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Legal games: the regulation of content and the challenge of casual gaming

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The regulation of video games in the United Kingdom has come under the authority of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) since the 1980s, but the system was extended in 2010 and a new authority will take over from them in due course. This article considers the history of this regulatory system, arguing that the limitations of the Video Recordings Act (VRA) (the governing statute) and the assumptions made by legislators are a result of the gulf between legal and academic understandings of games. Furthermore, the range of games now played, such as casual downloadable games and applications on smartphones and mobile devices, means that the dividing line between regulated and unregulated may be based on history instead of necessity. The author draws upon legal decisions, regulatory statements, and general and specialist press reports, alongside the academic literature on games from the humanities and the social sciences, arguing that an alternative form of legal control could be informed by advances in the academic and cultural understanding of video games.
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Keywords: British Board of Film Classification; Internet; Video Recordings Act; casual gaming; mobile phones; regulation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of East Anglia

Publication date: 2011-03-29

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  • The Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds focuses on theoretical and applied, empirical, critical, rhetorical, creative, economic and professional approaches to the study of electronic games across platforms and genres as well as ludic and serious online environments.
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