The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has released updated its classification of video games and the legalities involved in playing them.
The most notable of these changes is that children who are 10 years old and younger are not legally allowed to play video games without supervision.
The FPB also determined that up to 16-year-olds are allowed to see nudity, violence, and sexual violence in games – but not prejudice.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with ensuring that children are protected, and games are age-restricted based upon content, some have argued that these new laws from the FPB are not practical.
As it currently stands, age restrictions in gaming are regarded as suggestions rather than rules – parents choose whether to stop their younger children from playing 16 and 18+ rated games.
This is particularly true given how easy it is for children to access titles through online sites like Steam and Epic Games.
In the case of the 10-year-old gamer supervision regulation, it will also be almost impossible to enforce in any meaningful way – so the more interesting topic is how the new regulations regard prejudice as more harmful than violence, nudity and sexual violence in gaming for players 16 or younger.
This premise would rule out many fantasy and RPG games that explore prejudicial sentiments in harmless fictional settings.
Additionally, while the FPB regarding prejudice being more harmful to younger audiences than nudity and violence is a thought-provoking stance, it will be impractical to enforce.
While new games will receive new local age restrictions based on these new regulations, young gamers will no doubt continue to purchase whichever games they like – or their parents permit – regardless of the age requirement.
They will do this by faking their age on their profile – as was a common trend in the earlier days of social media platforms like Facebook – or using their parents’ details to get access to their favourite games.
The more problematic aspect of this change to regulations, therefore, is the potential implications of it for future updates.
A prime example of how a more aggressive stance against certain types of games could be a problem in the future is Australia, where its stringent regulations have seen numerous games banned – many of which seem very harsh.
For example, top-down base-builder Rimworld was banned in Australia due to some of the less-than-moral things players could do – all of which were highly pixelated to avoid visual gratuity.
Rimworld has since been legalised after the Australian Classification Board overturned its initial ruling, but the fact that the game was banned in the first place is a major concern.
While it is doubtful that South Africa will get to that point, this update from the FPD means the chance is still there.
Should such rigid laws like those in Australia be instituted locally, it would be interesting to see how the government would try to enforce them.
For now,, this new update from the FPD for gamers is nothing more than a meaningless guideline that most will almost certainly ignore.