Adult rated video games could soon be sold in Australia after the Federal Government said it was considering updating
the classification system for games to include an R18+ rating.
Unlike films, magazines and other publications, there is no adult classification for games in Australia, so any titles that do not meet the MA15+ standard are banned from sale by the Classification Board. Any changes to the censorship regime must
be agreed to by the Commonwealth and all state and territory attorneys-general.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, confirmed the issue of whether or not to allow an R18+ classification for games would be discussed at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting on March 28.
The games industry has long argued that the censorship regime is unnecessarily draconian and prevents adults from making their own decisions about the type of content they consume.
Research conducted by Bond University in Queensland for the industry body, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), found that the average age of Australian gamers is 28 and more than 50% of gamers are over 18. Another survey
of 1601 Australian households, conducted by the university in 2005, found 88% of Australians supported an R18+ classification for games.
Bond University associate professor Jeffrey Brand, who wrote the research report, said Australia was the "only developed democracy" that did not have an adult classification for games.
He said the lack of an R18+ rating meant some games deserving of adult classification were being let through by the Classification Board as MA15+, and people who wanted to obtain banned games could easily get them from the internet or overseas.
Adult classification for games will be raised at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) on March 28th.
But a spokesperson for Michael Atkinson, the South Australian Attorney General, has confirmed that he will maintain his long-running opposition to the proposed system.
The attorney-general remains very firmly opposed to introducing an R rating for computer games in Australia, the spokesperson said.
Minister Atkinson would not consider an 18+ rating even if there were measures to protect children from being exposed to adult content, the spokesperson said: He doubts whether any safeguards could be put in place to deter young people, who
after all (are) the most computer literate and savvy in our society, from being able to access material.
While various Australian media outlets are reporting today that a change is soon to come, a decision to introduce an R18+ rating down under still looks like it is months to years away from actually happening.
For an R18+ rating to be introduced, all of Australia's State Attorneys-General and the Federal Minister for Home Affairs would have to agree on the change before it can be passed into law. But a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Minister, Bob
Debus, said no decision should be expected to come from the March 28 meeting.
According to the Minister's spokesperson, in a 2005 SCAG meeting it was agreed that the Victorian Government would research the issue of an R18+ rating in Australia further. The SCAG meeting on the March 28, 2008 is simply a chance for that
research to be tabled, the spokesperson said.
Usually those things move pretty slowly at those meetings. It can take years for things to get through. I would imagine Victoria would just present these materials and the states would go away and have another think about it until the next
meeting, the spokesperson said
Auxiliary Bishop of Sydney Julian Porteous says desensitisation to violence or sexual imagery does not promote the dignity of the human person and is not in the best interest of society.
While Bishop Porteous believes the causes of violence and crime in society is a very complex problem, the problem should not be compounded by video games that numb our natural repulsion to violence, he told The Catholic Weekly.
In regard to sexually explicit games, it reduces women in particular to mere objects of instant self gratification, Bishop Porteous said: We know from psychological research that exposure to violent video games can desensitise people to
real-life violence .
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson was cut off by interruptions in State Parliament while arguing against an R18+ classification for games.
Atkinson is the most vocal opponent to a R18+ classification for games, which cannot be introduced without the agreement of all state and Commonwealth attorneys-general.
During the speech, Atkinson began to describe five games that had been banned in Australia. As he was describing drug use in the game Narc , he was cut off by raucous interjections and returned to his seat.
Atkinson said: I have consistently opposed an R18+ classification for computer games. I am concerned about the harm of high-impact (particularly violent) computer games to children. Games may pose a far greater problem than other media – particularly
films – because their interactive nature could exacerbate their impact. The risk of interactivity on players of computer games with highly violent content is increased aggressive behaviour.
I do not want children to be able to get their hands on R18+ games easily. I understand that the lack of an R18+ classification denies some adults the chance to play some games, however, the need to keep potentially harmful material away from children is
far more important.
Proponents for the classification say the latest technology allows gaming platforms and computers to be programmed to allow parental locks. Today’s children are far more technologically savvy than their parents. It’s laughable to suggest that they
couldn’t find ways around parental locks if R18+ games were in the home.
I have mentioned that, despite there being thousands of computer games available to consumers, only a handful are banned. I want to give some examples of games refused classification in Australia because I’m certain that fair-minded people would not want
the kind of content in them to be available to children.
Blitz: The League
50 Cent: Bulletproof
Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
I contest any idea that it is necessary for games to include material of this kind and that a game is more interesting to an adult because it contains extreme violence, explicit sexual material, instruction in crime or characters using illicit drugs.
I remain firmly opposed to changing the classifications of computer games to allow an R-rating for games with such content.
This is a carefully considered position I have held for six years and other attorneys-general around Australia may now be coming to the same view. There are not adequate safeguards that can properly protect our children from those disturbing scenes and I
know how computer-literate they are. Like other parents in Australia, I want to try to protect children from being able to access computer-generated pornography and violence.
I have not been persuaded by arguments for an R18+ classification for computer games and I will continue to oppose it.
On Friday, Australian censorship ministers will gather in the Barossa Valley to discuss an R18+ rating for games, but South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has vowed to block its introduction.
Any changes to Australia's censorship regime must be agreed on by all state and federal attorneys-general. Atkinson's long-standing opposition to an R18+ rating stems from his legitimate concern over harm to children from high-impact material. The
minister rightly argues adult freedoms should not be placed ahead of protecting children, but as I argued in my open letter to the minister, the two are not mutually exclusive.
An R18+ category would actually help protect children, as well as bring harmonization to the classification regime, acknowledge that games are important entertainment pastime for many Australian adults, and give Australian adults the right to choose the
content they wish.
The Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia and groups like Electronic Frontiers Australia support the introduction of an R18+ category, while groups like Young Media Australia and The Australian Christian Lobby share Michael Atkinson's
There is evidence to suggest a large majority of Australians support the introduction of an R18+ games rating: a survey by Bond University in 2005 of over 1600 random households found 88% of Australians supported its introduction.
The issue of whether to create an R18+ classification for video games will now be put to public consultation following a meeting of censorship ministers.
Specific details on how the public will be consulted have yet to be finalised but it is expected a consultation paper will be ready for the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting.
The only decision out of today's SCAG meeting was that there would be a public consultation.
Victorian Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls has pushed hard for an adults only classification for games but was greeted with significant opposition from South Australia's Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, who argued he was protecting
children from "harmful material".
In a statement today, Hulls said his department's analysis of research on the issue suggested there were persuasive arguments to support an R18+ classification. He said the latest generation of gaming platforms allowed parents to control their child's
access to appropriate gaming material and Australia was out of step with the rest of the developed world on this issue: I believe that censorship laws should strike an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and community concerns about
depictions that condone or incite violence, as well as the principle that minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them. It seems inconsistent that in Australia, adults are allowed to view 'adult only' films which have been
classified R18+ by the Classification Board, but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.
Ron Curry, CEO of the games industry body, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), welcomed today's decision to consult the public on the issue: Our belief is that good legislation comes from a reflection of community sentiment,
so the process that the attorney-general is outlining gives us the opportunity to move this into the public forum for discussion .
As previously reported, Australia has decided to put the issue of R18+ games out to public consultation.
The consultation was immediately criticised by both the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and the Eros Foundation, an adult industry lobby group.
Given what happens with R-rated films, we could have no confidence that the classification guidelines would be properly applied, ACL managing director Jim Wallace said in a statement. For example, due to loopholes in the guidelines, real sex is
sometimes being shown in R-rated films. What will happen if we have R18+ games, which have even greater impact because of their interactive nature.
A spokesman for Eros shamefully said the foundation backed the ACL stance. We support the Australian Christian Lobby's point of view. Because we believe that there's too much violence out there and there are more pressing issues for the
attorneys to consider such as the regulation of the X-rated film industry.
Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus said the consultation process would not deliver a final decision: This is not a consultation on a proposal to introduce an R18+ level for games . It is a public consultation process seeking community views to
inform our position."
Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls said he wanted censorship laws to strike an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and community concerns. It seems inconsistent that in Australia adults are allowed to view adults only films which have
been classified R18+ by the classification board but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.
The introduction of an R18+ rating for computer games has been delayed indefinitely after South Australian Attorney-General
Michael Atkinson withdrew his support for a discussion paper and public consultation process.
Censorship ministers in March agreed in principle to canvas public opinion on the proposed introduction of a R18+ classification for games and release a discussion paper on the issue, but Atkinson has refused to agree to make the report
public, effectively shelving it.
The draft discussion paper, simply titled R18+ for computer games was sent to ministers last month and details the pros and cons of introducing an adults-only rating for games.
The paper would have been available to the public on the internet and provided to interested parties such as games industry groups and family associations to seek their views.
Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who has long supported the push for an R18+ games rating and took the lead in drafting the discussion paper, appears resigned that no changes to the classification system for games will be made anytime soon.
Spokesperson for Hulls, Meaghan Shaw, said whilst the issue is still formally on the SCAG (Standing Committee of Attorneys-General) agenda, it now appears unlikely that there will be unanimity from all jurisdictions to proceed further at this
stage with introducing an R18+ category for computer games.
At the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs last week, deputy chair Senator Guy Barnett said some of us are dumbfounded as to why we do not have an R rating for video games.
We have a real problem, and this is something the Senate and the parliament is going to have to address. If we have one state opposing this, South Australia, then clearly we are not going to have any R rating of video games. That simply cannot
occur as a matter of course legally.
The issue is again on the agenda for discussion at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting next month.
Australian censorship ministers have finally agreed to release a discussion paper on the proposed introduction of an R18+ rating
for video games.
There were fears last week that the introduction of an adults-only games rating had been delayed indefinitely after South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson withdrew his support for the discussion paper and public consultation process.
However, at yesterday's Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting in Brisbane, Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who has long supported the push for an R18+ games rating and took the lead in drafting the discussion paper, achieved
consensus with fellow censorship ministers.
Spokesperson for Hulls, Meaghan Shaw, said censorship ministers at SCAG agreed that the discussion paper will be finalised by the end of the year, with the view to Australia-wide distribution.
Ministers originally agreed back in March to canvas public opinion on the proposed introduction of a R18+ classification for games following the release of a discussion paper on the issue.
A draft of the paper, simply titled R18+ for computer games was sent to ministers in September and details the pros and cons of introducing an adults-only rating for games.
