Australia’s government finally admits that adults play games.
Until today – that’s January 1st, 2013, in case you haven’t been keeping track – Australia was one of the few developed nations without an 18+ classification for games. Previously, the highest rating available was MA15+, meaning any game not suitable for 15-year-olds was automatically refused classification and ended up either effectively banned from sale, or censored into oblivion à la Left 4 Dead 2.
After Attorney-General and noted anti-gaming demagogue, Michael Atkinson, stepped down in 2010, gaming proponents stepped up their efforts to introduce the much-needed classification. The Federal Parliament passed legislation to introduce the rating, which serves as a rough equivalent of Europe’s PEGI 18 category, back in June, 2011.
Under the new law, publishers can submit video games for consideration for the R18+ category, and games that have been refused classification before can be resubmitted, providing at least two years have passed since the original rejection. There is still no equivalent of an “Adults Only” or “X” category, so any games deemed too violent (or, as is often the case, too sexually charged) for the R18+ rating can still end up in the “Refused Classification” ghetto.
According to South Australia’s Attorney-General, John Rau, the new category should also prevent publishers from trying to squeeze excessively violent games into the MA15+ rating:
“We’ve actually achieved a good balance where in effect MA15+ has become more restrictive and games that previously would have been in MA15+ are now going to be sitting in R18+,” he told ABC. “It’s a win for the gamers who wanted to have the opportunity as adults to purchase these games, but it’s also a win for parents because they can be more confident that games that are age-inappropriate will not be available to people under 18.”