Re-Classification: What Does R18+ Mean For You?

Australia has received the green-light for an R18+ rating for video games, but many people are still unsure of what this means for them as gamers. Will this lead to MA15+ games being bumped up into the R18+ category? Will formerly Refused Classification games suddenly make it through with an R18+ rating? We looked into the Classification Act to find out.

The Classification Act (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 is a document that explicitly details the rules and procedures for content classification. The only way that The Act can be circumvented is if there is a change in legislation. With this in mind, we ventured into The Act to look for answers to common questions that have emerged since the government announced that we would be receiving an R18+ rating.

The information provided here is based on current legislation and does not take into account what might change in the future. We also spoke with a former member of The Classification Board for some background information.

If a game has just been classified and it received an MA15+ rating when it really should have received an R18+ rating, will the introduction of the R18+ bump it from an MA15+ game to an R18+ game?

No. The Classification Board cannot re-classify a game until two years have lapsed since the original classification. So if a game called Saints Theft Auto V was classified as MA15+ today and we receive an R18+ rating tomorrow, The Board cannot reclassify the game until two years have passed. This doesn’t mean that the classification can’t be reviewed or appealed, but we’ll talk more about this later.

If a game has been Refused Classification, can it be re-submitted for classification when we receive an R18+ rating?

Yes, but it would still have to wait for two years after the original classification period before it can be re-classified.

If there has been a change made to the game, whether it be a big change or a small one, then it may be re-submitted as an entirely new product. The game does not have to change its name, but the contents must be different in some way.

When we spoke to a former member of The Classification Board, he gave us an example of the film Ice Age, which was submitted to The Classification Board three times for classification. The name remained the same but each submission showed the film in a different stage of production, so they were considered separate products.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it costs publishers money to submit games for classification, so if they don’t think a game will sell well then there may not be much incentive for them to re-submit it for classification.

Can you give me an example of a change a game could make to be considered a ‘new’ game?

It could be any type of content change, whether it is in the form of new maps, different dialogue, new skins or clothes for the characters, etc. The example we received from the former Classification Board member involved DLC. If an RC game was “joined” with an add-on to create a new game, that new game could just go through a normal classification process. So if a distributor/publisher thought that their Refused Classification game would fit into the new R18+, they could join it with a DLC level, weapons, and skins onto the one disc and submit it as a fresh classification application and use the name of the original game, or maybe call it a “limited edition”.

So what needs to happen for a game to be reclassified? Will MA15+ games automatically get reclassified when we receive an R18+ rating?

The Act stipulates that there are several ways a reclassification can take place (although all must respect the two year waiting period).

The Board can reclassify a game at its own initiative, although there is not a lot of precedent this happening.

The Board must reclassify a game if a Federal Minister makes a request. A State or Territory Censorship Minister can ask the Federal Minister (in writing) to make a request to The Board, in which case The Board must also re-classify a game.

Dead or Alive: Dimensions got reclassified before the two year period! What’s the deal with that?

The two year restriction does not apply if The Board discovers contentious material in the game that was not disclosed at the time the game was originally classified. So in the case of Dead or Alive: Dimensions, the version of the game that was released in Australia did not mention that the girls in the game were underage, whereas the Swedish version did. With this new information in mind, The Board then revoked the game’s original classification and it subsequently received a new rating.

What about games like Manhunt and Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure? They were rated MA15+ and then Phillip Ruddock got The Classification Board to ban them. Can politicians do whatever they want?

Now we’re talking about appeals, which are different to classifications. Appeals (known as “reviews” under the National Classification Scheme) can be requested by the Federal Censorship Minister for any Classification Board decisions. A different Board, known as The Classification Review Board hears reviews. If any censorship minister asks the Federal Minister to ask the Review Board for a review of a classification, he/she must do so.

A “person aggrieved” can apply to the Review Board to review a Classification Board decision, but there is a time limit for the person aggrieved and there is a legislative test for a person or organisation to meet the definition of a person aggrieved.

