In Australia, MMOs May Be Target of Police Crackdown

Could Australian police soon be rounding up retailers who sell World of Warcraft and other massively multiplayer online games?

That’s one possible scenario.

As reported by the Syndey Morning Herald, a controversy has arisen Down Under as to whether MMOs need to be rated for content under Australian law.

Government officials believe that – like all other video games – they do. Meanwhile, the Aussie game industry has taken the opposite view. Ron Curry, who heads the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia told the newspaper that MMOs do not fall under content classification requirement because they are hosted outside of Australian territory:

There are different classification requirements for games depending on how they are accessed by consumers. For instance, for a game sold off the shelf, where the media material is stored on a disk in the package, the classification requirements are straight forward and you will see the classification label on the box.

However, in some instances the box sold in a retail outlet contains an access key to the game which can only be accessed online. If such a game is hosted locally it falls under the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Services Act, but if it is hosted internationally, it’s classified in the country that hosts the game, rather than in Australia.

However, a spokesman for New South Wales Attorney-General John Hatzistergos (left) disagreed:

The NSW [game rating] legislation covers computer games bought online as well as those bought in stores, and treats single, multi-player and online games the same way… If there is any suggestion that any business is trading illegally, police need to know, and it should be reported.

Ditto, said a representative of Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland:

The National Classification Scheme does not distinguish between games based on whether or not they contain a single player component. Online games are computer games within the meaning of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 and are covered under the existing legislation.

In the North American market, MMOs are rated by the ESRB just as are single-player games. Time and money are involved in that process. Those factors are likely behind the stance adopted by the Australian game publishers.

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  1. Kamil says:

    It seems that everywhere you turn there’s talk about the opening of the latest Harry Potter movie.

    The wait has not been without its drama, with Ruper Glint (who plays Ron Weasley) catching the swine flu during filming and Jamie Waylett (who plays Draco Malfoy’s crony Vincent Crabbe) getting arrested for possession and production of marijuana. Adult DVD

  2. Untouchable says:

    You’re an Aussie, correct?


    I would have thought that you’d know how often the Herald Sun exxagerates things at times.

  3. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Rating solves a minor societal issue of slotting/guiding media to precived maturity levels based on age, its a process thats mostly made inept by moralist unable to remove the tree from their ass.

    If they did not have a cow over the issue things would play out either with reasonable limits or leave it up to the population to fret over with their own free will.


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  4. TBoneTony says:

    ok, you got me there.

    I will have more of a closer look next time I go into EB Games.

    I have seen games that didn’t have the OFLC ratings instead having the PEGI or the BBFC ratings instead. And that the OFLC rating was just a sticker covering up the BBFC/PEGI rating.

  5. Afirejar says:

    "However when I look on the store shelves, I see the OFLC classification ratings clearly on the cover of every PC and Console game.

    Even the online ones like World of Warcraft. And even if it is not got the OFLC classifications, it instead has the BBFC, the PEGI and even the ESRB for pre-owned games that were brought overseas or online."

    That’s interesting, because reports indicate, that World of Warcraft doesn’t have OFLC classification. It’s not listed in the OFLC database either. I suggest you actually look at the store shelves next time you describe what you see on them.

    Also, this isn’t about games completely lacking ratings. This is about games lacking the ratings demanded by Australian law. Claiming that reports are exaggerated because games that lack OFLC classification have PEGI, BBFC, ESRB ratings only means, that you didn’t understand the reports.

  6. ZippyDSMlee says:

    People tend to forget and and beat the same hyperbolic rhythms when they get old.Did books protect music? Did Rock and roll or film protect comics, did comics/TV protect videogames? While its true they are dissimilar media is media fiction is fiction  It comes down to IMO protecting media from children since they are used as the end all red haring  to censor adults via moralistic rules. Morals are based on conviction while those that lead us might be as witless as us they tend to have stronger convictions than the majority. Modern society really has to comprehend that people will be people and are molded by life not fiction and because of that you either let adults be adults and children be children


      you say children  should not buy X without supervision and that seeing X will not harm them if they are guided well so X needs only be blocked from the direct sale to minors.

    The US leans one way the UK and Ausland the other  way with a touch of treating adults as wards of the state…

    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  7. Wolvenmoon says:

    and what will rating MMORPGs solve?

    They should be glad that the MMORPG companies aren’t banding together and flat out banning ALL austrailian gamers until this shit has settled.

