On December 10th (this past Friday), as I reported before the weekend, the Attorneys-General of Australia would meet to discuss potentially adding in a rating for mature video games – known as R18+ – that would allow video games that would potentially be de-facto banned in Australia for not making it under the guidelines of the current M15+ rating to come to the country.
The debates occured at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG), and the results are in: the AGs have definitely stated that they will wait to make a decision.
According to Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor in a press conference after the meeting, the Attorneys-General decided that they needed to clarify some of the guidelines that would decide what a game is rated as, with the possibility of the entire ratings system being redone. The Media Advisor for the Western Australian Attorney-General had reportedly let slip that it was his boss, Christian Porter, had been the one that held things up, but Mr. O’Connor told Kotaku Australia that Mr. Porter was “really open minded” and renewed the call for better guidelines. Another cause for the delay is the fact that Victoria has a new AG (Robert Clark), and that New South Wales stands a good chance of changing AGs by March of ’11, which would cause further delays.
Proponents of the R18+ rating, including Mr. O’Connor, are stating that while things didn’t turn out as they’d hoped, there is cause for optimism because they weren’t defeated outright, also stating recent polls stating that a large majority of Australians favour the new rating. On the other side is a press release by the Australian Christian Lobby, who welcomed the delayed vote while stating (incorrectly, as has been reported) that the measure failed to gain support due to the AG’s “bemusement” that anyone could want to play or make an R18+ rated game.
The next SCAG meeting is scheduled for March of 2011.
I fully believe that once all of the information is in and absorbed by Attorney-General Clark and whoever is NSW’s AG, that we will see a guideline set for either the addition of an R18+ rating or a changed ratings system that brings Australia on par with other countries that have games ratings systems, and would bring Australia’s games industry on par with its movie industry. In fact, Australia just put out its own study stating that there is no definite harm that comes from playing violent video games. If Friday’s meeting does anything, it only proves that the worst enemy of government is usually government itself, or more specifically, the blindingly slow pace that bureaucracy moves in.
Unless something unforseen happens with New South Wales, I predict that at this time in March, Australia will have new guidelines that will allow games like Left for Dead 2 and Aliens vs. Predator to be published unedited in the country. Bear in mind that John Rau, the replacement for Michael Atkinson – the person who single-handedly shuttered the ratings proposal while he was South Australia’s Attorney-General – has publicly come out in support of the new rating.