Video games are to be governed by a simpler and stronger age-rating system under new proposals, the Government said today.
The new system will stop inappropriate video games being sold to children under the age of 12 and give the industry simpler rules for rating games according to age, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
All games sold in the UK are regulated under the Europe-wide PEGI (Pan European Game Information) scheme with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) providing 15 and 18 certificates that are legally enforceable here.
The BBFC was never tasked with providing 12 certificates for video games, meaning it was technically legal to sell a 12-rated game to younger children.
The new proposals will end the BBFC's role in rating video games, unless they contain explicit sexual content that warrants an R18 rating, but make all PEGI ratings made by the UK-based Video Standards Council (VSC) legally enforceable, the DCMS said.
The changes mean anyone selling a 12-certificate game to a child under that age in the UK could be jailed.
The PEGI system is specifically designed for video games and the age rating on the packaging will be accompanied by information about the type of content that led to the rating.
The VSC will have the power to refuse to grant an age-rating for a video game if it includes extreme content, meaning it would not be allowed to be sold in the UK.
Creative industries minister Ed Vaizey said: "The new system will benefit both parents and industry by creating a stronger, simpler age-rating system.
"It will give parents greater confidence that their children can only get suitable games while we are creating a simpler system for industry having their games age-rated."
Association for UK Interactive Entertainment chief executive Jo Twist said: "We are pleased to hear that the PEGI regulations are another step closer to becoming the UK's sole age-rating system for video games, giving much-needed clarity for consumers.
"We are also in the planning stages of a major awareness campaign to help the public understand the system and other aspects of responsible gaming as soon as PEGI become law in the UK."
VSC chairwoman Baroness Shephard said: "This news is very welcome and finally gives us the mandate to undertake the role of statutory video games regulator in the UK.
"The VSC is fully prepared and ready to carry out the vital role of providing consumers with a single, straightforward games rating system whilst ensuring that child safety remains our first priority."
The new system is expected to come into effect in July.