National review calls for voluntary game ratings in Australia

Australian Law Reform Commission proposes only games with MA15+ content or above to be classified by government; suggests all classification ratings to become consistent across all forms of media.

The first comprehensive review of Australia's classification laws since 1991 has recommended only games with MA15+ content or above should be classified by the government.

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) Classification-Content Regulation and Convergent Media report--commissioned late last year by Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland with the aim to reform Australia's classification laws in light of recent technological changes, media convergence, and the global distribution platforms of media content--was released in its final form last week and will now be submitted to the Australian federal government for consideration.

A review into Australia's classification system has officially recommended voluntary classification of all games likely to be rated under MA15+.

The report reiterated an earlier draft recommendation that only video games "produced on a commercial basis and likely to be MA15+ or higher" should be referred to the Classification Board for classification.

However, despite an earlier suggestion by ALRC review chairman Terry Flew that the current M category be replaced with the more age-specific T13+ (teen) category across all media, including video games, the final ALRC report does not recommend such a change.

"We're not proposing changes to the class categories themselves because there was significant opposition to the new categories we proposed," Flew told GameSpot AU. "The existing categories have only been in place for a while, and it was agreed that the existing classification categories are well understood in the community and that further research needed to be done before putting in new categories."

The ALRC report recommends a similar version of the framework it outlined in its discussion paper, released in September last year, including that content providers such as video game publishers should be allowed to classify lower-level games voluntarily using authorized industry classifiers. According to the ALRC, the rationale for this proposal stems from the high cost of classifying and regulating content, as well as the number of games released each year.

The report also called for the introduction of common classification categories--G, PG, M, MA 15+, R18+, X18+, and Prohibited--for application across all classified media content, as well as more regulatory powers for industry bodies such as the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA).

"Simply put, we could be looking at more input from the games industry when it comes to the classification of video games, if the government takes on board the recommendations of this final ALRC review," Flew said.

The report also recommended looking at international classification systems, such as the ESRB in the US and PEGI in the UK in regards to redeveloping Australia's own classification scheme in the area of video games, as well as recommended that classification should become a commonwealth responsibility (in contrast to the current classification system, which is the responsibility of the Australian states and territories).

The full report can be found here.

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Discussion

11 comments
eBentl
eBentl

@Lhomity Well I feel like a dick now, seemed rather odd but I had presumed the Federal government would simply be referred to as such. Anyways I think the idea of only having MA15/R18 games rated by the government is a good one though seems kinda tricky to implement. I'm just glad we're finally getting an R18+ rating.

brok
brok

Well I hope they go back to that outline rating design dvds had in the 00's- the current garish colour coded massive boxes look terrible.

namdar
namdar

I see you played knifey spoon before

selbie
selbie

Just hurry it up already!

Lordcrabfood
Lordcrabfood

@zaprct @eBentl LOL, are you clowns serious?? I have not laughed so hard in ages!!!!

Lhomity
Lhomity

@zaprct @eBentl Its referring to the "Commonwealth of Australia", not the Commonwealth empire. In other words, recommending that the classifications should be a Federal responsibility, not of the individual states and territories. I found the misunderstandings amusing though. Hehe. Robert McClelland is out of the cabinet now, so this is probably not going to go anywhere. Certainly not any time soon. I don't care either way for classifications in general, but do wish they would hurry up with the 18+ rating for games. Nothing is likely to pass the upper house, let alone the senate, at any time this year unless its co-signed by the Greens, which pretty much renders the government useless. Libs aren't much better than the ALP, but at least with Libs in government, we don't have to put up with the Greens, who to date, have never found a niche they can't exploit or bandwagon for a few votes.

zaprct
zaprct

@eBenti, seems that way. They go from talking about voluntary classification i.e. "We're too lazy to classify, let the publisher do it" to completely washing their hands of the duty by getting (presumably) the UK to do it for the Commonwealth.

sortajan
sortajan

It's pretty ironic that with all of the horrifying things that can kill you in Australia they'd censor the piss out of video games.

eBentl
eBentl

Why on Earth would we give classification powers to the Commonwealth, surely we're capable of making our own decisions as a nation, is the government really that lazy?

johnnyauau
johnnyauau

I'm happy for the progress but I do wish it's not time consuming. Since Michael Atkinson left office, things were slowly moving in the right direction. I also remember the news that Philip Ruddock (if that is his name) forced changes slightly earlier to coincide with today standards when the attorneys take too long in their decision. Anyway, if any fail in their word, then I'll choose to stay with the Greens until they finally implement the changes and not become too much of a nanny state.

The_Bones
The_Bones

I'd hate to live in Australia.