I’ll be honest with you I was starting to give up hope on Australia ever getting a R18+ rating for games. It seemed at nearly every turn there was another roadblock or stumbling point which pushed the issue further out of the reaches of reality. Since none of the games that I was interested in had been hit by the dreaded RC rating I let the issue slide for quite a while, but that doesn’t mean I stopped thinking that the lack of the rating was an issue. However I was beginning to feel that if we can’t make progress for almost a year after the primary roadblock had been removed then there’s little hope for change in the near future.
As it turns out, the wheels might just have started turning.
News just came out this morning that the federal government is seeking a decision from state and territory governments on the R18+ rating for video games. Should they be unable to come to a decision before July they’ll be staring down the barrel of a complete classifcation reform, something I’m sure they’d like to avoid:
Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor says after a decade of debate, it is crunch time.
“We’re becoming the laughing stock of the developed world, where we’re the only country that doesn’t have an R18 classification level for video games.
“I foreshadow that if there is not a consensus around this issue, the Commonwealth will certainly be considering other options because we cannot continue to have an outdated classification system that’s actually, in my view, causing harm to young people.”
Indeed I agree with Minister O’Connor, the lack of a R18+ rating to games is harmful in many ways not the least of which is the restriction of material that is quite appropriate for adults to consume. Due to the lack of the R18+ rating Australia’s classification board tends to be far more lenient with their classifications than other countries are. This means material which other countries have deemed inappropriate for that age range is available to them in Australia. Not having a R18+ rating also means that parents, unless they’re up with the latest gaming news, will have little information about RC games. Couple this with the ease of importing and pirating such banned material and you’ve got a situation where the material ends up in the hands of kids anyway and the parents are none the wiser.
It seems the primary source of resistance for the introduction of a R18+ classification for games is coming from lobbies like the Australian Christian Lobby, who seem to be a constant thorn in the side of issues like this and other issues like Internet freedom. They argue that imposing a R18+ rating would make it easier for children to get their hands on such material. Making it available in stores would not make it any easier than it already is, in fact most stores would be required (as they are now) to check ID for games labelled with this classification. You might argue that the parents could buy it for them but that’s their decision and it would mean they are aware that the material is probably not suited for children of their age. The ACL would seek to take that power of judgement away from parents, instead preferring to pretend that the material never makes it across our borders, which is patently false.
So hopefully in 3 months we’ll start to see the beginnings of either a R18+ rating for games or an entirely revamped classification system for Australia. Both options bode well for gamers in Australia and hopefully in the future we won’t have to deal with games being refused classification simply because they’re not suitable for children. With games rapidly maturing as a medium this decision can’t come soon enough and I for one can’t wait for the day when Australia drops its archaic view that games are only for children.