Aussie R18+ video game debate to be opened to public

Australian censorship ministers could not reach a unanimous decision on R18+ discussion paper; Commonwealth minister for Home Affairs takes over public consultation.

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Canberra--The much-anticipated discussion paper on the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia will be released to the public by the office of the Commonwealth Minister of Home Affairs, Bob Debus, after censorship ministers stood divided over its contents at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG) meeting in Canberra today.

It is expected that the discussion paper will propose changes to Australia's current classification guidelines and will include relevant research and literature on the classification of video games. No specified timeline has yet been given for its release.

"Because there was no unanimous agreement amongst all states and territories about the release of the discussion paper, the commonwealth is circumventing our requirements for unanimous agreement and will release the discussion paper under their own name," ACT attorney general Simon Corbell said today. "The paper will be released shortly."

The paper will ask Australians to voice their opinions on whether the country should have an R18+ classification for video games. Once the consultation period expires, it will be up to the censorship ministers to decide whether or not to introduce the R18+ classification. Once again, their decision must be unanimous before any changes to Australia's current classification system can be made.

The contents of the proposed discussion paper have suffered several setbacks since it was first introduced by Victorian attorney general Rob Hulls at a SCAG meeting in March last year. It was initially slated for release before the end of 2008, but was delayed when South Australian attorney general Michael Atkinson withdrew his support. He later agreed to release the paper under the condition that he be allowed to make changes to its "biased" content.

However, as recently as March this year, Mr Atkinson had still to make his proposed changes to the discussion paper, leaving its fate in limbo. Today's SCAG decision seems to indicate that Mr Atkinson was not alone in his stance against the R18+ classification.

"The standard line is that I was the only one responsible for stopping this discussion paper," Mr Atkinson said today. "I think it's important that a discussion paper be released. I believe the changes I proposed to make [the inclusion of images and gameplay footage of games rated MA15+ and above] would have been useful in making this discussion accessible to the majority of Australians, for whom this debate is inscrutable."

Mr Atkinson acknowledges the fact that Australia's current classification system may lead to the incorrect classification of some video games, but attributes this to a misapplication of the federal government's classification guidelines by the Classification Board of Australia.

"I don't doubt gamers when they say that some games that are classified MA15+ in Australia should have been classified R18+; that is a possibility in my experience. I am critical of the OFLC [the Classification Board of Australia]. I believe it bends over backwards for the industry rather than the public interest."

Mr Atkinson is proposing a separate set of classification guidelines for video games--one that is separate from film and other materials. Speaking about his long-running opposition to R18+, Atkinson said he was willing to change his mind, given the right circumstances.

"I'm open to discussion. My position now is that I'm opposed to an R18+ classification, but let's see how the debate progresses. Let's see what concessions gamers and the industry are prepared to make. This would involve the Classification Board applying the guidelines correctly."

Stay tuned to GameSpot AU for more information about the R18+ public-discussion paper as it comes to hand.

Discussion

63 comments
southwardraptor
southwardraptor

I say its the parents responsibility to control what there kids are playing. The majority of the gaming community shouldn't suffer because parents cant control what their kids are playing. I support the R18+ classification.

jetstopia
jetstopia

gamespot get a vote going (if there isn't already one) count me down as a vote FOR an R18+ grade 1 vote for it

