Video Game Age Rating – France

A Major Player in the Video Game Industry

Let’s be honest; when one hears mention of the subject of video games, France isn’t the first country to spring to mind. That would be Japan, or perhaps even the U.S.A. Something you may not know, however, is that the French market is one of the largest consumers of video games in the world, surpassed only in Europe by Britain and Germany. Video game publishing giant Ubisoft is a French company, with its headquarters in Montreuil, while last year’s Paris Games Week played host to over 212,000 visitors, demonstrating just how prevalent video gaming is in France.

With video games playing such a prominent role in the media, it’s no wonder that France soon found a need for an age rating system to be brought into place, and while age ratings labels are not enforced upon games publishers, most retailers require them to be displayed on all games. They use the European standard for video game age rating, PEGI (Pan European Game Information), which was founded in 2003 and is now used in over 30 different countries.

The purpose of PEGI is to unify the age classification of games across Europe. In some countries it is the official body for rating games, whereas in others (such as Germany and, until recently, the UK) it is used as a secondary system alongside another national authority. In other countries still, it is used, but with no official legislation. For France, it is the sole authority on video game age rating.

Prior to PEGI, the organization responsible for rating games was SELL (Syndicat des éditeurs de logiciels de loisirs), a federation of interactive software publishers dedicated to promoting the interests of video game developers. It used a four tier system – ‘suitable for all’, ‘suitable for 12 years and over’, ‘suitable for 16 years and over’ and ‘suitable for 18 years and over’ – and rated games from 1999 until it was replaced by PEGI in 2003.

France – Liberation Nation?

When it comes to video games, France appears to be one of the most liberal nations, having never banned a game, unlike many of its neighbors. In fact, the closest game ever to come to receiving a ban is Sanitarium (2005), which was taken off of shop shelves one week after its release. This followed a protest by Familles de France , which found the game to be unhealthy, macabre, and seedy.

Familles de France is a consumer organization and confederation of family associations that claims to represent the entire French demographic and monitors different forms of media accessible to the public, voicing concerns over what is and is not appropriate. Their stance on video games tends to be rather conservative, perhaps owing to their prominently Christian underlying principles, claiming that video games are not educational and should be better regulated. As a consequence, they seek to limit the amount of sex and violence represented in games.

So far their presence has had little effect on the video game industry, aside from the aforementioned case of Sanitarium. This is, perhaps, because France has no specific law that relates directly to video games; legislation instead makes reference to ‘any document that can be read electronically in an analog or digital way’, making it slightly more difficult to target video games in particular. However, Fallout 2 (1998) was released to the French market in a censored version, which made it impossible to meet or shoot children.

Although France subscribes to the PEGI system of rating games, it is not actually illegal to sell a restricted game to somebody underage, rendering PEGI as more of a set of guidelines than regimented rules. However, this may soon change, with TV channel France 3 claiming on the 24th December 2012 that selling GTA V and other such violent games to minors could soon be made illegal.

The table below provides a detailed explanation of the PEGI system:

Classification
Explanation Suitable for ages 3 and older Suitable for ages 7 and older Suitable for ages 12 and over Suitable for ages 16 and older Suitable for ages 18 and older
Examples Airline Tycoon 2 – Gold Edition, FIFA 13, Pokédex 3D Pro Street Fighter X Mega Man, Kinect Party, Need For Speed Most Wanted (2012) Worms Revolution, Zumba Fitness Core, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Dead or Alive 5, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Batman: Arkham City – Game of the Year Edition Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Assassin’s Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Language
None None Mild, no sexual expletives Extreme Extreme
Violence
Some comical or cartoon violence is acceptable as long as characters cannot be associated with real life Some comical or cartoon violence is acceptable as long as characters cannot be associated with real life Graphic violence towards fantasy characters or non-graphic violence towards human-looking characters Resembles real-life Gross violence encouraging a level of revulsion
Fear
No sound or pictures that may frighten young children Games that would otherwise be rated ‘3’, but contain frightening images and sounds may fall into this category High level of fear High level of fear High level of fear
Sex
None None Slightly graphic nudity Resembles real-life Resembles real-life
Drugs
None None None Representation of the concept of using tobacco and drugs Representation of the concept of using tobacco and drugs
Gambling
None None Encourages or teaches gambling Encourages or teaches gambling Encourages or teaches gambling
Discrimination
None None None None Cruelty of harassment based on ethnicity, gender, sexual preferences etc.

The black and white icons found in the first column of the table above are content descriptors shown on the packaging of games in order to indicate what kind of content can be found within. There is one additional symbol used to represent games that contain an online mode:

Localizing for the French Market

What game publishers can take from this is that, in reality, localizing a game to the French market and aiming to achieve a particular age rating is relatively easy. Publishers can rest assured that France follows the PEGI system with little difficulty, and extreme content is unlikely to receive a ban. Due to the country’s laidback laws surrounding video games and a lack of strict enforcement and regulation, restricted games may even have a larger market base than in other European countries, owing to the fact that minors may still, in some cases, purchase restricted games. Publishers should, however, bear in mind that this may change in the near future and that some retailers are still entitled to enforce the age recommendations. Moreover, the content of the game should still reflect its target audience.

At MO Group International, our team of native speaking French translators has years of experience in translating games for the French market. With our age rating consultancy services for video games, we can tell you exactly what you need to do to reach the rating that you wish to target. This knowledge is backed by detailed experience in localizing games for languages and countries all around the world, meaning that we can help you with any market.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you to achieve a particular rating in your chosen countries.

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