Australia’s government has finally released the long-awaited Discussion Paper designed to foster public debate on whether or not an R18+ classification should be added for videogames.
Why release the Discussion Paper now? The government cited Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) research as indicating that adults are ”increasingly” consumer of videogames, while noting that discussion about adding an R18+ rating category has been ongoing for “some time.” This is the first time the public can weigh in on the topic with their feelings.
If an R18+ rating category was to be enacted, the paper notes that a change to classification categories would require amendments to the Commonwealth Act, the Code and the Guidelines, as well as State and Territory enforcement legislation. Of course, amendments can only be undertaken with the agreement of all Censorship Ministers, which South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson, typically identified as the lone holdout in such matters previously, would certainly maintain his stance on.
The paper lists the pros of adding an R18+ classification:
- The R 18+ classification category sends a clear, unambiguous message to parents that the game material is unsuitable for minors.
- Consistent classification categories for films and computer games are easier to understand.
- A new classification will supplement technological controls on minors’ access to age inappropriate computer games.
- Adults should not be prevented from playing R 18+ level computer games simply because they are unsuitable for minors.
- Comparable international classification systems have an adult rating for computer games – international parity is desirable.
- Consumers access games which would be R 18+ illegally – it would be better if they were legally available with appropriate restrictions.
And the cons:
- Computer games should be treated differently from films given the specific, negative effects of interactivity on players, particularly their participation in violent and aggressive content.
- It would be difficult for parents to enforce age restrictions for computer games.
- Minors would be more likely to be exposed to computer games that are unsuitable for them.
- An R 18+ for computer games would exacerbate problems associated with access to high level material in Indigenous communities and by other non-English speaking people.
- There is no demonstrated need to change existing restrictions.
Even the Discussion Paper couldn’t be released without a mention of Rapelay, as it was noted that even if an R18+ rating was approved and introduced, “the RC category would still exist for games with, for example, gratuitous or exploitative depictions of sexual violence, such as the sexual assault simulation game Rapelay."
Submissions are due by February 28, 2010. A PDF that outlines how to make a submission and also contains a questionnaire is available here.