R18+ computer games classification under consideration by Australian Government

Discussion paper released canvassing public opinion on an adult rating for computer games
  • (Computerworld)
  • 14 December, 2009 16:55

Following years of lobbying by gamers and the local games industry, the Federal Government has finally released a discussion paper on the introduction of an R18+ classification for computer games in Australia.

The paper, Should The Australian National Classification Scheme Include An R18+ Classification Category For Computer Games?, asks the community to contribute its ideas on whether the categories of the National Classification Scheme (NCS) should apply to computer games in the same manner as it does for films.

Although the NCS allows for the sale of R18+ DVDs, it does not allow the sale of R18+ computer games anywhere in Australia.

“Some people think that preventing the sale of R18+ computer games is a good policy because it prevents the lawful sale of what they consider to be offensive material,” the paper reads. “Others say it prevents adults enjoying the ability to purchase games that are available in other markets overseas.

“This is your opportunity to tell the Australian and the State and Territory Governments your views before they consider whether the current situation should be changed.”

Under the current NCS, computer games that are unsuitable for a minor to see must be classified Refused Classification (RC). These games may not be sold, hired, exhibited, displayed, demonstrated or advertised. This means that a computer game that contains material that would have been rated R 18+ in a film may not be sold in Australia.

“Were an R 18+ classification introduced, the RC category would still exist for games with, for example, gratuitous or exploitative depictions of sexual violence, such as the sexual assault simulation game Rapelay,” the paper reads. “It could also include games that included violence with a ‘very high’ impact that offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”

In the paper, the Federal Attorney-General's Department said the rationale behind releasing the discussion paper, was that Research commissioned by the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) indicated that adults are increasingly consumers of computer games.

“The Australian Government has been discussing the adult classification of computer games with its State and Territory counterparts for some time,” the paper reads. “The ministers responsible for censorship have considered the issue of an adult classification for computer games on a number of occasions. Before these ministers consider the matter further, it is timely to consider the views of the community.”

Email Computerworld or follow @computerworldau on Twitter.

Join the Computerworld Australia group on Linkedin. The group is open to IT Directors, IT Managers, Infrastructure Managers, Network Managers, Security Managers, Communications Managers.

More about: Attorney-General
References show all




Lets hope that old fart Attorney General Michael Atkinson from South Australia gets over ruled and we finally get a R18+ classification for games. He is only scared of it because he obviously doesn't understand new technology. He's probably scared of sliced bread as that would have been invented after he was born.

It's about time that the Kevin Dudd Labor(ious) government finally listens to the majority, and stops bending over backwards to minorities.

The international video games industry is bigger than the movie industry now, it needs to be taken seriously.



It's about goddam time this issue was brought to discussion.

The age of the average gamer is well in excess of 18 years old, so it makes no sense at all that the system should be geared to omit this important fact.

It is the responsibility of the parent to ensure their minor/child is not accessing inappropriate material, whether it be movies, internet sites or computer games.



do we really need sex and smut to entertain ourselves no wonder this country is in such a sad state



I will hold my breath.

matt munro


t,vennix: You are thinking of the X18+ rating, types of games that need R18+ ratings are those like Left 4 Dead 2 and AvP, hardly smut. Reality is that there are a large number of adult gamers and not all games are for children, trying to forced them into the M15+ rating actually makes it worse if you think about it.



"well in excess" at the moment actually means ~32, 33 y.o. average age and i expect that average age to outstrip my own age in the near future.

if near adults (the MA15+ grouping) can be *trusted* to view fairly violent material in a movie, why the difficulty with allowing the next tier up (18+) for equivalent content in games?

if various state govts are okay with legislated retailer control over alcohol, ciggies and porn, with penalties for breaches, sometimes hefty ones, and the system does work.....what is the difficulty adding R18 games to such regimes?

IMO there is none (outside of Atkinsons' devising) and i hope the discussion paper recognises as such.

being an adult but being treated as a teen if not a *child*, is really starting to chafe. especially when parents abrogate their responsibilities and do not screen their kids' content, and then whinge when the said kids get hands on something they find offensive.



t,vennix, it has nothing to

t,vennix, it has nothing to do with smut, it has to do with allowing adults to play violent games, I can't think of any xbox360 or PS3 games that have rape in them, but I can think of a few banned for violence

parents need to take more responsibility over what their kids are playing



I'm sorry, go back to your pinup ATKINSON and tell him you failed.



t,vennix, noone is suggesting such smut would pass an aussie R18 content bar; in fact as the article takes pains to point out "the RC category would *still exist* for games with, for example, gratuitous or exploitative depictions of sexual violence, such as the sexual assault simulation game Rapelay". (emphasis added)

the titles filling such a classification being proposed (R18+) would be titles like Reservoir Dogs, the Alien vs Predator title, and Left 4 Dead2. quite a different kettle of fish to Rapelay (which i DO regard as a title that should still be RC even were an R18+ category introduced, and i doubt there is much debate on that score).

