Singapore Unveils New Game Rating System

April 14, 2008 -
It looks as though last year's Mass Effect fiasco got the attention of government officials in Singapore.

The island nation announced today that it will launch a new two-tiered content rating system for video games, effective April 28th. As reported by Chinese news service Xinhua:
The new video games ratings include Mature 18 (M18) and Age Advisory. Both categories will carry rating stickers. M18 is a restricted category for persons 18 years old and above with retailers required to conduct an age check at the point of sales.

Age Advisory is suitable for persons 16 years old and above. It is an advisory category to assist consumers in making informed choices. While retailers need not conduct age checks at the point of sale, they are encouraged to exercise responsibility by not selling these games to those below 16 years of age.

Games which don't fall into either of the rating categories will need no sticker. According to Xinhua, the new system has been under development for two years.

Comments

Manhunt 2 was rated M, not AO. And you could find it in many stores.

The US does not ban games. Some stores will refuse to carry some games, but you can still buy them online. To date, there are only 23 AO games rated by the ESRB. Most of those are for Strong Sexual Content, though one was for online gambling. GTA: SA also got an AO, but that was total bullshit when they changed it for having the Hot Coffie files still within the game.

Game developers rarely make AO games, because the consumer climate doesn't really support the cost to make them. Most retail chains will not sell them, and most previous AO games have sold poorly. Fact is, there's more profit in releasing games with diverse appeal, which is why T and M games are the most common.

Wow, looks like even Singapore gets an '18' rating before Australia does. Wonder what message the Ozzie right-wing will infer from that?

wait... TWO YEARS? how hard is it to come up with two stickers?

Huh. Cool, I guess.

Well, not as bad as it could have been. Singapore is a modern nation, but they still have some draconian laws over there. This ratings system at least allows games to be sold, and helps people make informed decisions.

But seriously, two years? It took them that long to come up with two ratings? That's like a day's worth of effort. No, that's like finishing by lunch on the first day, then spending 1 year and 364 days just goofing around. Maybe they were playing video games in the office, and that's why it took so long...

wait… TWO YEARS? how hard is it to come up with two stickers?

Well, to be fair, the two years was probably spent figuring out who'd rate the games, what criteria they'd rate them on, and what content would warrant what rating.

Plus some debate on whether or not to just adopt one of the existing systems like ESRB or PEGI and give it the force of law, or develop their own limited homebrew system like the UK has and Singapore apparently decided upon doing.

So, the age divides are 16 and 18? Seems a little close together to make a difference. Weirdness.

Gray17 Says:

April 14th, 2008 at 11:07 am
wait… TWO YEARS? how hard is it to come up with two stickers? "

My thoughts exactly!
Seriously that should have taken a max of 15 minutes.

So does this mean The Darkness will be given an M18 rating and not be banned anymore???

[...] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIt looks as though last year’s Mass Effect fiasco got the attention of government officials in Singapore. The island nation announced today that it will launch a new two-tiered content rating system for video games, effective April 28th. As reported by Chinese news service Xinhua: The new video games ratings include Mature 18 (M18) and Age Advisory. Both categories will carry rating stickers. M18 is a restricted category for persons 18 years old and above with retailers required to conduct an age check at the point of sales. [...]

Yeah, that's actually pretty sad, that Singapore (a country that will cane you for petty vandalism) beat Australia to getting an 18+ rating.

In Singapore you can get arrested for almost anything.

I'm expecting freedom of religion to be abolished in about 10 years or so.

@MonkeyFace

Umm, I was quoting Conejo, and disagreeing with the statement.

Hey as long as they understand censorship is elitist and out of touch and try and just slot media of to the correct age ranges I don't have a problem with it.

I like this rating system. The two sticker situation leaves game makers more able to build Mature grade games for adults/18+ without opening up for retailers to boycott the games. With the US ESRB's system the 17+/18+ (M and AO) distinctions really make no sense as it's only one year. All the distinction does, especially with 'Adults Only' for the 18+ rating is allow retailers to censor their gaming selections and force devs to be really careful about their content to avoid AO. If every game from MGS4 up to Manhunt 2 are carrying the same rating then it's a lot harder for a retailer to blindly censor their selection.

