Earlier this week, we reported on a controversial NBA 2K20 trailer, which basically glorified gambling-like gameplay. On top of this blatant promotion of addictive behavior, many have also noted that the game is in fact rated PEGI 3 and ‘E’ under the ESRB – meaning that these ratings boards somehow gave the green-light for young children to be exposed to such gambling images. Well, the outrage has become so loud that PEGI could no longer ignore what was going on.
In a recent and verified email, PEGI attempted to explain why it gave NBA 2K20 a PEGI 3 rating, despite the blatant gambling imagery in the trailer. The rating board’s response, however, was anything but enlightening – with PEGI seemingly ignoring its own standards for games that have some depiction of gambling in them.
“We have seen the announcement trailer of NBA 2K20 and noticed the controversy it has caused. We feel it is important to carefully explain when certain content is triggering the gambling descriptor in the PEGI system, but also to show when it does not at this moment.”
“A video game gets the gambling content descriptor if it contains moving images that encourage and/or teach the use of games of chance that are played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling.”
“We use a help text to clarify this in more detail: This refers to types of betting or gambling for money that is normally played/carried out in casinos, gambling halls, racetracks. This does not cover games where betting or gambling is simply part of the general storyline. The game must actually teach the player how to gamble or bet and/or encourage the player to want to gamble or bet for money in real life.”
“For example, this will include games that teach the player how to play card games that are usually played for money or how to play the odds in horse racing.”
This is in spite of many moments in the trailer which clearly reflect how players will celebrate their slot machine and roulette wins.
In the end, all PEGI could do was state that these images were only in the trailer, and may not be part of the game itself – essentially dodging the whole issue completely. PEGI ended its statement by then stating that it would continue to discuss the situation internally, even though the game is launching in just a few days on 6 September 2019.
“It is important to stress that the controversial imagery played a central role in the trailer, but it may not necessarily do so in the game, which has not yet been released.”
“At this point in time, PEGI can only comment on the trailer that has been made publicly available.”
“The trailer includes imagery that is generally known from casinos (wheel of fortune, slot machines). Using this sort of mechanic to select an item, or character, or action by chance is not the same as teaching how to gamble for money in a casino. These differences currently prevent us from applying the gambling descriptor. But we are very aware that it may get too close for comfort for some people, and that is part of an internal discussion that PEGI is having for the moment. The games industry is evolving constantly (and rapidly in recent years). As a rating organisation, we need to ensure that these developments are reflected in our classification criteria. We do not base our decisions on the content of a single trailer, but we will properly assess how the rating system (and the video games industry in general) should address these concerns.”
As it stands, it looks like NBA 2K20 will be releasing for young children all around the world – along with its blatant gambling imagery included within. We’ll report back if the situation develops further in the future.