You already knew our classification system was ludicrously out of date. But here’s another example. A game released on console or handheld must be classified. That same game released on the App Store doesn’t need to be classified.
That’s a loophole in the current classification system the federal government is seeking to close.
The office of the Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, told The Australian that he was “concerned about the classification of games playable on mobile telephones and had put the wheels in motion to address this with his state and territory counterparts.”
The issue is likely to be raised at the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General to be held in November. As previously reported, also on the agenda for that meeting is the debate over an R18+ rating for games.
The problem seems to one of definition. Technology has advanced since the Act was first drafted and our lawmakers have failed to update it. As a result, the Classification Act is a grey area as to what is and isn’t considered a game.
Firemint’s Flight Control, pictured, can be released on iPhone and iPad without any classification beyond the App Store’s own unofficial scheme. Yet that same game must be submitted to and rated by the Classification Board in order to be released on DSiWare and WiiWare in Australia. And in the latter case, the government collects a fee.
What if Firemint made a browser version of Flight Control? Anyone could happily play it without a care in the world as to whether or not it had been classified.
Via digital donwload channels such as Steam it’s possible to buy countless games that have never been submitted for classification in this country.
Microsoft claims it cannot launch the Xbox Live Indie Games channel in Australia because the service’s peer-review classification process is incompatible with Australia’s Classification Act.
Yet at the same time, dozens of un-rated PlayStation Minis are available for Australian gamers to purchase and download.
It’s a mess. The whole scheme needs an overhaul – and it needs it fast.