of violence) is acceptable. The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to scare or frighten young children. No bad language should be heard.

Any game that would normally be rated at 3 but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category.

Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.

This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16.

The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes a depiction of gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since it can be very subjective in many cases, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

Descriptors shown on the back of the packaging indicate the main reasons why a game has received a particular age rating. There are eight such descriptors: violence, bad language, fear, drugs, sexual, discrimination, gambling and online gameplay with other people.

Bad Language
Game contains bad language

Game contains depictions of, or material which may encourage, discrimination

Game refers to or depicts the use of drugs

Game may be frightening or scary for young children

Games that encourage or teach gambling

Game depicts nudity and/or sexual behaviour or sexual references

Game contains depictions of violence

Online gameplay
Game can be played online