When finalised, the paper will be available to the public on the internet and provided to interested parties such as games industry groups and family associations to seek their views.
The South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson would not specify last week why he was unable to support the release of the discussion paper, and it has not been revealed why he changed his stance yesterday at SCAG.
GameSpot AU interviewed Paul Hunt who ended his stint at Australia's censor as a deputy director.
GameSpot AU: How many video games did you look at during your time there?
Paul Hunt: During my time there I probably looked at 600 to 700 video games per year as a Senior Classifier, and about 15 to 20 per year as a Deputy Director. As a Senior Classifier I examined all the reports that came
in on video games and then made a decision on how to proceed. Roughly 75% of video games were classified as per the reports that came with them. With the rest, they were either controversial or the report was not clear enough, and so they had to be
looked at more in-depth. If anything was borderline, I'd put the Classification Board on it. We'd all read the report, maybe take a look at some video excerpts of the video game, and maybe we'd play it.
If a game was controversial then it would definitely be played by the members of the board — either physically by some of the board members, or someone would come in and play it for the board. Otherwise, the actual playing of video games was rather
random. Sometimes I'd make the board play some games as not to lose their touch, but you can't have ten or so people spending forty hours playing a video game — it's just not economically feasible. We'd want to spend our time and money on the tricky
ones, the controversial game, not the ones that were not at all hard to classify.
If a tricky game like something in the Grand Theft Auto titles came through, extra care was taken. All information would be reviewed by the board (as Senior Classifier, I'd put the entire board on it, not just a few members). Everyone would read the
report and then watch a video of the controversial bits. By law, the applicant must point out to the board all the controversial content in the game. Afterwards, the board will want to see some of the game being played and that's when the applicant will
bring in a skilled player to take the board through the game.
South Australian attorney general says he is not the only classification minister to oppose R18+ classification; lauds current system's
ability to encourage modification.
For many Aussie gamers, Michael Atkinson is a deeply unpopular character. The South Australian attorney general has been a vocal critic of game violence, and he has blocked previous moves to introduce an R18+ classification for games down under. Without
an R18+ classification, the highest game rating is MA 15+, which means that the Classification Board is forced to ban any game that doesn't meet that rating's standards.
Australia's Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG)--a board made up of all state, territory, and federal AGs--has the power to change this, but only if all members agree. Atkinson has been the most public voice of dissent among the group.
In a lengthy response to Gamespot's questions Michael Atkinson said:
I don't support the introduction of an R18+ rating for electronic games, chiefly because it will greatly increase the risk of children and vulnerable adults being exposed to damaging images and messages.
The interactive nature of electronic games means that they have a much greater influence than viewing a movie does. People are participating and 'acting-out' violence and criminal behaviour when they are playing a video game. They are essentially
rehearsing harmful behaviour. Children and vulnerable adults (such as those with a mental illness) can be harmed by playing video games with violence, sex, and criminal activity.
Michael Atkinson employs delaying tactics on R18+ for games
Based on article from kotaku.com.au
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has thrown a spanner in the works of proposed changes to the videogame classification
This time, as Jason Hill reports for The Age, it's come to light that Atkinson has failed to provide his final comments on the discussion paper originally announced in March last year.
Censorship ministers last March agreed in principle to canvass public opinion on the proposed introduction of an R18+ classification for games and to release a discussion paper on the issue. Atkinson is still yet to provide his final comments on
the paper after earlier refusing to make it public unless changes were made.
The draft discussion paper, titled R18+ for computer games was sent to ministers last September and details the advantages and perils of introducing an adults-only rating for games. If it gets released, the paper will be available to the public
via the internet and provided to interested parties such as industry groups and family associations to seek their views.
By our reckoning, he's been sitting on that paper for five months now, having known it was coming for another five months before that. While we don't doubt the minister is a busy man, one gets the impression he may be deliberately trying to stymie the
public debate. I can't think why he might want to do that, can you?
South Australian Attorney-General and R18+ opponent Michael Atkinson wrote to the Adelaide Advertiser about his favourite topic, banning
A Queensland letter writer (The Advertiser, 7/3/09) claims that democracy is at an end because I, as Attorney-General, will not agree to an R18+ category for interactive computer games; that "every other state AG is against
him"; and the only way to bring back democracy is to vote me out at the next election. It is true that I am opposed to an R18+ category for interactive games, but I am one of at least four Attorneys so opposed.
I welcome a challenge in my electorate of Croydon at the next general election on this issue.
Among my constituents are hundreds of refugees who are trying to find lodgings for the family, gain employment and sponsor relatives from the old country.
Their vote is hardly likely to hinge on the "right" to score gamer points on the computer screen by running down and killing pedestrians on the pavement, raping a mother and her two daughters, blowing oneself up in a market, cutting people in
half with large calibre shells, injecting drugs to win an athletics event or killing a prostitute to recover the fee one just paid her (Welcome to the world of R18+ computer games).
Those of my constituents who are refugees have been subjected to the practical instead of the virtual suffering that R18+ nerds seek to inflict for their gratification on the computer screen.
Response from Terry O'Shanassy
And here's a response from Kotaku reader - and 57-year-old grandparent - Terry O'Shanassy:
This debate has heated up because gamers want me to agree to the release of a discussion paper about an R18+ classification for games. I agreed to the discussion paper last year. I want the discussion paper to include depictions of
actual games, including the types of games that are currently above the MA15+ rating. I intend to take my version of the paper to other ministers at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) in Canberra in April so they can decide whether
it will be released. I hope Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls doesn't stop the discussion paper's being released in April.
Everyone who has a view on this issue can write to any of the censorship ministers or their local member of parliament. That might be more useful than bagging me anonymously on blogs and by anonymous emails, but use up your time this way if it makes you
feel better. This debate continues whether the discussion paper is released or not.
The much-anticipated discussion paper on the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia will be released to the public by the office of the Commonwealth Minister of Home Affairs, Bob Debus, after censorship ministers stood
divided over its contents at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG) meeting in Canberra.
It is expected that the discussion paper will propose changes to Australia's current classification guidelines and will include relevant research and literature on the classification of video games. No specified timeline has yet been given for its
The paper will ask Australians to voice their opinions on whether the country should have an R18+ classification for video games. Once the consultation period expires, it will be up to the censorship ministers to decide whether or not to introduce the
R18+ classification. Once again, their decision must be unanimous before any changes to Australia's current classification system can be made.
The main opponent of an R18+ for games is South Australian attorney general Michael Atkinson. He acknowledges the fact that Australia's current classification system may lead to the incorrect classification of some video games, but attributes this to a
misapplication of the federal government's classification guidelines by the Classification Board of Australia: I don't doubt gamers when they say that some games that are classified MA15+ in Australia should have been classified R18+; that is a
possibility in my experience. I am critical of the OFLC [the Classification Board of Australia]. I believe it bends over backwards for the industry rather than the public interest.
The release date of a government discussion paper on an R18+ rating for games looks to have been delayed.
The Attorney General's department promised this year to release the paper to collate public opinion on the need for a R18+ classification for video games.
But now a spokesman for the AG office said the release of the paper will be delayed along with its slated July 31 closure date after a cabinet reshuffle saw Brendan O'Conner replace former Minster of Home Affairs Bob Debus who introduced the paper
early this year.
The paper is under consideration by government... clearly it will most likely be extended past the [July 31] closure date, he said.
Media advisers, who are also reshuffling, will next week provide Computerworld with further details on the progress of the paper and planned release date. Responsibility for the discussion paper will remain with O'Conner.
IEAA CEO Ron Curry said he feared the ministerial reshuffle may have killed the consultation paper after the government had not responded to repeated requests to move forward the classification debate: We are not sure what [O'Conner's] position
is on the issue... We have lobbied the government for five years, and quite extensively this year.. where do you go? .
Last April, Censorship Ministers meeting at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG) in Canberra failed to come to a unanimous decision regarding changes and the release of the R18+ discussion paper, prompting then-Minister for Home Affairs Bob
Debus to take matters into his own hands, announcing his department would take over handling the R18+ public consultation and see to its release.
When GameSpot AU interviewed Debus in April, a proposed deadline of July 31, 2009 was given for the public consultation process. However, Debus was replaced as Minister of Home Affairs by Brendan O'Connor in June as part of a cabinet re-shuffle and since
then, no news about the public consultation has surfaced.
The Australian Sex Party is the newest registered political party in Australia and the only party with a policy to legalise R rated games. We are also the only party actively opposing mandatory internet filtering. We are standing
candidates in this weekend's by elections of Higgins in Victoria and Bradfield in Sydney. Unbelievably, the Greens are standing the architect of the government's internet filtering scheme, Clive Hamilton, as their candidate in Higgins.
Our ideological base is predicated on the fact that Australian parliaments are becoming more stacked with overtly religious MPs. Kevin Rudd is a well known committed Christian who goes to church every week and openly admits that his
parliamentary life is strongly influenced by his religious one. The new leader of the Liberal Party, Tony Abbott, is a former Jesuit priest in training and close friend of Archbishop George Pell. His religious zeal is legendary.
R (and X) rated computer games are currently illegal because a religious Attorney General from South Australia, has the power to veto all the other Attorneys General on this issue. This is unlikely to change in the near future.
A vote for the Sex Party in the two by elections this weekend will send a strong message to the major parties about support for R rated games. We need to activate gamer networks in Australia to contact friends and colleagues who
live in these electorates to vote for the Sex Party. We also need help on polling day in handing out How To Vote cards at polling booths. It's a fun day and the smartest way to support legalising R rated games and getting rid of internet filtering.
It's a party that stands for equality and social justice, for civil liberties and for freedom of choice.
In the leafy electorate of Bradfield on Sydney's north shore, where more than 20 candidates vied for what is a very safe Liberal Party seat, it attracted the third-highest primary vote of the field.
We're talking about the Australian Sex Party; a political grouping with a policy platform not nearly as racy as its name might suggest. Think of it as libertarian rather than libertine.
In both Bradfield and Higgins it received just shy of 3.3% of the primary vote.
This may not sound like a lot, but these by-elections were dominated by two big federal issues; that of the federal Liberal Party leadership, and the national angst over what to do (if anything) about the fact that summers seem to be getting hotter.
