Google Play is full of adult games rated for kids

Thanks to developers manipulating the rating settings, Android’s Google Play Store is full of adult games rated for kids. As reported by Wired, tons of free-to-play apps that involve “shooting, stabbing, gore, and microtransaction gambling” are listed on the Google Play Store as kid-friendly.

One example is Mad Max Zombies, which claims to have a PEGI 3 rating despite being a gore-filled zombie-shooter. The store page didn’t show any of this, instead only offering images that look generic. However, once Wired flagged the game, it disappeared but came back as Mad War Zombies with a PEGI 12 rating.

On the Google Play Store, developers fill out their ratings via a questionnaire distributed by the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). The group is supposed to be checking these titles against their rating system before assigning one. In defense, an IARC rep spoke to Wired, stating that with “the high volume of published games and apps, participating rating authorities are not able to monitor every single release.” Instead, the group focuses only on the most-downloaded games.

Retro Sail, a game from Bearded Giant Games, is actually a kid-friendly title. Bacioiu Ciprian, head of the company, claims the Google Play Store test is “100 per cent based on the honour system.” Conversely, Apple’s App Store users the questionnaire but then reviews apps before accepting. The company is also strict about its age settings, which developers must abide by before publishing. Another developer, Tom Royal, says that “The default [App Store age rating] is four plus.” He continues, “Some settings give you an immediate notice that you just can’t publish that on iOS, and it warns you if the settings you’ve chosen will prevent publication in [certain countries].”

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It’s unfortunate that Google only removes community submitted games, forcing the userbase to maintain its storefront. Of course, it’s not that these titles are anything unique. If properly rated for teens or adults, nobody would have an issue. The problem comes down to developers abusing the rating system. Wired notes that most of these games had small install counts, but a few realistic-looking apps had hundreds of thousands of downloads.

However, there are some games that kept their ratings. These titles are an odd case. Some are augmented reality games that masquerade a device like a gun or a knife. While these apps aren’t inherently violent, the implications aren’t exactly kid-friendly, either. Dirk Bosmans, PEGI director of operations, claims that these games don’t fit into PEGI’s rating systems. Just because the game has a gun, that doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate for children, he says. “Our position is that if there is no explicit violence or even implicit violence in these games, there’s nothing to give them a higher age rating.”