When the Australian federal government announced a public consultation into the question of whether or not an R18+ rating for video games should be introduced, many pundits expected most to be in favour of an adult rating for games. In fact, very early counting of received responses at the start of February this year showed overwhelming support, with only 1 percent opposed to an R18+.
It seems those early results have been replicated in the full count, with the Federal Home Affairs department now releasing its preliminary report into the public consultation. Of the 59,678 public submissions received in total, the Home Affairs department found 58,589 (98.2 percent) were in favour of introducing an R18+, with only 1,089 (1.2 percent) against it.
The preliminary report--which was released on the Home Affairs Minister's Web site this afternoon--found that the majority of responses came from retailer EB Games off the back of its in-store promotion, which scored 34,938 submissions. The next biggest group was those from Grow Up Australia, which organised 16,056 submissions.
While close to 60,000 individuals responded, 34 groups also made formal submissions to the public consultation. Of those groups, 53 percent supported an R18+, with 47 percent opposed to it. Groups opposed to R18+ included the Australian Christian Lobby, several Western Australian politicians (including the Minister for Water and Health Graham Jacobs, the Australian Council on Children and the Media, the Commissioner for Children Tasmania, and the Sporting Shooters Association). Groups who strongly supported the R18+ included the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, Telstra, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association, Save our Souls Gaming Clan, and more.
Despite the vast majority of positive responses, today's meeting of Australia's censorship ministers has failed to move forward on the issue. For an R18+ to be introduced in Australia, all of the nation's state and federal attorneys-general must unanimously agree. Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor said that ministers attending the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting today had agreed that "further work needs to be done before a decision can be made."
“Censorship ministers have not yet made a decision on whether or not an R18+ classification for computer games should be introduced and have requested further analysis of community and expert views," he said.
“It is not just the weight of numbers that need to be considered. It is also the strength of the arguments on each side."
Stay tuned to GameSpot AU for a full wrap-up of the public consultation process. For more on video game classification in Australia, check out GameSpot AU's Aussie Games Classification FAQ feature.