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