Gambling anchored in USK test criteria

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Gambling anchored in USK test criteria

Gambling is now officially one of the guiding and testing criteria of the entertainment software self-control (USK). In the future, gaming elements will therefore also be taken into account when assessing the age of video games. A press release that has just been published shows that the USK is “… on a changing media landscape in which elements similar to gambling have established themselves in the online sector and in apps.” It is primarily to be understood as a clear signal that the USK is now adding elements of gambling to its criteria for rating video games. The guiding criteria are derived from the protection of minors and represent something like a set of rules for the entertainment software self-regulation. Until now, gambling in video games was not part of this set of rules – at least not explicitly. However, it was possible to include it in the age classification under the designation “developmental impairment”. A complicated detour that existed for the sake of form and will no longer be necessary in the future.

USK sends a clear signal

Of course, the possible developmental impairments of young people are absolutely in the foreground, because “… game elements should be taken into account that could negatively influence attitudes towards gambling and the associated personal development.” In the communication he writes: “Especially with the so-called casino apps, it is evident that gaming mechanics similar to games of chance can find their way into everyday media life for children and young people. The main concern here is to protect children from content that clearly focuses on gambling mechanics ”. In the further course he writes of a “signal” that the USK wants to include the inclusion of gambling in the test and guiding criteria. Because especially in the last few years the USK has come under more criticism. Your handling of elements of gambling has been criticized several times. Mostly it was about the so-called loot boxes, through which more or less random content can be purchased for video games. However, these loot boxes will not be included in the evaluation in the future either. According to the USK, they fall into the area of ​​”non-content-related components”, so for “legal reasons they cannot be part of the age classification”. On the other hand, it looks completely different with the immediate play elements. A content-related component is used when, for example, gaming is carried out on gaming machines while the game is in progress. In such a case, this can be taken into account in the age classification by the USK. Assessing whether such elements are content-related or non-content-related is not always straightforward. The USK pays particular attention to how high the proportion of the total game is and “… whether the mechanisms similar to gambling are embedded in a” child-friendly “environment.” The main aim of the control body is to play down gambling. In addition, the USK also plans to evaluate “… unrealistic profit expectations and the desensitization towards losses”. It makes a clear distinction between simulated and real gambling. Real gambling is forbidden for young people in Germany. Simulated gambling, on the other hand, is permitted – at least in principle. The USK sees the difference in the fact that in a so-called simulated game of chance the winnings have no monetary value. And they believe that most of the cases are simulated gambling among the gambling elements in video games.

Checked around 40,000 games

The entertainment software self-regulation (USK) was set up in 1994. It is your responsibility to age-limit video games and their trailers. The USK markings can also be found in Austria and Switzerland, but they are not valid there. The reason for this is that mostly only one game version is produced for the German-speaking area, which is then available in three countries.

Since 2008, the voluntary self-control entertainment software GmbH from Berlin has been the sponsor of the USK. Game – Association of the German Games Industry e.V. is a partner in the GmbH. According to the principle of a semi-state organization, the USK guarantees the organization of exams. Experts nominated by the advisory board make the age decisions together with a representative of the Supreme State Youth Authority. Since it was founded, the USK has checked around 50,000 games for children and young people. At the beginning it was a matter of recommendations, but since the amendment of the Youth Protection Act (JuSchG), age ratings have been made mandatory. Therefore, the corresponding age rating must be clearly marked on the packaging of the respective game and on the data carrier itself. Games for illustration, information or teaching purposes are completely excluded from the restrictions, provided they are marked as such.

Every game manufacturer can have their games and products classified by the USK for a fee. However, according to the JuSchG, the review committee can also refuse to be labeled if, for example, it comes to the conclusion that the game in question is harmful to young people. Most of the time this game is then put on the index of the federal inspection agency. However, once a game has been identified by the USK, it can no longer be indexed. As one of the founders of the International Age Rating Coalation (IARC), the USK and a number of other official international institutes also assign age ratings for online games and numerous apps. These age ratings by the USK are displayed in the Windows Store, Google Play Store and Firefox.

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