The ASP, which was born out of adult industry lobby group the Eros Foundation, is headed by Fiona Patten, the charismatic and articulate chief executive of Eros, and a veteran campaigner on issues such as censorship, gender equality and discrimination.
But the last word to Fiona Patten: We don't want to restrict what adults do as long as they don't hurt others.
The rally planned to show the support of gamers for an R18+ rating in Australia drew about 50 people.
The event, promoted by the website Treat Us Like Adults, took place on Saturday, December 5 in Brisbane. Speeches were given by Ethan Watson from Treat Us Like Adults and Nicolas Suzor, CEO of Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA).
Suzor documented the proceedings on the EFA website, and four YouTube.
The next step in pressuring the government, according to Suzor, is to pressure the Commonwealth Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, to release the long-awaited R18+ discussion paper.
Recently, God of War Creator David Jaffe commented on the Australian classification board, labeling its methods as utter BS . Jeffe was expressing his views on the possibility of cutting content from his own games.
There's a government board and if they say it's too offensive, in that case there's no fight to fight — it is what it is, he said. There's not much you can do if you're making games aimed at a mature audience. We never like to cut it, but what
are you going to do? You're dealing with governments.ss
Jaffe then further commented on the attitude towards games as a form of entertainment. There's absolutely an inconsistency in the consciousness about video games. The reality is people still see a lot of these things as kids' toys. It's utter BS.
God of War III is set for a March 2010 release date in Australia and is yet to be classified. However, previous entries in the God of War series gained a MA15+ rating for violence and sexual references by the Australian Classifications Board.
Hopefully mature content in God of War III doesn't stir any controversy.
The long-heralded public consultation process on whether Australia should introduce an adult rating for games commences; Federal
Government releases discussion paper discussing pros and cons of the debate.
Aussie gamers will finally be able to voice their opinion directly to government, with a long-awaited public consultation launched by the Federal Attorney-General's Department.
The public consultation is asking for Australian's opinions on whether the country should introduce an adult R18+ rating for games. Currently, any game deemed by the Classification Board to contain content which is unsuitable for anyone aged over
15-years-old is refused classification, effectively banning it for sale down under. Australians are being asked to download a form from the Federal Attorney-General's website, and fill out a questionnaire outlining their views on the R18+ issue.
The Federal Attorney-General's Department has also released a discussion paper outlining the key arguments for and against an adult game rating for Australia.
Submissions will close on 28 February 2010. From there, all of Australia's State and Federal Attorney Generals must agree to introduce an R18+ rating before it can be introduced, which may continue to be a major stumbling block given the vocal opposition
of South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson in the past.
Australians are right now being asked to voice their opinion on whether an R18+ rating for video games should be introduced, with
the Australian Federal Attorney General seeking public submissions into the issue. But while the consultation process won't conclude until February 28, 2010, one high-profile figure in the games debate has already decided that the majority of
respondents will be in favour of an R18+: vocal anti-R18+ campaigner Michael Atkinson.
He said: I don't think the discussion paper presents a fair and balanced view of the issue without pictures of the games that would be rated R18+, Atkinson said.
I think the majority of the population are unfamiliar with these games and without images, they won't be able to imagine them in their mind's eye. They'll have no idea how violent or sexually depraved they are, and what kind of torture, drug use,
and blood spatter they include.
I also believe that very few people outside the gaming community will have a say in this public consultation, which will mean an overwhelming response in support of R18+ .
The campaign to add an R18+ videogame rating category in Australia has gained an additional but predictable enemy, the Australian Christian
The group's policy website features a section on the game ratings debate, in which the idea that an adult videogame rating category is needed Down Under is sharply rebuked:
The potential for violent and sexually explicit interactive games to cause harm has only increased in recent years as these games have become even more sophisticated, graphic and interactive. It is also naive to think that
R18+ games could be restricted to adult users. If these games are allowed to go on sale in Australia they will inevitably find their way into the hands of younger players through older siblings or friends.
If any changes are to be made to the classification system it should only be to resolve to tighten up the MA15+ rating to ensure that games aren't wrongly getting through in this category.
The group encourages website visitors to attempt to stop the introduction of an R18+ category by writing a submission to the government in advance of the February 28th deadline for responses to the Discussion Paper.
Only 1% of processed responses to government survey against an adult rating for games; more than 6,000 responses received in total so far.
A Senate Estimates Committee Hearing last week unveiled that out of 1,084 processed responses thus far, only 11 had been anti-R18+.
The government's public consultation process is aiming to find out the Australian public's view on the introduction of an adult classification for games in Australia and was launched by the Federal Attorney-General's Department in December last
year. Submissions for the process will close on February 28, 2010.
A spokesperson for the Federal Attorney-General's Department told GameSpot AU last week that the results of the public consultation would be distributed to all of Australia's Attorneys-General to inform their decision whether Australia
should have an R18+ classification for computer games. From there, all of the Attorneys-General will need to unanimously agree on its introduction before it can be passed as law in Australia.
Submissions for the R18+ national classification consultation close 28 February. To promote good thinking, we want to see what you've got to say. The guidelines request a 250-word comment at the end of each submission. Send us yours and we'll publish
some of the best.
In case you're yet to state your case, here's how to do it.
When you have sent in your submission, send Kotaku an email
with your 250-word comment from the end of your document. We'll choose some of the best we receive and publish them for everybody's benefit. We can only get better at dealing with the ill-informed by enhancing our own best arguments.
The lack of an R18+ classification for electronic games has been linked to an increase in piracy and poor sales of titles that were toned-down to meet
Australia's top M15+ rating.
Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) CEO Ron Curry said while Australia is pondering introducing an R18+ rating for games, Australian retailers were losing money to piracy and overseas imports.
Sales are significantly less for modified games, Curry said. People will import the full unmodified game over the Internet or get a pirate version.
Local Sega game developer Dan Toose said the classification laws did not have a big impact on Australian game development, but said it could cost developer studios millions to redesign titles to be passed under the M15+ rating.
What really takes the time is quality assurance testing, which can take more than two weeks... it can cost modern game development studios half a million dollars a month to [modify] games, Toose said. It is bad to put that on the shoulders
Toose said the opposition to the law makes no sense whatever because the R18+ classification was recognised as distinctly adult content. He said the new rating would stop children being exposed to more graphic content that is squeezed into
the M15+ rating under the current scheme.
Australia's largest videogame retailer has joined the movement to add an R18+ rating category for interactive entertainment.
EBGames is promoting its pro R18+ stance in all 350 of its Australian storefronts, where it will display signage and offer shoppers the ability to sign a petition. The retailer is also promoting the cause on its website and linking to an online
petition for those in favour of adding the adult rating category.
Kotaku reports that EBGames did its due diligence in advance of publically supporting the issue; the company polled its customers on the issue and found that 84% were in favour of the addition of an R18+ rating category.
EB Managing Director Steve Wilson said: With the release of the Government's discussion paper, we knew as a company that we needed to act on this issue as it continues to cripple our industry and cost local jobs. We did however want to be sure
that our customers were as passionate about the matter as we are. This is not a call for violent video games, but rather a call for a better classification system that brings Australia in line with the rest of the world and other Australian entertainment
industries, such as films.
The partnering of advocacy group Grow Up Australia and retailer EB Games has resulted in strong backing for the addition of an R18+ rating category for videogames in Australia.
GameSpot reports that the pair's initiative has resulted in 16,055 signatures on their pro R18+ petition, which will now be sent to the Attorney General's department. EB Games had called attention to the movement via in-store signage and with links
and images on its website.
Public responses to the Discussion Paper are due by February 28. Following the submission period, responses will be compiled into a report for Minister of Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor and other state and territory Attorney Generals.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said the Greens plan to stay ahead of the R18+ debate in 2010.
The Greens don't have a formal position on the absence of an R18+ classification for video games just yet, Ludlam said. We plan on being informed by the material that comes through in the public consultation, and we'll be forming an official
Personally, I've formed a view, and I suspect my colleagues have as well. We want to stay ahead of the debate this year, and we're already talking to the industry and to people with a range of different views.
My personal stance is that [the absence of an R18+ for games] is a real anomaly. I think it's making the situation worse. We know that in some instances material that should otherwise be classified R18+ is instead diverted into the MA15+ category.
That's a sign that there needs to be some kind of reform. I think we do need R18+ for games, but only on the condition that there is a good look at the way that we classify video games in this country to make sure that some of the very real concerns that
have been raised by parents and child protection groups are acknowledged as well.
Ludlam believes the public consultation will result in a solid base of reasonably well-researched support for a change to the system. His views on South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson are not so positive.
I think the position he took to block the rest of the country from moving forward was really unhelpful, and I don't think he necessarily provided the arguments to back up the position he took.
These thoughts are echoed by marginal parties Australian Sex Party (ASP) and the Pirate Party Australia, who both support the introduction of R18+ for games.
ASP founder Fiona Patten says, quite frankly, that Australia's classification system is fucked. Having worked as a lobbyist and an activist for the adult industry for nearly 20 years, I became demoralised by the fact that in 2008 we had more
censorship than when I started, Patten said. There is simply no consistency across mediums in our classification system--what is legal in a book is not legal in a magazine, what is legal in a magazine is not legal in a film, and what is legal in a
film is not legal in a video game. Personally, I think we should throw out the existing system and start again.
In a similar vein, the Pirate Party Australia also supports R18+ for games, releasing a press statement earlier this month expressing disgust at Michael Atkinson's stance on censorship. Matt Redmond, a Pirate Party spokesperson, said: Every
citizen in a democracy has the right to question the government, and in doing so has the right to protect himself from censure.
A former member of Australia's Classification Board has submitted an incredibly well-written and reasoned response to the government issued Discussion Paper, regarding the topic of adding an R18+ rating category for games.
The 17-page response was crafted by Paul J Hunt, who served as Deputy Director of the Classification Board and as a senior executive with the Office of Film and Literature Classification. He also lists himself as a parent of teenagers who play
computer games and a child of Seniors who play computer games.
Hunt begins his argument by imparting first-hand knowledge into the current problems with the rating system:
When I made a decision, or participated in a decision, that a computer game was unsuitable for minors, I was forced to refuse classification for that game. It was not because I thought that the game depicted, expressed or otherwise
dealt with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that it would offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults. It was
simply because the game was not OK for kids.
Not being able to restrict computer games to adults was an impediment to my ability to reflect Australian community standards.