As for the 2 years I'm sure that probably has something to do with the criteria and rating system in place to actually implement the 2 stickers though it's more fun to think that it took them 2 years for 16+ and 18+.

Wait... a country other then the US is going to use a rating system that doesn't a legal banhammer to games?

zog

America and Australia are the only countries that do BAN 18 rated games.

@Cheater87

To an extent. America the country has never banned a game. The game makers simply refuse to put an AO game on their consoles. Typically, in order to get the AO rating, there has to be something pornographic though.

wow stickers for a rating system, no wonder it took them so long.

Or uber violent like Manhunt 2. WHY CAN'T UNRATED GAMES COME OUT????? They have unrated movies. Just add a damn update to the parental controls to add an option to block unrated games. THERE PROBLEM SOLVED!!!!!!!!

Manhunt 2 the original was AO and they butchered it to an M rating.

If more stores sold AO games....THEY WOULD SELL MORE!!!!!!!! Seesh stupid paranoid media also stopping them from coming out.

Finally!

And if Singapore can do it then why can't our own Attorney Generals here in Australia? One more country for us to be out of step with. Hopefully soon we'll get out R18+ rating.

@Michael

I wish you guys luck.

good for them. It'd be interesting to see what happened if ESRB got rid of AO entirely and just had M as their highest rating. I doubt consoles would prevent M games from playing on their system.

Ah, but the M rating isn't technically "for adults." That's the whole point of it having the 17+ attached to it. By making it one year younger than legal adult age, it opens up minors as a potential market for the M rated games. Additionally, AO is almost exclusively used for porn games, and very rarely for the truly violent imagery of games like Manhunt 2 (thanks for the clarification from that other poster) and Thrill Kill (never heard of it until I looked it up).

Basically, the one year difference between M and AO (17+, 18+) is a "safety net." They put the truly objectionable content (porn and hyper violence) in the adult's only category, which makes M rated games "safe" for sale at stores where people that aren't legal adults might be able to purchase them.

The point I'm trying to make is, if you eleminated the AO rating, then you leave the M rating open to even more scrutiny. And many more stores would choose not to carry them, just like they don't carry AO games. I mean, that would basically put games like Call of Duty in the same category as porn games. Considering the US's attitude towards letting kids get their hands on sexual content, that would be shooting the gaming industry in the foot.

What if gamers signed petitions to let the big 3 allow us adults to play AO games???

A petition would do nothing, because they aren't stopping you from playing AO games. They're preventing them from being developed for their particular consoles. There's a difference You can still play AO games on the computer, of which little there are, and you can import. But it's not just about Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. It's about WalMart, Best Buy, and EB Games. It's about about jackasses (that is, Jack Thompsons) and Hillary's and mayors in Boston. It's about parents, and consumer attitudes and marketable profits.

You cannot just blame the "Big 3" for this. You'll notice that most AO games are porn, and not about ultra violence. And most AO games are for the computer, not consoles. Many stores don't want to be "responsible" for making sure they don't sell the wrong game to a minor. They don't want to get sued. Parents want to look at the box and tell with a glance what's in the game, and M and AO helps make a distinction. And of course, game developers want to sell to as large a market as possible, which means diverse demographic appeal. Hyper violence doesn't have mass appeal.

To be perfectly honest, I don't "believe" that if stores were willing to carry AO games, that they'd be much more marketable than they are now. A lot of people are turned off by hyper or realistic violence. And it doesn't necessarily make a more fun game. It'd be nice to have more of a choice, but I think most AO games would be commercial flops even if they were critically acclaimed. Though, there'd probably be a large market for the porn AO games, since porn is such a huge industry.

A petition would do nothing, because they aren’t stopping you from playing AO games. They’re preventing them from being developed for their particular consoles.

Sounds like stopping me from playing a game to me.

In Singapore you can get arrested for almost anything.

Have you ever BEEN to Singapore? Or are you talking out of your ass?

Yeah, that’s actually pretty sad, that Singapore (a country that will cane you for petty vandalism)...

Smashing car windows hardly counts as petty vandalism.

