Australian R18+ final guidelines released

Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor has released the final guidelines for the introduction of an R18+ classification for games in Australia; restrictions on violence and coarse language strengthened.

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The final guidelines for the introduction of an R18+ classification in Australia will have strict restrictions on violence.

Today, the Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor announced that all states and territories have signed off on the guidelines, green-lighting the federal government to move ahead with the introduction of the R18+ rating for games. The guidelines were also made public, outlining the yet-to-be-introduced R18+ rating, as well as changes to the existing MA15+ category.

"The major changes in the final guidelines are to do with violence and coarse language," O'Connor told GameSpot AU. "Games with strong violence and aggressive strong language are no longer permitted in MA15+."

O'Connor also made it clear that any game with sexual violence would be automatically refused classification (RC) and alluded to NSW Attorney General Greg Smith's recent comments in the media, saying he agrees with Smith.

Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor.
Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor.

"Any game with sexual violence will be refused classification. [Smith] need not worry, sexual violence is refused classification now, and it will be refused classification once R18+ passes."

O'Connor said the R18+ legislation did not make it into this year's final parliament session, but he plans to introduce it in the February 2012 session.

"I am confident we'll have R18+ passed in the first few months of next year. I know some people are concerned about the time, but it's been going on for a decade, and we've made great progress. Everyone is working toward legislating for change."

As for what happens after R18+ is introduced by parliament, O'Connor said the Classification Board of Australia will have immediate powers to begin classifying games as R18+ and will also have the power to reclassify any past games in the MA15+ category.

"Normally, games can only be considered for reclassification after two years, "O'Connor said. "It's up to the Classification Board whether they want to reclassify those games. I think people know that there are some games now that are rated MA15+ that should be reclassified, but I am not going to name any."

Under the final guidelines, the criteria for an MA15+ game will now be:

THEMES:
The treatment of strong themes should be justified by the context.

VIOLENCE:
Violence should be justified by the context.
Strong and realistic violence should not be frequent or unduly repetitive.
Sexual violence may be implied, if noninteractive and justified by the content.

SEX:
Sexual activity may be implied.
Sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards.

LANGUAGE:
Strong coarse language may be used.
Aggressive or strong coarse language should be infrequent and not exploitative or offensive.

DRUG USE:
Drug use should be justified by the context.
Drug use related to incentives or rewards is not permitted.
Interactive illicit or prescribed drug use is not permitted.

NUDITY:
Nudity should be justified by the context.
Nudity must not be related to incentives or rewards.

Under the final guidelines, the criteria for an R18+ game will now be:

THEMES:
There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.

VIOLENCE:
Violence is permitted. High-impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative, and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted.
Sexual violence may be implied, if noninteractive and justified by context.

SEX:
Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is "simulation, yes--the real thing, no."

LANGUAGE:
There are virtually no restrictions on language.

DRUG USE:
Drug use is permitted
Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.

NUDITY:
Nudity is permitted.

In July this year, Australia's federal, state, and territory censorship ministers reached an in-principle agreement to introduce an R18+ classification for video games in Australia.

This agreement was made on the basis that all states and territories approve a set of proposed guidelines to introduce the new classification. At the time, it was announced these guidelines were once again amended at requiring some jurisdictions to seek approval from their respective cabinets.

Despite recent comments by NSW Attorney General Greg Smith in the media, O'Connor's office confirmed NSW is still part of the in-principle agreement to introduce R18+ for games. In August, NSW announced it would back the introduction of R18+ but stated its priority would be "to ensure any proposal was in line with federal and state ministers' agreement to not dilute Australia's Refused Classification (RC) category."

An earlier draft of the guidelines was released in May this year, highlighting significant changes in the MA15+ category. While most of the guidelines for the rating were retained, several were added, including:

*Strong and realistic violence should not be very frequent.
*Sexual activity must not be tied to rewards or incentives.
*Interactive drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted.
*Nudity must not be related to incentives and rewards.

