Google’s Play Store is packed with nasty violent games aimed at kids

Google’s Play Store is packed with nasty, violent games aimed at kids

Ratings and Reviews of Online Casinos


1. Sol Casino

Sol casino keyword

Free Sign-Up Bonus: 60 Free Spins ( Free Sign-Up Bonus Link )


First Deposit Bonus: 200% up to €/$ 1000 ( Registration Link )





2. Fresh Casino

fresh casino

Free Sign-Up Bonus: 70 Free Spins ( Free Sign-Up Bonus Link )


First Deposit Bonus: 100% up to €/$ 500 ( Registration Link )






3. Jet Casino

jet casino

Free Sign-Up Bonus: 90 Free Spins ( Free Sign-Up Bonus Link )


First Deposit Bonus: 200% up to €/$ 1000 ( Registration Link )







Google’s Play Store is packed with nasty, violent games aimed at kids

Baby Panda Dental Care had more than 10,000 installs but has now been removed from Google’s Play StoreChic Games – Baby Panda Dental Care

Young children can download and play games packed with shooting, stabbing, gore and microtransaction gambling on Google’s Play Store – even when parents turn on controls to make them toddler-friendly. All these games and apps have one thing in common: they’re marked as being safe for young children. Yet many of them are anything but.

Mad Max Zombies, an Android first-person shooter full of spurting blood, disturbing imagery of walking corpses and realistic firearms, was rated by its creator as Pegi 3 – a rating that’s considered suitable for all age groups, with no sounds or pictures that are likely to frighten young children and only the mildest, most childlike depictions of violence.

It’s just one gory example of a growing problem. The Play Store is full of apps that defy Google’s age rating policy and filtering tools. Some of these games have been installed millions of times. After we sent Google a sample of 36 games with inappropriate content for their ratings and a further 16 with other forms of dubious content and permissions, including some which tracked the location of users, 16 games have so far either been entirely removed or re-released with revised ratings and permissions.

The Play Store is big business for Google. The company takes a 30 per cent cut of all purchases, subscriptions and microtransaction payments on the store, with its share of subscription fees dropping to 15 per cent after 12 months. It also runs the AdMod advertising placement portal that allows developers to monetise free apps. Although it’s hard to break out exactly how much Google makes from the Play Store, Sensor Tower statistics show that Android mobile game revenue added up to a total $21.5 billion in 2018.

In contrast to Apple, which has a strict age rating policy and approval process on all apps, Google seemingly does not invest its profits into building a robust, human-monitored system to ensure that all age ratings across its platform are correct. In fact, there’s very little control whatsoever of ratings given to games that can be downloaded by children through the Play Store. Behind the scenes, each game’s age appropriateness is assigned automatically by a questionnaire filled in by its creator. For anyone downloading a game, the Play Store displays an official Pegi age rating, despite there being no manual monitoring and rating for individual titles.

You win each level in Mad Max Zombies by gunning down the moaning horde, lining their rotting faces up in your machine gun sights and pulling the trigger as blood gouts from the neck of a walking human corpse. Which wouldn’t be out of place in the world of gaming, if it hadn’t been rated as safe and appropriate content for a three-year-old. Since we flagged it to Google, the game has been removed, re-rated as Pegi 12 and re-released as Mad War Zombies.

Mad Max Zombies was removed from Google Play before being re-released with a new name and a PEGI 12 ratingUmbel Games

Across Europe, games are issued ratings by Pegi (Pan European Game Information). But, when it comes to digital-only releases, to help manage the thousands of apps submitted every day by small developers, the ratings process is automated via a questionnaire created and administered by the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), with the cost of issuing ratings borne by the storefront, rather than individual developers.

Developers are required to fill this questionnaire out in good faith when they upload an app or game, but Google itself never checks the accuracy of a rating unless a game is submitted to its separate, safer, Designed for Families scheme – an area of the Play Store that is vetted by Google, but that can’t be used by parents as a locked-down, child-friendly space to download apps and games.

Bacioiu Ciprian, the owner of Bearded Giant Games, recently released the entirely age-appropriate endless runner Retro Sail on the Play Store. He says the Play Store’s age rating questionaire is “100 per cent based on the honour system”.

Technically, it’s the job of the regional ratings agencies, such as Pegi, to monitor accuracy using the tools IARC gives them. “Given the high volume of published games and apps, participating rating authorities are not able to monitor every single release,” an IARC spokesperson says.

This means that many ratings aren’t checked by anyone at all. A number of app publication guides suggest answering ‘no’ to all the questions in order to get an E for Everyone or Pegi 3 rating. Tick a few boxes, confirm that what you’ve said is true, and your game is automatically assigned an age rating based on your responses.

