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Australian Government Seeks Public Input Into R18+ Game Ratings

| 14 Dec 2009 17:05
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The Australian government is seeking opinions from the public on whether or not an R18+ rating for videogames should be added to the country's National Classification Scheme.

Australia, as we all know by now, is the only country in the world with a videogame classification system that doesn't include a category restricted to adults. It's a ridiculous situation that has led to a number of games ranging from Blitz: The League to Left 4 Dead 2 being either censored or banned outright. The intransigence of South Australia Attorney General Michael Atkinson, a vocal opponent of violence and sexuality in videogames, has given gamers little hope that the situation could change anytime soon, but the attention of the Australian federal government could be a sign that change is on the way.

"I regularly receive representations from both industry and gamers seeking the introduction of an R18+ classification for computer games, as well from those opposed to its introduction," said Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor. As a result, the government has released a discussion paper on the matter and is seeking input from the public on whether or not at R18+ rating for games should be given consideration.

The paper does not "promote or oppose the introduction of an R18+ classification," but instead provides background on the country's National Classification Scheme, how ratings are applied to films and games, how individual states apply the laws and a quick look at the rating schemes employed by several other countries, including the ESRB, PEGI, CERO and others. Several arguments both for and against the introduction of a new rating, including one or two I actually haven't heard before, are also provided.

The paper specifically notes that the introduction of an R18+ rating would not spell the end of the Refused Classification bugbear and even makes mention of one particular Japanese eroge title we've all come to know and love. "Were an R18+ classification introduced, the RC category would still exist for games with, for example, gratuitous or exploitative depictions of sexual violence, such as the sexual assault simulation game RapeLay," the paper says. "It could also include games that included violence with a 'very high' impact that offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified."

Unfortunately for anyone hoping that the federal government will simply step in and make things right, the addition of an R18+ game rating still requires the unanimous assent of the country's "censorship ministers," meaning that Atkinson must either agree to the change or be ousted from his position as Attorney General, neither of which seems particularly likely in the immediate future. As external pressures mount, however, helped along by processes like this one, he may eventually find that public opinion forces him to make a move.

Anyone interested in taking part in the public consultation can do so by answering this simple question: Should the Australian National Classification Scheme include an R18+ classification category for computer games? Submissions can be sent via email, postal mail or fax and must be received by February 28, 2010; respondents are also encouraged to keep their comments "short and succinct." To learn more about this particular political process and how you can get involved, go to ag.gov.au/gamesclassification.

Thanks to Radelaide for the tip.

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