Games have been the linchpin of the morally outraged for a generation now, and it isn’t going to stop just because we have an R18+ rating.
Games are still seen as inherently for children by a great many, in spite of rapid increases in cultural acceptance.
This is especially true in slow-to-move organisations like governments (the process of getting an R18+ rating has taken over a decade), so what does this mean in the short term?
Well, games which were classified at MA15+ in the last two years can’t be re-submitted for classification until their two year term is up.
But with Bioshock Infinite, Grand Theft Auto V, Devil May Cry and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance all due our in the early part of next year, it’s worth looking at the risk the R18+ brings.
The argument for the R18+ rating is based on the idea that games are being rated at MA15+ here instead of at an 18+ rating like they are in other countries. The obvious fear many uninitiated would have with a higher classification would be: is the R18+ rating going to allow games which are more violent onto our shores, and shouldn’t we be protecting the kids?
Well, in a word: yes. The R18+ rating should do away with futile refusals of classification to games which couldn’t scrape by into the MA15+ category, and should hopefully curtail the tendency to make ‘Australian’ versions of games moving forward.
This is all fine, because those minute (and they are minute) edits or levels of violence coming in are being correctly labelled as being for adults only. Serious training is underway to ensure retail understand the importance of this, and no doubt there will be penalties for those who break the rules.
So what are the risks?
For retailers, it’s that they’re going to be made an example of by being slapped with the first big fine after the rating is introduced to show that the government is serious.
For publishers, it’s the risk that their game will be made an example of by being the first game to be refused classification in an R18+ era, leaving them with the choice to submit a game before the end of the year and risk it not being light enough for an MA15+ rating, or leaving it until next year and risk having the Classification Branch prove its own adherence to the notion that ‘no games which are more violent will hit our shores’ to a concerned public.
All eyes are currently on the transition to adulthood for videogames. With those eyes comes added pressure, and it’s ultimately the games companies who are under the microscope by proxy.
Here’s hoping it’s smooth sailing and we don’t see any other games which are perfectly suitable for an adult audience refused classification due to an archaic age rating system or political axe grinding.
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