    In guild wars, it happened to taiwanese players because the government was threatening them for banning players that were botting. It was later changed to taiwanese players not having the ability to trade outside of their own territory.

    It’d be hilarious if the gaming industry started throwing their weight around against oppression. China being simultaneously completely cut off from online gaming would raise a HUGE shitstorm, and might make some change happen there.

  8. TBoneTony says:

    I also think that even the Herald Sun is pushing a few exagerated comments of their own.

    Like how they say that EVERY Computer Games retailer is selling online games without the OFLC classification.

    However when I look on the store shelves, I see the OFLC classification ratings clearly on the cover of every PC and Console game.

    Even the online ones like World of Warcraft. And even if it is not got the OFLC classifications, it instead has the BBFC, the PEGI and even the ESRB for pre-owned games that were brought overseas or online.

    I think some politicians need to do their own market research on videogames to understand them more.

    Just wait until 20 or 30 years time when most of those politicians will be voted out of power and the gamer politicians come in who know more about Videogames than these older politicians do.

  9. TBoneTony says:

    In many adult shops like club X in Australia, you can’t even find Hentai or Adult Anime DVDs simply because adult stores don’t want to sell them.

    So in a way, they are technicly banned. Although there are some Hentai DVDs that passed the R18+ rating for DVDs since that the sex scenes are eddited or originally had non realistic penuses and the penertration was less detailed than the real HARD CORE Hentai titles.

    As far as fettishes go, I don’t see anything with tentacles or anything like that with R18+ Hentai DVDs in Australia, so the tentacle rape fettish might also have been banned in Australia too.

    I think it has been like that for a long time. It is possible to have a tentacle themed Anime in Australia but the content must be within a R18+ rating or else it is banned from most parts of Australia.

    But in any way, it does suck but I am so thankful for my Region 0 DVD player and the ability for me to buy DVDs on where I am not restricted to that sort of censorship.

  10. ZippyDSMlee says:

    True they blindly strike out in a attempt to look good and show they are doing something, some do it because they are crazy. In the end they need to think out whats best of society as a WHOLE.


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  11. TBoneTony says:

    I would like to remind a few of those politicians that the Videogame Ratings Bill that was designed in 1995 did not even mention Online games, simply because they did not exist.

    Also flash games or games that can be downloaded without even needing a disk from the store shelves and also games brought overseas with the use of and EBay and other internet shopping services can’t be covered by the OFLC classifications because of the limited ability for the OFLC to classify games that are not sold on the commercial market.

    Sadly may politicians don’t even know about videogames, much less they don’t even want to understand videogames in the first place.

  12. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Well why not bind age levels to law in a fine based system the money damage of 25-50X(5-10X to employee of sale) the sale price would keep local retailers in check.

    Not rated, porn and 16+ material are covered, MMOs are not rated until they get rated, so parents well have to do the prechaseing for the children

    Its a simple system that lets adults alone while trying to mitigate the fears of mental nazis who rather treat adults as children.

    Its the best middle ground to freedom and fascism.

    Oh has Australia baned fetish porn/hentai yet? Britain just did….


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  13. Kalerender says:

    Good article on Massively ( that have the details about the whole messup.

    Basically the OFLC (Office of Film and Literature classification) told companies that MMOG’s didn’t need it. The word passed around, and it was ‘common knowledge’ that they didn’t need to submit for the Australian market. But the OFLC merged with the attorney generals office, and they’re sticking more to the letter of the law.


    It’s just policy screwups and drama reporting by the Sydney Morning Herald.

  14. Afirejar says:

    The feasability of ratings isn’t really the point here, neither is the introduction of new regulations. The ratings have been mandatory for quite some time now. It just took them some time to realize, that online games are games too. They’re not doing anything new – they’re just enforcing existing regulations. It’s not the Austrialian government’s or police’s fault, that publishers didn’t submit their online games to the mandatory rating process. (With the notable exceptions of Eve Online and Vanguard.)

  15. hayabusa75 says:

    So, they want to rate MMOs for all the bad things someone could potentially exposed to…but they refuse to adopt an 18+ rating for games…

    "There is no sin except stupidity." – Oscar Wilde

  16. TBoneTony says:

    If you look at the Australian National Anthem it says

    “Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and FREE”

    with the way that some politicians can change a law without anyone defending what is being attacked, you can’t really call it a free country.

