Yes, Australia should have an R18+ rating for computer games

So you might have noticed things around playerattack have been a little quiet of late – but I have a perfectly valid reason excuse. At the end of 2009, I was contracted by Electronic Frontiers Australia (in conjunction with AusGamers to write a discussion paper arguing why Australia should have an R18+ rating for computer games.

Essentially, Australia is the only “western” country to not have an adult rating for computer games – if it’s unsuitable for a 15-year-old, it’s unsuitable for the whole country (this is why we get so many games “banned” Down Under). In December, the Commonwealth Government called for a public consultation on the topic – and that’s where EFA (and I!) get involved, with a document to explain exactly why we should have an adult rating for computer games.

Michael Atkinson

SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson

Now, it’s your turn. EFA have published my draft paper, and they want your input. You can read the entire, draft, EFA discussion paper, and make any changes, add any comments, or leave any feedback you feel is appropriate.

This is not the time to get all tl;dr, it’s pretty easy to digest, and has some really interesting tidbits. Did you know that over half of the games that were rated as MA15+ in Australia were given adult ratings by five of the comparable overseas agencies?

As Nic explained over on the EFA blog, the main points we’re trying to stress in the paper are really pretty simple:

  • Gamers are adults; games, like films, tell expressive stories, not all of which are suitable for children. Banning everything that is not suitable for children amounts to unacceptable censorship of legitimate expression.
  • Gamers are parents; as responsible parents, we take care to monitor what media our children consume, and can take responsibility for those decisions.
  • An R18+ rating is about empowerment; the goal of Australia’s classification is to empower adults, protect children, protect people from accidental exposure to offensive material, and to take into account community concerns about particularly offensive content. An R18+ allows adults to choose what is suitable for themselves and for their children.
  • An R18+ rating will be more likely to decrease rather than increase the exposure of children to inappropriate content, because it sends a clear message to parents that certain material is not appropriate for children; the lack of an R18+ for games, particularly when one exists for films, only causes confusion and lessens the ability of parents to take responsibility.
  • Australia’s system is out of step with the rest of the world; games that are clearly not designed for children are being released with an MA15+ rating, and games that are suitable for adults are being banned. Our research shows that of the 47 games that were rated by the Australian Classification Board, the US ESRB, the UK BBFC, the EU PEGI, and the NZ OFLC, more than 50 per cent of titles that were rated MA15+ in Australia were given an adult rating overseas. The Australian system is demonstrably less effective in warning parents and gamers about the content of video games than our international counterparts. Introducing an R18+ rating will address some of this disparity and enable Australians to make more informed choices about what games they play or allow their children to play.
So. Submissions to the public consultation close at the end of this month, if you want to send in your own response, you can do that either by using Grow Up Australia‘s handy form, or the submission guidelines from the Attorney-General’s Department.

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