I’ve been writing about vidja gaemz for a while now, and I honestly never thought I’d write a headline like the one above. Turns out I was wrong (I know, I’m as shocked as you are; I mean I’m hardly ever wrong) because a whole bunch of Australian ministers/politicians/senators/kangaroos have done the unthinkable and actually finalised the new rating that was initially agreed to in August last year. It was later revealed that the actual end result was still “years away”. Since then, there’s been little progress or news; until now.
Ever since video game age restrictions existed, Australia has had nothing higher than a 15+ rating. This is a result of the Australian Classification Board originally believing that video games wouldn’t ever be played by anyone older than 15 because the past-time was seen as something for kids. As the industry matured, the ACB’s rating system remained obstinate, which resulted in many believing that the refusal to add an 18+ rating was a form of censorship on behalf of Australia’s government.
And indeed, censorship it essentially was, as games that failed to fit into the 15+ category were refused classification, which essentially banned them from sale. In some instances, games were deliberately changed to fit with the Australian rating of 15+ with Fallout 3 being the most memorable example because the game was changed for the entire world. Sometimes games were banned outright, with criminal charges and fines used as a threat to anyone thinking about importing copies. Case in point: last year’s excellent Mortal Kombat.
But, that all seems to be a thing of the past. The Australian Minister of Justice, Jason Clare, revealed that the initially agreed upon new ratings proposal, has been officially written into Australian law. The addition of an 18+ rating has taken Australia’s government more than ten years to get right:
“The R 18+ category will inform consumers, parents and retailers about which games are not suitable for minors to play, and will prevent minors from purchasing unsuitable material,” Clare said. “The reforms also mean that adults are able to choose what games they play within the bounds of the law.”
It’s up to each Australian state to draw up its own “complimentary legislation” to ensure the 18+ rating is implemented and adhered to. They have until the end of the year to get that done because the new rating is supposedly coming into play on 01 January 2013.