Wired has found and reported 36 games on Google Play that are rated as suitable for children despite objectionable content. These games feature violence, social casino gaming, and vaguely disturbing imagery like removing a panda’s bad tooth, with pandas, of course, responsible for general child-friendliness.
This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with shooting hordes of zombies in the face (on a second thought though…). Simulated gambling and sexual content are also part of many reputable titles. The problem is that Google Play fails to rate too many of its games appropriately.
Mad Max Zombies, for example, received a PEGI 3 rating which is hardly consistent with the zombie-killing nature of the title.
How come Google rates games with mature content as appropriate for children?
In Europe, PEGI age rating system helps consumers, parents in particular, decide whether or not to buy a particular product for a child. However, with digital-only releases, Google struggles to manually verify each of the thousands of games submitted daily. Instead, it relies on an automated questionnaire that developers have to fill out in good faith.
“Given the high volume of published games and apps, participating rating authorities are not able to monitor every single release.”
Age Rating Coalition spokesperson
With little to zero oversight, it is up to developers to determine which rating their game will receive. The lower the rating, the bigger the number of downloads, the higher the revenue. And this is difficult not to take advantage of.
Another pitfall is the inadequacy of PEGI criteria when it comes to less explicit content such as cosmetic surgery simulators.
Is it a universal problem?
Google Play is not the only store that has developers fill out questionnaires. But Apple follows it up with a strict approval process taking a day or two. Nintendo also manually reviews all titles before admitting them to eShop.
What’s the bottom line?
The silver lining is that Google and PEGI have removed or re-rated some of the titles that Wired mentions. Mad Max Zombies has resurfaced on Google Play as Mad War Zombies with a PEGI 12 rating. But while PEGI is fine-tuning its criteria, parents should embrace the ultimate responsibility for the kind of games their children play.