When we first saw the graphics that were to be used in the new age rating scheme, we wondered if it was an early April fools joke, as the graphics look like the sort of thing you'd get in a school project from a somewhat dated clip-art collection.


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However despite this, they are actually the new Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) age rating system, which is to find it's way on to boxes of all new games across Europe from the spring of 2003.

Six categories of "bad" are covered, namely violence, sex, drugs, fear, discrimination and bad language - it'd seem trivial things like fraud and corruption, or driving like a nutter smashing cars up aren't going to be covered by the new scheme, so presumably they're suitable for all ages, and maybe even condoned by the new scheme, and will a game aimed at girls have a discrimination logo on the back saying it's aimed at girls and not boys?

The new age rating descriptors see all Europeans having to abide by the same cultral standards no matter what country you live in, so what might be ok in one country might not be seen the same way in another, but despite this will be give a Europe-wide rating.

Commenting on the scheme, ELSPA's Roger Bennett said "The purpose is to provide consumers throughout Europe with intelligible, easy to act on, information about the age categories for which the content of a product is deemed suitable."

One of the clearest problems with the new ISFE scheme's age ratings is that they do not relate to the complexity of the game, meaning you could have a complex business management title with none of the "bad" features in it, but still being classed as suitable for gamers aged 3 - absoloute madness.

Five age categories of aged three and over, seven and over, 12 and over, 16 and over and 18 and over will be specified in addition to the logos telling you what's so obnoxious - quite how a game can have content that an 18 year old would find ok, but not be suitable for 16 year olds though is totally beyond us, and we can't see what changes in a gamer during those two years that requires a seperate age category.

What's more the scheme isn't being taken up by all countries, with Germany sticking to their own system, and a couple of others saying they'll maybe join once the scheme is up and running.

Games will only show the new logos if the content that they fall under is in the game, so if a publisher or country doesn't take part in the scheme it'll not have the logos, but could still have the "bad content", making the scheme totally useless in such cases.

The new rating scheme launches in the spring, and looks like yet more Euro-lunacy to us.