The new Youth Protection Law in Switzerland is a done deal. But what does this mean for Swiss esports and what are the next steps? A short summary from the perspective of the Swiss Esports Federation (SESF).
After three rounds of discussion between the two chambers of the Swiss national parliament, the new law on youth protection for film and video games is a done deal. The SESF was involved in this process to ensure the interests of the Swiss esports community were heard. The federation was able to positively influence the new law which directly impacts Swiss esports events, (a positive outcome being the avoidance of strict tournament participation regulation). However, the law is still not ideal and there are a lot of potential issues which need to be clarified whilst the implementation process is under way.
There are several key features of the new law worth mentioning:
The way this legislation works is quite a new approach. The federal council and parliament have defined high-level rules within the law, while details need to be implemented by the industry itself. The industry stakeholders – such as the SESF – need to be organised into a definable entity, that can collectively work to support efficient implementation of the laws and their execution within the esports industry. This means an upcoming discussion on structure, involvement, financing, voting rights, etc., will take place, in which the SESF intends to play a crucial role. Support of digital media literacy. With implementation of this law, a foundation has been set up to provide initiatives that support digital media literacy (e.g., "responsible gaming") with federal funds. This is good news overall, in our opinion. But as with every aspect of this law, the details still need to be defined. The amount of support, the criteria to receive support, and any potential restrictions on the funds are points that still need to be addressed.
Up until now, on a national scale, there was no overall mandatory age classification system. With the new law, the industry will need to agree on a system (similar to PEGI for example), which requires mandatory implementation (until , age classification was only "recommended"). In the view of the SESF, this is a good step towards transparent rules and provides legal clarity for the industry.
Participation in esports
This is the most important part of the law for the Swiss esports industry: the regulation of participants (players, visitors, and viewers) during tournaments and events. Whilst the new laws regulate both film and video games (which is far from ideal in the view of the SESF), there is a notable exception that relates to esports. If you are participating in a league, tournament, cup, etc, and are younger than the age rating of the game, you can take part if you get the validated approval of your parents (e.g., a signed document), which is quite a liberal approach and allows young players to compete. This is welcome news for the esports ecosystem in Switzerland. It allows teams and organisations to have the possibility to train young and aspiring talent. Without those talents the Swiss community would not be able to grow. There is however a big but: and this is for underage participants watching esports at an event (in an offline capacity). In these cases, there are additional stricter restrictions:
A few words about these two restrictions: They are stricter than we wished they would be for the Swiss esports scene. Through this legislation, movies and games are being regulated together and as a result have the same rules. When you think of a splatter film, you understand where the reasoning for these restrictions comes from.
We will monitor the situation and take action if it’s felt this will come to harm the community and the industry in an unacceptable manner. Unfortunately, the lobbying process of separating film and video game regulation within the law was too complex to be achieved by the federation at that point. But we will aim to improve our political weight and to ensure better influence on future laws.
The next steps
With the political go-ahead, the law now needs to be drafted in detail by the federal administration. For this process, the industry will be consulted in early 2023, and a first draft for public consultation is to be expected by mid-2023. The law itself is currently not expected to be put in action before 2024 – after which the industry still has two years to negotiate the details in the co-regulation process, once this has been completed, the new law will be passed by the federal council and its rules applicable to all the stakeholders in the industry.
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