Aussie Games Classification FAQ

Everything you need to know about video game classification in Australia.

Comments

For GameSpot AU's previous coverage on the R18+ issue, click here!

If you're an Australian and you're a gamer, then you're probably already aware that game classification in this country has some problems; namely, that the lack of an R18+ rating means any title deemed unsuitable for anyone under the age of 15 is refused classification, which effectively bans that game from sale. But do you know why Australia doesn't have an R18+ rating? Who's to blame? Why do we need an adult rating for games? What do the opponents of an R18+ say? And what can you do about it? This GameSpot AU feature aims to answer all your questions, and more.

The classification of video games in Australia is a complicated process. The Classification Board, made up of members representing a cross-section of the community, is charged with the task of viewing and classifying video games according to a set of guidelines laid down by the Federal Government. Unfortunately, these guidelines are outdated. The interpretation of these guidelines leads the Classification Board to often-inconsistent classification decisions and, coupled with the absence of an R18+ classification for video games, results in the banning of an average of five games per year in Australia.

In this GameSpot AU hub, you'll find all your classification questions answered, as well as a comprehensive guide to all the GameSpot AU coverage on video game classification in Australia.

1. Why is there no R18+ classification for video games in Australia? | 2. Why do we need an R18+ in Australia? | 3. Why do some people oppose the introduction of an R18+ classification in Australia? | 4. Who is responsible for classifying video games in Australia? | 5. Who serves on the Classification Board? | 6. How are video games classified in Australia? | 7. How many games have been banned in Australia to date? | 8. How are we different from the rest of the world? | 9. What is the public consultation into the R18+ classification for video games in Australia? | 10. When will the public consultation go ahead? | 11. How can I get involved in the public consultation process? | 12. What will happen after the public consultation? | 13. Who is responsible for introducing the R18+ classification for video games in Australia? | 14. What role has South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson played in the classification of video games in Australia? | 15. Is Atkinson the only Attorney-General who opposed the introduction of the R18+ classification for video games in Australia? | 16. Who is to blame for all this? | 17. Is anyone else doing anything about this? | 18. How can I get involved? | 19. Where can I find out more?

No Caption Provided
Manhunt 2 is just one game which has been banned in Australia.

Q: Why is there no R18+ classification for video games in Australia?


A: Under the Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995, the different types of classification for computer games are G (General), PG (Parental Guidance), M (Mature), MA15+ (Mature Accompanied), and RC (Refused Classification). Although the Act has been reviewed several times since 1995, an R18+ classification for video games has not been added. In order for the R18+ classification to be added to the Act, all state, territory and federal Attorneys-General must unanimously agree to its introduction. To date, this has not happened.

Q: Why do we need an R18+ in Australia?


A: Australia is the only developed country without an R18+ classification for video games. The reason we need this classification is so video games can be more accurately classified by the Classification Board of Australia. Without an R18+ classification, there is a wider margin for error regarding games with contentious content; for example, games that should be classified in the R18+ category are sometimes classified in the MA15+ category, while games that should be classified MA15+ are sometimes refused classification. The introduction of an R18+ classification will also help parents make better and more informed decision when purchasing games for their children. Introducing an R18+ rating for games will also bring it in line with other forms of media, such as films or DVDs. And finally--and it's an important point--adults in Australia should have the right to make informed purchases of mature games content.

Q: Why do some people oppose the introduction of an R18+ classification in Australia?


A: The main arguments against the introduction of an R18+ classification in Australia centre on the interactive nature of games in comparison to other forms of classifiable media like films and publications and their affect on children and vulnerable adults. It is believed by some Attorneys-General that video games have more impact than films or publications due to their interactive nature, and therefore video games with contentious content such as those that would be rated R18+ would cause a significant amount of harm to those who play them. It is also argued that there is a lack of enforcement of contentious content in the home, and that if an R18+ for games were introduced, those under the age of 18 would be able to access them without difficulty by circumnavigating parental locks, etc.

Q: Who is responsible for classifying video games in Australia?


