The Australian government has put the brakes on the process of establishing an R18+ videogame rating because, believe it or not, there's actually too much support for it among gamers.
Oh, Australia. We owe you such a debt. Your spastic flailing over mature videogame ratings has provided the rest of the world with an overabundance of hilarity, and just when it seems like the laughs are about to come to an end you manage to trip over your own feet and give us what may be the best faceplant yet.
The Australian government, as you probably already know, launched a "public consultation" late last year in response to a growing demand for an R18+ rating for videogames. The idea was to collect submissions from the public in order to gauge whether or not demand for such a rating exists and then, one would assume, respond accordingly. Groups on both sides of the debate took up the fight but as you might expect, the pro-gamer side dominated; so completely, in fact, that the country's censorship ministers have decided to delay the proceedings to make sure other people get a say.
That's right, Australia: You supported the R18+ rating too much. You demanded it and now, you're not going to get it.
Because 86 percent of the 59,678 submissions to the consultation came from either EB Games or the R18+ support group Grow Up Australia, the ministers decided that "further work needs to be done before a decision can be made" and have "requested further analysis of community and expert views." The office of Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor agreed that because the process was dominated by "interest groups," a "broader consultation" of the public's view is required, although a rep later clarified that those "interest groups" actually include "34 community, church and other groups" who had made submissions.
"Consultations, by their nature, attract submissions from people who are passionate about the issue," O'Connor said in a statement to GameSpot AU. "Ministers would like to consider other legitimate views from as wide a cross section of the community as possible."
But as Interactive Games and Entertainment Association President Ron Curry pointed out, it's tough to nail down "gamers" as an interest group. "If consultations, by their nature, attract submissions from people who are passionate about an issue - and I assume passionate in both opposition and support - then why bother?" he asked. "Surely the government asked for submissions to gauge the feeling of the wider community, of which gamers make up 68 percent."
The government's reaction is especially interesting in light of the fact that as far back as mid-January, infamous R18+ opponent Michael Atkinson, who at the time was still the Attorney General of South Australia, dismissed the entire consultation process as unfairly biased because the vast majority of respondents would be gamers. Now it's starting to look as though others in government may agree with his position, lending weight to comments he made in early 2009 that he wasn't alone in his opposition to R18+ ratings. "Some other classification ministers are also opposed to an R18+ classification but have not spoken about it publicly," he said at the time. "I'm confident the proposal would be blocked by other classification ministers if I weren't using my veto power." Perhaps there was a little more to Atkinson's words than we gave him credit for.
Whatever the case, keep up the great work, Australia. I normally have to pay for this kind of entertainment.