    TVs, Movies, Books and even Art have more freedoms than Videogames or Anime does in Australia because the new (and I mean the new that have been in existance in the last 30 years in Australia) are not really understood by the majority of the population.

    So to the adult Videogamers and adult Anime fans living here in Australia, we don’t really think it is a free country at all. Not even the Aboriginals who were living here in Australia really think that Australia is a free country because they had to deal with allot of hardships in the last 200 years.

  17. Neeneko says:

    The law requires rating to be put on access software based on content that they can connect to as opposed to content they come with.  As soon as you set the precident then you can extend it to other laws that have a local/remote content aspects to them.

  18. nighstalker160 says:

    Actually, this is a perfect valid argument.

    This is the way the law works, you deal in hypotheticals, analogies, and precedent.

    He’s right, one of the major problems with WHAT THIS LAW DOES, is set a precedent for requiring ratings for things that stream online content. That opens up a rather disturbing can of worms.

  19. asmodai says:

    Funny story, we’re trying, but I think people wrongly assume that gamers make up a significant vocal faction when it comes to politicians.  ie. People that actually contact their pollie and complain rather than sitting in the blogosphere posting to congregation.

    However, something is going to break shortly.  Between the government’s attempt to censor the internet, the lack of an R18+ rating because of one AG neo-luddite hold out and the general nanny state the current Labor government is pushing, a backlash is starting to be formed.

    The problem with us Australians is that as long as the politicians aren’t bothering us, most of use don’t give a crap about the politicians.  They tend to think they can get away with whatever they want.  The Aus public will be broken out of it’s apathy (as it was in the last election to remove the former PM due to a bad workplace reform scheme he had pushed out).

  20. JB says:

    If my MP up here in Canada started telling me (an adult) what I can or cannot watch, read, or play I’d quickly let them know I’d be voting for another MP come next election. The voters in Australia should start letting their elected officials know what’s on their minds.

  21. Afirejar says:

    You should think very, very carefully before making this kind of strawman arguments. If you can’t attack the law based on what it actually does, then just don’t, but don’t make stuff up.

  22. Neeneko says:

    This could set a VERY bad precient if they decide that the access software needs to be rated for what it can access.

    The same logic could then be applied to things like web browsers (IE specificly since it comes on a computer that you can buy retail) since they allow access to on-line media…. then if the browser can’t block media concsidered outside of it’s rating you open up a whole nasty mess of legal options.

    The AG should think very, very carefully before opening up this can of worms. 

  23. finaleve says:

    The only thing they can really do is rate the content in the game.  They can not rate what content (IE chat) because thats just not possible.  They put warnings in almost every game (even in games where actual chatting isn’t possible IE DS games), all of which state that the game experience may change during online play.  That is all they can really do, unless we try and gave a totalitarian online government or something.

  24. finaleve says:

    Or Trade Chat…


    …god the anal *Talent* epidemic was terrible.  I could almost say that made me quit WoW for a month just so it was all over.

  25. hellfire7885 says:

    The problem is rating an MMO is extremely difficult, as while the base content is easy enough, but, well, just watch general chat for five minutes and you’ll get the point.

  26. Bigman-K says:

    Man, Australia is becoming quite the fucking nanny-state isn’t it.

     "No law means no law" – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

  27. Verbinator says:

    Essentially, once you add in the human variable, unfiltered, games should be considered to have mature content … or at least being at risk for it occurring.

  28. nighstalker160 says:

    Ratings on MMO’s are meaningless, at least in terms of language.

    Sure you can rate the violence since that’s hard-coded. But the language is totally up to the user-base.

    If I was the Aussie industry I’d probably just say:

    “Fine, but we’re putting that ‘online experience may change’ thing on it so don’t come bitching to us when parents get upset over some 10 year old prick in Iowa who uses the N word.”

  29. Praetorian says:

    Unless the rating has the potential for banning the game, I don’t see the big issue.

    For a coutry that was originally a penal colony for Britains scum, they sure do a lot of regulating. 


    "I’ve been told I’m the resident skeptic, but I wouldn’t believe that."

    ECA Seattle Chapter

  30. sortableturnip says:

    *rolls eyes*

    Don’t they have better things to do than arrest people for selling MMO’s…

    And what about MMO’s that you don’t buy on the store shelf?  Are you going to arrest the citizen who downloaded it?

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