The Australian federal government has released draft guidelines for an R18+ videogame rating that would strengthen the MA15+ rating but impose "virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes" for adults.
Slowly but surely, Australia is dragging itself toward recognition of videogames as a legitimate entertainment medium. Gamers down under have struggled for years with a dysfunctional classification system that topped out at MA15+, which meant that games were often edited for the Aussie audience or just banned outright. Resistance from one or two individual state-level Attorneys General kept the system in place but it appears that finally, the country is ready to acknowledge that grown-ups play videogames too.
As expected, the guidelines released by Home Minister Brendan O'Connor ahead of the next Standing Committee of Attorneys General meeting in July tighten up the restrictions on the MA15+ rating but balance that by allowing videogames to be given the same sort of R18+ rating as films. An "impact test" will be used to determine what material falls into the category; "the impact of material classified R18+ should not exceed high," according to the guidelines.
"Violence is permitted except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified. Sexual violence may be implied, if justified by context," the document says. "Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is, 'simulation, yes - the real thing, no'."
Drug use and nudity would be permitted under the proposed guidelines and there would be "virtually no restriction" on language. Some material would still be restricted but the bar would be set much higher to include "detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence," promotion of pedophile activity, depictions of child sexual abuse, gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed high-impact violence, and other similar material.
"We've recently seen several states publicly express their support for an adults-only rating for games and I'm keen to reach a unanimous decision at the July meeting," O'Connor told the Herald Sun.
But not everyone is onboard with the new plan. "We remain concerned that these draft guidelines would legalize games with high levels of graphic, frequent and gratuitous violence, including violence against civilians and police, and would not adequately protect the community," said Victoria Attorney General Robert Clark. "I intend to pursue these concerns in discussions with Minister O'Connor."
A full copy of the Australian government's draft guidelines for R18+ videogame ratings is available in PDF format from news.com.au.