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.

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It has been a bad year for Australian gamers when it comes to censorship. Just last week, the upcoming action game Aliens vs. Predator was banned for sale due to its violent nature, with other titles to feel the wrath of the Australian Classification Board in 2009 including the modified Left 4 Dead 2, CrimeCraft, Risen, Necrovision, and Sexy Poker. But after close to 12 months of woe, Aussie gamers will finally be able to voice their opinion directly to the government, with a long-awaited public consultation launched today by the Federal Attorney-General's Department.

The public consultation--which was first announced in April this year--is asking for Australians' opinions on whether the country should introduce an adult R18+ rating for games. Currently, any game deemed by the Classification Board to contain content which is unsuitable for anyone under the age of 15 is refused classification, effectively banning it for sale Down Under. Australians are being asked to download a form from the Federal -General's Web site and fill out a questionnaire outlining their views on the R18+ issue.

The Federal Attorney-General's Department has also released a discussion paper outlining the key arguments for and against an adult game rating for Australia. Some of the key arguments against an R18+ outlined in the discussion paper include that computer games should be treated differently from films given the specific, negative effects of interactivity on players; that parents would face difficulty in enforcing age restrictions for computer games; that minors would be more likely to be exposed to computer games that are unsuitable for them; that an R18+ rating would exacerbate problems associated with access to high-level material in indigenous communities and by other non-English-speaking people; and that there is no demonstrated need to change existing restrictions.

On the pro-R18+ side, arguments contained in the paper include that the R18+ classification category sends a clear, unambiguous message to parents that the game material is unsuitable for minors; that consistent classification categories for films and computer games are easier to understand; that a new classification will supplement technological controls on minors’ access to age-inappropriate computer games; that adults should not be prevented from playing R18+ computer games simply because they are unsuitable for minors; that comparable international classification systems have an adult rating for computer games; and finally, that adults are already able to access restricted games by purchasing or playing them online and that an R18+ rating would actually prevent piracy and illegal importing.

Submissions will close on 28 February 2010. From there, all of Australia's state and federal attorney generals must agree to introduce an R18+ rating before it can be introduced, which may continue to be a major stumbling block given the vocal opposition of South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson in the past.

People interested in submitting a response can do so via e-mail, mail, or fax. For full details--including the submission template and the discussion paper--visit http://www.ag.gov.au/gamesclassification.

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