The gaming industry has expressed frustration that new legislation has failed to introduce an R18+ classification.
The reaction came after the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment Bill, was passed by both houses of Parliament. The bill standardised the rating system which applies to films and computer games, but leaves the maximum MA15+ applicable to games in place.
The president of the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), John Watts, has championed the introduction of an R18+ classification for the gaming industry.
He said the bill had made the classification system simpler for consumers but had failed to tackle the R18+ classification issue that the industry wanted the Government to review.
“We [still] do not have an R18 or an X18 in the games business which is the biggest frustration we have,” he said.
Watts said the main effect this new legislation would have upon the channel would be that the interactive games industry would start to adopt the symbols that now apply to the film industry.
He also said extra costs could continue to be incurred for any publisher or company in the industry which submitted a product for classification by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) as there would be reprogramming issues if the classification was deemed to be above MA15+.
“It’s an additional expense to the company, its commercially damaging as the rest of the world would have access to [the uncensored version], and with the parallel importing laws we have, a consumer could bring in a banned product when it hasn’t been classified here as R18+,” Watts said.
Managing director of games distributor, All Interactive, Sherard Kingston said it was all a question of accuracy.
“We need a rating for 18 year olds because an adult might make an exception for an MA15+ game for a 14-year-old child,” he said. “If the same parent saw an R18+ rating they would not buy it because they would not take the same child to an R18+ movie. R18 rings alarm bells far more adequately than MA15.”
There had only been one or two games banned so far by the OFLC, Watts said.
Kingston said games were sneaking in under an M15+ rating and exposing children to more violence than if they were given an R18+ rating.
“I just got back from E3 and however explicit games were last year, they were five times as much this year,” he said. “Ninety per cent of the games I saw were aimed at the 18-34 years demographic. How naïve is it not to have a rating applicable to that group?”
Watts said the lines between MA15+ and R18+ would continue to blur until a higher classification was introduced.
“As technology moves forward, the amount of graphics and content that can be pushed into games is progressing,” he said. “The industry is now mature enough to have an R18+ rating so the consumers can justifiably understand what the content is.”
Of particular frustration to Watts and Kingston, was the government premise upon which an R18+ classification was refused – that R18+ rated games could fall into the hands of children and hence should not be available. R18+ films however, were not considered a problem.
“It’s the most nonsensical argument you could possibly mount,” Kingston said. “It’s doesn’t give the public the opportunity to distinguish between a violent and very violent game.”