A: The Australian Classification Board. This is the statutory body which is part of Federal Attorney-General’s Department that includes the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board. Its previous title was The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC)--this changed upon its integration into the Federal Attorney-General’s Department.

No Caption Provided
Left 4 Dead 2's violence had to be toned down for its Aussie release.

Q: Who serves on the Classification Board?


A: The members of the Classification Board are chosen to be “broadly representative of the Australian community”, according to the Board’s website. Board members are not required to hold any specific qualifications, but they must meet certain selection criteria. Members are appointed by the Australian Governor-General and usually serve a term of three years on the Board. No member is allowed to serve for more than seven years. The current list of Board members is here.

Q: How are video games classified in Australia?


A: Classification decisions are made by the Classification Board of Australia in accordance with the Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995. An application for classification of a video game must be made in writing, approved by the Board’s director and must be accompanied by a copy of the game or, in the case of an expansion pack or downloadable content, must be accompanied by the additional content. If any part of the video game is likely to be regarded as contentious material, the application must also be accompanied by the particulars of the material and a separate recording of the material in the game. The Board will then make its classification decisions after reviewing all documents and material submitted with the application.

Q: How many games have been banned in Australia to date?


A: There have been more than 30 games which have been refused classification in Australia. This number includes games that were originally banned and then re-submitted with changes and re-classified. The list is: 7 Sins, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, Aliens vs Predator, Blitz: The League, BMX XXX, Crimecraft, Dark Sector, Dreamweb, Fallout 3, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Left 4 Dead 2, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, Mark Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, Manhunt, NARC, Necrovision, Postal 2, Phantasmagoria, Reservoir Dogs, Risen, Sexy Poker, Shellshock: Nam ’67, Shellshock 2: Blood Trails, Silent Hill: Homecoming, Singles: Flirt Up Your Life, Soldier of Fortune: Payback, Tender Loving Care, The Punisher, Voyeur.

Q: What is the public consultation into the R18+ classification for video games in Australia?


A: In March 2008, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) announced that it would be asking the public for its opinion on the R18+ classification for video games in Australia. A discussion paper was drawn up to seek public opinion submissions on the issue; the paper includes an overview of the relevant research and literature and a proposal to amend the classification guidelines.

Q: When will the public consultation go ahead?


A: The discussion paper on the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia was due for release before the end of 2008, but suffered setbacks and changes proposed by South-Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. After state, territory and federal Attorneys-General failed to come to a unanimous decision regarding changes to the paper in April 2009, the discussion paper was moved into the hands of the Federal Minister for Home Affairs and was given a proposed deadline of July 31, 2009. Following a cabinet re-shuffle, the paper was delayed once again. But recently, the Federal Attorney-General finally released the public consultation paper, and is now asking for all Australian's views on the R18+ debate.

No Caption Provided
It's not just violence that'll get a game banned in Australia. Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure was banned because of graffiti.

Q: How can I get involved in the public consultation process?


A: First of all, visit the Federal Attorney General's website, which contains all of the information you'll need. There are two documents you'll need to grab--one is a discussion paper that outlines the pros and cons of the debate, and the second is a questionnaire which you'll need to fill out and return to the Attorney General's Department either via e-mail, mail, or fax.

Remember, the public consultation process ends on February 28, 2010, so you'll need to make sure your form is submitted before then.

Q: What will happen after the public consultation?


A: Once the public consultation ends, the Federal Government will review the consultation. However, the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games will still require the unanimous support of all state, territory and federal Attorneys-General.

Q: Who is responsible for introducing the R18+ classification for video games in Australia?


A: State, territory and federal Attorneys-General. They must all agree to introduce the R18+ classification before this can happen. In effect, ordinary Australians can't directly “vote” for the introduction of an R18+ rating.

Q: What role has South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson played in the classification of video games in Australia?