The international regulators involved in IARC work together to conduct human checks on submitted apps. But because around 10,000 IARC-rated apps are released every day, it’s not possible for them to monitor every single one. “The regulators focus their efforts by checking the top downloaded apps and by performing targeted searches,” says a spokesperson from the UK’s Pegi-affiliated Video Standards Council.

However, even games that get plenty of downloads over a long period, such as Drive Die Repeat – Zombie Game, released in 2016 and with over 100,000 installs, still had a Pegi 7 rating to go with gameplay that has the player mowing down zombies with their car in an explosive spatter of blood. Since we raised it with Google and Pegi, it’s been upgraded to Pegi 12. The game has always had a 12+ rating on iOS.

The IARC questionnaire is used by many online stores, including the Nintendo eShop and the Microsoft Store for Windows and Xbox. But rogue apps promoting adult gameplay to children aren’t a conspicuous problem for Nintendo, which manually reviews every title submitted to the eShop. Apple runs its own strictly enforced age rating system. Google, by comparison, has opted to rely almost entirely on IARC, despite the massive size and reach of the Play Store.

Apple’s App Store also uses a questionnaire to give apps an age rating but, unlike Google Play, Apple has a review process that typically takes a day or two. Apple doesn’t comment on its app approval process and how it’s implemented, and declined to tell us how much human involvement there is when it comes to approving apps. However, Apple is very clear about its age rating categories and requires developers to follow them in order to publish anything on the App Store.

Developers are asked to classify how frequently content including various kinds of violence, mature themes, real or simulated gambling and sexual content appears in their apps. “The default [App Store age rating] is four plus,” says developer Tom Royal. “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].”

Google and Pegi were quick to remove or re-rate the most concerning apps when presented with our research, although a number, including realistic depictions of guns and gambling-style microtransaction games, were left with Pegi 3 ratings due to a lack of appropriate classification criteria.

“When we find that an app has violated our policies, we remove it from Google Play,” a Google spokesperson says. “We want children to be safe online and we work hard to help protect them.” However, thanks to an easily gameable rating system, its content filtering tools are next to useless.

Baby Panda Dental Care, rated PEGI 3, has been removed from Google Play

The inappropriate games we found – which are mostly free to download – aren’t anything particularly unusual, and most would be fine if they were appropriately rated for teenagers or adults. However, they typically make their money on a per-view or per-click basis by displaying adverts either on-screen or between levels. And by giving the answers that lead to the broadest rating, a developer ensures that their app can be seen and installed by the widest possible audience – making them more money.

“The volume of games being uploaded should not be used as an excuse for allowing games to be improperly rated,” says Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England. She says that, although it’s the responsibility of game creators to ensure that they protect children, “any system that depends wholly on game developers rating their own games will sometimes fail, given companies want as many people as possible to play their games.”

There are plenty of games available on the Play Store that aren’t correctly rated for children. Virtual Girl US Army Women Mom Family Games (Pegi 3) begins as a slice-of-life sim where you feed and tidy up after your stony-faced family and, three levels later, has you arming up to deliver bloody headshots to masked criminals holding up a bank.

More ambiguously, Guns is a Pegi 3 rated gun and firing range simulator with over 50 million installs, a wide variety of weapons, and even a camera mode that superimposes bullet holes over anyone or anything you care to put in frame when you pull the virtual trigger. There’s no gore, but the images and sounds of firearms are detailed and realistic, and the app also lets you select photos from your phone to hang up in its virtual firing range. Similar games on iOS are typically rated 12+ or even 17+, as a matter of Apple’s policy.

Augmented reality game FPS Gun Camera 3D (Pegi 7) has an even more involved camera-based real-world shooting feature. When you point your phone camera at the world around you, the game superimposes a first-person shooter style gun and heads-up display. When you shoot at things, bullet holes and blood spatters appear. On a similar theme, Hidden blade automatic knife (Pegi 7) and Knives weapon simulator (Pegi 3, now removed from the Play Store), each of which racked up over 100,000 installs, let children pretend that their phone is a knife.

The problem with most games of this sort, explains Pegi director of operations Dirk Bosmans, is that they don’t fit into any of Pegi’s classification categories. He highlighted other problematic grey areas, such as cosmetic surgery simulators, that could represent content that’s not appropriate for children in a broad cultural and social context, but don’t meet classification criteria to give them a rating above Pegi 3.

Pegi has an expert group that looks into is criteria to make sure that they’re up to date. “But for the moment,” Bosmans 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.”

Meanwhile, with strobing screen and camera flash effects, taser simulators like Electric Stun gun (Pegi 3), installed by over five million people, not only emulate weapons but also come without any kind of warning for those who have photosensitive epilepsy – Google currently does not require that apps with strobing lights carry such warnings. Apple doesn’t do much better on that front, with Prank Stun Gun App rated 4+.