Manhunt and Marc Ecko’s Getting Up were not “re-classified”; they were reviewed by the Review Board and had their classification changed from MA15+ to RC.

So politicians and ‘aggrieved persons’ can lodge appeals against classification decisions they’re not happy with … can publishers do the same?

Yes, a publisher can appeal a decision made by The Classification Board. One example is SEGA’s appeal after Alien vs. Predator was Refused Classification in Australia. We asked SEGA Australia what the appeal process was, and they said that it they had to follow the procedures set out by the Classification Operations Branch, which involved providing a first-hand demonstration of the game to board members so as to show them material in the game played in the correct contextual environment.

SEGA have confirmed that they intend to appeal the classification decision for House of the Dead: Overkill – Extended Cut.


Comments

    It got passed?!

      Where've you been? It was reluctantly passed but the important thing is that we're on the road!

        Under the same rock as myself apparently. When did it get passed!!!

          few months ago. the final decision is yet to be made, i think in january, but its more or less certain. NSW attorney general is only one to still be saying no.
          -not 100% on this info

            Nah Matt, the NSW AG is onboard now as well. :)

      I don't think we actually have the rating yet, but all the state A-Gs have agreed to it, so it's only a matter of time. I think we're optimistically looking at having an R18+ by the end of the year. I'm hoping it won't be too far from

        Only agreed in principle. Still haven't agreed on anything beyond that we should have one. Have to wait for the ALRC findings.

      Kinda sucks, no great, victorious day of celebration like I was hoping for.

    Would totally buy Saints Theft Auto V!

    I imagine it's a blend of GTA (natch), Driver SF, and Messiah.

      I think you completely missed the reference to Saints Row...

      lmfao thank you i completly missed that, yeh its a combo of saints row and GTA, but funny as... lol

      Gears of Halo Theft Auto 5 is better.

    I didn't realised it got passed too! When is it being introduced?

      No word on this yet. They're still figuring the guidelines.

    I think the problem is that if the people in charge thinks something is too obscene, then they must think that all of Australia will agree. That is where everything goes grey.

    Heres my thoughts, if its allowed in the US, UK and the NZ then Australians have a right to said game/film aswell. Rapelay was banned universally so of course it wouldnt be allowed in here, but MK9 wasn't.

    Slowly but surely we will see a change and Australia will grow out of its nanny delusion.

    If all else fails, just import or download it.

      I don't see that happening. Not with Labor wanting to introduce an internet filter. The nannying is here to stay.

        The internet filter was dumped as a part of the Labour/Greens deal for the majority government. :)

    It means that a zombie game can have zombies in it without bizarre comparisons to humans with a rabies like virus being made!

    To be honest it wasn’t so much me wanting any of those RC titles, it was more the fact that I was told I couldn’t have them and for no good reason by out of touch old men.

    "If any censorship minister asks the Federal Minister to ask the Review Board for a review of a classification, he/she must do so."

    Don't you love how the government makes really convoluted processes for things? If someone wants a game reviewed, they need to ask the censorship minister, who needs to ask the federal minister, who needs to ask the review board...

      That's a bureaucracy at work :p

      "So politicians and ‘aggrieved persons’ can lodge appeals against classification decisions they’re not happy with … "

      Is it just me or do other people anticipate groups like the ACL trolling the system by complaining about every game that gets an R18+ classification. Effectively bringing the whole system to a grinding halt. (If they have to keep reviewing games constantly because of some aggrieved person(s))

        I think an important thing to keep in mind is that even if various groups try to appeal the rating of every game, it's not exactly a simple process. This all costs time and money and both boards have to classify and review enough games as it is.

        The ACL in pretty much all cases would fail the "aggrieved person" test, thus couldn't appeal themselves. That's not to say they don't lobby a friendly Minister to get a rating reviewed of course, but they'd likely wear out their welcome if they did it too much.

    Sooo, does that mean Mortal Kombat 9 can't be released until 2 years after the R rating introduction? (even though everybody in Australia has already imported it)

    If that's the case, then MK9 won't be released here at all since interest would diminish to the point that releasing it would cost more money then you would make back.

