Australian Government Finally Begins Treating Gamers Like Adults; Approves New 'R18+' Rating

from the you're-only-as-old-as-the-government-will-allow-you-to-be,-apparently dept

Seeing as the age of the average gamer is hovering right around 30 (and has been over that -- most recently at 37, until the recent addition of many, many younger gamers on various new devices pushed it back several years), it's nice to see that Australia has finally decided to give them some age-appropriate games to play.
Australia's R18+ classification for video games came into effect yesterday.

Until Jan. 1, 2013, Australia was one of the few developed countries in the world to not have an R18+ classification for video games. The highest rating for video games was MA15+, which meant that any game that the country's Classification Board found too mature for the MA15+ category was Refused Classification and effectively banned from sale.

The R18+ classification comes into effect after the Federal and State governments passed legislation last year to introduce the rating.
Now, one possessing a bit of logic might ask why Australia needs an R18+ when it already has a MA15+ rating, which would presumably cover everyone above the age of 15. Well, that's where the Australian government's insistent infantilism of gamers comes into play. If the game was deemed to be too something for 15-year-olds, it was refused classification. If you were the proverbial 30+ year-old "average gamer," you were limited to games appropriate to the 15-and-under set. Sure, you could still get some of the more mature hits, but only after they'd been de-fanged, de-bloodied and de-profanitized.

South Australia's Attorney General is fully behind the new rating, which should allow many, many gaming adults to finally play titles the rest of the world has been enjoying for years already.
We've actually achieved a good balance where in effect MA15+ has become more restrictive and games that previously would have been in MA15+ are now going to be sitting in R18+. It's a win for the gamers who wanted to have the opportunity as adults to purchase these games, but it's also a win for parents because they can be more confident that games that are age-inappropriate will not be available to people under 18.
Older titles will not automatically receive the new rating and must be resubmitted. And there's still a chance that the government will choose to refuse classification on any number of games, even with this new rating in place. It's a long-past-due step in the right direction for a government that has been extremely hesitant to let gamers sit at the "adult" table.

But even as the new classification is implemented, there's concern that it's already outdated. Head of Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) Ron Curry thinks the criteria the R18+ rating addresses no longer matches up with the issues that concern parents today:
"The current guidelines have six criteria (themes, violence, sex, language, drug use, nudity), which are slowly becoming less and less important," Curry says. "There are other things that parents are worried about: they're worried about user-generated content, they're worried about privacy, they're worried about access to children chatting with adults, they're worried about gambling, they're worried about in-game purchases and geo-locating.

"So if we're going to look at classification, we need to ask, 'Why do we classify?' We classify to give people information about content, mainly for parents, the argument goes. Are we addressing their concerns? Probably not."
In the future, it might be that parents will be better served with a list of possible "side effects" of the games their children are playing, much in the way that many apps list the "permissions" it will be granting itself if downloaded and installed. It could very well be that privacy concerns will trump hand-wringing over pixelated violence in the future, as the former becomes a scarcer commodity. But for Australia, recognizing that adults make up a majority of gamers is a good start, even if it is long overdue.

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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 4 Jan 2013 @ 4:25am


    "Wouldn't it be simpler to add an 'unrated' category that would warn parents to proceed with caution but let it be sold to the 18+ audience?"

    That's not how it works in most countries outside the US - ratings have to be granted in order for a game/movie to be legally sold, usually to legally enforce a ban on sales to minors and to block unrated imports that have bypassed the country's censors.

    However, an 18 rating usually means at least the equivalent of the US "mature" or "NC17" ratings, and so there's no real reason why a game with that rating shouldn't be treated as adult material. In practice, as long as anything that contains those things is rated appropriately, there's the same level of work and bureaucracy involved in your suggestion as there is in implementing this new rating.

    "let the parents, well, be parents"

    Most parents don't bother, or claim ignorance of the content of the media they're buying, hence the need for ratings in the first place.

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