Avid gamers can attest to the frustration of not being able to play the exact same version of a game when compared to their overseas counterparts due to a lack of an R 18+ (Restricted) category for computer games. Well, the position in Australia has now changed with the introduction of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R 18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012 (the Bill) which amends the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act), allowing Australian gamers to finally play R 18+ computer games.
The previous position
One of the unusual aspects of the classification for computer games prior to the introduction of the amendment was that there was no R 18+ category for computer games. The lack of an adult classification is even more pronounced when we consider that other forms of media do have an R 18+ classification. So as a consequence, classification for computer games only extended to MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied) titles, or alternatively, if a computer game did not fall within the MA 15+ categorisation, meant that the title was probably refused classification (RC) all together.
The power of classifying computer games (and other forms of media) rests with the Classification Board (the Board) and is made up of a representative sample of the general Australian population, with the decisions of the Board guided by the National Classification Code (the Code).
When the Board is making a determination in the classification of a computer game, the matters to be taken into account are:
- the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and
- the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the computer game; and
- the general character of the computer game, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and
- the persons or class of persons to, or amongst, whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.
Both the Act and the Code work in unison with one another and a balance is struck between allowing adults to play any computer game they wish to, but also protecting children from offensive material while also upholding the moral standards of the community.
Why the change?
Many developed nations have an equivalent to the R 18+ classification for computer games and Australia seemed to be at odds with other parts of the world. However, with the introduction of the amendment, now makes the regime more consistent with international standards.
The Attorney-General’s Department in 2009 released a discussion paper in regards to the introduction of an R 18+ classification for computer games, and as a reflection of how popular a move towards an adult computer game category was, the Department received almost 60,000 submissions, with 98 percent of correspondence supporting the introduction of an adult categorisation.
The Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice Jason Clare said in a statement, that the reforms were 10 years in the making and adults can now “choose what games they play within the bounds of the law.”
The new scheme is set to commence on 1 January 2013.