A: Michael Atkinson has been a vocal opponent of the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia. His main arguments centre around the interactive nature of video games and the idea that video games likely to be classified R18+ would cause harm to children and vulnerable adults if allowed into Australia. Atkinson has publicly stated his position in the South Australian Parliament as well as in interviews with gaming publications. He has publicly answered numerous letters from gamers outlining his reasons for opposing the introduction of R18+ for video games.

Q: Is Atkinson the only Attorney-General who opposes the introduction of the R18+ classification for video games in Australia?


A: No. Atkinson has explicitly stated he is not the only Attorney-General who opposes R18+ for video games in Australia. Although other Attorneys-General refuse to indicate their position on the subject, only Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls and the ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell have publicly stated they support the introduction of R18+ for video games in Australia.

Q: Who is to blame for all this?


A: There is no one to blame for the lack of an R18+ classification for video games and the sometimes-inconsistent classification decisions of video games in Australia. The Classification Board of Australia makes classification decisions based on the guidelines set out in the Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995, while South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson is not alone in his stance against the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia. All state, territory and federal Attorneys-General must agree before the classification guidelines can be amended and updated to include an R18+ classification for video games. All Australians can do it wait for the public consultation, give their honest opinions on the subject, and continue to raise awareness in the community through intelligent debate and discussion.

No Caption Provided
Games Like GTA: San Andreas have been released, banned, and then re-released in Australia.

Q: Is anyone else doing anything about this?


A: Yes. There are a number of websites run by Australian gamers dedicated to the spread of information and the fight for an R18+ classification for video games. Here is a list of the most prominent sites where you can find out more information or get involved:

http://everyoneplays.org.au/
http://www.gamers4croydon.org/
http://www.refused-classification.com/
http://www.r18games.com.au
http://r18games.com

Q: How can I get involved?


A: The way forward is through organised and civilised discussion. Petitions, formal letters to members of Parliament and raising awareness among the community are all good ways to get involved in the debate. There is a need for more intelligent debate in the gaming community as well as outside before things can move forward. Angry letters, profanities and death threats will only serve to show those in power that Australia does not deserve an R18+ for video games.

Q: Where can I find out more?


A: GameSpot AU has compiled a classification hub where you can find all our articles, interviews and news stories about classification in Australia. Click through to the next page.

Click on the Next Page link to see the rest of the feature!

Want to know more? Here's a comprehensive list of stories GameSpot AU has written in recent years to go through. If you want to go back to the first page of the feature, click here.

Previous Stories

GAME petition signs record R18+ response
Retailer's in-store petition collects 89,210 signatures in favour of R18+ for games; eclipses 2005 Work Choices online petition.

Greens hit pause on Aussie R18+ push
Greens decide against tabling a private member's bill for R18+ for games in Australia; want to avoid "pushing people back into a confrontational position".

"Silent majority" views needed on Aussie R18+: Minister
Strength of argument and not just weight of numbers need to be considered before introduction of adult ratings for games, federal government says.

Deadly Premonition DOA down under?
Publisher voluntarily decides to not release horror game in Australia; local censor board says game was never submitted for classification.

I Game and I Vote
The three major political parties share their views on gaming issues ahead of the 2010 Federal Election.

Strong gamer response caused Aussie R18+ setback
Dominant response from "interest groups" reason for lack of movement on adult rating for games; Federal Home Affairs Minister says government seeking "other legitimate views."

Aussie government report into R18+ detailed
We take an in-depth look at the recently released preliminary report into the results of the Australian R18+ public consultation.

EA hits back over R18+ for games
EA Games president Frank Gibeau criticizes the Australian government for its outdated policies on classification; says lack of R18+ is creating hostile environment for local developers.

Aussie R18+ on agenda at next attorneys-general meeting
Federal Attorney-General's Department confirms R18+ for games Down Under will be discussed in May meeting; public consultation findings to be tabled.

New SA attorney-general denies pro-R18+ stance
John Rau says he has "no preconceptions" about an adult classification for games in Australia; intends to listen to arguments both for and against.

Atkinson successor chosen within two weeks
New South Australian attorney-general to replace anti-game activist Michael Atkinson to be decided "in a week or two"; Atkinson quit front bench post to "spend more time with his family."