Australians, it seems, are more than a little interested in the issue of video game classification. Figures released by the Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor show that more than 55,000 submissions were received into the recently
completed public submission process on whether Australia should introduce an R18+ rating for games, with the Minister stating that the large response rate indicated a high level of interest in this issue in the Australian community.
O'Connor said the Federal Attorney General's Department would now prepare a report on the consultation for the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG), a group made up of all of Australia's various Federal, State, and Territory AGs. The
introduction of an R18+ rating needs the unanimous approval of all SCAG members, with the next SCAG meeting due in April this year.
The high number of responses follows a concerted campaign by video game activists around the nation to drum up interest in the debate. Independent advocacy group Grow Up Australia's partnership with retailer EB Games netted more than 16,000 responses,
with an EB Games spokesperson saying the company solicited a further 30,000 submissions.
Epic Zombie March March
Hyde Park Fountain, Sydney
Saturday 27th March, 2010 at 11am
A group dressing as zombies to protest the lack of an R18+ video game classification in Australia will return to Sydney later this month.
The hoard, which last protested over the state of games classification late last year, has the support of online video game activists and the Sydney Flash Mob which is rallying support through Facebook.
Zombies will gather for the protest march beginning at Hyde Park Fountain on March 27.
Around 200 people took part in the first zombie protest march in Sydney last November.
A message from Facebook, while not specific, offered that groups that are hateful, threatening or obscene are not allowed. Additionally, Facebook removes groups that attack an individual or group, or advertise a product or service. The
group had boasted around 37,000 members before its removal.
While a logical guess might theorize that members of the group had posted hateful comments about a certain South Australian Attorney General, Grow Up Australia wrote that it did not believe that any administrator-provided content had provoked the ban,
and that it had also been vigilant in moderating member content.
The group has setup a Facebook Fan Page while it attempts to lobby Facebook to reinstate its group page.
Despite winning his election (Gamers 4 Croydon only gained about 1% of the vote), Michael Atkinson has decided that amount of trouble his position has brought him isn't worth the effort anymore - and it's not just the R18+ debacle that has brought him
down. He's also had trouble trying to bring in a law that would censor people from using Fake names online. That one backfired when his example of a Liberal sock puppet turned out to be a real person living in his constituency.
So while G4C may not have won their seat, they still seemed to have managed to achieve one of their aims. Let's hope the new Attorney General sees reason and the R18 debate can be put to rest.
Pre-election, Atkinson claimed that no one cared about the lack of an R18+ rating in Australia other than gamers and also predicted that the Gamer4Croydon party would struggle to receive one percent of the votes.
Well, in Croydon, according to ABC.net election data, Gamers4Croydon's candidate against Atkinson, Kat Nicholson, managed to achieve 3.7% of the vote, assisting in eating away at 14.4% of Atkinson's vote from the previous election. Despite that erosion,
Atkinson still won rather easily however, garnering 52.7% of the vote. Nicholson came in fifth out of seven candidates in the Croydon suburb, besting candidates from the Family First Party and Australian Democratic Party.
In a post on the G4C website entitled Here's Your 1%, President Chris Prior expressed pride at what the upstart party accomplished:
With so very little to work with, we have contributed to two other incumbents losing their seats, and all of our lower house candidates polled higher than the 1% we apparently wouldn't get. In the upper house, we outpolled the
majority of groups, including a significant number with more resources, more experience, and much more time.
The South Australian premier has announced that former backbencher John Rau will replace Michael Atkinson as Attorney-General of the state.
Chris Pryor of the Games4Croydon party said last night via Twitter that the long-serving Rau is a supporter of the R18+ classification for games (and a nice guy to boot) .
Pryor blogged on Monday that seeing the role of Attorney-General filled by someone other than Mr Atkinson was a primary founding goal of Gamers4Croydon . With less than 6 months to prepare, no political experience, and only a few thousand
dollars funding, we have achieved that goal. Unfortunately there are never any guarantees in politics, but we have removed the largest impediment to classification reform.
The next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is held in Melbourne on April 29. It is not yet known whether the introduction of an R18+ games rating will be discussed.
A public demonstration against the lack of an R18+ rating in Australia, which featured marchers dressed as zombies, went off without a hitch—but with plenty of lurching—in Sydney over the weekend.
Rhys Wilson, head of the group Aus Gamers Limited which organized the protest, wrote on Facebook, I want to thank each and every one of you guys for making yesterday easily one of the best days of my life. I haven't heard any complaints from anyone,
and I'm more than happy to do this again later in the year, assuming I'm not killed in a freak manure truck accident.
IT Wire estimated the crowd of gathered ghouls at between 500 and 600 strong, easily surpassing a November 2009 similarly-themed march, which drew around 175 participants.
After John Rau took over the job in South Australia following Atkinson's resignation earlier this year, political party
Gamers4Croydon was popping champagne corks, claiming Rau supported the adults-only classification.
The Australian Christian Lobby hit back in a report in The Advertiser, claiming SA Labor had given it a written promise to oppose the changes.
However, Rau said through a spokeswoman that the response to the Christian lobby was given before the election and before Rau took over. He had yet to come to a final decision on the matter.
The response to the Australian Christian Lobby was a clarification of the Government's position, he said: I have no preconceptions about this issue and intend to listen to the arguments. I can neither support nor wisely argue against a
position if I am not aware of all the facts.
A spokeswoman from the Federal Attorney-General's Department confirmed the matter of an R18+ classification for computer games was on the agenda for discussion at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting on May 7.
But the spokeswoman noted that the censorship ministers may decide not to vote on the changes at the May meeting, instead electing to defer the decision to a later meeting to allow them to properly analyse all public submissions to the recent
A pro R18+ petition sponsored by retailer GAME has gathered the signatures of over 72,000 Australians.
The company plans to present some of it findings to a Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting on May 7 reports GameSpot, though it's unclear if the issue of R18+ will even be on the agenda of that gathering. GAME also plans to present the
petition to Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendon O'Connor.
The petition, also sponsored by Everyone Plays, achieved the large number of supporters in only six weeks, and is on track to become the largest petition in Australian history, surpassing a 2005 petition for Work Choices that received 85,189
A similar petition sponsored by EB Games and Grow Up Australia totaled over 46,000 signatures.
The Australian government has published a status report regarding the public consultation
on the possible introduction of R18+ classification within Australia.
Over the 2 month period 60,000 submissions flooded the Attorney-Generals Department with 98.2% of people supporting an R18+ for video games in Australia.
The majority of submissions received in a non-template hardcopy were from the games retailer EB Games (34,938 total: 4202 of these included individual comments while 30,736 provided no additional comments). This was followed by submissions that
followed the template collated by the organisation Grow Up Australia (16,056), with many of these providing additional comments.
The remaining submissions were sent directly to the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department. The majority were received via email (7347), followed by post (745) and fax (592). Many of these also contained individual comments. The Department received
33 submissions from community, church and industry groups.
On 7th May Australia's Attorneys General met and discussed the R18+ situation. Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor confirmed that no decisions were made over the issue. Censorship Ministers have requested further analysis of community
and expert views. It is not just the weight of numbers that need to be considered. It is also the strength of the arguments on each side.
The next SCAG meeting will most likely be around September.
Games producer Electronic Arts boss Frank Gibeau wrote an editorial piece for Games Industry where he said that
government policies that don't allow for the rating of mature content in videogames effectively censor entertainment choices for adults.
He goes on to say that the policies show a poor understanding of today's videogaming audience.
Existing legislation in Australia that limits age ratings of games to 16 demonstrates a distance between those policies and the reality of the videogame industry and the people that play interactive games in Australia today.
The spectrum of gamers is as wide as the viewership of television, movies, theatre, and the readers of books. Governments don't insist that all books be written for children, or that all television shows be cartoons. Adult gamers want their governments
to treat them with the same respect they get as movie goers and book readers.
Adult Australians should be allowed to choose the games they play, including those with mature themes.
The strong response from Australia's gaming community to the R18+ issue may have backfired
a bit, as the government is now delaying discussion of the issue in order to get feedback from more of the community.
GameSpot notes that Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor indicated that, …further work needs to be done before a decision can be made. When pressed, O'Connor told the publication that ministers had agreed that a broader consultation
of the public's views was needed following the dominant response from 'interest groups.'
Perhaps the Australian government doesn't understand that gamers now permeate just about every corner of culture, a point made by Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) President Ron Curry, who stated, I'm not sure how the [Home
Affairs] minister pigeon-holes them as an 'interest group', because gamers cover all facets of society.
Gamers4Croydon, the fledgling Australian political party that was created to challenge former South Australia Attorney General
and notorious gaming critic Michael Atkinson, has disbanded.
Gamers4Croydon was formed last year with the intent of running game-friendly candidates in the Australian election held in March. It didn't win any seats but it did help to highlight the messy videogame situation in Australia, which doesn't have an R18
rating for games and therefore either crams games into the MA15+ category that really shouldn't be there, or simply bans them outright.
Now, in a post on the Gamers4Croydon website, founder David Doe has announced that the party is shutting down less than a year after it was formed. Doe suggested that gamers and other supporters check out political alternatives like the Greens and the
Australian Sex Party, which is opposed to Australia's planned internet filter. They're the closet aligned to use ideologically and we all share many common policies, he explained.
Atkinson stepped down from his post as Attorney General soon after the March election, but Australia still has no R18 rating for videogames, and there's no sign it'll be getting on anytime soon either.
The Australian government has delayed discussion once again on an R18+ rating. The Standing Committee of Attorneys-Generals were set
to have a meeting this month to discuss implementing an R18+ ratings system, along with a host of other issues, but the meeting was cancelled due to the upcoming Federal Election.
The next meeting will take place in Canberra on November 4-5.
Before an R18+ adult rating for videogames can be introduced in Australia, Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor believes
that more feedback from the community is needed.
O'Connor's view, as detailed by GameSpot, comes after a pair of wildly successful petitions backed the introduction of an R18+ rating tier.
O'Connnor, who had previously attributed the R18+ petition support to interest groups, echoed that sentiment again, saying that the government still needed to hear from the silent majority on the subject.
This time around, the Minister stated:
Ministers are aware of the support for the proposal shown by the number of submissions received. However, they are also aware of the wide range of views on this issue in the community. Ministers have made a commitment to discuss the issue at a
future meeting and have requested further analysis of community and expert views to better understand the arguments on each side.
