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PEGI's 'in-game purchasing' symbol: How will it help your family

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PEGI has moved to help parents better understand when games offer players the opportunity to spend real money in the game.

What does that mean, and why does it matter to your family? Some games these days offer the chance to buy extra items with real money, via digital stores built into the game. Sometimes it might be an extra pack of levels to explore; an extension to the game. In other cases players may be able to buy purely cosmetic items to make their character look more unique in online multiplayer gaming. Or they could be given the option to buy extra weapons or abilities.

Often it is very hard for parents or guardians to be able to tell if a game may offer the chance to spend money before it has been purchased. To help with this PEGI is now marking games that offer the chance to spend extra money in-game with a special symbol. PEGI is the organisation behind the pan-European age rating system for video games – the one we use in the UK. This symbol will soon be applied to all physical games (meaning games sold on disks or cartridges) offering in-game purchases. However, many games companies selling games as digital downloads voluntarily choose to display the age-rating and content descriptors on the online version of a game, if they those ratings and descriptors have been given to the physical edition of the same title.

The idea of PEGI marking games with symbols that compliment the age rating is nothing new. As we've explored here on AskAboutGames in more detail, the symbols are actually called 'content descriptors'. A physical copy of a game sold in the UK will be marked with a PEGI age rating such as 7-years-plus or 18-years-plus. It will also carry some content descriptors; symbols that help understand why a certain age rating was applied. Content descriptors include ones such as 'violence', 'bad language' or 'drugs'. You can see the full list of age rating categories and content descriptors here.

Now an 'in-game purchases' content descriptor symbol will be displayed when appropriate. The decision to do so was motivated by parental concerns. A recent Ipso survey that found that two-in-five parents of children that play video games believe their youngsters spend money in-game.

This is what the 'in-game purchases' content descriptor symbol looks like:

“Making parents aware of the existence of optional in-game purchases upfront is an important first step. PEGI will now make this information available at the point of purchase, so that a parent can decide whether and how they want to monitor and/or limit a child’s spending”, says Simon Little, Managing Director of PEGI. “While we know that parents use different methods to control spending, parental control tools are a very helpful next step in making sure that the overall online experience of the child is safe, including the possibility to control spending. Entering into a dialogue with the child about the games they enjoy is certainly a must for all parents. It will provide them with the necessary context to create a gaming environment both the children and the parents are comfortable with.”

The 'in-game purchases' content descriptor will start to appear on physical games later this year.

The 'in-game purchases' content descriptor has already been used in the past some places where PEGI ratings are applied to digital games. It is now being used much more universally for physical copies of games

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Will Freeman