Pre­pare for im­pact

Com­puter games are now sub­ject to a new rat­ings sys­tem, writes Rod Ch­ester

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

AUS­TRALIA’S new clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem for com­puter games started yes­ter­day but it could be a few months be­fore you no­tice the change.

The long de­bated and lob­bied for clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem with an R18+ rat­ing be­gan at the start of this year, but it could be months be­fore the first games rated un­der the new sys­tem hit the shelves.

Walk into your lo­cal com­puter game shop to­day and the only dif­fer­ence you are likely to see are signs ex­plain­ing the new sys­tem that in­cludes a re­vamped MA15+ rat­ing and the R18+ for games that have ‘‘ high im­pact’’ and can only be sold or rented to peo­ple able to show proof of age.

In June, when the Min­is­ter for Jus­tice Ja­son Clare an­nounced the pass­ing of the bill, he de­scribed the re­forms as 10 years in the mak­ing. A dis­cus­sion pa­per re­leased by the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral’s De­part­ment in 2009 re­ceived 58,437 sub­mis­sions, with 98 per cent sup­port­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of an R18+ cat­e­gory.

The clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem brings com­puter games into line with the cat­e­gories used to clas­sify films in Aus­tralia.

In­ter­ac­tive Games and En­ter­tain­ment As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ron Curry says the sys­tem is de­signed to ben­e­fit both adult gamers and par­ents look­ing to en­sure chil­dren played with ageap­pro­pri­ate ti­tles.

‘‘ What we’ve seen is that there is con­tent that in a lot of other ter­ri­to­ries is iso­lated to adults, where in Aus­tralia it’s passed as MA15+ cat­e­gory,’’ he says. ‘‘ When it says R and it’s for 18, it’s a really clear un­am­bigu­ous state­ment that says this is for adults, not for kids.’’

While pre­vi­ously there were games that were not al­lowed to be sold in Aus­tralia, Mr Curry says there was no bar­rier prevent­ing some­one im­port­ing those games or down­load­ing them.

As soon as it was banned, it made that game a whole lot more pop­u­lar

‘‘ A long ar­gu­ment of ours was an ab­sence of an R18 cat­e­gory wasn’t an ab­sence of R18 prod­uct in the coun­try,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s just so easy to im­port it by mail or­der, to bring it in your suit­case as you come in, or just down­load it.

‘‘ The irony is that as soon as it was banned, it made that game a whole lot more pop­u­lar to a whole bunch of kids.’’

Games are submitted for clas­si­fi­ca­tion about eight to 12 weeks be­fore re­lease.

As no games could be clas­si­fied as R un­til yes­ter­day, Mr Curry says it could be a few months be­fore the first R-rated game hits Aus­tralian stores.

‘‘ There was this be­lief held that as soon as R came out, there would be this great swag of prod­ucts that were sit­ting on a boat just off the shore wait­ing to hit the shelves,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s just not the case. The ti­tles that are avail­able glob­ally have al­ready been submitted. It’s not like Aus­tralia has held some­thing back wait­ing for an R.’’

Along with the in­tro­duc­tion of the R cat­e­gory, the MA15+ cat­e­gory has been re­fined.

‘‘ There will be games that are MA15+ to­day that, if they were to be re­clas­si­fied, would prob­a­bly fall into an R18 cat­e­gory. Some games that were banned will con­tinue to be banned. R18 doesn’t have this open end to it. It’s still very pre­scrip­tive about what is and what isn’t ac­cept­able.’’

Games al­ready on the mar­ket can only be is­sued with a new clas­si­fi­ca­tion if they are re­sub­mit­ted by an at­tor­ney-gen­eral. Mr Curry urged par­ents to set parental con­trols on their fam­ily’s game con­soles.

The IGEA’s web­site (bit.ly/ R6deZP) has in­struc­tions on set­ting parental con­trols.

GAME PLAY­ING BY NUM­BERS NA­TION’S TOP SELL­ING GAMES

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