Australia plans to filter internet sites offering games and online gaming content that exceed the MA15+ age rating, including downloadable and Flash games as well as sites that sell retail games online.
As we should all know by now, Australia is the only "developed country" without an R18+ age rating for videogames, which means that anything over the MA15+ rating - games like Grand Theft Auto IV, Silent Hill: Homecoming and Fallout 3, to name but a few - is "refused classification" and can't be sold in the country unless they're censored to tone down the mature content. Online content like MMOGs and Flash games have been untouched thus far and adventurous Aussies have been able to order banned games online, but that will soon come to an end if the Australian government has its way.
"This is confirmation that the scope of the mandatory censorship scheme will keep on creeping," said Colin Jacobs of Electronic Frontiers Australia. "Far from being the ultimate weapon against child abuse, it now will officially censor content deemed too controversial for a 15-year-old. In a free country like ours, do we really need the government to step in and save us from racy web games?"
A spokesman for Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said "computer games such as web-based flash games and downloadable games, if a complaint is received and the content is determined by ACMA to be Refused Classification" would be blocked, along with "the importation of physical copies of computer games sold over the internet which have been classified RC [refused classification]."
MMOGs like World of Warcraft have so far been exempt from classification in Australia but could also be impacted by the scheme. "That exemption is the only reason why multi-player games with user-generated environments are possible in this country," said Mark Newton, an engineer and critic of the filtering plan. "Without it, it'd only take one game user anywhere in the world to produce objectionable content in the game environment to make the Australian Government ban the game for everyone."
Nonetheless, nine Australian internet providers are currently testing the government's filter and are expected to report on the results in July.
Seriously, Australia, what's the deal? Why won't you let big people play with big people games? Internet filters are for countries like China and Iran, and right now you're just making yourself look silly. So silly, in fact, that Conroy has been nominated by the British Internet Service Provider's Association for its annual "Internet Villain" award.