Like many of my fellow Enthusiasts, I have recently spent quite a bit of time playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Respawn Entertainment has done a really good job of providing a Star Wars experience that a lot of gamers were after. I’m not the only Star Wars fan in our house. My little boy also loves the galaxy far, far, away, and was very intrigued to see what I was playing. As someone who does try to be a responsible parent, I immediately checked to see what the rating of the game was. I was somewhat shocked to find that PEGI had rated it as only suitable for people over 16 years old.
PEGI vs BBFC
PEGI says that it gave Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order the rating for “sustained depictions of violence towards human characters and strong violence”. I have to say that I find this bizarre as there’s nothing worse in the game than is in any of the movies. In fact, I would go further and say that there is worse stuff in the films than there are in this game. Both Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode I: The Phantom Menace are rated ‘U’ in the UK. This means that the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) thinks that anybody can watch these films without any parental guidance. The Empire Strikes Back ends with (spoiler) Luke Skywalker having his hand chopped off. The Phantom Menace culminates in (more spoilers) Darth Maul being chopped in half. Fallen Order does not have anything near this level of violence.
There appears to have been a conscious decision by the developers to only allow non-human characters in the game to have body parts removed. However you attack the stormtroopers or other human foes, they just fall to the ground. They may have a glowing line on them where the lightsaber struck them but they never lose a limb or anything. It feels like a decision to appease the ESRB and PEGI. I don’t have a problem with this as it doesn’t really affect gameplay or even the tone of the game. PEGI doesn’t seem to have taken any notice of this, though.
Problems beyond Star Wars
It’s not just Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order that has received a rating much worse than if it was a movie. Most shooters get exactly the same kind of treatment. If Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was a movie, I’m pretty confident that it would get a 15 certificate from the BBFC. This means that anyone over the age of 15 would be able to see it. When it comes to PEGI rating the game, they say that nobody under the age of 18 should play it. There’s nothing worse in the latest Call of Duty than say a John Wick and Deadpool or Platoon and Black Hawk Down which are both rated as 15 by the BBFC.
I can only assume that the distinction that PEGI is making is that you are taking an active role in a game rather than just passively watching a movie. Personally, I don’t think this is a sound argument. Yes, gaming is about escapism and experiencing new things but I don’t think anyone really gets confused between real-life and a game. Anyone who does have an issue with that kind of thing is going to have problems distinguishing between movies and reality as well. For years politicians have tried to claim a link between real-life violence and games or movies. Yet, there has never been one credible study that has found a link.
Rating the ratings
I have always thought that movie and game ratings were flawed. After all, everyone is different and there are things that a particular 17-year-old may find disturbing whereas a particular 12-year-old may not. However, I understand that rating systems need to be in place. With that said, I really don’t agree with the discrepancy between the rating systems of the BBFC and PEGI. Their American counterparts, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) deigned to give Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order a ‘T for Teen’ rating and this makes a lot more sense. I don’t understand why PEGI decided it warranted a higher rating. It does highlight a bigger discrepancy in media-types, though. I really hope that PEGI takes stock of the situation and see if they are in-line with what the public want and need.