R18+ Games Classification
As far as I see it, an R18+ classification for video games in Australia is required due to a number of reasons.
1. On the whole the ‘games’ classification in Australia is most certainly outdated and has not progressed to accommodate recent (or even past) titles correctly. Europe and the US adopted policies that cater for games that should be restricted to adults to protect minors a LONG, LONG TIME AGO. The ESRB was founded in 1994 whilst PEGI was established in 2003.
The Attorney-Generals of this country have been sitting on their hands for more than two years despite the National Classification Code stating that “adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want“.
Case in point: Mortal Kombat – the new release is the ninth iteration of the franchise and has a massive following. The violence is a draw card in this game, and what has made it so successful over the years. But, I have never seen or heard of anyone try to perform a fatality on anyone. Yes it is over the top blood and gore, but as an adult I can recognise that this violence is comical and is not related to what happens in everyday life. Children on the other hand may view the content differently and thus should be restricted from viewing and interacting with such content. Here, an R18+ classification would categorise this title as adult related material and be restricted from sale to minors. MK has been rated M by ESRB and 18+ by PEGI and the BBFC.
Second Case: Left 4 Dead 2 – This game has exactly the same content as its predecessor, Left 4 Dead, but was refused classification because of blood and gore from killing zombies and had to be dumbed down to meet MA15+ ‘standards’. How can this happen when the exact same content in an earlier game, of the same title, was given MA15+ status without an issue from the OFLC? Because there is a grey area and no clear definition as to what constitutes a violent game. L4D2 has been rated M by ESRB and 18+ by PEGI and the BBFC. The edited version has been rated MA15+ by the OFLC.
Third Case: How the hell does a game that promotes partner swapping/swinging, lesbianism, spanking, strip teasing and implied sex get a PG rating? We Dare is certainly one out of the box and the trailer leaves nothing to the imagination. If there was ever a game that should have been rated R18+ it was this one.
2. The average age of gamers in Australia is 30. This is from a census taken in 2008 – three years ago! So the average age has possibly gone up. So why are games still considered primarily as children’s past time? I am 34 and have been playing games for a good 30 years, as have a lot of my friends. Why should my gaming choices be restricted due to out of date standards for games?
I have a full time job, am happily married and maintain a social and sporting life along with my gaming passion and believe I am a well adjusted and respected ‘citizen’ of society. I can make decisions for myself as to what is appropriate, I know what is right and what is wrong, and when I do have children of my own I know that will be able to guide them and supervise them responsibly. When the latest edition of MK comes out I want to play it – not have to obtain it illegally because of the outdated classification system I have to ‘abide’ by.
3. I have never been in a fight other than when I was at primary and high school, and I have played ‘violent’ games throughout my lifetime. Possibly one of the very first was Duck Hunt on the NES, but I don’t go shooting ducks for sport in real life. It has never been proven that video games create violence in society.
Alcohol is the number one culprit for violence in society. This was proven to me at the recent TOOL concert in Melbourne where no alcohol was served at the venue and EVERYONE was happy and had a great time – no violent incidents there. Yet you see it almost every night because of drunken idiots on the street. Don’t get me wrong, I like a drink! But I digress.
4. Video Games are an art form. The content, music, scenery can be considered masterpieces in some cases yet it is still treated as a child’s domain because of the term ‘game’. It is on par with, if not ahead of, the movie industry in terms of story lines and revenue. However, movies have a classification system to protect minors and inform consumers of the content. Would any sane adult allow a child to watch a 18+ (let alone XXX) title? No, because they KNOW what the content holds and the consequences should they expose such material to minors. Why can’t games be given a similar classification system such as PEGI or the ESRB?
5. Publishers and Developers would invest a lot more into Australia if they had modern classification system for video games to comply with. Australia is considered a second class market because the rest of the world is up to date with its classification policies and so the developers make their games according to those standards. As a developer/publisher why would I make a game for a particular region when I know that I can create adult content for the majority of the world. Netherealm has refused to dumb down Mortal Kombat for Australians because they know they can legally sell it to the rest of the world. Why would they waste their time and money when they can get the returns they are after from the greater market?
On the whole, the government needs to get this reform done. It may not solve everything for Australian gamers, but it will certainly be a step in the right direction allowing people to make an informed choice. Without these reforms, we will continue to be a police state where the views of the few do not reflect the whole.
The recent rumblings from several state AGs bode well that this will indeed see a reform occur. Whether or not this will be ‘ideal’ is yet to be seen. I just hope they see the light and adopt similar policies to that of North America and Europe. Lets just hope the state Attorney-Generals can all agree that R18 is required for video games classification when they meet next month.