Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has announced a consultation on proposals to give computer games legally enforceable age ratings, as well as detailed warnings similar to those given to movies.

The government minister said that video games have "outgrown" the existing classification system. She believes that her putative new system would ensure that video games are played only by the appropriate age group.

Under Patricia Hodge's proposals, retailers and suppliers would be asked to sign up to a voluntary code asking them to adhere to the new classification system when supplying video games to children aged 12 or above.

Making the announcement, the minister said: "In recent years there have been extraordinary developments in technology, with increasingly realistic gameplay and highly evolved storylines. At the same time more and more games are now accessed online.

"We have also seen a big growth in games aimed at a grown-up market, which invariably include scenes unsuitable for young people.

"The games market has simply outgrown the classification system."

The announcement follows last year's government-commissioned report by clinical psychologist Dr Tanya Byron on the effects of electronic entertainment on UK children.

SSafer Children in a Digital World suggested that children need protecting from 'inappropriate material' via a flexible and easy to understand game rating system.

Right now, cinema ratings organisation the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) can slap age ratings on games, or even ban extreme titles. But the BBFC's remit extends only to games that are deemed violent, or contain sexual behaviour.
Other games are classified on a voluntary basis only.

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