No child under 10 should ever play a video game alone, according to new SA censorship rules

Set of old gambling machines from different sides. Isolated vector illustration

  • A computer game suitable for all ages does not exist, according to the new handbook for government censors.
  • Until the age of 10, children should only play under the supervision of their parents.
  • And they certainly can’t learn to do anything criminal through a video game.
  • Meanwhile, the definition of domestic violence material has been expanded to potentially include the showing of a burglary at the home of a one-night stand.
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No child under the age of 10 should ever play a video game without adult supervision, according to updated rules from South African censors due to come into force in August.

And game makers will have to be more careful about how they reward violence — and should avoid teaching kids how to be criminals — if they want to avoid higher age brackets for their games.

The Film and Publication Board on Friday released a revised version of its 40-page set of guidelines for classification boards that have the power to ban films and games in South Africa.

These rules were last updated in 2019, when profanity was dropped to decide how content should be classified.

See also | Profanity has been removed from South Africa’s film ratings – although it disturbs far more people than violence

The new version expands the scope of some of the “classifiable elements” that help decide whether a movie or game is rated PG (for “parental guidance”) or X18, or somewhere in between. In examining violence, for example, censors must no longer only consider the violence actually depicted, but also “the detailed instruction or promotion of violence”.

Similarly, the definition of what constitutes domestic violence has been expanded to include economic abuse, intimidation, property damage and “entering the residence of the victim without their consent” if there is a risk of “imminent harm”. At the same time, the concept of domestic relationship was expanded to actually include one-night stands.

But many of the changes detailed are game-specific.

Some are complex, such as new ways in which “competitive intensity” should be considered in the context of games that reward violence.

Others are direct.

“There is no ‘All Ages’ age rating for games,” read the new guidelines.

“Children are not allowed to play a game rated ‘PG’ [the lowest level of classification available] unless and only if supervised by an adult”, because even such games can have elements “disturbing or harmful to children”.

For the higher level, the same rule applies: “Children 7 to 9 years old are not allowed to play a game rated ‘7-9PG’ unless supervised by an adult”.

It was only at age 10 that the ban on playing solo fell. Then, for games rated “10-12PG”, the game content may not be threatening, the theme may not cause moral harm – and “may not contain any occurrence of implied, verbal or actual criminal techniques”.

In the 2019 rules, actual criminal techniques rather than mere involvement were required before they became a classifiable item.

The new rules make “online interactivity” a primary consideration in how games are rated and explicitly include online games.

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