European justice ministers have agreed to compare notes on the control of violent video games, while stopping short of suggesting EU-wide legislation.
A link between violent games and violence in society has yet to be proven
"We are going to make an inventory of our laws ... to come up with the best policy examples," said German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries on Tuesday, following a meeting with her EU colleagues in Dresden, eastern Germany.
"Each member state will decide which video games are violent," said EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini. "It's not up to Brussels to decide."
"But the protection of children cannot have borders," he added, calling for action from the creators and producers of violent video games. "Prevention is better than repression."
Frattini said the current self-regulating system used by the industry to classify videos according to levels of sex and violence was failing. It has been in effect in 14 EU countries since 2003.
"The weakness of the self-control system is the lack of control when selling video games. It is very difficult to check the identity (and age) of the young people who are buying the video games. Retailers should be liable to punitive measures," he added, calling on the 27 EU nations to increase their controls.
Games sold over the counter can be controlled to some extent
Frattini said he remained convinced there was a link between violent videos and violence in society, though he admitted experts remained divided on the subject.
"Like banning rain"
Last November, Frattini highlighted one newly available video game, "The Rule of Rose," as an example of why action was required. The game depicted physical and psychological violence meted out on a young girl. Controversy in Britain led the games publisher, 505 Games, to keep it off store shelves.
During their debate the justice ministers watched an extract of "Manhunt," a violent game for adults which has been a big hit on the Internet.
The debate came to life again in Germany in late November after an 18-year-old, said to be an avid computer game player, opened fire at his old school and injured several people before killing himself.
The German state of Bavaria is now seeking to modify federal law, already one of the strongest in Europe, to explicitly ban violent computer games, even on the Internet.
But the federal justice minister said that a ban on Web-based games was very unlikely to happen."You can't ban games on the Internet," said Zypries on Tuesday. "It's like trying to ban the rain."