R18+ game legislation hits Federal Parliament


news Jason Clare, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice, yesterday introduced legislation to create an R18+ category for computer games. The move will align classification categories for computer games with existing categories used to classify movies and bring Australia into line with the classification systems being used in several countries worldwide.

The Bill amends the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 and makes a consequential amendment to Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

At present, the highest legally available classification category for computer games is MA15+. Refused Classification is used for games unsuitable for a minor to play. Clare stated that the
R18+ category would inform consumers, retailers and parents about games that are unsuitable for minors to play, and also act to prevent minors from buying unsuitable material.

Strong support for this legislation has been evident during wide-ranging public consultation conducted over the past two years. The Attorney-General’s Department received 58,437 submissions in response to its recent discussion paper on the establishment of an R18+ classification category for computer games. Of these responses, 98 per cent were in favour of the introduction of such a category.

The Federal Government has collaborated with State and Territory Governments on this issue, which will introduce complementary legislation. According to the Minister, this follows 10 years of negotiations with States and Territories. The Federal Government’s legislation is scheduled to take effect on January 1st, 2013.

Devices for computer games are now present in nine out of 10 Australian households, according to research conducted by Bond University. The average age of Australian computer gamers is 32, and women comprise almost half (47 per cent) of computer game players. The Australian gaming industry is predicted to grow at a rate of 10 per cent per year and to reach $2.5 billion annually by 2015.

In his speech, Clare said that his predecessor in this portfolio – Minister O’Connor – had also worked on this issue all through his tenure as Minister for Home Affairs. O’Connor had led the discussion on this issue with State and Territory Attorneys-General at the Standing Council on Law and Justice. Clare said that the bill would implement the Commonwealth’s obligations as part of this agreement, and that State and Territory jurisdictions would follow suit with their own legislation later in 2012.

The lack of an R18+ classification system for video games in Australia has resulted in various popular video games — such as Left 4 Dead 2 and Mortal Kombat — 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.

One organisation to comment on the issue in March last year, when Mortal Kombat was banned from sale in Australia, was the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, which represents a number of video game manufacturers and distributors in Australia, including heavyweights such as Microsoft, Nintendo, Activision, Sony Computer Entertainment and more. The organisation has for several years been pushing for the introduction of an R18+ rating locally.

iGEA chief executive Ron Curry said the fact that another game “clearly designed and targeted at adults” had been refused classification again highlighted the shortcomings of the current classification scheme.

“As with many other forms of media, there is a demand and place for an adult-themed narrative. We trust adults with this material in other media forms, yet deny them similar access simply because it’s a ‘game’. We would not accept the argument that because it’s “unsuitable for a minor to see or play” that it should therefore be banned in any other media form, so why video games?” he said at the time.

Image credit: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment Australia


  1. There is little, and should be no, support for this move. It’s a phoned-in half measure where legislators have tried desperately to unearth opposition for the rating and when drowned in a sea of support, have been forced to sabotage the situation.

    This introduced rating ensures that the top end of the MA spectrum can be put into the R category and removed from sale to minors (probably a good idea and inline with the rest of the world), but does less than nothing to ensure adults can play adult games because RC still exists above it by which the classification board can ban games that make it sad and hurt its feelings. This was telegraphed when the NSW attorney general said he’d only support the classification if that’s what it did, and his reticence was the result of fringe religious and moral campaigners who realised the game was up for opposing adult games and started lobbying for R to be a toothless tiger.

    Fail. 24 carat, diamond studded, uncut, organic free range fail.

    • We have 2 options right now.

      1) convince people that we should be allowed to have a game where we graphically disembowel humanoid zombies, and simultaneously convince them that it should be rated specifically for adults.

      2) convince people that games exist for adults, and create a classification that recognises this fact.
      THEN convince people that *adults* that play adult games should be allowed to play a game where we graphically disembowel humanoid zombies.

      Here’s a tip. When you have 2 controversial topics, you don’t try to convince people of both at once. Your opponents pounce on the very easy to beat up and confuse state of your argument, and get it beaten in public opinion. You take your time, convince people that regardless of their position on point 2, that point one is a good idea. THEN when they see point one implemented and how it was a good idea, you use your momentum to convince them on point 2. (Conveniently, your opponents loose quite a bit of their pull from spurious arguments in the process.)

      Besides, lots of stuff atat the top of MA really should require parental approval. So why complain about that?
      Once we have an adult rating, the rating agency will of their own volition (because they are real people influenced by language they are rating for) will naturally increase the age of content rated for adults.

    • “..but does less than nothing to ensure adults can play adult games because RC still exists above it..”

      Yes and no. A lack of an R18 rating frames rating violent video games in a different light. The lack of R18+ means there is a lack of an adult rating.

      Had R18+ existed, Left for Dead two would have very likely received an R18+ rating (in line with most other countries) meaning that it would have a) retained the melee violence and b) not been available to minors. It barely fell out of MA15+.

      Instead, the developer created a neutered version, which is still graphic, available to minors. It warps the outcome by removing a tier that exists elsewhere. Games are developed to (typically) fall into the categories, because we’re missing a key category here, it means titles are reviewed against (effectively) incorrect tiers.

      Frankly, once an R18+ rating is available, the christian and religious right wing fanatics can go get a life, as it’s no longer an issue involving minors.

      It will ensure titles that are particularly brutal receive an R18+, and content that really is pretty freaking nasty is RC’d. That list will be considerably smaller as a consequence. It’s pretty large now, specifically because there is no applicable rating available.

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