Scott of Melbourne


This letter to Michael Atkinson provides an excellent recapitulation of why Australia needs an R18 classification. Please take the time to read it if you have not already done so.

That Commenting Guy



despite the good news, i dont expect it to get the green lights.

Brian Lorentzen


The definition of the word Game is "an activity that teaches and prepares a novice for the challenges of the 'real world'. A game is supposed to have excitement and clever simulations to retain the interest of the novice long enough that he learn the Life-skills required. Some of the blood-thirsty activity in todays games cannot possibly contribute anything to ones Life-Skills.
Games that only serve Self gratification or appetite for violence should be reserved for civilizations that have Colosseums (and which will soon be over-run)



Did you get this definition from your pastor? I am sure his real definition of games differs behind close doors.

This is what Google has to say

A game is an activity or sport usually involving skill, knowledge, or chance, in which you follow fixed rules and try to win against an opponent or to solve a puzzle.

You are just showing your ignorance.



Mr Lorentzen, where on earth did you find that definition? It most certainly can't have been from anything resembling a dictionary. The word you're looking for there is "training", which is not synonymous with "game", which the Oxford Dictionary describes as:


• noun 1 an activity engaged in for amusement. 2 a form of competitive activity or sport played according to rules. 3 a complete episode or period of play, ending in a final result. 4 a single portion of play, forming a scoring unit within a game.

Now please.. if you're trying to keep the R18+ classification away from Computer Games, I'd imagine you're certainly not helping your cause with such utterly ridiculous statements.



By not having a R18+ rating for games, it has forced game developers to modify the games enough to slide them in under the current rules we have which allows kids to play games developed for adults.
But with a R18+ rating it would at least show the parents that the game is designed mainly for adults and may not be good for their kids to play.



Don't get excited just because such a document exist. As long as that senile Michael Atkinson is around, you can dream on for a R18+ classification for video games. Don't count your chickens before they hatch. It's not going to happen any sooner. Maybe wait for another 5 to 6 years? Keep dreaming.



thats a rather simplistic definition for 'Game' how does snakes and ladders or Game of Life prepare you for anything? i'll give credit to monoply tho. How about Mario - what real world skill does THAT confer? climbing up and down pipes? taking out people with your butt?

games are an entertainment medium, able to instil and convey certain atmospheres in the same way as film (the horror theme as in Aliens vs predator for example) and deal with complex issues (planescape Torment or Star wars MMO and other RPGs, where the players action has a direct effect on their alignment).

they do not always have real world analogues, even in games that are made for kids - again, Mario? what they *can* offer is a viewpoint on worlds and concepts that are constructs of their creators imagination, and weve never had a problem with that sort of thing before, regardless the medium, be it books or film.

otherwise - were all past entertainment to be limited to earth, to 'teaching about real life', extant entertainment stories, whether game or film or book would be about earth; and imaginary worlds such as Tolkeins Middle Earth would never have existed. wed never have had the original Alien movie, or the Stargate or Startrek series.

so its perfectly okay to have something with absolutely no connection to the 'real world', weve been doing it for years.

what is *important* is that people playing or viewing stories with high level concepts, whether about morality or sex or violence, or set on worlds with no relation to the real one.... can distinguish between fantasy and reality.

for the other formats that mark for high level content is regarded as 18+. it should be the same for games, whatever your personal morality is about that high level content.



An R18+ rating for games is a no-brainer.

Australia is a democracy and we have certain rights. Adults in our country should be able to choose what media we consume. The rules for games should not be different to the rules for films, TV, and music. People who find such media distasteful have no obligation to consume them.

Also, an R18+ rating for games protects children from seeing games that they are not mature enough to handle. It also gives parents and retailers a legally responsible way to ensure that children don't get access to games with mature content. As the laws currently stand, children actually have more access to violent and graphic games. Left 4 Dead 2 is a perfect example - it should be restricted to adults, but with a bit of blood removed the games, essentially unchanged, is now available to children because of one stubborn, out-of-touch man inflicting his own outdated, ignorant values on the entire population of Australia.

The people who try to shift the debate to moral standards simply don't understand the issue. The issue is one of fairness, rights, and protecting the children.



The federal govt can do what it likes. This is a state issue, and Atkinson has shown himself more than willing to ignore anyone that isn't him. Obviously, the SA Labor party could eject him from his position, but they won't. Labor is currently Australia's biggest threat when it comes to freedom of choice in the IT world.

This looks like nothing more or less than a cynical attempt by Federal Labor to say "We don't agree with this man, please don't vote against us and please ignore the censorship we want to implement" while doing nothing that will have more than the slightest influence on what he is doing.



Brian Lorentzen: I just googled your 'definition' and the only results are as a result of the post that you made... Why do you feel the need to lie to support your position? Is it because you can't make a valid argument to support your position while being honest? Or is it simply because you realise that gullible people also have votes, and you might as well take advantage of this by lieing to them? While you're answering this, could you also answer why so many filter advocates feel the need to lie on a regular basis? I'm assuming (and my apologies if I'm wrong) that they're largely people who share your world view. Or is it simply that you and yours are lied to on a weekly basis by someone you respect, and so therefore you feel that it's OK to lie to others as long as the lie supports your view?



Games like GTA4 should have been R18 in the first place, but were squeezed into an M rating so they could be sold in Australia. Basically the opposite effect of what should be intended.

As others have mentioned, using 'Rapelay' as an example is intentionally misleading. The Restricted category includes films like Saving Private Ryan -- so transfer that to a game, and it is theoretically Refused Classification. No need for smut.



Why be hypocrites.. If there is a ban on R18 games Ban the R18 movies too.. See what a laughing stock Australia becomes then



I totally agree... why is R18 allowed for some things, but not others..

Its a simple act of "all, or nothing" approach.... I would have thought so anyway..

Lets all ban R18+ movies then,,



Protecting the children has always been a good excuse for draconian censorship laws. But the funny thing is there's never been a time in the information age where it worked. There's always been a way to acces the banned products.

When I was 15 we had this debate before. That time it was about the parental locked version of Duke Nukem 3D. The Australian government decided to block all legal avenues of purchasing the dirty game by banning an R classification.

My friend used his 56k dialup internet connection (a luxury at the time - the majority didn't have internet) to download the 'american' version. He thin zipped it up and copied it to a series of 3.5 inch floppy disks (nobody had cd burners - too expensive!). And he found it on a good old fashioned WAREZ site - no P2P in those days. All the banning of the R classification did was make me want the game more, and I got it. And I wasn't even one of the tech savvy kinds - I had step by step instructions for using PKUNZIP written out for me. To this day I've still got no idea what half of those commands did.

15 years later, what has changed? Internet speeds are faster, mobile storage is literally around 16,000 times larger, and P2P can give you anything you want, anywhere, any time. And federal government bureaucrats still think they can censor information in the digital age?

Good luck!

Daryl Teo


“Some people think that preventing the sale of R18+ computer games is a good policy because it prevents the lawful sale of what they consider to be offensive material,”

This has to be the biggest load of crock I've ever heard.

I find gore movies such as SAW to be over the top and offensive. Lets ban that.

How about movies depicting war? Its disrespectful to war veterans by trivialising their herioism. Lets ban that.

Hey why stop there. I find smoking offensive. Please ban that.

And lets ban alcohol. Did you know alcohol is responsible for more deaths in the country than gaming related violence? Ban that!

And lastly... lets ban drugs.
Wait, you already ban drugs... lets see where that gets you.

The hypocrisy is laughable.



I love living in china with its many rights and freedoms. I am from Australia if people lack the ability to see sarcasm



The argument that we should allow R18 games because we already allow booze, cigarettes and movies like Saw is idiotic. None of these are good things but they're here, so we have to live with them for better or worse. Allowing young people to have their minds warped by hours of immersive sick gaming violence is not adding any value whatsoever to our society. You have to question who's really driving all this fuss - could it be greedy gaming companies or brainwashed kids?

Perhaps we should also bring back public stoning. They allow that in Saudi Arabia so why not bring it back in here? The premise is the same as suggesting that we have booze so why not R18 gaming. I'd be all for it if the first people in for a few rocks in the head were the same people that have us convinced that violence is entertainment. If it is then a public stoning should be just what the doctor ordered.



An R18+ classification is legally designed to prevent young people from accessing offensive content without depriving adults of freedom of choice, similar to legal restrictions on alcohol and tobacco. Say what you will about enforcement of such restrictions, but prohibition doesn't work and only hides the problem.

The fact is that not having an R18+ classification for games is a gaping hole in the classification framework, one that causes the classification board to more likely judge a violent game as MA15+ rather than outright banning every second game that comes over our border, simply because there isn't an appropriate category to place them in.
It also causes confusion for parents who see that no games are rated as R18+, and falsely infers that, as none of them have been classified as 'bad', games are on the whole entirely safe for children to play.
Similarly, the lack of an R18+ rating reduces visibility and awareness of potentially unsuitable titles, causing parents to be lax in recognising when their child is playing a banned game (and they will play it, the internet makes acquiring RC games trivial).



Only thing that having a +18 on games in Australia will do is give money to retailers here in Australia
With the world of the internet you can get +18 games in seconds most the time quicker then going top a retail shop
EG: EBAY ,Hotcdkeys,steam or any shop that will ship to a different country.
Having censored games is pointless because if you want them only take a few clicks

Max Johnson


It's not just the kids that play games. That's the crux of this argument, and a fact you've blatantly overlooked.

Chris L


I'm one of those people pushing for the R rating because I enjoy "hours of immersive sick gaming". You would probably call me sick but I've never been in a fight in my adult life and my friends and work-mates all tell me I am a calming influence during stressfull times.... perhaps because I let out my frustration on virtual characters rather than real people. Every study that has tried to prove a causal link between violent games and violent people has failed, even the Columbine shooting was found to be due to a mixture of clinical depression and bullying by peers and teachers. The FBI won't even look at computer game use when profiling for violent offenders because they have judged this to be a waste of time.
BTW what has stoning people got to do with computer games? Are you wanting to bring it back because the bible tells you to stone unruly teenagers and prostitutes?



"do we really need sex and smut to entertain ourselves no wonder this country is in such a sad state"
RTFA (Read the FUll article).
It said this would only include material deemed appropriate. (it actually mentioned NOT including sex and smut as you put it, ie the game Rapelay and its ilk).
PS. whats wrong with this country??

Also: to the guy who said something about colosseums and "countries that are on the way out" (or something).
The Colosseum was built in 80ad, and was still in various stages of use till well after 500ad.
420+ years isn't bad for a country "on the way out".



Allowing young people to have

<quote>Allowing young people to have their minds warped by hours of immersive sick gaming violence is not adding any value whatsoever to our society.</quote>

Adding a R18+ is not allowing young people to do anything, it's allowing legal adults to play a game that they in theory have the intelligence and judgment to distinguish from reality.



We'll finally allow adults to buy games they already obtain via means other than Australian retailers. Now we can all grow up and sell to gamers over 18 with the same content that the rest of the world seems able to handle (and hopefully also ship at the US release date instead of facing delays to match European release dates). The censorship farce of describing undead zombies as 'humans with a rabies-like disease' has been moronic in the extreme - can't wait for the old fogies to zimmer off into the sunset.



I have R18+ movies in my DVD collection. Some have even won awards and are considered art. I can walk right into any DVD store and buy or rent these movies and noone cares. But I only have to suggest that I want to play R18+ games and suddenly I'm a sicko that must be stopped.



What I find sad is the people opposing the R18+ classification displaying their lack of reading comprehension skills.



I think we should allow R18+ video games every other country and continents do. why not us? its the 21st century, movies have R18+ even X18+ ratings, why cant video games? and to everyone that is saying that we shouldnt or we dont need it go get f$#@ed because i dont see u bitchin about DVDs or VIDEOs. that are R18+ or even X18+ and i bet everyone has watched an R18 or even an X18 rated movie so why cant we play a R18+ video game. And to the people who say that kids will get the games ect ,well if your a good parent you will see what ur kids play and do and police that. My mum allways did and every time i go in to EB GAMES or GAME they ask everyone for ID even if you are 30 or 40 . so stop bitchin and let the adults have games to play and not get restricted because parents dont police what there kids play .

Comments are now closed.
Related Coverage
Related Whitepapers
Latest Stories
Community Comments
Tags: computer games, classification
All whitepapers

Will smart watches and glasses drive mobile payments?

Sign up now to get free exclusive access to reports, research and invitation only events.

Computerworld newsletter

Join the most dedicated community for IT managers, leaders and professionals in Australia