New government proposals will introduce a new age 12 category into video games ratings. Retailers will face fines of up to £5,000 and a prison sentence of up to six months if they are caught selling a 12 or above rated game to a child under 12 years.
Games are currently classified by the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) system as well as the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), depending on the content of the game. The new regulations will see the responsibility placed solely at the feet of the Video Standards Council (VSC). The VSC will carry on using the PEGI system though, so don't expect to find odd new stickers on your games.
The VSC will also have the power to effectively ban games from sale in Britain by refusing to give them an age rating -- games that do not get rated are not allowed to go on sale. Any retailer who attempts to sell imported games without a rating can face up to two years in prison -- you'd better warn 'Big Jimmy' down the market.
The government hopes that the new regulations will make it easier for parents to understand the ratings system and be confident that their seven-year-old isn't playing a game that involves them hacking someone's face off with a crowbar -- although I'm not sure exactly why the government feels the parent can't make that decision themselves without a legally enforceable policy.
If you're over 12 then it's not likely you're going to be affected much by the new changes. The only risk is that the VSC will attempt to ban games it deems 'dangerous', in line with the various ridiculous claims that games like Grand Theft Auto are causing our children to become violent prostitute-killing drug dealers.
There's no firm date on exactly when the new regulations are due to come into effect, and it's too soon to say what impact they'll have on video game sales here in the UK.
What do you think to the new rules? Is too much of a fuss made over age restrictions on games and films, or do you think that violent games are the downfall of us all? Let me know in the comments below or over on our Facebook page.