The R18+ classification issue has been on the Australian government's agenda since 2002. In December last year, the federal government announced its public support for the rating, before postponing another vote on the issue before the end of the year.

Earlier this year, O'Connor's hinted at seeking other options should state and territory censorship ministers fail to reach consensus on the issue soon.

Other states have been ready to adopt the adult classification for games since April this year, with South Australia and the ACT eager to "go it alone" if necessary, provided the commonwealth finds a way to introduce R18+ at a federal level without the unanimous agreement of all states and territories. South Australia went a step further, proposing to abolish the MA15+ category in the state and fold it into the R18+ rating.

Stay tuned for an update on the final guidelines.

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cj10239

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why don't you just change MA15 to G and put everything else in R

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selbie

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@evilkenshin1: Regardless of what Greg actually said, Channel Seven has some of the most biased and ethically bereft news reports in the country. I would wait for an official response from Greg's office before falling for Seven's confirmation-bias reporting.

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SUPERSAMMOSSAUC

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When are australia retail price for games going down it's been ages since we have had an update on that issue.

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TBoneTony

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@ rcbhappy I agree with you. Until Australia finally gets something that the ESRB have with in the AO18+ rarting in North America, we Aussies would never have a real TRUE R18+ rating that is equal to that of movies and DVDs. I have seen a few Girls Gone Wild DVDs rated R18+ in local stores, and they go a long way compared to what we are getting with our Games related part to the R18+. Stupid NSW Attorney General, he should try to play Rapelay and understand that the game accturely has got a real story about a mother fighting back against the rapist in the end and killing him in order to save her two daughters.

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TBoneTony

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Like I said before...politicians were only just coming up with new ways to bann games even with the inclusion of an R18+ rating. Also the wording is porrly done. implyed sex = yes and real thing = no? This is just a cop off from the movie one.... Also how the hell are we supposed to have real sex in a videogame if all the characters are fictional polygons? Game Developers can now try to bring in the pixelation mozaics that the Japanese do. but even then even highly detailed sex scenes are also not allowed in USA games because the AO18+ rating from the ESRB is a rating that no retailer and game hardware manufactuer wants because of a loss of money due to the inability to retail it. But still...we SHOULD try to also allow an X18+ rating for videogames so we could finally have full detailed sex scenes especilly from the Japanese PC games. I know it is nigh on impossible to allow it for consoles because of the situation in the USA with the ESRB as I had explained above...but come on....when will be gamers finally get to the point that movies achieved in during the 80's?

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TBoneTony

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Sexual Violence SHOULD be allowed in games because we are dealing with FICTIONAL CHARACTERS!!!! :( Sadly some politicians never understand that this is only just a game, why should they take their laws into videogames? I am better off moving to Japan. :(

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rcbhappy

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R18+ is so post to mean AO?Adults Only? in other words it means no restrictions on anything? so in part, this is not a true R18+ classification and never will be? who else agrees with me here?

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cdog21

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So Halo would remain the same, but COD and BF would be reclassified due to it's more realistic portrayl?

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Grimkillah

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It is sad that 18+ gamers must follow these restricted rules, while politicians can start illegal wars and use public funds to hire prostitutes. Maybe we should have a guideline on politicians as well, see how they likes it.

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TurambarGS

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Progress. Finally progress. Thank goodness the Fed government took this one over.

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Mega_Skrull

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Eh? Sex "simulation, yes - the real thing, no" I can have the real thing through videogames and nobody told me???

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johnnyauau

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That's good on paper but let's see what happens in practice.

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planetslayer

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Call me cynical but I knew they would rip us off eventually. They should be very proud of themselves after all it only took them 9 years /sarcasm.

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rcbhappy

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I new it from the start? this will never be a real R18+ classification like it is for movies & cinema, it's an edited R18+ classification at best? games will still be banned, we will never catch up to the rest of the Weston world and we will always be a joke?