Sammojo
Sammojo

This could be good or it could be bad. As said below, having an 18+ rating could mean some games that would have slipped in under MA15+ in the old system but will now be put in the 18+ section, cutting off the 15-17 age bracket (which I think we could all assume is quite a large gaming demographic - I know that surveys in the forums showed the average gamer age to be approx. 19 but that could easily be because younger gamers don't hit up forums as much as the oldies). Because of this restriction on those ages, an R18+ could cause some 15, 16 and 17 year olds to go out and get copies of such games (which I think was one of the reasons they've used against an R rating - it's not a major problem but it will be happening regardless). Games like Fallout 3 really weren't dumbed down that much for Australia and if we think about it, taking out the word "morphene" provided access to the game for heaps of gamers under 18 (I am one of those). Surely toning down a few dismemberments and explicit references is worth it to make the game suitable (under the Governments definition) for the 15-17 age bracket. I will be 18 in a few months and I honestly don't think that we need anything more explicit in games than what we see the likes of Bioshock and Fallout 3. In defence of the R18+ classification, I think we should have the freedom to play what we want and therefore adults should have access to 18+ content, but the real issue here, I think, is that people WANT to experience more gory and horrifying things than are already available. Is it really going to make it any more exciting or fun? Would Bioshock really have been that much better if the odd grenade sent a splicers limbs and lungs splattering into walls? I know it didn't make fallout any better for me. I am nearly 18, but having been involved in a lot of gaming during the ages of 15-17, and enjoying it immensely, I have begun to realise that maybe this kind of classification might not be the best for the gaming community. The point I am trying to make is that by pushing for an 18+ rating, we will be closing the window for 15-17 year-old gamers to play some of the better games and out there all for the sake of having a few more F-bombs, flying internal organs and nudity in our favourite games.

Potat0e_Masher
Potat0e_Masher

well i wouldnt care if there was R+18 games but im just worried that they'd rate a whole bunch of games R+18 like games with gore should be MA+15 but its one with drugs and gore all piled into to one should be R+18 like Fallout 3.

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

i'm 15 atm and even though having an R18+ classification will be disadvantageous to me i believe we need to have one, because at the moment games that are R rated in other countries such as the US have to be dumbed down in order to get in here. Even that process is complete BS. For Example, Fallout 3 had to change the name of a Damage resistance drug from Morphine to Med-X, and the classification board let the constant, excessive gore go through without a problem.

rockatanski
rockatanski

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rockatanski
rockatanski

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apochs_edge
apochs_edge

@ Reo-Viler There is so much wrong with what you wrote I will not even begin to try and explain it.

Reo-Viler
Reo-Viler

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2w-sephiroth
2w-sephiroth

I am going to say: yes, we need a +18 rating, they should ask for i.d. if they think they are under 25, just like they do with tabaco, alcohol and porn. Its the parents responsability. And games Like Grand theft Auto, Fallout, Silent Hill and so on should allow the freedom to create what they have in their minds so they can be targeret to adult players. In my opinion as long as they are no hardcore sex scenes they should allow +18 rating in videogames like all other formats. Where and when can I vote for YES?

Xequtra
Xequtra

The whole point of a free country is to allow the people the freedom to "choose" what we should view. The theory of Natural Selection in games will also apply to games since some store may refuse to stock it or people don't feel that it is a strong title, thus, not requiring strong government guidelines to tell us what is acceptable or not. Though, someone needs to stop adults giving kiddies access to games they shouldn't be playing... they've already ruined some of my favourite servers in a game... "misbehaving brats..." Having said that... may of been the reason why government couldn't be bothered allowing a R rating for games

Aztec888
Aztec888

I agree that no-one should tell us what we can see (or more importantly for gamers, play) and we should have that choice, but what I don't agree with is how they feel video games will affect my "innocent, manipulable, 15-year old mind." I almost chocked when I saw that FEAR 2 was banned (thank god it still isn't) and I almost laughed when I saw COD4 was rated MA15+. I mean, I'm not gonna go cry to my mummy 'cause I saw some blood spray on the back of the wall when I shot that "meany in the head" or some minion's arm blew off when I punched his dead body. Do they really think that a 16 or 17 year old gamer, who most likely has ACTUALLY READ THE BOX AND KNOWS WHAT'S IN THE GAME, will have life-long mental scars for chopping a guy in half in some video game? So yes, I'm all for a R18+ rating. Of course, children are still going to get their hands on it, but they still get their hands on porn and extreme violence, so what's going to make them go out and shoot a hooker now?

