At the recent Game Tech conference, Jane Fitzgerald, Assistant Secretary at the Classification Operations Branch, spoke on R18.
Fitzgerald began her talk with the welcome news that the R18+ legislation had passed through the senate, rendering it ready for the individual states and territories to pass their own laws enacting it.
“Unsuitable for a minor to see or play” is the key phrase from the guidelines concerning videogames currently which is being abolished for the inclusion of an R18+, as well as implementing the word ‘High’ as a content descriptor (where previously games were only allows ‘Mild’, ‘Moderate’ or ‘Strong’).
An elated Fitzgerald, commenting on how cautious she would’ve been to raise expectations too high at last year’s Game Tech event, said that the road forward from here involved finding specific wording on the guidelines for the R18+ category which everyone can agree on.
One specific issue which was raised is the fact that all downloadable mobile games currently break the law by not being classified prior to their being distributed in Australia.
Fitzgerald said, however: “If all online and mobile computergames were submitted to the Classification Board tomorrow, it couldn’t cope with the influx.”
Since such a mammoth task would be unfeasible to the point of impossibility, Fitzgerald cited the global app rating scheme (previously discussed with Ron Curry) as a potential solution, and stated that there is no intention to stop mobile games being available while the government figures out how to tackle the issue.
Although the rest was largely speculative at this point, the Convergence Review and Australian Law Reform Commission reports suggest more changes to the legislation, including the possibility for one classification body to handle all mediums (currently TV has its own system), that titles expected to be lower than MA15+ are only submitted voluntarily, or that Australia recognise internationally renowned ratings bodies like PEGI to lighten the load here.
Such measures would require sanctions be taken against any company improperly rating games after the fact, however these measures are all suggestions for the future and are not on the immediate horizon.
Fitzgerald reiterated before closing that she is confident that all ministers across the various states, who have agreed to the timeline which should see the R18+ rating implemented by 1st January 2013, will adhere to their agreement and there should be no further delays.
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