7 April 2014, 20:28

Russia may adopt age restrictions for videogames, websites

Russia may adopt age restrictions for videogames, websites
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Mail.Ru, one of Russia’s largest internet companies, with a massive user base of its email and affiliated services, has initiated labeling its games with age restrictions on three gaming web portals – Games Mail.Ru and Mini-games Mail.Ru as well as the “gaming center” for its users. Restrictions are based on standards developed by Russian regulators and European counterparts – PEGI. For example, if a game is rated 12+ by Russian standards, but 18+ by PEGI, Mail.Ru will label it as an adult-only game.

Oleg Shpilchevskiy, head of the Gaming division for Mail.Ru said that while labeling games with age restrictions is not mandatory in Russia yet, the company decided to be proactive and offer players and their parents guidance. “We think that this transparent approach is a basis for normal interaction between game developers and the players and we offer our colleagues to join us in voluntary labeling of their products.” 

I guess their timing is quite appropriate, since as of late there have been talks on the legislative level on increasing governmental regulation of the gaming industry – although some of the proposals are a little bit more novel than simply introducing mandatory age restrictions. For instance, the Ukrainian crisis and a controversial game it has spawned, namely, a multiplayer game called ‘Maidan,’ referring to the Independence Square, the ground zero for Ukrainian protests which began last year, have prompted Russian legislators to look into tighter regulation of the industry. State Duma deputy Oleg Mikheev has drawn up a bill which prohibits videogames, which spread war propaganda, national and religious hatred and strife and introduces fines for distribution of ‘pro-Nazi games.’

He said “The Ukrainian events have shown that comprehensive harsh punitive measures for crimes of indirect propaganda and justification of Nazism is a burning political issue. Such propaganda is being spread through seemingly innocent media – videogames. Their real agenda may be defamation of Russia’s historic past, its current status and creation of the country’s negative image for both foreign nationals and our compatriots. We need to fight that.” Other deputies so far have supported this legal initiative. Vadim Dengin, a deputy who often pens bills related to the digital world, suggested that the new bill can protect children and adolescents from anti-Russian propaganda. While he stressed that governmental regulation of videogames is needed, he noted that the final version of the bill will take into consideration opinions of experts, such as gamers, psychologists and other specialists with knowledge of this issue.

Actually, there is a similar initiative targeting websites. The Federation Council has proposed introducing a harsher law on protection of the younger generation from information which may harm their health or development. If the proposed bill passes, websites will have to mark their content, warning children and their parents of potentially harmful media. This includes media which uses special tricks in order to affect the subconscious, causing disorders of moral, spiritual and psychological development. The same goes for media which provokes children to conduct anti-social and illegal actions and actions, potentially harmful to their life or health. The list also includes 'intimidating information' – media, which can cause recurrent fears, panic or horror.

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