The answers to the questions most frequently asked by children, young persons, their parents and other interested parties.
Are computer games dangerous for children and young persons?
No, not as such. Computer and video games have now become an integral part of our everyday culture. They offer plenty of entertainment as well as providing at least as many opportunities for learning. As is the case with any other medium, however, computer games also bring risks and inherent dangers in their wake. The USK age rating symbols provide a possibility of protecting children and young persons from these dangers.
Who thought of the idea of age rating for computer games?
This was a political decision enshrined within the German Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG) in 2003 and providing a legal basis for the labelling of games. The consequence is that games may not be sold or supplied to children and young persons or presented on screens. Is this censorship?No, publishers submit their titles voluntarily. There is no reason why a computer game should not appear without a rating symbol. Adults are also free to decide what games they play and have legal access to unrated games and to games which have been placed on the index of media deemed unsuitable for children and young persons. For this reason, there can be no question of censorship in this regard. Censorship is in any case prohibited pursuant to Article 5 of German Basic Law.
Does the USK edit games?
No. Publishers submit games in order to obtain an age rating symbol and decide for themselves whether any changes to their respective title may be required.
Who prohibits computer games?
Games may be prohibited by court order in Germany if they constitute a criminal offence pursuant to German Criminal Code. Such a ban would then also apply to adult sales of the game in question.
Does the USK place games on the index of media deemed unsuitable for children and young persons?
No. The placement of games on the index of media deemed unsuitable for children and young persons is a decision taken by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM). This does not, however, apply to games which have a USK rating. Such games may not be placed on the index of media deemed unsuitable for children and young persons. For further information, please visit www.bundespruefstelle.de.
What are the consequences for retailers if the BPjM places a game on the index of media deemed unsuitable for young persons?
Games placed on the index of media deemed unsuitable for young persons by the Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM) may not be publicly displayed and advertised and may not be sold to children and young persons.
Who checks that games are being sold in an age-appropriate way?
This is the responsibility of the relevant local authorities.
Can retailers decide for themselves whether they stick to the age limits when selling goods?
No, retailers are bound by the restrictions which apply to the sale of goods to children and young persons as indicated by the age rating symbols. The German Children and Young Persons Protection Act makes provision for a fine of up to €50,000 for retailers who fail to comply.
Are there legal consequences for parents who fail to comply with age restrictions?
No. The state does not govern how parents make media content available to their children at home. This is and remains the right and responsibility of the parents. What do you recommend parents do? Parents should only allow their children to play games which have an appropriate age classification. They should also talk to their children about the games in which they are interested. Play games together. This is of particular assistance in enforcing accepted rules of use at home.
What about online games and apps?
Since 2014 games and apps published on licensed storefronts are being classified using the IARC system. More information can be found here.
Questions on the age rating symbols
Who is responsible for age rating?
The age rating of retail games in accordance with the Children and Young Persons Protection Act (JuSchG) is the responsibility of the Ministries of the Federal States with jurisdiction of young persons’ affairs. These ministries have agreed that the relevant Ministry of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia will act as the lead ministry for all Federal State Ministries in assuming responsibility for age rating.
Why has a certain game received a certain age rating symbol?
Classifications are issued by the Permanent Representatives of the Supreme Youth Protection Authorities of the Federal States at the USK, who will be happy to provide you with information on individual decisions. The best way of getting in touch with these Permanent Representatives is via our Contact service. The age rating section of the site provides a summary of the age categorisation criteria used.
What are the consequences for retailers if a game is given an 18 rating?
Games with a USK rating of 18 may be displayed for public sale and may be advertised. They may not, however, be sold to children and young persons. The German Children and Young Persons Protection Act makes provision for a possible fine of up to €50,000 for retailers who fail to comply.
Why do some games not receive a rating despite undergoing a USK classification procedure?
The German Children and Young Persons Protection Act states that a game may not receive a rating if it fulfills the indexing criteria of media deemed unsuitable for young persons by the Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM). This means that it also may not be issued an 18 rating. A game which does not receive a USK age rating may be placed on the index of media deemed unsuitable for young persons by the BPjM.
Questions on the procedure
At which point is a game submitted to the USK by the industry?
Games intended for launch on the German market may be submitted to the USK prior to their release. They are then examined by the Classification Committee in order to check for any possible child protection issues before being issued a rating by the Permanent Representatives. This process means that 98 percent of all games have a USK sticker when sold in Germany.
Who is involved in the process according to the German Children and Young Persons Act?
The process involves the USK, the Supreme Youth Protection Authorities of the Federal States and independent child protection experts appointed by the Federal States.
What part does the USK play in the age rating process?
The USK checks the games technically and in terms of content and ensures that games are presented to the Classification Committee. It thus provides the whole of the infrastructure and organisation required for the procedure. Tasks carried out by the USK also include the organisation of the Classification Committees, classification deadlines and the necessary continuing training for all those involved in the classification procedure. The USK does not participate in classification decisions made by the Classification Committee.
What is the role of the State Representative at the USK?
The Permanent Representative of the Supreme Youth Protection Authorities of the Federal States chairs classification meetings. He or she may agree with the recommendation of the child protection experts or else veto a decision and instigate an appeal. If the recommendation of the child protection experts is adopted, the State Representative acts as a sovereign administrator in issuing the age classification. The applicant has the right to appeal such a classification.
What role is played by the independent child protection experts within the USK procedure?
The independent experts assess the game during the classification meeting. They discuss contents which may be relevant in child protection terms and recommend an age classification to the Permanent Representative of the Supreme Youth Protection Authorities of the Federal States.
What is the role of the USK game testers?
The USK game testers play the game through, write a test report and present the game to the Classification Committee. They do not recommend or issue any age categorisation.
What is the role of the games industry at the USK?
Although the associations of the games industry bear the economic risk of the USK, they are not responsible for the age rating symbol procedures. They are represented on the USK Advisory Council.
Where can retailers or applicants find information?
Please write to us directly via our contact service.
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