Violent video games – a hot topic on the European agenda

By EDRi · December 20, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

Starting from a violent video game seen in Italy by Commissioner Frattini, a
new hot topic has started to be heavily discussed by European Union bodies
and Member States. Although the self-regulation measures are already in
place for some years, a new approach is pushed by the Italian Commissioner.

As previously reported by EDRI-gram, the violent video game debate started
in Italy where the Minister of Justice, Mr. Clemente Mastella, has
claimed that it would be advisable to create an “authority” that would
“decide on acceptable standards related to the modalities of sale” of
videogames, after the game “Rule of Rose” appeared on the market. The debate
was extended to the EU level by the Italian Commissioner for Justice,
Freedom and Security Franco Frattini that sent a letter to all the Internal
Affairs Ministries on this topic, asking them to do something about the
“dreadful” glorification of violence and the “obscene…brutal [and]
perverse” games distributed to Europe’s children.

The first answer came very quickly from the Information Society
Commissioner, Mrs. Reading, that criticized his colleague in harsh terms:
“It is very unfortunate that my services were not pre-consulted before your
letter to the Ministers of Interior was sent out.” She also reminded that a
European self-regulation system for classification of the violent games –
called PEGI (Pan European Gaming Information) – had already been in place
since 2003, strongly backed up by Mrs. Reading. She emphasized that
the system was very similar to the one used for movies and it was the best
solution not to censor the content: “This is in line with the Commission’s
view that measures taken to protect minors and human dignity must be
carefully balanced with the fundamental right to freedom of expression as
laid down in the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

Another answer came from the UK Minister of Interior, John Reid that also
presented the PEGI system as a viable solution, if properly enforced. He
added that a retailer could face imprisonment in UK if it sold violent games
to minors.

Italy is not the only country where the violent video games are a hot topic.
A recent event was reported in the western part of Germany where an 18-year
old Counter Strike fan wounded several pupils at a school in Emsdetten
before killing himself. Politicians in Bavaria and Lower Saxony have
promptly reacted by drafting a new law that will fine and even imprison
videogame producers that will create games containing “cruel violence on
humans or human-looking characters.”

Frattini has continued his critical remarks on the present system in a
declaration in the European Parliament and called for a
multidisciplinary approach to the problem. He considered that three
components needed to be encouraged: rating of movies and games, media
and technical solutions. Frattini also announced that in the spring of 2007
he would present to the Parliament a new declaration on cybercrime.

It is clear, at this point, that the present European system is put under
scrutiny, compliance with the voluntary rating system being considered as a
possible significant problem. This is why EU is planning a 2007 conference
on violent video games, where all the stakeholders could discuss and
eventually agree on the best practices to follow. The topic will still be
present on the agenda of the EU Justice Ministers meeting in January 2007,
when a legislative action could be initiated.

EU may regulate development and sale of violent video games (15.12.2006)

EU to take UK lead on violent video games (8.12.2006)

Euro commissioners swap slaps in video game row (24.11.2006)

German gamers face jail for acts of virtual violence (12.12.2006),,1969921,00.html

Franco Frattini – European Commissioner on Justice, Liberty and Security –
“Declaration on violent games “(only in French, 13.12.2006)

EDRI-gram : Italian Minister of Justice proposes an authority for violent
videogames (22.10.2006)