Australia gets draft R18+ game guidelines

The Australian battle for an R18+ classification for video games has had another boost today with Minister for Justice Brendan O’Connor releasing draft guidelines that support the move.

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor in Parliament

These guidelines have been handed out to all of the Classification Ministers in the various states and territories, preparing them for the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting in July which is tipped to be the decision-maker.

Mr. O’Connor explains that the current Gillard Labor Government wants to remove unsuitable material from children and teenagers, while providing better guidance for parents. The introduction of an adult R18+ classification for video games will be an effective solution, as well as bringing the country “into line” with comparable nations.

Right now, in Australia, no new classifications may be introduced without the unanimous agreement of all Commonwealth, State and Territory Attorneys-General. O’Connor has explained that this is his goal for the next meeting.

“We’ve recently seen several states publicly express their support for an adult only rating for games and I’m keen to reach a unanimous decision at the July meeting.”

The proposed draft guidelines:

  • provide safeguards to restrict the availability of material that is unsuitable for children
  • address the difference between films and computer games, especially in terms of interactivity
  • ensure that the Refused Classification category is retained.

Under the proposal, there will be six possible categories for video games in Australia: G General Exhibition, PG Parental Guidance, M Mature, MA 15+ Mature Adult (legally restricted), R 18+ Restricted (legally restricted), and RC Refused Classification – effectively banned from sale, advertising or demonstration in most states.

While G, PG and M would remain the same, the current MA 15+ rating, which has recently come under fire, would be revamped to become tighter and more obvious in its guidelines. R 18+ would be introduced, and the guidelines for RC titles would be raised slightly to accomodate the new rating.

[img_big]center,6511,2010-11-20/28603The_Witcher_2_Screenshot_35.jpg,The Witcher 2 got a little too explicit[/img_big]

So – what would be an R 18+ game in Australia? Here’s what the guidelines suggest:


Impact test 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.

Classifiable elements
THEMES: There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.
VIOLENCE: 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. Sexual violence may be implied, if justified by context.
SEX: Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is “simulation, yes – the real thing, no”.
LANGUAGE: There are virtually no restrictions on language.
DRUG USE: Drug use is permitted.
NUDITY: Nudity is permitted.

In comparison, the impact of material classified MA 15+ should be no higher than “strong”.

That means that games like The Witcher 2 which was modified to not include sex as a reward, would theoretically be rated R 18+ and allowed into the country. Nudity and sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards – unless in material restricted to adults over the age of 18.

However, games like Blitz: The League, which incentivised drug use, would still be Refused Classification (as a general rule), as would any title which includes “interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic”.

[img_big]center,796,2011-05-25/X06_all_BlitzTL_ss_05.jpg,Blitz: The League[/img_big]

At this stage, however, there is no guarantee that any of the games classified RC in the past would be resubmitted for a new rating – this decision is at the publisher’s discretion. Even if they are resubmitted, there is no guarantee that the controversial titles would not still be Refused Classification.

The guidelines were initially distributed to Classification Ministers in March, at the previous SCAG meeting, and are now being used to prompt further community feedback. The full guidelines are available in PDF format from playerattack. If you feel strongly about the matter (or even if you don’t), the government wants to hear from you before Wednesday June 22nd, 2011.

This story was featured in Episode 16, Season 2 of playerattack News:

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