@Cheater87

Then you pay the costs. If the "Big 3" don't see it as worth it, then they don't see it as worth it. They aren't coming to your house and stopping you from getting an AO game. You can still get them, just not on a console. You could consider it a form of censorship, or you could see it as an economic function. I choose the latter. How about you?

I still go by censorship. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo Europe have no problem with 18 rated games being released in Europe under PEGI and the BBFC. So why can't we have AO games here??? Their console version of Leisure Suite Larry MCL which is 18 rated was the same as our AO rated PC version.

I'm not as sure about the PEGI or BBFC systems as I am about the ESRB. The ESRB uses AO to describe anything that contains pornographic materials, such as cutting a man's testicals off in Manhunt 2. The Mature rating is added to describe everything that would normally be considered "adult", but has no pornographic content, and pornographic content is the only thing I can think of, aside from ciggies and booze, that is only for "adults" in this country. Do PEGI and the BBFC use such a system? The reason why I say it's economic is because I see it as a PR thing. Porn games don't look good on your product list if you're aiming at a wide audience IMO. So if it is censorship, and I am fully willing to accept that it is, then it still has an economic base. And as I said, you aren't being stopped from BUYING the games, you just can't play it on a "Big 3" console.

Dark Sovereign
I do not see how the console makers banner certain game types from being on their system is a "economic function", no with gaming uping tis sales by 50% this year
http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/13653.cfm

I see it as back door censorship, there should be no game censoring at that level, correction they go by a case by case basis and then retail ensure getting them "adult" titles will be a pain.

Altho....walmart still has GTA 3 and has per orders for GTA 4 online 0-o

For those of you who doubt me, yes, I am from Singapore.

And yes, for a time, you could get arrested for having chewing gum.

@Cheater87

Our (UK) 18 rating doesn't really equal the US AO rating though. We have a separate R18 rating for pornography.

@ZippyDSMlee

As I said, PR. If the public is widely against pornography, and the product your pushing is still being billed as "for kids" by the mass media, and you have a product that contains pornographic content on your console, then you will have a public backlash. It can be censorship and have an economic function. It becomes "economic censorship".

Likr Gordon Jackson said, an AO from the ESRB isn't the same thing as an 18 Rating in the UK. Most commonly, games that get an 18 in Europe, get an M in the US. So there's really not much comparison.

And it's not censorship, it's a business choice. The Big 3 "choose" to not lisense their systems for AO games (GTA:SA was an exception, since it was changed afterwards, and WalMart DID pull if from shelves until the Hot-Coffie-free version was released). If you want AO games sold on consoles so badly, develop your own console with your own rules, and compete with them. Free market.

Of course, the computer is still free game. Even though there are only 23 AO rated games, there are plenty of games out there that have never been submitted to the ESRB at all. Go play them if you're so interested.

And I keep learning more about Manhunt 2 (never played, wasn't interested). So the reason they had to edit it to avoid the AO was because you could cut off someone's testicles? This further supports what I've been saying, that almost all AO ratings are based on pornographic material. And if a console maker doesn't want pornography on their systems, that's their choice to make. Sony, Mircosoft, and Nintendo don't guarantee a limitless library of games when you buy their products, and consumers know that when they put their money on the counter.

Smashing car windows is petty vandalism. In the US, that would be a few weeks in jail (usually suspended with probation) and paying for the damage. They don't beat you for it.

All I'm saying is, Singapore runs a tight ship. Which makes it a little surprising that they'd allow adult rated games to be sold in their country. I mean, they've already shown that they'd be willing to ban a game for a supposed "lesbian encounter," in Mass Effect. This planned rating system is a complete turnaround.

>little surprising that they’d allow adult rated games to be sold in their country.
Not really the case.
Possession of porn is illegal in Singapore. According to Wikipedia, anyway.

Singapore sounds more and more like a paradise to me every day. Great weather, clean city, and now finally a rating system tht makes sense.

I might have to retire there!

I've seen some of the games rated so far and dude, what, Singapore's more lenient with video games than America? What? Isn't Singapore reknowned for censorship and shit?

Stuff getting the M rating is going unrated in Singapore.
 
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