2009 was a bumper year in Australia for the refused classification stamp and saw some six games banned. CrimeCraft, Risen, Necrovision, Sexy Poker, Left 4 Dead 2, and Aliens vs. Predator were all turned back at the border, though the latter four bans were eventually either overturned by appeal or reclassified after voluntary edits were made. But how do developers feel about the current Aussie rating regime, and what impact does it have on their business? GameSpot AU spoke with Rebellion producer Paul Mackman and spokespeople from Electronic Arts to hear their thoughts on the importance of game classification Down Under and the hurdles associated with it.
After AVP was initially refused classification late last year in Australia, Rebellion made headlines when it announced that it would not tone down content to suit the maximum MA15+ rating. The studio said it was “disappointed that its upcoming title Aliens vs. Predator [had] been banned in Australia however, as we understand the law in that country, the authorities had no choice as we agree strongly that our game is not suitable for game players who are not adults."
Despite offering such a strongly worded statement at the time of the ban, when asked recently by GameSpot if other developers should take a similar stance against modifying their games for the region, Mackman responded: "This was important to us and something Sega agreed with, and I think they handled the appeal process very well. It reached a successful result and you guys get to play the game and that's the important thing. The politics aside, [it’s] really not for me to comment on."
Asked how he felt as a developer about the initial refused classification ruling of the game in our region, Mackman said Rebellion was happy with the eventual outcome. "We’re really pleased there’s an Australian release. There's the sales issue there, but we're really pleased Aussies [have] the chance to play the game. We're very passionate about it, we're very pleased about it, and the more people that get their hands on it and have fun with it the better."
Accuracy to the film source material was the development team’s biggest priority. "It was key to us to maintain the game's integrity, to maintain its faithfulness to the licence, and it's fair to say these are fiendish monsters from outer space and they do commit violent acts. Those are all represented in the films, so I don't think we would be true to the licence if we didn't portray that," he said.
Electronic Arts has largely avoided clashes between its products and the Aussie rating body; however, the distribution of Valve’s Left 4 Dead 2 saw the game banned, appealed, resubmitted, and edited for Australian release. The megapublisher weighed in on the issue, supplying GameSpot AU with a statement supporting the introduction of an R18+ rating for games.
"Government policies that refuse to rate mature content effectively censor the content that adult players want to play. This shows a poor understanding of exactly who plays interactive games in Australia. The spectrum of gamers is as wide as the viewership of television, movies, theatre, and the readers of books. Our government doesn’t insist that all books be written for children, or that all television shows be cartoons. Adult gamers want the government to treat them with the same respect they get as moviegoers and book readers. Adult Australians should be allowed to play games with mature themes," the statement outlined.
"A government policy that keeps our games out of stores and forces developers to rewrite code is censorship. Age rating systems are designed to help people make appropriate content choices for the right age groups.
"We welcome the government review to introduce an 18+ rating for games--it's the right step for consumers and the industry in Australia."
For more information on classification and how you can be involved, check out GameSpot AU's Aussie Games Classification FAQ feature.