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The Australian Classification Board has officially released the new guidelines for the classification of computer games - that is, the rules which determine just which games will receive an R18+ rating after January 1st, 2013.
...and proving that you can't please all the people all the time, the "adults only" criteria are already causing controversy, with some gamers believing the new guidelines don't go far enough.
The Board explains that it must take the "impact" of potentially offensive content into consideration. That impact might be higher in a game which uses close-ups or slow motion to show greater detail, uses lighting or special effects to highlight certain content, or if the content is prolonged, frequently repeated or links incentives or rewards to "high impact" elements. As before, "realistic" violence (rather than stylised) is frowned upon, as is content that is considered "highly interactive".
According to the Board:
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.
One major adjustment to the guidelines sees "nudity and sexual activity" permitted as an incentive or reward, but only in material restricted to adults - that is, classified R18+. This would mean that the original edition of The Witcher 2 would potentially have been released in Australia without amendment.
So! Here's what you're looking at, with the Impact Test to determine what is considered appropriate for an R18+ Restricted release:
The impact of material classified R 18+ should not exceed high.
Note: Material classified R 18+ is legally restricted to adults. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.
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.
Actual sexual violence is not permitted.
Implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted.
Depictions of actual sexual activity are not permitted.
Depictions of simulated sexual activity may be permitted.
Depictions of simulated sexual activity that are explicit and realistic are not permitted.
There are virtually no restrictions on language.
Drug use is permitted.
Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.
Interactive illicit or proscribed drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted.
Nudity is permitted.
Don't forget, games can still be Refused Classification if they exceed even the R18+ rating. Specifically, games containing "illicit or proscribed drug use" related to incentives or rewards, or detailed and realistic interactive drug use will be ruled out immediately.
The new R18+ rating will come into federal effect on January 1, 2013, but each individual state and territory must determine how it will implement the legislation locally. So far, Australian Capital Territory has made its move, while South Australia seems to be planning an unusual approach.
To read the full guidelines, head to the Australian Classification Board website.
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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