Toad, from Nintendo's "Mario" game universe.
  • The Film and Publication Board (FPB) has a new set of guidelines for censors to use in determining the age classification of interactive games – and to decide which should be banned in South Africa.
  • Sex, nudity and violence are still important considerations, but so are factors such as "competitive intensity".
  • Games that use incentives and rewards around violence can lead to higher aggression levels, the new guidelines hold. 
  • The new rules come into effect in July.

South African censors must consider a wide range of factors when classifying interactive games in South Africa as suitable for only certain age groups, in terms of new guidelines published on Friday.

Among them: the "competitive intensity" of computer games involving violence.

The new guidelines from the Film and Publication Board (FPB) are due to come into effect in July and apply to any game "where the result achieved at various stages of the games are determined in response to the decisions, inputs and direct involvements of the game player or players".

Competitive intensity, the guidelines say, is the extent to which a player gets "personally involved" in a game and the level of excitement induced in trying to gain rewards or incentives.

"Higher levels of competitiveness in games involving violence may result in much higher aggression levels than in less competitive games involving violence, and are therefore a factor that must be considered in the determination of an age restriction."

Whether a game is in the first or third person can make a big difference. For a game to be rated PG, suitable for all ages, it can feature only low-impact violence in the third person, and none in the first person. A game may be rated 16 and up if it contains realistic (but not extreme) violence of no more than moderate impact in the the first person – but in third-person play the impact of violence is allowed to be moderate to strong.

Other elements to be considered in games include criminal techniques that are detailed enough to be instructional, substance abuse, and the use of language that is prejudicial to certain groups.

Classifiers are required to take into considerations the expectations of the general public as well as the target market of the particular game, as well as any artistic or educational merit.

A game can be refused classification, and so effectively banned, if it contains incitement to violence or to do harm, amounts to propaganda for war, or advocates hate towards an identifiable group. However, those considerations can be overridden if it also has artistic or scientific merit.

For more go to Business Insider South Africa.

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