The NSW Government today reportedly abstained from voting on a proposal to introduce a long-awaited R18+ classification for video games sold in Australia, effectively halting the long-awaited new standard, despite the unanimous agreement of every other state and territory that it should go ahead.
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 unanimous support of attorneys-general from all of Australia’s states and territories is required to change classification guidelines in the area.
Video game media outlets GameSpot and Kotaku, which are reporting about a meeting of Australia’s attorneys-general in Adelaide today, have both reported that NSW, as previously signalled, abstained from voting on the rating proposal, while all other states and territories have backed it in principle. A press conference on the matter is slated to be held around lunchtime today.
NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith has, according to GameSpot, committed to taking the proposal back to the state’s new Coalition cabinet and will shortly come up with an answer to the R18+ proposal.
The news was greeted with dismay and a certain degree of cyncism by many within Australia’s Internet community, with the long-running campaign for the R18+ classification having suffered a string of such setbacks over the years, as different states have in turn supported or opposed the classification, depending on governments of the day.
“Lather, rinse, repeat,” wrote high-profile Internode network engineer Mark Newton on Twitter. Newton has been outspoken in opposing a number of censorship schemes in Australia, such as the Federal Government’s Internet filter plans. However, others, such as the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, which represents a number of major video game publishers in Australia, have been more positive. The IGEA noted on Twitter that it was “feeling very positive about today”.
While a number of states such as Victoria and Western Australia have previously indicated they were uncertain about the need for a new classification, the Federal Government has been leading the charge on the initiative.
Home Affairs and Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor said in late May that he was keen to reach a unanimous decision at this morning’s meeting of attorneys-general. At the time, the Gillard Government released draft guidelines which would support the introduction of the proposed new classification.
“The Gillard Government wants to provide better guidance for parents and remove unsuitable material from children and teenagers,” O’Connor said in May. “The introduction of an R18+ classification will help achieve that and will also bring Australia into line with comparable nations,” he said.
Image credit: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment Australia