In the 20 years from 1995 to January 2015, there were 77 games Refused Classification in Australia. After January though, more than 240 games have been effectively banned by the Classification Board – an average of 40 per month.
Most of these games are ones you’re unlikely to have heard of, with names like League Of Guessing, “w21wdf AB test”, Sniper 3D Assault Zombie, Measure Bra Size Prank and Virtual marijuana smoking showing up in just the first few pages.
The influx of inappropriate games started in mid-March, coinciding with the Australian Government making a significant change to the way it classifies video games. Since the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games in 2013, and the marked increase in the number of games people are playing (particularly digitally and on mobile platforms), the Government had been struggling to keep up. In March, however, the powers that be decided to trial a new ratings system, signing up to the International Age Ratings Coalition.
The IARC is a globally unified age ratings classification system, which is now able to do a lot of the heavy lifting for the Classification Board, when it comes to games that are only relased for digital and mobile audiences. It puts the focus back on the developers, who must answer a short series of questions about the content of their game – and, rather than costing upwards of $1,000 per game, is completely free to use.
These answers are then compared to the ratings guidelines of the IARC’s 36 member countries, and the Coalition outputs an age rating for those regions – and it appears that a hefty chunk of games submitted so far are considered inappropriate for Australian audiences.
Australian Minister for Justice Michael Keenan explains that it took “many months” of collaboration between the IARC and the Justice Department, to ensure the tool best met Australian requirements.
As part of the trial, the Classification Board will audit a large number of classifications made by the IARC tool to ensure they reflect the Australian community’s expectations and standards.
The Board also has the power to revoke classifications made by the IARC tool if it decides it would have given the game a different classification.
While this current trial will only last 12 months initially, it’s apparent that this is the way the Government would like us to head. Questionnaires became part of the classification process in 2014, and these have now been rolled into the IARC tool.
The sudden swarm of games has certainly made an impressive mess of the database, but it also illustrates how many games simply were not being rated (and how many were inappropriate for children), suggesting that – as long as the decisions made are accurate and responsible – the introduction of the IARC process is long-overdue, and more than welcome.
We have contacted the Classification Board for more details on just how many games have been submitted via the IARC, and whether or not the Board has overruled any decisions.
Many thanks to Twitter user @RefusedC for the heads-up!