Atkinson quits as SA attorney-general; wins Croydon election
UPDATE: South Australian attorney-general and vocal anti-game advocate retains seat in state election; quits government front bench. Gamers4Croydon polls 3.6 percent of electorate vote.

Gamers4Croydon staying "positive" on unseating Atkinson at election
Fledgling political party to have presence at close to 20 polling booths for the South Australian state election; founder urges gamers to get out and vote.

Game developers on R18+ games for Australia
GameSpot AU chats with Aliens vs. Predator producer Paul Mackman and devs from Electronic Arts about having games banned Down Under and the way forward for R18+.

Anti-R18+ site urges people to stop "discussing" issue
Anti-R18+ site claims interactive nature of violent games makes them harmful to those who consume them; urges readers to vote against R18+ in Aussie public discussion paper.

Group collects over 16,000 pro-R18+ responses
Grow Up Australia and EB Games collaboration nets large response to Aussie R18+ public consultation.

Major Aussie game retailers willing to adapt for R18+ classification
EB Games, GAME, and Gametraders say they are prepared to accept restrictions on how to display and merchandise adult content.

Aussie censorship ministers remain quiet on R18+
Only one Australian Attorney-General publicly states support for introduction of R18+ rating for games; others remain noncommittal.

Aussie minor parties show support for R18+
The Greens, the Australian Sex Party, and the Pirate Party profess support for R18+; Coalition says it will watch Michael Atkinson's movements "with interest."

Aussie R18+ consultation to end on Sunday
Only two days left before submissions into government survey about R18+ closes; readers urged to make their opinions known.

Aussie's heavily pro-R18+ in consultation
Only 1 percent of processed responses to government survey against an adult rating for games; more than 6,000 responses received in total so far.

Australian Christian Lobby's Jim Wallace on R18+ games for Australia
The head of the Australian Christian Lobby discusses training to kill, why they oppose an R18+ rating for games, and why the public consultation is "nonsense."

Government stays silent on R18+ response
Australian federal government remains noncommittal on effects of R18+ discussion paper; says public view will merely "inform [the] decision" on R18+ for games.

Analyst writes off Gamers4Croydon's chances
ABC's Antony Green believes R18+ for games issue will be "insignificant" in upcoming South Australian election; says most voters will rely on gut instinct at polls and vote pro-censorship.

Aussie pro-R18+ groups profiled
We examine the big pro-R18+ groups down under to see what separates them from each other and to see how you can get involved.

Atkinson slams Gamers4Croydon
South Australian Attorney General says lack of graphic game images in public discussion paper will result in "overwhelming response in support of R18+"; hints that his stance could change if gaming community engages in civilised debate.

Atkinson won't surrender anti R18+ fight
South Australian Attorney-General says lack of graphic game images in public discussion paper will result in "overwhelming response in support of R18+"; hints that his stance could change if gaming community engages in civilised debate.

Sydney gamers take to the streets over R18+
A group of Sydney residents set out to inform the nongaming community about the issues surrounding Australia's classification system.

Indie developer takes aim at Australia's classification system
Ban This Game offers a satirical look at one of the Aussie game industry's most pressing issues.

Aliens vs. Predator unbanned in Australia
Classification Review Board overturns initial ban due to violent content in Sega, Rebellion's actioner; game will be released down under with no changes.

Aliens vs. Predator banned in Australia
Sega and Rebellion's xenomorph-versus-hunter-versus-marines reboot refused classification down under; censor cites explicit violence.

Modern Warfare 2 classification appealed in Australia
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson says game allows players to be "virtual terrorists;" Classification Board says no appeal has been received to date.

Left 4 Dead 2 classified down under
Modified version of L4D 2 takes out decapitation, dismemberments; Valve and EA still hoping to get unedited version of game passed for sale in Australia.

Valve to resubmit two versions of L4D 2 to Aussie censors
Two-pronged strategy to get Left 4 Dead 2 into Australia; Valve says releasing unmodified version is its preference. Valve calls Classification Board L4D2 ruling "inconsistent."

