Prepare for impact
Computer games are now subject to a new ratings system, writes Rod Chester
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.
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