Paper on children and game ratings in SA

I thought I’d share this, bearing in mind that we should go back and work on this some more. Reader comments and insights much appreciated:)

Sex, violence and harm in games: An analysis of the guidelines for classification of the Film and Publication Board of South Africa

Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town (UCT)

Marion Walton, Nicola Pallitt & Muya Koloko


Game ratings are intended to protect children from potentially harmful experiences by defining categories for disturbing, violent or sexual material. This paper analyses assumptions about video game play as revealed in the policies and practices of South Africa’s Film and Publication Board. We focus specifically on the interpretation of guidelines used to rate games according to the presence of ‘classifiable elements’ such as violence and sexual content, the use of public input, and raters’ interpretations of the guidelines. Currently, young people have no input in this process and adult perceptions set game ratings agendas. This paper explores how young people respond to game ratings in relation to their experiences with different game genres. We identify how rating practices and policies make particular assumptions about games – what games are, the contexts in which gaming takes place and how they construct a specific narrative of childhood. This paper argues that the policies and practices of South Africa’s Film and Publication Board in regulating the distribution of games have  emphasized ‘protection’  and reinforced parental and state power to the exclusion of paying attention to the voices of young people and respecting their rights to freedom of expression.

(Download unpublished 2011 conference paper draft)