According to a report by Australia’s Sunday Telegraph, and picked up by Game Politics, Australia has gained a step towards authorization of the 18+ rating that would allow mature rated games to be classified in the country.
The cabinet of Prime Minister Julia Gillard has approved the addition of the 18+ rating, which they feel will ban games that slipped in under the MA 15+ rating from getting into the hands of children. Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor will now take the government’s position to the various Attorneys General around the country, who will have to unanimously support the new rating. It’s possible that the issue will be brought up at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting on December 10th. It’s important to note that the AG vote has to be unanimous, and that most of them have been mum on the subject. The need for unanimity is the reason the bill has been shelved in the past, with former South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson being a noted proponent of government censorship and a vehement opponent of the measure.
Mr. O’Connor states that this bill will ensure games that have slipped through the cracks as MA 15+ titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series will no longer be able to because they’ll fall under the 18+ label.
Children and teenagers shouldn’t be exposed to the gratuitous sex, violence and adult themes that are contained in some computer games. Over time, we’ve allowed games to get into the hands of 15-year-olds that would not have been available in comparable countries; that should not have happened.
Mr. O’Connor also personally guaranteed that any game that had been banned before would not be allowed in now, though it’s unclear if by “banned”, he’s talking specifically about games that were “Refused Classification”. When a game is refused classification in Australia, it is banned for sale in the country as classification is mandatory for all media (unlike the United States, where ratings are voluntary, but usually enforced by large retailers). Seven games were labelled as RC in 2009, ranging from Risen (for quests involving prostitutes and implied drug use with incentives) to Enzai: Falsely Accused (a pornographic Japanese “yaoi” – gay – game that features graphic and often violent sexual acts. No word as to why they even tried to get that one through). One game has been given the RC label in 2010, but likely will not be named until the board’s annual report is out. A modified version of Left for Dead 2, which was initially refused classification, was approved for the MA-15+ rating.
Despite the rhetoric, it’s actually important for Australia to get the 18+ rating because it will allow questionable titles like Risen and Alien vs. Predator to be released in the country, period. I’m fairly sure anyone who favours the rating – like Mr. O’Connor – knows this, but saying that outright would likely bring negative press upon the legislation and could cost it the vote it needs to become law. Australia and its gamers, led by retailers Game and EBGames, have been campaigning for this rating – which would put the games industry on par with that of the movie industry – for years, and it’s just one step away from becoming a reality.