Violent video could be banned throughout Europe, EU justice ministers meeting in Dresden said on Tuesday.
The ministers called for closer scrutiny and co-ordination of national bans amid concern over the alleged link between playing violent games and brutal behaviour by children and adolescents.
Though the EU has no competency to ban games, ministers agreed to set up a central register of games that are banned in different member states.
Franco Frattini, EU justice commissioner, said: “Protection of children cannot have borders”.
Germany, the current holder of the rotating six-month EU presidency, promised to draw up a study of the different national rules that currently apply to computer games across the Union. The Commission hopes this will mark a first step towards harmonising the EU’s approach, for example on what games to ban outright and what games should be subject to a minimum age.
Several scientific studies claim to show a link between sadistic games and violent behaviour. The strong condemnation of violent computer games by the Union’s justice and interior ministers at a meeting in Dresden yesterday highlighted the increasingly hostile environment faced by the industry.
Makers and distributors of such games found themselves at the centre of a fierce controversy last November, when an 18-year old German stormed a secondary school in Emsdetten, shooting five people and wounding others before committing suicide. According to media reports, he was a devotee of war simulation and computer games.
Mr Frattini, said : “My personal opinion is a certain degree of linkage between the growing violence among the younger generation and the growing diffusion of violent games exists.”
Mr Frattini has long campaigned for tougher rules on computer games, and yesterday he won broad support for a range of measures aimed at tightening the regulatory environment for violent computer games.
The EU has a patchwork of national rules on computer games, on top of which there are self-regulatory measures taken by the industry, like websites that advise parents on what games are unsuitable for minors.
The commissioner declined to identify individual games worthy of a ban, but ministers were shown a short clip from the game Manhunt, which lets players impersonate a killer in a city where “the ultimate rush is the power to grant life and take it, for sport”, according to the website of Rockstar Games, the developer. The game has been banned in most EU countries.