gameking5000
gameking5000

We'll see who the public votes, on this site we don't have a single idea who the public favours. It'll be interesting

jetstopia
jetstopia

I'm currently a teacher in training (2nd year uni) and because of that I am probably more aware of the development cycle of children, well at least I hope I'm more aware than the general person since its what I'm going to be doing. With that, you get a lot of people saying what's the difference between MA15 and R18+, I mean it is only 3 years difference. The thing is though during those 3 years there is a great deal of development in the brain, it is really those 3 years where children begin to mature into adults (and as I am 24 and still very much child like, hehe, it shows that it could take longer). There is a need for a R18+ classification as it will stop games passing censorship with a MA15 when they should be ranked higher, it will also give the ADULT gamers access to content that is appropriate for them. The gaming market is swamped with games that are toned down to pass censorship, I say let anyone with the ID to buy alcohol, buy a game that is aimed at them

thibbledorfP
thibbledorfP

I was just playing Fallout 3 today and I thought two things: 1) It would be unfair if I was unable to get my hands on this game because of the possibility some kid might get his hands on it. There is no proof video game violence influences people more than tv,radio or books. Adults like me should be able to enjoy whatever game we want to. 2) This really should be 18+, not m15+. The profanity, drug/prostitution issues and intense violence make me think so. Put a 18+ rating in place so adults can enjoy whatever they want, and children are barred from buying them. Is there a possibility some kids might somehow get their hands on it? Yes. But all these politicians and their 'I would do anything to protect our kids' rhetoric is utter nonsense. Kids can get their hands on alcohol, or may watch adult TV shows with nudity and violence. Does this mean we should ban alcohol and TV for everyone? A politician would never say that we should ban beer and TV, especially not in Australia! But because most of the 2.5 children, mortgage-paying, Current Affair-watching, Lowest Common Denominator voters are ignorant of video games; so it can be used as a scapegoat. Before you take away people's civil liberties, you must have real academic real-world evidence that the danger caused by the entertainment source is too great. Don't pretend that you care about children, politicians. You are after votes. You are insulting the integrity of the law-abiding citizens who play games, and the hardworking professionals who create games. Have these politicians ever commissioned academic research on the effect of video games? Have they interviewed video game players or developers to investigate the issue? No. Because when you do research it is HARDER TO LIE. To Atkinson: you wish to ban video games because you have personal family problems regarding video games. Do you know what people who take their personal problems out on society are called? They are called sociopaths. Deal with your own personal issues, they are not OUR issues.

flammable_zeus
flammable_zeus

Atkinson needs to realise that R18+ would be for adults only. Children wouldn't be able to buy them unless employees at stores let them, in which case they would be the people to blame. Adults have a right to view whatever they want. Atkinson needs to stop playing father to people his own age.

xandyg
xandyg

lol SCAG that always cracks me up.

MrFreshPies
MrFreshPies

Just make it R18+, shouldn't even be a debate

jsje1023
jsje1023

It's no different to movies and how long have we had R+ rated movies for? It's time the censorship ministers kept up with the times.

hectadectagon
hectadectagon

Seriously, take a look at the situation and make a decision about how to get this done. Its not even remotely worth figuring out 'why' just get the 'how' tabled so my tax dollars are spent preparing people for what is 'common sense'. Kids shouldn't play 18+ because its... 18 and over. Rocket + Science? No, put label on game cover like we have already E, G, PG, M, MA15+... R18+ exists for videos its nothing new people. Maybe they are trying to figure out how to tax R18+ like they did mixed drinks.

JiM-777
JiM-777

Just give it to us already.

creativeminded
creativeminded

We (Australian Adult Gamers, lets call ourselves AAG) understand the needs of children, however this is the responsibility of parents checking the suitability of a game before buying it for their child just like they do any product they buy. A parent knows what their kids can eat, enjoy, fear, allergies, likes, dislikes and so forth but are unable to read a rating label? this is not an attack on parents, however AAG are tired of taking responsibility for their actions. this is not a need for violence (regardless of Mr Atkinson beliefs) but the principle of choice. If AAG wish to enjoy an entertaining format such as games, then they should receive the game in it's original and intended form (as editing interferes with a designers vision and outright banning costs them money).

