By Claire West

Selling video games with a “12” rating to underage children will now be a criminal offence punishable with a hefty fine or even a prison sentence.

The new rules are part of a transformation in video game regulation, with a simplified ratings system which came into effect yesterday.

Video games will now be classified by a single authority, the Video Standards Council (VSC), under the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) system.

“The UK has one of the most dynamic and innovative video games industries in the world, and the games they produce not only entertain millions, but can also educate and foster creativity,” Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said. “Today’s simplification of the ratings system benefits both industry and consumers and will help ensure that the millions of games sold in the UK each year are being played by the audiences they were intended for.”