Today, Australia officially introduced an adult classification for video games, allowing R18+ rated games to be sold at a national level.
The introduction of R18+ for games in Australia comes after more than ten years of lobbying involving various states and territories, the local video game industry, and consumers from all over the country.
However, now that R18+ for games is finally here, a few questions remain unanswered.
In this special New Year's Day feature, GameSpot AU clears up any remaining confusion surrounding the introduction of R18+ for games in Australia.
So, R18+ for games is now officially here. But what does that mean?
The R18+ legislation is officially introduced today, January 1. This means that the Classification Board of Australia can now legally classify games as R18+, and these games can be legally sold and displayed at a federal level.
So what does "federal level" actually mean? Does my state qualify for R18+ games?
While the legislation for R18+ for games has been passed and enacted at a federal level, each state and territory is responsible for passing complementary legislation that will dictate how R18+ games are displayed and how the adult classification for games is enforced.
The ACT was the first Australian territory to officially pass the R18+ legislation. South Australia, NSW, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory have also officially passed the R18+ legislation.
Queensland remains the only state in Australia to not have passed the complimentary R18+ legislation. Earlier this year, the Queensland government specifically stated that it will not sell R18+ games from January 1 but instead await the result of a Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee report--due to be released on February 7, 2013--before debating the R18+ legislation in parliament and officially amending the state's law to include an R18+ classification for video games.
This means that R18+ games will still be illegal in Queensland from January 1, 2013, until that time when the R18+ legislation has officially passed through the state's parliament and the law amended accordingly to include an adult classification for video games.
If I live in Queensland, does that mean I'll miss out on R18+ games?
The R18+ legislation will most likely pass through the Queensland parliament by the end of February. It is unlikely that the Classification Board of Australia will rate a video game as R18+ before that happens.
What about the games that have been refused classification in Australia in the past? Does it mean games like Mortal Kombat will be re-released with an R18+ rating?
Not necessarily. The Classification Board must wait two years before it can re-classify a title. This means it is up to individual video game publishers to decide whether or not to re-submit a game for re-classification after the two year period has passed. So, for example, Warner Bros. may not choose to re-submit Mortal Kombat for re-classification since re-releasing a game two years after its original release may not be deemed profitable.
The Classification Board may also re-classify a game if a federal minister requests this to be done.
What about MA15+ rated games? Will some of them be re-classified as R18+?
Again, a two-year waiting period applies for all game re-classifications. Titles currently rated MA15+ in Australia may be re-submitted for classification to the Classification Board by the relevant publisher or at the request of a federal minister.
So what will be the first game to be classified R18+ in Australia?
It can either be a new game that is submitted for classification to the Classification Board on or after today, January 1, 2013 or a game that is re-submitted for classification (after the two year waiting period has elapsed) by either the publisher of said game, or after a request from a federal minister.
Does this mean Australia is finally in step with other countries in having an adult classification for games?
How will this affect the future of video game classification in this country?
For this one, we're kicking it over to Ron Curry, the CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA).
"Naturally, after ten years of lobbying, we are very pleased that January 1 will see the introduction of an R18+ classification," Curry says. "We are weary though of how the revised guidelines will be interpreted and if we are really getting an R18+ category, or just a movement of MA15+ into higher level of classification. Initially, we expect the Classification Board to be a little cautious in how they apply the new guidelines, so we may need to wait some time to see how the dust settles on this."
"Having an R18+ also means that we can now turn our focus on the much larger problem of classification in general in Australia. iGEA contributed to the recent ALRC Review of the National Classification Scheme and we look forward to working with the government to establish a truly modern classification scheme that is flexible and nimble enough to inform parents and care givers, reflect the real concerns of the public and is designed to keep up with rapid changes in content and content delivery."