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TheCyborgNinja

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This should have been hammered out in a month. Gotta love that bureaucratic red tape!

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flammable_zeus

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Will Bulletstorm be banned? I'm sure that "fire in the hole" would definitely count as sexual violence.

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Halcyon2518

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I think a greater stratification in ratings would help reduce stupid arguments over the impact of violent games on our youth, if a similar system were adopted by the ESRB (and therefore used in the US). Let's face it, most games worth playing are rated M. However, not all M rated games are created equal. Halo, with it's modest and colorful alien blood splatter, ranks nowhere near Resident Evil or Gears of War (with full blood and gore) on my violence meter. Why games of the three series share the same rating has always been a source of bewilderment for me. The M rating should be split into 15+ and 18+; Halo would likely earn a 15+ rating while Resident Evil and Gears of War would clearly deserve the 18+ rating. The point is that if we had a greater diversity in ratings and parents continued to buy violent games for children in their early teens, then when the parents began complaining we could more easily point and say "Your fault, moron!"

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smooth40

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This has taken about 30 years to long and yet the unwanted Carbon Tax can be pushed through the senate urgently. I am still skeptical about the definitions and would not be surprised to see some games still get banned, despite the 18+ rating.

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evilkenshin1

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@selbie how can they unban a game already banned when they keep moving backwards and forwards with grand theft auto << LINK REMOVED >>

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selbie

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So in other words, games are now FINALLY up to speed with all other mediums of entertainment. Now unban MK and I'll be satisfied this crap is finally over.

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BaronSector

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Does assassinating people with a hidden blade count as strong violence?

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xiiraveniix

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I hate these loosely worded definitions. "Sexual violence" was the reason GTA3 was recalled and had the ability to pick up prostitutes removed. The feature was also missing in Vice City but inexplicably returned in San Andreas (despite it being MA15+). Throughout this time, the classification guidelines never changed, yet the interpretations of whoever happened to be on the Classification Board did. Same with Manhunt; it gets passed by under MA15+ on original release, yet gets recalled after some politician has a whinge, and is refused classification by the next bunch of people on the board. What really pisses me off is the constant reference to what is "offensive to a reasonable adult" (an ambiguous term which has always been a part of the Classification Guidelines). Who determines what is offensive to a reasonable adult? Whoever happens to be on the Classification Board at the time.

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Cobretti1818

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No wonder this country is going no where, looks how long it takes them to provide something as simple as a rating for video games. Imagine these imbeciles trying to actually agree on something important.

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aldangerduncan

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Does Sexual Violence include beating up a prostitute? GTV could be in danger...

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barronator

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I'm actually very happy with this. Hoping not to sound like a pervert or something but the only thing i disagree with is nudity, if its a reward it should still be aloud, only if its a justifiable by context, eg: Rob this bank and i'll flash you my haha's isn't great context but say oh you rescued me from the evil manbearpig of south montana it should be aloud. I know its a thin line but eh its just an oppinion

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benboz

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Good to see its finally coming

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Coyful

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I'm happy about this, the exclusion of sexual violence is a fair enough move I think.

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Aletunda

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glad were getting the rating, no sexual violence! WAHAT! so basically they can still ban games? MA will just be watered down games and the rest move to R? thats balls, all we ever wanted was to not ban games, thinking an R18 rating would allow all games to be brought in, dam I got a bad feeling about this

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E-i-N-e

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Glad to here all the states and governments are in agreement. Finally some action is being taken place, only took nine years mind you...

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CamoBullo

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"Strong and realistic violence should not be very frequent." I'm guessing we WILL get Mortal Kombat, then. EDIT: Maybe we won't, seeing as I just read that again.

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VIPERGTSR01

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Lame So they will still ban games (refused classification) as they were with MA15+, as it seems the only difference is many games that were 15+ will now become 18+. To us gamers (who are over 18) the 18+ rating will do nothing positive, game banning will continue as it was.