damaster101
damaster101

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Scarshi
Scarshi

Bring in ratings, at least those that adhere to it will not willingly give/show/buy an obvious adult game to a minor. Labeling a game will show it for what it is to those responsible. Until then I will still see games like GTA or any obvious horror theme game available to watch or try on their "big screen" in Harvey Norman, EB Games, or wherever, which any little boy or girl can view/play no matter the age. (Oh yes, we all really pay attention to the little kid gawking at the Resident Evil game being played in a store while zombies are getting shot over and over and over. Good thing it's only a "game" eh? Now run along you little scamp, don't get any funny ideas, ok? ... Oh sure, ok, I'll get dad to get it for you for christmas. Hey it's not R rated is it??)

chaoscougar1
chaoscougar1

its funny how its never the parents fault for letting their child play the actual game, they are rated that way for a reason and when the R18+ rating comes into effect (i really hope it does) maybe the games with this rating wont be so easily played by children. Parents may actually look at the rating (cause R18 seems to be a big step from MA 15+) and actually take responsibility for what their children, instead of blaming the game for what their children see

muzza93
muzza93

@ gameking5000 you think just because you don't like R18+ games so no one should have them? If you don't want them don't buy them, and let the people who want them get them, oh and by the way im addicted to stimpacks bahhhhhhhh

An-Archist
An-Archist

Good luck I say, if it goes our way(the gamers) then we will see a R18+ rating which means we will see unspoiled classics:)

BLAU_the_Pwnr
BLAU_the_Pwnr

I wish people would stop saying, "oh they're crap games anyway" or "it's just sex and drugs". It is not about that it is about how the attorney generals make the decision on whether things are too bad for us to see. If someone has sex on television thats fine (e.g the whole series of Californication) but if someone does the same thing on games that is apparently not what WE think is appropriate. Mr Atkinson complains that children will get the games if we allow this, but the children that are able to get the games are willing to simply use piracy and play them anyway. The other angle he pushes is how interactivity creates violence. If this is so why aren't the millions of people that bought all the different games including violence committing these so called acts of violence. If you even look at the studys made to investigate the violence problems they say that it doesn't induce violence. The solution is as simple as give us the R18+ rating system and the people that disagree with it don't have to buy the games, play them,look at them or even think about them. Meanwhile everyone else can decide for themselves what they want to do.

Heretix_Aevum
Heretix_Aevum

@ minimme. It's not that we are getting things removed as much(while that is a big part of it) it's the principle. We are being denied our rights. And some games are being banned outright, so we never get them! Surely you're not condoning that!?

cyw1988
cyw1988

I'd say either ban the games or put them at a restricted rating. Cutting off footage is just a no. Not only do end up messing with the game but messing with the game shops too. They end up bringing in material that will not sell cause people just get the full game overseas anyway.

splodge200
splodge200

in some cases yes. in my case i do not wish to be told whats appropriate for me to see in a video game. and sometimes games realy do suffer for instance dark sector. the main gimmick of the game was to throw this "glave" and dismember foes. all aus got was a game without its main selling point. was boring and the game suffered for it. i also agree that with gta and fallout it didnt matter. but the big picture is that we are being told what we can and cant do. and as an adult i feel i have the responsibility to make that choice for myself. and for someone to vote against it? u dont want to see that stuff? dont buy it! but dont hinder others.

minimme
minimme

what the hell, we are missing out on sex in gta, drug names in fallout. IS IT REALLY THAT BAD?! They just get re-submitted anyway with slight changes that hardly effect the game at all.

gameking5000
gameking5000

@rockatanski Our decision's will greatly impact theirs and may change theirs to. Also who says that everyone supports an R18+ rating. I don't

gameking5000
gameking5000

Good, pleased to know. Now I can vote against a R18+ rating and I hope everyone else in this country does to.

hotfiree
hotfiree

Im hoping this comes in before GOW3 ( god not gears ) comes out i dont want them to cut back on that

