Date set for games age rating system

A voluntary code that will see computer games tagged with filim classification-like age ratings will come into force in April

A European new age rating system for computer games, first announced in October, is due to come into effect in April, the body responsible for it has said.

The Interactive Software Federation of Europe (IFSE) originally said the rating system, which will use a film-style classification, would come into effect this spring. In an interview with The Observer newspaper this week, IFSE secretary-general Patrice Chazerand pinned the date down to April.

The voluntary system will include five age categories: aged three and over; seven and over; 12 and over; 16 and over, and 18 and over. The age ratings will not relate to the complexity of the games in any way, but are designed to ensure that children aren't exposed to content that might be unsuitable.

In addition to the age ratings, a series of six symbols designed to warn parents about specific types of content will be introduced. The six symbols, of which only a maximum of two will appear on any one game, highlight game content that includes violence, sex, drugs, fear, discrimination, and bad language.

The new IFSE age rating system will replace the existing voluntary age rating system in the UK that was introduced by the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) in 1994. All of the major European countries have agreed to the introduction of the scheme in Spring 2003 with the exceptions of Finland and Portugal which have indicated that they'll pursue its introduction once the scheme is up and running, and Germany which, following recent proposals from its Government, will retain its own mandatory system.

Gamespot's Justin Calvert contributed to this report.

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