For our international friends here’s a quick recap, if you are American then you know what the ESRB is and if you’re European your one is called PEGI, yes it is the local ratings board and here in deepest darkest Africa (no we don’t have pet lions and yes we wear clothes) we have a board called the FPB which rates our games.
But this thought pattern applies to your ratings boards as well so stay with me here.
The FPB is often blamed for our slow release dates in South Africa as well as for a large chunk of applications missing from the iStore and games missing from the Xbox marketplace. This is because all games, movies and certain publications have to be submitted for a rating at the FPB and this honour comes at a cost.
Instantly this rules out small indie developers or niche titles because they know that the profit they are going to get from our small market is not likely to exceed the cost of publishing it here however that isn’t the case for the more mainstream titles.
So Megarom, Ster-Kinekor, Nu-Metro and the rest regularly hand over early copies of titles and cash to the board to get their obligatory rating and on we go. This is how it has worked for years and there is no sign of it stopping.
But the problem is that it is idiotic in this day and age to rate something that can and will change as soon as the game is actually released. You tell me how many games out there don’t have a day one patch?
So the conservative members of the FPB get to review Grand Theft Auto and decide that it’s very bad and violent and will therefore get a 18 rating. All is good in the world and life goes on, however then they release a new DLC pack that include gay love, blasphemy and devil worshipping. Do you think that same conservative board would have given that game an 18 instead of an R if those scenes were in the original game?
But let’s ignore DLC for now shall we and rather look at Origin and Steam instead, 2 online services that entirely bypass the FPB and give companies a loophole that not only gives them a cheaper publishing model but also less hassles. The problem is that this funnels money directly out of our economy which is a very bad thing indeed.
We could go on but why? There is a simple solution to this, the FPB should change their system to allow the developers and publishers to self regulate. 2K Games should be allowed to simply send their Borderlands 2 stock to Megarom with a rating they have chosen for our country. Megarom approves this rating and slaps the correct sticker on the game.
Then the FPB simply randomly spot checks titles (including DLC) and reacts to complaints. If 2K recommended a PG rating and the local distributor approves it and FPB disagree they can then pull Megarom in and if they win the argument the local distributor gets slapped with a massive fine and is forced to apologise publicly and remove all stock from the shelves until an appropriate sticker is affixed.
This would hurt their bank balance and reputation, 2K would get upset if this continued to happen and would either move distributors or be more wary about the ratings handed down.
More importantly we would then be able to quickly open up our local online marketplaces and start receiving the same level of service that they are accustomed to in Europe and America.
This scenario works for online TV as well with Netflix and Hulu then being able to broadcast locally simple by placing the correct rating on the shows and ensuring they abide by FPB standards.
Last Updated: September 26, 2012
August 14, 2014 at 17:28
I’m glad we have our own regulatory body, even if it causes a bit of inconvenience for South Africans. Media content ratings are subjective, and based on the region, the rating will vary. South Africa is not culturally the same as Europe, the UK or the US. We are more conservative and therefore need our own rating system that suits this conservatism.
Finally we are a sovereign state with its own set of laws. The PEGI and ESRB systems are designed to enforce foreign law, not South African law.