Left 4 Dead 2 banned in Australia
Aussie Classification Board cites "realistic, frenetic and unrelenting violence" as cause for antipodean zombie game ban.

Features

Censory Overload
This in-depth feature tracks the history of games classification in Australia, how the system has evolved to the situation we have now, and what game developers around the world have to say. Everything you need to know about classification in Australia is in this feature.

Playing By The Rules: Classifying Online Video Games In Australia
Want to know why primarily online games in Australia don't have classification ratings? This feature finds out why.

Player Profile: The Face of Australian Gaming
So is it true only children play video games in Australia? The latest study from the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association certainly doesn't think so, and this feature finds out exactly who is playing games in this country.

Federal And State Government Stories

Aussies asked to voice opinion on R18+
Long-heralded public consultation process on whether Australia should introduce an adult rating for games commences; Federal Government releases discussion paper discussing pros and cons of the debate.

Exclusive: Michael Atkinson talks Aussie game classification
South Australian attorney general says he is not the only classification minister to oppose R18+ classification; lauds current system's ability to "encourage modification."

Australian Censorship Ministers speak out on R18+
Victorian and ACT attorneys general say they support R18+; others admit no position.

No Caption Provided
Aliens vs. Predator is the latest game to feel the wrath of the Australian Classification Board.

Public feedback on proposed Aussie R18+ debate detailed
Bob Debus' department releases information about the upcoming discussion paper on R18+; intended closing date for consultation is July 31, 2009.

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.

Aussie R18+ public debate still waiting on Atkinson
South Australian attorney general yet to make proposed "minor" changes to R18+ public consultation discussion paper.

Aussie R18+ public consultation goes ahead
Australian Censorship Ministers agree to release public discussion paper on introduction of R18+ for games before the end of the year.

Videos

Exclusive video interview: South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson on why he opposes R18+
Hear it direct from Atkinson himself on why he doesn't think an adult classification for video games should be introduced down under.

Crosshairs presents: How NOT To Get Your Game Banned In Australia
The GameSpot AU crew has come up with a few helpful tips to help game developers not get their games refused classification in Australia.

Crosshairs presents: Dear Atkinson
In this episode of Crosshairs we provide some tips on the best ways NOT to write a letter to South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson.

Recent Banned And Censored Games

Aliens vs. Predator banned in Australia
Sega and Rebellion's xenomorph-versus-hunter-versus-marines reboot refused classification down under; censor cites explicit violence.

CrimeCraft rubbed out in Australia
In-game drug use that gives players rewards sees gang-based MMOG banned down under.

No Caption Provided
Fallout 3 did initially get banned, but not for violence.

Modern Warfare 2 classification appealed in Australia
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson says game allows players to be "virtual terrorists;" Classification Board says no appeal has been received to date.

Aussie censor board explains L4D2 banning
Full Review Board report shows violence main factor behind the denial of the Left 4 Dead 2 appeal; delineation between humans, zombies, and infected deemed "irrelevant."

Valve to resubmit two versions of L4D 2 to Aussie censors
Two-pronged strategy to get Left 4 Dead 2 into Australia; Valve says releasing unmodified version is its preference. UPDATE: Valve calls Classification Board L4D2 ruling "inconsistent."

WOW receives belated Aussie rating
Blizzard's MMO game finally gets an M rating in Australia after five years without a local classification.

Left 4 Dead 2 classified down under
Modified version of L4D 2 takes out decapitation, dismemberments; Valve and EA still hoping to get unedited version of game passed for sale in Australia.

Risen banned down under
Drug and sex-incentive gameplay causes Australian ban of fantasy RPG.

Necrovision banned in Australia
WWI-era supernatural shooter shot down in Australia due to excessive violence, according to Classification Board statement.

Sexy Poker folds in Australia
WiiWare strip poker game banned down under for reward-based nudity.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

  •   View Comments (0)
    Join the conversation
    There are no comments about this story