Some good news for R18+ supporters anyway, the issue is still on the agenda of November's Standing Committee of Attorneys-Generals (SCAG) meeting.
Kate Lundy, the Labor Senator from the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) has argues in Parliament for the introduction of
an R18+ videogame rating.
Senator Lundy tabled, or proposed for consideration, a pro-R18+ petition sponsored by retailer GAME and the organization Everyone Plays which featured 89,210 signatures backing the adult videogame rating.
Stating that R18+ is not a decision to be made by the Government, but that it is a decision that requires agreement among the Federal and State Attorneys General around the nation, Lundy cited three key factors for the introduction
The Senator stated that the lack of an R18+ rating creates a grey area for parents and that the new rating tier would allow Australia to catch up with the rest of the world, which she called a significant issue for game
developers and publishers:
With many games originally developed for an adult audience, this represents an additional burden for our Australian games sector. As a result, many of these games are simply banned for sale or distribution in Australia as
a result giving rise to the temptation of overseas purchase, or worse, illicit distribution in Australia.
Lastly, Lundy argued that the government should listen to the people, citing the petition, a research paper indicating that 91% of the entire Australian population supports R18+ and the backing of ACT Attorney General Simon Corbell, who believes
that the R18+ classification would ensure that games with adult content are sold only to adults and that the purchasers are fully aware of the content of the games.
Supposed links between violent video games and increased aggressive behaviour in players have long been used by anti-R18+ proponents as a major reason an adult rating for games should not be introduced in Australia. But now it seems the Federal
Government has officially denied that supposition.
The Australian Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, released a review into an R18+ classification for video games that looks at existing research in order to try to answer the question of whether those who play violent video games are at greater
risk of becoming aggressive. According to the review findings, there is no conclusive evidence that violent games have a greater impact than other media.
The review found that evidence about the effect of violent computer games on the aggression displayed by those who play them is inconclusive, O'Connor said: From time to time people claim that there is a strong link between violent crime or
aggressive behaviour and the popularity of violent computer games. The literature does not bear out that assertion.
According to O'Connor, Australia's censorship ministers requested this review be carried out in order to assist them in making an informed decision about R18+ for games leading into the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting on
December 10. The review also found that there is stronger evidence of short-term effects from violent games than long-term effects and that some research points to the fact that games are a small risk factor in aggressive behaviour over the short term.
However, according to the review, these studies do not thoroughly explore other factors such as aggressive personality, family and peer influence, and socio-economic status.
According to O'Connor, censorship ministers will look carefully at the review findings during next week's SCAG meeting: Australia needs a consistent classification system that protects young minds from any possible adverse affect, while also ensuring
that adults are free to make their own decisions about what they play, within the bounds of the law .
The Gillard Government has approved the R18+ classification for games.
The federal Cabinet approved the adult rating for computer games after finding that many classified as suitable for 15-year-olds in Australia had been ruled suitable for adults only overseas.
As many as 50 games are now available to children as young as 15 but should rightly be played by over-18s only.
Some of the world's top-selling titles, including Grand Theft Auto and Call Of Duty , will fall under the new rating.
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor will take the Government's new position to a meeting of state and territory attorneys-general this week to seek their approval in changing the games classification system.
The Australian federal and state governments are to draw up guidelines for a possible new R18+ computer game classification.
A meeting of federal and state attorneys-general in Canberra failed to endorse the federal government's proposal for the new R18+ rating but Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said what was achieved was still a step forward.
O'Connor said the meeting concluded there needed to be better protection for children and better guidance for parents so they knew what they were buying for their children.
He said the proposed guidelines would take into account differences between film and video games and consider the possibility of redefining the MA15 rating in the event of introducing the R18+ classification.
The system would maintain the refused classification rating, he said: There is some material that is in the view of the attorneys and I that is offensive and should not be accessed by anybody as is the case with film .
So this in my view is a step forward to ensuring we properly consider the classification scheme.
The South Australian politician responsible for censorship matters has come up with a truely crackpot suggestion.
Now the call has been made to introduce an adults only rating for video games, Attorney-General John Rau has suggested that the MA15 rating should then be dropped.
Rau told The Advertiser video games were a far more interactive medium than films and attempts to use the same classification structure for both were flawed:
All of the ministers agreed that there will have to be some games that are refused classification all together, regardless of whether there is an R18 (rating) or not, because they're so bad, he said yesterday.
There's also general agreement that some other treatment needs to occur for games than what occurs for film, because of the interactive nature of games.
The proposition I put forward was that I would like the other ministers to think about putting in an R18 classification for games, but removing the MA classification altogether.
Rau said the new regime would grant parents greater certainty that non-R18 games were appropriate for children.
The current MA15 rating was a grey area that included both family-friendly games and material very, very close to being declared adults only, he said.
Removing the MA15 rating would force distributors to either clean up their games to the point where they could be classified PG or force them to accept an adults-only rating.
But of course the MA15 games would then be edited down to just getting a PG whilst again being in the wrong natural category.
Meanwhile...the nutters are happy with the delay to R18+
The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed the decision of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General not to provide an R18+ Classification for games.
The ACL's managing director Jim Wallace was one of the panellists at the Standing Committee of Attorney Generals. The meeting included seeing a series of clips of examples of both film and game classifications.
It was very clear to me that the great majority of AGs were in a state of bemusement that anyone could want to make or play many of these games and particularly those proposed for an R18+ rating
It is clear that the meeting failed to get support for the R18 classification as a result.
The claims that the MA15+ rating for games contains a number of games that should be classified higher is simply admission of a failed system.
The Australian Christian Lobby has called for a comprehensive review across all technologies and mediums including advertising and entertainment, for some time and particularly of the political parties during the last election.
Following the recent SCAG meeting on whether the R18+ rating for games was going to go ahead or not, Australian Gamer has got hold of the decision summary from the December 10 meeting:
Ministers considered further work done to analyse community and expert views, including:
(a) a national telephone poll conducted during November which provided Ministers with additional community feedback from a random sample of Australians from all States and Territories
(b) a literature review of research exploring links between computer games and violent behaviour
(c) a study of parity between computer game classifications internationally
(d) a panel discussion between representatives in the fields of computer games, psychology and classification, and
(e) advice from the Classification Board on the operation of the current MA 15+ classification and options for an R 18+ classification.
(a) will consider draft guidelines to be developed for classification of games at their next meeting, including a possible R18+ classification, taking into account concerns raised by Ministers relating to the difference in nature of
film and games; and the interactivity of games; and that there will continue to be a refused classification category, and
(b) do not support the dilution of the refused classification category.
The R18+ issue is a big one – for gamers – but is it symptomatic of a larger
classification issue? We speak to Home Affairs Minister Brendan O' Connor, former Deputy Director of the Classification Board Paul Hunt, and CEO of the iGEA Ron Curry about the upcoming review of the classification system and what it means for an
adult rating for video games.
Within this broad media spectrum is the humble video game, and the ever-present spectre of the R18+ rating. To gamers – and the majority of the Australian public – an R18+ rating for video games is a proverbial
no-brainer, but underlying this problem is a much grander one: how do we classify the unclassifiable? How does the current system manage the incredible burden brought upon by the constant influx of new content: iPhone Apps, video games, video
content, movies, Android apps, etc, etc.
Simple put: it can't. Times have changed, and the amount of content being consumed in Australia has increased rapidly over the last decade.
It has become increasingly clear, claimed Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor, in a statement released last month, that the system of classification in Australia needs to be modernised so it is able to
accommodate developments in technology now and in the future.
SCAG [Australia's attorney generals, the politicians in charge of censorship] has probably
been the most conservative cross party grouping of senior politicians ever to exist in Australia. The recent changes have altered nothing. Rob Hulls has exited on behalf of Victoria and he has been replaced by an out Christian, Robert
Clark. John Rau has replaced the high Anglican Michael Atkinson in SA and Christian Porter is the newbie for WA. The conservative Christian A-G in NSW, John Hatzistagos, who recently became the first ever A-G to give police censorship
powers, is unfortunately still there although he will be removed at the next NSW state election in March. But don't hold your breath that the new NSW Liberal A-G will be any better because it will be yet another born again Christian - Greg Smith.
So why is that men of religious persuasion get such a good run on SCAG? Where are all the civil libertarian Attorneys like Lionel Murphy, Gareth Evans and Daryl Williams
The 80% of Australians who supported an R rating in the polls should be pretty concerned that before their last meeting on games, SCAG allowed the Australian Christian Lobby's, Jim Wallace to address them on the issue. They
also allowed another anti games campaigner, Dr Elizabeth Handley to address them.
When I tried to address SCAG a few years ago on censorship issues I was told that the group did not entertain lobbyists of any kind. Clearly things have changed and now if you represent a Christian view you get in. This
represents an appalling misuse of power and engages Australia's Attorney's General in discriminatory behaviour which could well be illegal if it was someone else doing it. If SCAG wants to be seen as discharging their duties to the people of
Australian in a fair and unbiased way then they must now invite lobbyists from the gamers and adult industry to address them at their next meeting.
Despite this argument being run strongly in the lead-up to last December's meeting of censorship ministers, they baulked at lifting the bar on R18+ computer games when they were shown video of the sort of material such a
rating would allow into Australia.
Members of the public supposedly expressing overwhelming support in opinion polls for lifting the ban of extreme interactive computer game violence might also baulk if they too could see what the State and Federal Attorneys
It was very clear to me that the great majority of AGs were in a state of bemusement that anyone could want to make or play many of these games and particularly those proposed for an R18+ rating, and many said so.
It is clear that the meeting failed to get support for the R18 classification as a result.
There is one thing Jim Wallace of the so-called Australian Christian Lobby got right in his attack on ratings reform: When it comes to protecting children and community standards, the authorities are asleep at the
Unfortunately, it's the delaying tactics relied on by out-of-touch members of the Fundamentalist Right that have had that result.
The issue in question is finally removing the loophole in the classification of interactive entertainment (in the main, computer and video games) that forces content designed for adults into the rating category appropriate
for 15 year olds – either with no, or very minor changes. The unavoidable flipside of our rating system being unable to distinguish between adults and children because the distinction is not available, is not only that adults are treated as
children – it's that children are treated as adults.
The only way to treat children differently from adults is, obviously, to have an adult rating – as we have had, for a long time, in most other media.
Hence the campaign for an R18 rating, a sensible reform that will help parents know which games their kids should and absolutely should not be playing.
It's not about saving Australian jobs in the sector presently seriously undermined by our out-dated classification system – although it will certainly do that. It's not about recognising that the average gamer is now in
his or her 30s, and an increasing proportion of the content created in this medium is made by adults, for adults, not children – although that's true. It's not about the fact that restricting adults to the same content as teenagers is
nanny-state censorship (cue the sadly appropriate Mark Twain quote about censorship being telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it ) – although it is.
Most importantly, this reform is about protecting our children – and giving parents the tools they need.
Which is why 80% of Australians support it.
And yet, in December, instead of finally implementing this exhaustively-researched, long-investigated and not-particularly-complicated common sense reform, the nation's Attorneys-General baulked. They ordered a year-long
review instead, putting more kids at risk in the meantime.
Jim Wallace apparently thinks it's the video of supposedly R18-style content that was shown to the politicians that made them accede to his lobby's demands for further delay. Maybe they'd never seen an R18 film before, and
were surprised when the adult content designed for adults and for whom an adult rating is sought was, well, adult. Not appropriate for minors. Conflicting reports suggest it might not have been the video put out by the censorship advocates (which
tends to include material that would NEVER be rated R18 in Australia anyway) so it would not have been any worse than content we already see at video libraries around the country.
Which begs the question – why maintain the loophole?
Wallace, who was ghoulish enough on this page last week to rhetorically link the adult content he dislikes with the Tucson shootings, thinks what we play has more of an effect than what we watch, by virtue of its
interactivity. He doesn't present any evidence for this claim – not even the cherry-picked studies from dodgy no-name American universities on whom his colleagues tend to rely.
But that's because, in reality, it's besides the point. If – and that's a big if – interactive media were shown to have more of an effect, then that would be an argument for tailoring the classification guidelines
for each rating category – not for refusing to distinguish between kids and adults. If what's appropriate for an adult in film is not appropriate for an adult in games, then that would be a reason to have tougher guidelines for games than
films – not to claim that what's appropriate for an adult is appropriate for a 15 year old. Which is what having no R18 rating does.
Nobody here is seriously suggesting extreme, dangerous content that really requires banning full stop should be made available for adults. Nobody is suggesting a free-for-all: when R18 is eventually implemented, extreme
content will still be refused classification, just as it is now with films.
Jim Wallace is fighting the wrong battle – he should be arguing about what content he thinks that an R18 rating should permit, not whether it should exist or not.
Because the one thing we should all be able to agree on is that adults and children are different. That children deserve to have their innocence protected from the things that are appropriate for adults.
And any sensible classification system would recognise that simple fact, with an adult, not-for-kids classification.
It is long since time that ours did.
A further year's delay is absurd, and lets down every Australian family.
Last December Australian attorney generals unanimously agreed to draft a set of preliminary guidelines for the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia.
Now, it appears the decision to introduce R18+ for games once and for all will once again be delayed. This time, the culprit is the upcoming New South Wales state elections, which will be held on Saturday, March 26. The NSW attorney general's department
has confirmed to GameSpot AU that NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos will not be attending the next meeting on March 4 because of the proximity of the election and will therefore be unable to partake in any voting process. Because any decision
regarding R18+ requires all state, territory, and federal attorneys general to vote and reach a unanimous decision, it will be impossible for any voting to take place.
The Australian Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor has told GameSpot AU that he wants to resolve the issue of Australia's lack of an adult classification for video games by July this year. With the absence of New South Wales Attorney-General John
Hatzistergos from the upcoming SCAG meeting in March preventing ministers from taking a vote on the R18+ for games issue, O'Connor hopes to use the time to dispel any concerns and discuss in detail the soon-to-be-finalized R18+ guidelines.
O'Connor believes that the inquorate March SCAG meeting will still be a good opportunity for ministers to take a closer look at the new guidelines presented and come to a more concrete decision on how to proceed with the R18+ issue. The vote to introduce
the guidelines will also be the vote that introduces R18+, something O'Connor is planning for the July SCAG meeting.
O'Connor told Gamespot that: the Commonwealth's position is that we need an R18+ classification for video games in this country. This is a sound argument insofar as doing the right thing and protecting minors; it is also a reasonable argument as it
allows for adults to access material that is accessible by other adults in other countries; and it fits in with evolving changes in technology. So, [R18+ for games] is good public policy, and that's what I'll continue to say to people.
Australia's Federal Government is giving the states and territories until July to agree to a new R18+ classification for video games.
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor forcefully said: We're the only country that allows tens and tens of games to be used by minors that are only used by adults overseas . We're becoming the laughing stock of the developed world.
O'Connor said the issue had been debated by the attorneys-general for the past 10 years and it was time to make a decision.
He wants consensus from the states and territories when they meet in July and if they do not agree, he tips the Federal Government will go it alone: If there is not a consensus around this issue, the Commonwealth will certainly be considering other
Last month, Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor told GameSpot AU he has high hopes for resolving the R18+ issue by July this year, relying on a unanimous vote in favour of introducing the adult classification for video games at the upcoming
Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting in Adelaide.
However, the question of what will happen to games currently rated MA15+ and Refused Classification (RC) has to date remained unanswered. Now, in an interview with GameSpot AU, O'Connor has shed more light on the soon-to-be-finalised R18+ draft
guidelines, saying that it would be unlikely that games that have been previously banned by the Classification Board of Australia would be reclassified into the R18+ category should the new rating be introduced. What is far more likely to happen,
according to O'Connor, is the reclassification of MA15+ titles as R18+ (with cuts waived).
What's in the proposed guidelines? What do they say about a possible R18+ category and the current MA15+ category?
The guidelines reflect the following propositions: one, that we need to allow for a set of classifications in games similar to those that we have in film; two, that we need to look at redefining the MA15+ category for games to make
sure that games that are played by adults in other countries are not played by children in Australia; three, that we need to look at what a new R18+ classification for games would mean; and finally, that we need to maintain the current Refused
Classification (RC) classification. I have significant concerns about games that depict gratuitous violence or sexual acts, and I want to make sure that the introduction of an R18+ classification would not allow such material into this country, or indeed
any material that would offend a reasonable person.
We don't refuse many games in Australia. But those games that are currently RC would most likely stay that way. The advice I have received is that it's far less likely that any game that has been RC would get into R18+ if the
classification was introduced; it's far more likely that MA15+ games will be reclassified and fit more suitably into R18+. Having said that, it may be that some games that did not make it into MA15+ may find themselves in a position to get into R18+, but
as always, these matters are entirely for the Classification Board. The reclassifying of MA15+ games would also mean that some of the modifications in current MA15+ games would no longer be necessary. My problem with these modifications and changes in
MA15+ games is that it does not matter if the game has been modified to fit within the current MA15+ guidelines: the content itself is still adult and should not be allowed to be accessed by minors. At the moment, parents see the MA15+ sticker and think
that it's some sort of signal that the game in question is suitable for anyone under the age of 18, which means 12- and 13-year-olds are playing these games. This has to stop. It's time for our classification system to grow up.
long awaited reforms of Australia's censorship of computer games look set to fail after Victoria state declared its 'strong
concern' that the move will legalise games with high levels of graphic, frequent and gratuitous violence .
Backed by a groundswell of support from the gaming community, the Gillard government is determined to fix the classification system for computer games, which allows unsuitable games to be rated for 15-year-olds, yet bans popular games for adults.
But the Ted Baillieu government's Attorney-General, Robert Clark, has echoed the concerns of the Australian Christian Lobby, putting him on a collision course with the federal government, which requires the backing of all states and territories to
change classification laws.
Clark told Fairfax that he welcomed one impact of the reform, that some games classified MA15+ would move to the higher rating of R18+. But the move, he said, would also mean allowing games to be sold in Australia that are banned because of their
high levels of violence:
[This] needs careful scrutiny and public debate. The Coalition government is very concerned that the draft guidelines currently being proposed by the Commonwealth would legalise games with high levels of graphic, frequent
and gratuitous violence, including violence against civilians and police.
Clark said the community should have a chance to discuss the draft guidelines, which have not been made public, and see what sort of games would be legalised. The Victorian government will decide our position based on our assessment of whether
the final proposal will adequately protect the community, he said.
But Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O'Connor, told Fairfax:
The public has been consulted extensively on this matter and overwhelmingly support the introduction of an adult classification for games/
About 60,000 submissions were received in the last consultation round, showing huge community support for the introduction of an adult computer game classification. I await state and territory governments' views on the draft
guidelines and remain open to sensible suggestions consistent with community expectations and good public policy.
lSouth Australia will soon introduce a new R18 rating for videogames...BUTl....this isn't the great step forward many Australian
gamers have been hoping for.
At present, a 15 certificate is the highest a videogame can be awarded. But in the new system, all that will change is that previously 15-rated games will become 18-rated games, and stores will not be permitted to sell them to minors.
Games that were refused classification on the grounds that they were unsuitable for 15-year-olds will still be refused classification. Essentially, what was once deemed suitable for teenagers will now be locked down to adults only.
South Australian attorney general John Rau said that he hopes the new system will catch on elsewhere in the country, and explained that the decision was to create a more obvious separation between what is appropriate for adults, and what is
appropriate for children.
There has to be a clear difference between what adults can get and what children can get, he told ABC News. At the moment the MA15+ classification is like a crossover point between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
Tche system is unlikely to be officially confirmed before July, but Rau thinks it should go through easily. Speaking to Gamespot, he said: There will need to be some regulation or possible statutory amendments made but I don't think it will be
hard to do this. We just have to wait until the federal position becomes clear.
Canberra will introduce an adult rating for video games, even if other states and territories refuse to implement one,
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell has told The Canberra Times.
Corbell made the commitment when he criticised the stalled process for changing the censorship regime: I'm extremely frustrated by the protracted nature of this discussion ... I asked my department earlier this month to look at the options of
unilateral action .
The ACT will only be able to break with other states and territories and introduce an R18+ rating for video games if the Federal Government creates such a category. Currently, unanimous agreement between all jurisdictions is required to make a
change. Earlier this month Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor flagged introducing the adult rating, leaving it to each state and territory to decide the issue for themselves.
Corbell said: We want to provide better guidance for parents and remove unsuitable material from children and teenagers. The introduction of an R18+ classification will help achieve that. This is the right decision for Australian families and
the right decision for parents who want to be able to make informed choices about the games their children play.
MLA Shane Rattenbury, legal affairs spokesman for Greens, conditionally backed ACT Labor's commitment meaning the legislation needed to introduce an R18+ rating for video games would have the numbers to pass the local assembly.
The ACT plan does not involve scrapping the MA15+ category as per the censorial South Australian suggestion.
Australian Catholic Bishops have begrudgingly welcomed proposed guidelines for adult rating for video games.
In a press statement, the Conference--which represents the official views of the Catholic church in Australia said:
In an ideal world, the sort of material that is included in R18+ or higher classification films and computer games would never be seen in a civilized democracy. However, it is not an ideal world and, in the real world in
which we live, such material unfortunately is produced and is available, sometimes legally and often illegally, within our society.
The preferred position of the Catholic Church is that R18+ material should not be available. But if such an outcome is not achievable then the Australian National Classification Scheme should include an R18+ classification
category for computer games.
Not all Christian groups are on this side, however. Vocal minority group, the Australian Christian Lobby, has lambasted the proposed guidelines, describing them as contrary to the interests of parents and children. ACL's chief of staff Lyle Shelton
said in a press statement:
Not only is this proposal contrary to the claim that the introduction of an R18+ category for computer games would protect children by merely relocating existing MA15+ games to a new R18+ category, it would inevitably open
the Australian hire and sale markets to a higher level of graphically violent and sexually explicit interactive games,
The Australian Government's Attorney-General's Department has posted
an online survey to gauge public opinion on the recently released draft guidelines for the R18+ ratings classification released earlier this week.
The survey simply asks users to select from the following 4 statements:
I support the proposed R18+ category for computer games and I support the proposed draft Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games.
I support the proposed R18+ category for computer games but I do not support the draft Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games.
I do not support the proposed R18+ category for computer games but I do support the draft Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games.
I do not support the proposed R18+ category for computer games and I do not support the draft Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games.
Draft changes to Australia's censorship rules have now been made public, outlining the type of content that could make it as an
adults only R18+ game.
Under the proposed guidelines, an R18+ rating would allow:
Virtually no restrictions on themes
Violence except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency, and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults
Implied sexual violence, if justified by context
Realistically simulated sexual activity
Virtually no restrictions on language
Drug use and nudity are permitted.
The R18+ guides are similar to those that currently exist for film in Australia, except for the caveat that game violence must not offend community standards.
The MA15+ rating for games, too, has been tweaked in the proposal. While most of the guidelines for the rating have been retained, several have been added, including:
Strong and realistic violence should not be very frequent
Sexual activity must not be tied to rewards or incentives
Interactive drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted
Nudity must not be related to incentives and rewards.
The proposals have already been sighted by Australia's state and territory attorneys-general, who will review the guidelines before making a decision on the introduction of an R18+ rating for games at the next SCAG meeting in early July.
The previous pro R18+ Attorney-General for Tasmania, David Bartlett, resigned earlier this month, which sent alarm
bells ringing for some. Thankfully, we've just gotten word that his successor, Brian Wightman, is following Bartlett by supporting the introduction of an adult rating for video games.
Journalism student, and Kotaku reader, James Sheppard interviewed him for an assigment, and asked him about his stance. During the interview Wightman claimed that he fully intended to push for an R18+ rating at the next SCAG meeting: It's not
going to completely stop children getting this material, he said, it will reduce those that do and it definitely won't make things worse.
Comment: Why treat games more strictly than films?
Why should our classification system continue to uphold games to a higher standard than film?
The proposed draft guidelines for the classification of computer games released last week still have added clauses that give Australia's Classification Board assessors room to judge games to a higher standard than film.
For example, the guidelines for an R18+ film simply state that violence is permitted . But in the draft guidelines for R18+ video games, violence is permitted except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety
generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified .
For M and MA15+ films, the only directive about drug use is that drug use should be justified by context .
But the proposed guidelines for M and MA15+ games make the job of assessors much more difficult, adding that interactive drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted and drug use must not be related to incentives or rewards
A similar caveat is added to the MA15+ guidelines for sex in games when compared to nookie on the big screen. Sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards according to the proposed guidelines, a guideline not directed at
When there is little evidence to support the suggestion that interactivity heightens impact, it seems as though these caveats have been added simply to appease vocal minorities rather than in the interests of a robust classification system.
Aussie adult gamers are looking upon this Friday's Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting (SCAG) as D-day for gaming classification in Australia, with all nine federal, state and territory censorship ministers voting on the introduction of an
R18+ classification for games.
It now appears that the decision will be delayed again, with at least one attorney-general planning to abstain from taking part in the R18+ vote. The New South Wales Attorney-General's department is declaring that the NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith will
not be voting on the R18+ for games issue: We're not going down a definitive route, a spokesperson for Smith told GameSpot AU. More work needs to be done on this issue. We want to wait to see the results of the ALRC [Australian Law Reform
Commission] classification review.
If Smith takes this position at the SCAG meeting on Friday, it will mean the R18+ for games decision will once again be delayed. For an adult classification for games to be introduced, all of Australia's state, territory, and federal governments must
unanimously agree on its implementation.
The ALRC review is currently underway, and is not set for completion until at least early 2012.
Meanwhile South Australia Attorney-General John Rau has said that the state will drop the country's MA15+ rating for videogames in favour of an R18 rating, irrespective of any rulings at the Australian commonwealth level.
In this inane scheme there will be no classification option between PG and 18.
Spokesperson for the opposition Liberal party, Stephen Wade, called the move bizarre and unfair to local retailers, reports newspaper The Australian: The Attorney-General has indicated that he appreciates that people will continue to access
games, through downloading them and through mail order. So it would be clearly an unfair impost on South Australian retailers at a time we are very aware of the competition between the online retail marker and the shopfront retail market.
The Australian Christian Lobby has asked classification ministers meeting in Adelaide later this week that they should wait until the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) completes its review of the National Classification Scheme before voting on
video game classification reform that would add a new R18+ rating.
ACL spokesman Rob Ward said:
You can't equate an R18+ game with an R18+ film because games are interactive and repetitively engage the gamer in acts of violence and sex, Ward said. Allow the Australian Law Reform Commission to complete its comprehensive review
and detail how games should be classified and whether they should be introduced into the Australian market.
However ACL were not so impressed by South Australian Attorney-General John Rau's desire to reclassify existing MA15+ games as R18+:
Mr. Rau's suggestion wouldn't address or fix the problems inherent in the existing classification system, such as subjective and ill-defined guidelines. The system also requires proper enforcement mechanisms and consequences for
publishers and retailers who breach the guidelines.
The ACT (Canberra) will lead a push for an adult rating for computer games at a meeting of state and territory Attorney Generals.
But ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell says the territory will go it alone on an R-18+ rating if a national agreement cannot be reached when the Attorneys gather in Adelaide.
Corbell said this morning that a number of states and territories have indicated support for the new classification but if agreement cannot be reached, he will begin work on territory-specific legislation: But that's not a desirable outcome, a
sensible outcome is to get a uniform scheme covering all Australians and that's what the ACT will be supporting. We have been consistent for many years now in our support for an R 18 plus classification for computer games.
Australia's federal government has announced Australia will introduce the long-awaited R18+ classification for video games, saying the process will only take a couple of months.
Australia's federal, state, and territory ministers met at their Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting (SCAG) to discuss the fate of the adult rating. Despite NSW being the only state to abstain from the vote on R18+, all other eight
jurisdictions agreed to its introduction once the proposed guidelines are approved by the respective cabinets.
Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor said that he would go ahead and introduce the R18+ classification for games at a federal level, and it would then be up to each state and territory to decide whether or not it adopts it.
O'Connor says it may now only be a matter of months before the adult rating is introduced. The proposed R18+ draft guidelines were once again amended at the meeting, changes that require some jurisdictions to seek approval from their respective cabinets.
Once this is done, the federal government will begin drafting the legislation necessary to introduce the R18+ classification for games.
The New South Wales Attorney General, Greg Smith, has changed his stance and decided back an R18 rating category for games.
Previously he abstained from the vote.
This means that all Australian Attorneys General now back the move.
Cabinet has now given its in-principle support for the introduction of the R18+ rating.
Few people would dispute the value of a classification system that helps keep adult material beyond the reach of children. With strong classification guidelines in place, an R18+ rating should result in violent games
currently rated MA15+ in Australia being reclassified as adults-only, as they already are in many other countries.
Australia has received the green-light for an R18+ rating for video games, but many people are still unsure of what this
means for them as gamers. Will this lead to MA15+ games being bumped up into the R18+ category? Will formerly Refused Classification games suddenly make it through with an R18+ rating? We looked into the Classification Act to find out.
The information provided here is based on current legislation and does not take into account what might change in the future. We also spoke with a former member of The Classification Board for some background information.
If a game has just been classified and it received an MA15+ rating when it really should have received an R18+ rating, will the introduction of the R18+ bump it from an MA15+ game to an R18+ game?
If a game has been Refused Classification, can it be re-submitted for classification when we receive an R18+ rating?
Former Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor, a staunch supporter of R18+ for games in Australia has been replaced by
Australia's adoption of computer gaming for adults is very much still in play and open to new directions.
Last month, O'Connor released the final guidelines on R18+ for games, and said that he planned to introduce the R18+ legislation in the February 2012 parliament session.
So no doubt Australian gamers will be keen to find out of Clare will continue O'Connor's good work.
But gaming is not the only censorship issue debated at this level of government. O'Connor had put his name to the request for censorship reviews that led to the banning of A Serbian Film and Human Centipede 2 .
In July last year, Australian state, and territory censorship ministers reached an in-principle agreement to
introduce an R18+ classification for video games in Australia.
At the time, the measure was championed by the former Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor.
he has since moved to a new job during the federal government's ministerial reshuffle late last year, with former Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare named the new Federal Minister for Home Affairs.
Clare so far been silent on his intentions for the adult classification for games. Now, speaking to GameSpot AU, Clare's office has revealed that the minister will stick to the previously announced timeline for R18+ and will introduce the R18+ for
games bill in the first session of this year's parliamentary sittings, due to commence on February 7.
A spokeswoman for Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare indicated the Government expected the legislation to be passed by the end of the year.
However the Government lives on a parliamentary knife edge needing support from cross bench MPs. It is not yet clear whether the bill will get the necessary consensus.
The Victorian Attorney-General's office confirmed it intended to allow R18+ games to be sold there. The Victorian Government also intends to legislate to provide for an R18+ computer game classification, a spokesman said.
(This is) in accordance with the agreement reached between state and territory attorneys-general in July last year to introduce the new classification together with agreed guidelines to protect against excessive levels of graphic, frequent and
Australia's Federal Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare has started the ball rolling for an adult rating for video. For the first step the
bill has been cleared by the Federal Parliamentary Caucus of the Australian Labor Party. The bill is now ready to be introduced in parliament.
The R18+ bill needs the support of at least two crossbench members of parliament to be passed through the Lower House. To pass through the Senate, the Bill needs the support of either the coalition or the Greens, both of which have indicated some
level of support for the R18+ issue.
If all goes to plan, Clare is proposing that a R18+ for games will be available from 1st January 2013.
The opposition Coalition has asked that the R18+ bill be sent for an inquiry.
As part of the legislation process, if one MP calls for an inquiry on a proposed bill, that bill must undergo extra scrutiny and further examination by a Standing Committee. This inquiry process is usually utilised for bills that are deemed
complex or controversial.
The good news, however, is that these inquiries are usually fast tracked, and made up of people with responsibilities in that portfolio area, so to not delay the passage of the proposed legislation. It's probably worth noting that, since 1990,
approximately 30% of bills have been sent to Standing Committees.
Canberra, Australia's capital, will start using the new R18+ rating next week.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said:
This is part of a national reform that will allow adult gamers to view R18+ material in the same way that can already be done for film and printed material, said But at the same time it will also provide protection to parents and children by giving
parents better guidance about what material is and is not appropriate for people under the age of 18.
The introduction of an R18+ rating for video games into Australia has been designed to bring game classification in line with the current system in place for films and other media.
However South Australian Attorney General John Rau has revealed plans to ban anyone under the age of 18 from purchasing Mature Adult video games - titles the Australian Classification Board has deemed appropriate for audiences 15 and older.
A spokesperson for Minister Rau claims the decision is a more practical measure than the previous plan of completely removing MA15+ ratings for video games.
Under Rau's proposed scheme, games classified at a national level at the MA15+ level would be labelled R18+ in South Australia, and could only be sold to legal adults.
South Australian legislation regarding video games is likely to be introduced in State Parliament in May, says Rau in a public statement:
The South Australian legislation will allow the introduction of R18+ games.
However, my long stated position has been to protect children by creating a clearer distinction between games that may be suitable for children and those that are suitable only for adults.
Therefore, my intention is that the South Australian legislation will prevent the sale of MA15+ games to minors. This move will give parents greater certainty about the appropriateness of games for their children.
The Australian Federal Parliament has approved a rating of R18+ for gaming, which will allow games that have long been banned in the country to be sold at retail. The new rating will come into effect at the start of 2013.
These are important reforms over 10 years in the making, said Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare to News.com.au:
The R18+ category will inform consumers, parents and retailers about which games are not suitable for minors to play and will prevent minors from purchasing unsuitable material. The reforms also mean that adults are able to choose what games they play
within the bounds of the law.
The shadow attorney-general George Brandis got in on the act too:
The passage of this bill will no doubt be welcomed by adult gamers all across Australia. The industry has been waiting for this change for some time.
Australia's christian lobby has ludicrously called on the government to ensure that the level of sex and violence allowed in the new R18+ category for computer games is no greater than that for the present MA15+ level.
The government announced last week that a R18+ category for video games would be introduced on January 1. However, the rules for the new category are still to be determined by the Australian Classification Board.
The managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Jim Wallace, spewed:
I expect the new [R18+] classification to be described no differently to MA15+.
If [R18+] is described in looser terms, or is less demanding than the existing MA15+ - which is already letting in things that shouldn't have been there - then it's not going to work.
We already know that some of the games that are sold in Australia are unacceptable and should never have slipped in under the old rating.
Wallace then said he wanted a new, stricter MA15+ category to complement the R18+ rating.
A spokesman for the Australian Classification Board, Simon Ferguson, said the details of the new R18+ rating were yet to be finalised. He added:
It is anticipated that the new MA15+ category will be more stringent than the old.
Australia has just passed a law allowing an R18 rating for its video games and according to Tom Pullar-Strecker's story on Stuff, the introduction of the new classification could mean games with strong violent or sexual content are likely to be
more readily available in New Zealand from next year too.
While New Zealand has had an R18 rating for years, most of the disc-based games we get are distributed through Australia, and the Australian-based Interactive Games and Entertainment Association says often games with adult content bound for New Zealand
have been censored so they can meet Australia's current MA15+ rating.
The article quotes IGEA's chief executive, Ron Curry saying:
What we have seen is New Zealand getting modified product that was going on sale in Australia as opposed to the full versions of games. The advantage for New Zealanders now is they will more than likely get products as they were released, he said.
A while ago, the R18+ legislation for video games passed through Australia's Federal government successfully, and now it is time
for each state to pass the law.
The ACT (Canberra) is the first territory to pass the R18+ law, which the ABC reports was done so with tri-partisan support, though the Canberra Liberals failed in a bid to boost the penalty for inappropriate display or distribution of material
Attorney General Simon Corbell has said, this is about making sure that adults are able to view and play and read what they wish as long as it does not do harm to others.
Australia's Classification Board has released censorship rules that will be applied to the new adult R18+ category for computer games.
As Kotaku points out, the document disappointingly makes reference to the interactive nature of computer games necessitating tighter controls than other passive media formats, a notion that has been diluted by plenty of studies over the years, and never
supported by any conclusive findings. The Censor Board document says:
Interactivity is an important consideration that the Board must take into account when classifying computer games. This is because there are differences in what some sections of the community condone in relation to passive viewing
or the effects passive viewing may have on the viewer (as may occur in a film) compared to actively controlling outcomes by making choices to take or not take action.
Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in
film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or
engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also increase the impact of some content.
The word 'impact' seems to be a fudge factor that means that its up to them. 'Impact' is an arbitrary scale with an arbitrary value of 'high impact' that will get games banned. The censors then justify the ban by a meaningless justification that the
violence is 'high impact'. So Australian gamers will just have to wait and see how the censors arbitrarily interpret the arbitrary rules.
South Australia's Attorney General has given the greenlight to both MA15+ and R18+ classifications for games.
As reported by Indaily, John Rau has made a U-turn on his previous decision to abolish the MA15+ classification in South Australia when the new 18-rated game rating was brought in.
The Attorney General said that the recently released guidelines were stringent enough and different from the original report that he had no problem ratifying all game ratings:
The new MA15+ classification is now so different to the previous one that I no longer see an issue with it. I will, however, keep a watching brief on MA15+ games. The guidelines include much tighter requirements for every level of classifications, in
particular, what constitutes MA15+.
Offsite Comment: Australian Christian Lobby have a meaningless whinge
Children are being exposed to sex and violence in video games which should carry adult classifications, outraging Attorney-General John Rau.
Rau said 13 video games released this year were rated MA15+ but carried a higher age rating in Europe and the US. [Perhaps he is referring to the equivalent 16 rating in Europe and 17 (M) rating in the US]
These particular games have been assessed as having intense violence, blood and gore, nudity and suggestive themes.
I am asking the new Commonwealth Attorney-General to have a look at the way the Australian Classification Board is assessing these games and assure the community that the rules are being applied appropriately.
Rau said he would prefer not to use the South Australian Classification Council to review the games and up their classification in the state even though he has the power:
The preferable position is to do it nationally because ... if other states had a completely different regime to ours not only would it be confusing for retailers but it would also mean there's an opportunity for people to buy online and interstate and
have things posted to here.
Australia's Censorship Board will soon undertake a review of a number of MA15+ games after receiving an official request to do so from South Australia's nutter Attorney-General, John Rau.
Games to be reviewed include Killer is Dead, Alien Rage, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist, Deadly Premonition the Director's Cut, Company of Heroes 2, God Mode, Borderlands 2: Add-on Content Pack, Fuse, Deadpool, The Walking Dead, Gears of War:
Judgment and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
Rau feels that censorship rules for MA15+ games should be more restrictive.
Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA), expressed his shock at the move.
Not only have these games already been examined against stringent guidelines, we also haven't heard of any formal complaints made by parents or adults who think the video games are wrongly classified, said Curry in a press statement. The review is an
unwarranted and costly exercise to satisfy a vocal yet unrepresentative minority.
The iGEA point out that at $28,000 per review, such an exercise will cost the taxpayer $336,000.
At the request of the South Australian Attorney-General, the Classification Review Board (the Review Board) recently reviewed the classifications of 12 computer games.
The Review Board upheld the MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied) classification for all of the 12 computer games. These titles are:
Killer is Dead,
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist
Deadly Premonition the Director's Cut,
Company of Heroes 2,
Borderlands 2: Add-on Content Pack,
The Walking Dead,
Gears of War: Judgment and
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.
The Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) has welcomed the decision by the Review Board, while roundly slamming John Rau for wasting taxpayer money with a costly and unwarranted review. It's estimated that the whole process cost
in excess of $330,000. Ron Curry, the head of the IGEA, said that it was a shame it had to happen.
The Western Australian Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People recommends in its Sexualisation of Children report that the Classification Enforcement Act should prohibit the sale, supply, demonstration, possession or
advertisement of R18+ video games in the state.
Under Australia's current classification system, games sold at retail need to be classified by the Australian Classification Board. The country's Federal Parliament passed legislation to create an R18+ category for video game classification last
February. The new classification system, which included the new R18+ rating, came into effect across on Jan 1, 2013.
The Sexualisation of Children report, which was presented to the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council on June 26, also suggests that using minors in sexually provocative advertising in the state to be made an offence, regulating child beauty
pageants and that the state monitor the recommendations of a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into sexting. Additionally, the report recommends that Western Australia should create a code of conduct to address concerns about the impact of sexually
explicit music videos on minors. The committee said:
While the impact of sexualisation on children is difficult to quantitatively measure, and to distinguish from other influences in their lives, this does not mean that the issue should not be addressed. The Committee is equally aware that what is seen as
a priority issue that needs substantive action by some members of society may be seen by others as normal experimentation or fun.