For most of the past decade it looked like a handful of politicians and special interest groups would stop Australia from unifying its video game and movie classification systems. Despite the fact that both types of media has been judged to the same criteria, games have only ever been able to receive a maximum classification of MA15+.
This lack of an R18+ rating for games has long been a bugbear among adult gamers. It has never been certain whether a title would get an MA15+ rating and be allowed for sale, or whether it would be slapped with the tag of death, Refused Classification. An RC means that the title cannot be sold or marketed in Australia, which has become harder and harder to police in an era where a lot of gamers look overseas to buy games anyway thanks to reduced prices.
Thankfully it now looks like the number of games being hit with RC will be reduced, as legislation finally passed through federal parliament last night clearing the way for an R18+ to be introduced on the 1st January 2013. All that now remains is for each state parliament to pass complimentary legislation and we can finally put the issue to rest after a decade of campaigns and activism by gamers around the country.
Not only is the change important for equity between games and other media, but it is a major acknowledgement of the fact that a large number of adults play games. In the Digital Australia 2012 report from the IGEA (Interactive Games and Entertainment Association) and Bond University it was found that the average age of gamers was 32, and that 75% of gamers in Australia were over the age of 18.
This change means that the vast majority of Australian gamers should now be able to play what they want to play. We don’t doubt that some games will still run afoul of the system and be given an RC rating. Not only should the number be lower than it currently is, but it raises the possibility of legitimate debate over censorship of games, rather than just an argument over the disparity between movie and game ratings. In many ways it is a maturing of the way in which Australia approaches video games, which are becoming the go-to entertainment form of the modern age.
We aren’t going to be popping the champagne just yet. While the states passing legislation is almost a formality, we’ve seen over the past decade that individual politicians have been able to set the debate back years. But failing any major disaster, 2013 will finally be the year in which game classification falls into line with other media.