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Despite stories suggesting that a change to the Australian ratings system may be as far as two years away, the Federal Minister for Home Affairs has today announced that each Australian state and territory has signed off on the final guidelines required for the introduction of an adult R18+ classification Down Under.
It should come as no surprise that the guidelines are pretty strict when it comes to violent content.
According to Minister Brendan O'Connor, the major changes made to the draft guidelines have been focussing primarily on violence, as well as coarse language - with strong violence and "aggressive strong language" now ruled out of MA15+ games.
In what may be a response to New South Wales Attorney General Greg Smith's recent outburst about video games being filled with sex and violence, Minister O'Connor explained simply that sexual violence is currently Refused Classification - effectively banned - and that ruling will not change when an R18+ is introduced.
Unfortunately, while the committee did reach the desired outcome for gamers, they didn't do it in time for this year's final parliamentary session, meaning the R18+ legislation will have to wait until February 2012 to be discussed.
Speaking to Gamespot, O'Connor explains:
I am confident we'll have R18+ passed in the first few months of next year. I know some people are concerned about the time but it's been going on for a decade, and we've made great progress. Everyone is working towards legislating for change.
The new guidelines are based on the amended draft published earlier this year (available here as PDF) include the following changes for the MA15+ rating:
The all-new R18+ Restricted rating will cover games considered to be "high" in impact:
Final Guidelines - MA15+ Restricted
The treatment of strong themes should be justified by the context.
Violence should be justified by the context.
Strong and realistic violence should not be frequent or unduly repetitive.
Sexual violence may be implied, if non-interactive and justified by the content.
Sexual activity may be implied.
Sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards.
Strong coarse language may be used.
Aggressive or strong coarse language should be infrequent, and not exploitative or offensive.
Drug use should be justified by the context.
Drug use related to incentives or rewards is not permitted.
Interactive illicit or prescribed drug use is not permitted.
Nudity should be justified by the context.
Nudity must not be related to incentives or rewards.
Final Guidelines - R18+ Restricted
There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.
Violence is permitted. High impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted.
Sexual violence may be implied, if non-interactive and justified by context.
Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is "simulation, yes—the real thing, no".
There are virtually no restrictions on language.
Drug use is permitted
Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.
Nudity is permitted.
Once an R18+ is introduced by parliament and approved, the Australian Classification Board can start labelling games as R18+ immediately - and, O'Connor says - will have the ability to re-classify any troublesome games that currently bear an MA15+ sticker.
This goes against the traditional rules of the Classification Board, which normally cannot consider a re-classification until 24 months after submission.
It's up to the Classification Board whether they want to re-classify those games. I think people know that there are some games now that are rated MA15+ that should be re-classified, but I am not going to name any.
We're not going to name any either, but there are games which even local publishers have commented "really shouldn't" have been granted MA15+ in the first place, so it's possible the companies will present selected games for reconsideration also.
It's been a long and bumpy ride since the matter was first brought up in 2002, but it seems there may - finally - be a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if an adult rating isn't here for a while (February 2013 is still optimistic), today's government is taking huge steps to bring it to us.
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I like video games, fishing, Depeche Mode, long walks on the beach, writing discussion papers and cups of tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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