There’s also a whole ecosystem of slot machines and video poker apps rated as suitable for children. While these are technically not real money gambling – in that there’s no payout – they include expensive microtransactions to buy virtual coins to gamble with when you run out of your free allowance.

Most are Pegi 12, but there are plenty with ratings that allow younger children to install them, as Pegi’s simulated gambling criteria currently only cover titles that exactly replicate real-world casino games. These include Slingo Shuffle – Bingo & Slots and Pirate Master: Coin Raid Island Battle Adventure, both rated Pegi 3, emblazoned with cute cartoon characters and packed with microtransaction systems that encourage players to buy virtual coins when they run out of free spins. Slingo Arcade – Bingo & Slots and Pirate Master are both rated 12+ on iOS.

Rated suitable for seven-year-olds, FPS Gun Camera 3D lets you turn a virtual weapon on your surroundingsFPS Gun Camera 3D by Jadynut Games, Max & Ruby by Treehouse TV

The UK’s Gambling Commission is currently monitoring the use of social casino games among young people. Its latest Young People and Gambling survey showed that 13 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds have played online gambling themed games. As with loot boxes, winnings can’t be cashed out as real money and in its 2017 virtual currencies paper, the Commission states that it won’t pursue more regulation if the industry maintains a “proactive and credible socially responsible approach”. But it’s one of several European regulators who, in September 2018, issued a statement of intent to analyse and investigate social casino gaming.

We downloaded knife-and-finger games rated Pegi 3, all-ages first-person-shooter style gun games with virtual environments to destroy, bloody sniper rifle safari hunting games rated for three-year-olds and driving games where the objective is to mow down zombies. While Zombie Crime’s (Pegi 7) simple 3D urban driving environment and car controls aren’t too different to dozens of kid-friendly games, the zombies here explode into flying body parts which you kick and shoot. Most of these titles have now been removed or re-rated.

Although the very goriest games we turned up had install numbers in the low thousands, we saw hundreds of thousands of installs on kid-rated zombie games with realistic – rather than cartoon-style – blood and dismemberment, as well as microtransaction slot machines, and scores of imaginary knife and gun simulators.

Other apps we found, although obviously designed and intended for younger kids, rather than being entirely inappropriate, featured content that was nonetheless potentially disturbing, such as pulling out a baby panda’s broken teeth or healing distressing looking cuts and bruises on a mermaid.

One dentist game (Dentist Games – Baby Doctor) had more than 500,000 installs and has been removed from Google; while Mermaid Mommy – New Ocean Baby had 100,000+ installs, was rated Pegi 3 and has been removed. We separately catalogued and reported numerous games for young children that demanded excessive permissions such as location and identity tracking.

Research into the well-worn controversy over video game violence has found that older teens’ enjoyment of such content is unlikely to affect their real-world behaviour. But there’s evidence that violent media can be distressing for younger children, creating an impression that their world is more dangerous than it really is.

“Early childhood exposure to violent movies and television programmes is associated with a number of adverse cognitive, emotional, and behavioural consequences,” says Caroline Fitzpatrick, assistant professor of psychology at the Université Sainte-Anne in Nova Scotia, Canada. “Video games that reward players for violent behaviour, as is the case with first-person shooter games, are likely to have an especially pronounced effect on young children’s development.”

Clinical psychologist Abigael San adds that while a child won’t necessarily do something dangerous just because they saw it in a game, it’s important not to surround children with examples of things that we don’t want them to mimic or take emotional cues from. “Whilst not all kids are going to directly copy what they see, they can absorb the emotional tone of it,” she says. “And that can be a concern because then that play can be a bit more aggression-fuelled.”

Bosmans emphasises that ratings are just one instrument to help parents avoid exposing their kids to inappropriate content. But, while using ratings alone “will probably shield your child from stuff that you really do not want,” he says, “it doesn’t stop there”. He adds that parents need to invest more time in understanding and engaging with the games their children play.

There are tools to make Google Play safer, like the company’s own Family Link device management service. But although you can limit some of the data Google stores about your child, using Family Link comes at the cost of creating an account for them and allowing their activities to be tracked.

To report improperly rated apps, you can use Pegi’s contact form.

Updated April 9, 2019 12:28GMT: Baby Panda Dental Care had 10,000+ installs; Dentist Games – Baby Doctor had more than 500,000 installs

More great stories from WIRED

– The games industry should be worried about Google Stadia

– How the petition to revoke Article 50 went viral

– I tried to keep my baby secret from Facebook and Google

– Care about online privacy? Then change your phone number

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *