Computer games to come under stricter classification than film

New classification guidelines for the MA15+ and R18+ categories are expected to treat film more leniently

Computer games are likely to be subject to stricter classification standards than those applied to film once the new R18+ classification system is introduced in Australia in January 2013, the Legal & Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee has heard.

Speaking at the Committee’s hearing into the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012, Attorney-General’s Department assistant secretary, Jane Fitzgerald, said more restrictive classifications under the MA15+ and R18+ ratings were needed in order for state Attorneys-General to agree to the introduction of a new classification system.

“Generally speaking, looking at upper level content — MA15+ and above — the computer games guidelines have been agreed by ministers to be more restrictive than the film guidelines specifically in relation to — and an MA15+ level – drugs, sex, violence and language,” she said.

The other two classification criteria included nudity and adult themes, Fitzgerald said.

“For R18+ computer games the same is true, but for the language category because at the R18+ level there is a finite amount of [adult] language,” she said.

Fitzgerald said that a rule of thumb measure for determining which games would be classified as R18+ under the new system were those games which were currently rated MA15+ in Australia, but which were rated R18+ in overseas jurisdictions.

“It would be true to say that if there were games on the market now, that if they were released in February next year under a new set of guidelines would be more likely to fall into an adult category than if they were classified three years ago,” she said.

Commenting on the state of the new classification guidelines, Fitzgerald said she was optimistic that a refined set of classification guidelines would be completed by ministers in April. The original draft guidelines were released by then minister for home affairs, Brendan O’Connor, in November.

“Ministers are currently talking about further refinements to those guidelines and without wanting to sound too hopeful, I am hopeful those discussions will conclude in the next couple of weeks,” she said.

Discussing computer games which had been given a Refused Classification (RC) determination by the Classification Board, Fitzgerald since that there had been just eight instances since January 2009.

This was despite the fact that the board reviewed in the order of 1000 games per year. She could not comment on whether any of the eight RC games would be ruled as R18+ under the new classification system.

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