The Federal Government this afternoon released draft guidelines which would support the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games, as it continued its push to convince the states and territories to bring video game classification in line with other mediums such as film.
The lack of an R18+ classification system has resulted in various popular video games — such as Left 4 Dead 2 — being censored for the Australia market or refused classification so that they are unable to be sold locally. Some game publishers have been forced to modify their games prior to release in Australia, meaning some local releases have been delayed.
The unamimous support of attorneys-general from all of Australia’s states and territories is required to change classification guidelines in the area.
In a statement accompanying the publication of the guidelines this afternoon, Home Affairs and Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor said the guidelines made it clear that sexually explicit games or games with very frequent, strong and realistic violence will not be allowed in the MA15+ classification category which currently represents the highest video game category in Australia.
“The Gillard Government wants to provide better guidance for parents and remove unsuitable material from children and teenagers,” O’Connor said. “The introduction of an R18+ classification will help achieve that and will also bring Australia into line with comparable nations,” he said.
“This issue has been on the table for many years, without the necessary progress to make a change 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 [of attorneys-general].”
However, already some commentators have expressed their opinion that the draft guidelines would still exclude some popular games from being classified in Australia.
Technologist Geordie Guy, who has been associated with Electronic Frontiers Australia, wrote on his blog this afternoon that due to the guidelines’ rules on violence with a very degree of impact, or which was excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed, the upcoming new version of Mortal Kombat 9, which is currently banned in Australia, would still not be available for sale.
Gadget site Gizmodo posited that the use of the drug morphine in the popular Fallout 3 game — which had resulted in the game being temporarily banned when it was first release — would still see it fall foul of the guidelines, due to restrictions on the depiction of drug use.
Image credit: Screenshot from Epic’s Gears of War game