Payback7
Payback7

@Inconnux - well spoken mate. Good to hear there are parents out there that take responsibility for their kids and don't blame everyone and everything else. By not bringing out an R18+ rating is actually a worse idea I believe. Think about it, a game gets banned cause it's not suitable for children. The game is slightly modified to JUST pass the OFLC standards. The very children 'they' were trying to protect can now legally buy the game. Seems pretty stupid to me.

pretzelmeister
pretzelmeister

"We don't really need a R18+ classification, the OFLC can just raise the bar on what is or isnt allowed in MA15+ games." What's the point of that? The whole purpose of not having an R18+ rating is to stop exceedingly graphic/sexual/violent games from being sold. If they raise the bar it defeats the purpose of an MA15+ rating in the first place.

008Zulu
008Zulu

We don't really need a R18+ classification, the OFLC can just raise the bar on what is or isnt allowed in MA15+ games.

rockatanski
rockatanski

This is just another son of a dogs balls delay. Why bother listening to us when THEY are going to be the ones that decide the R18+ in the end anyway? They KNOW what the gaming community feels about the issue, so what the hell kind of a stunt is this? Have any of these ministers come to these gamespot forums and seen what gamers feel about Mr Atkinson and his moronic dumb stance on the issue? WE WANT R18+ you fools! Stop wasting tax payers money by hanging around and waiting for nothing! This is beginning to look like some kind of strange rort.

Inconnux
Inconnux

I lived in Australia in the 80's as a teenager and I don't remember Australia being that conservative... actually they were culturally far more liberal. Funny how times have changed. On a personal note, and as a parent of two kids, this law would mean NOTHING to me. When my kids want a game, then I investigate it and make a decision... in other words I act as a parent! I don't need a nanny state to do my job. This is the #1 problem with society... they expect the state to do what they are too lazy to do.

TurambarGS
TurambarGS

At last. Still, at the end of the day it's going back to Aktinson and the other AG's to make any changes. Let's just hope that the submissions in favour of adding the R18+ rating are overwhelming.

jaredrichards3
jaredrichards3

please ministers, understand that most gamers are over 18 years of age and we should be able to have R18+ games.

Mattyrock
Mattyrock

Finally, hopefully this debate will put the ministers (especially Atkinson) in their place.

raptor1906
raptor1906

This is just rediculous, if a game was really that violent, but an underage person can handle playing it without falling off their chair then they are capable/mature enough of handling that violence. Such violence could only cause trouble if the user is afraid and constantly in shock of fear. I dont think theres a difference between a 15 and an 18 year old in terms of handling violence. I remember i was playing a game called Delta force land warrior when i was 7. It was a M15+ game but i cant even remember what it was that freaked me out. Do you really think any underage kids would persist on playing games that would constantly make them jump in fear?

johnnyauau
johnnyauau

Well his delay has cost some games to be banned and cut while we wait for the discussion paper. Michael Atkinson sure sits in his office drinking wine and thinking he's smarter than everybody. I hope that anymore delay to the ridiculous R18+ rating issue would not end up screwing anymore games into saying "All R18+ is toned down to MA15+ period". I already know that compare to movies, I don't think there's even like a ten year old playing an adult game or even watching a porno movie (just kidding!). So how do kids get adult games and movies I have no idea. That's just my opinion. Anyway, I don't know the population of Australia but I do believe the R18+ will resolve the issue right from the start. No more "games for kids" "parents are idiots" "OFLC decides what content needs to be cut and banned" and all those cliches and philosophy about games influencing kids to become serial killers. Like UK cutting out Bruce Lee nunchaku action in all of Bruce Lee movies though I do respect a kung fu legend. Well who could forget Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Jet Li. For women I'd say is Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock and Cynthia Khan (In the line of duty). Not speaking out of term but at least I could give credit for the revolution of how Hong Kong action changes Hollywood action.

scrunt15
scrunt15

halofreak34 if i understand this your trying to say everyone in australia is just a big bunch of sissies because of our stupid rating system then your an idiot

halofreak34
halofreak34

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