      I'd say they would slightly modify it like including the first DLC with the game, then get it re-classified.

      It means if the publisher of the game makes a slight change to it, even if this is something as small as changing a title screen, they can re-submit the game as a whole new game and it can go through the regular classification process.

      If they want to re-submit the exact same game with absolutely not changes made to it, they have to wait for 2 years before they can do so.

      It means people can import and not have to worry about getting fined or caught.

    What a load of crap - they sit on their proverbial arses for years deciding whether or not to approve this, now they slap the 2 year clause on reclassification. Basically, they're still fluffing themselves for the 3 year difference between an MA and an R title.

    How is a title, currently rated MA15 and unsuitable to be so, any different than bumping up Dead or Alive before the "allocated" 2 year period. As far as I'm concerned, the content seen in titles like Gears of War or Ninja Gaiden should be considered just as much a priority.

    Resubmitting a title with "changed content" is also ridiculous and a way to try and get more money for the classification department. Older titles like Getting Up, Manhunt, Soldier of Fortune, Shellshock will never get "changed content". Mortal Kombat and L4D2 may end up getting a "GotY" which will be no different to the current title, so what difference does it make - aside from revenue.

    I had my hopes up that the R rating would fix the situation, instead its still just another disability this country has to live with.

      That two year clause has been there for a while. It came up when Modern Warfare 2 was released and there was the controversy over the No Russian mission.

      It is still completely bollocks, but that's just because the system is broken.

      wait this is not stevO the Devo We have 2 stevo's nice.

    Reclassified L4D2 please.

    Still think everyone's getting ahead of themselves with this rating. I'm still willing to put money down on it being the current MA rating rebranded as R.

    How many times can a classification be appealed? Is it just once for a given product? Could they re-appeal on grounds that the ratings categories have changed, rather than have to submit a new version of the product?

    But the most important question I'm still not clear on. Is the R18 just a higher category of MA15+ or may games formerly RC'd now qualify as R18+ instead. I mean sure they said it can be reviewed (2yrs, or changed content) but that in no way implies that formerly Refused Classification games would be eligable for an R18+ in the new scale. they could still just RC the lot and we've just got a watered down.. er up MA15.

    It'd be a step in the right direction at least but it wouldn't change anything if thats the case.

    Also I completely see the ACL trolling the system.

      Some games that have been RC'd will still be RC'd.

        Some games that have been RC'd probably should still be, but I'm wondering about the others that could snugly fit in R18 oversees. ;)

    I just want the full version of L4D2

      Just checked wikipedia and L4D2 was released on the 19th of November 2009. Chances are that it's already been two years since it was classified. So Valve could just get it reclassified or release a GoTY version like someone already mentioned. Either way, I hope Valve does try and their original game to us.

        I think you are forgetting that valve had added a TON of new content, and so could easily reclassify it.

      For reclassification, this is the only game that REALLY matters!

      It's still relatively new, and it seriously upset the realism of the game to the point that it took away a lot of enjoyment - for me at least.

    so it will be 2 years until we can play L4D2 high violence without some kind of workaround that limits the amount of people we can game with online, if Valve even bothers resubmitting it...

      L4D2 will have been out 2 years this November, so from how I see it, it can be resubmitted for an R18+ this year, if we had an R18+ in use by then.

    I want Postal 3, but alas...even with an R rating we wont get it :'(

    Interesting article, I'd been wondering about a lot of those questions.

    What are these National borders you speak of? Aren't we in a New World Order yet?

    Considering it's basically amending the Regulations Act, will this need to be passed in the HoR and Senate again? Or will the changes be introduced without the need for parliamentary debate?

    I think it's crap that the Australian government puts so much stock into freaking video games. The games don't breed violence, they're an outlet. If someone is going to be violent, it's in their nature or they have a severe mental illness(or both). Sociopaths existed LONG before television violence and video games. Banning the games was a jackoff move and I'm sorry that gamers over there have to deal with that shit. I hope your government gets over themselves soon. Best of luck to everyone importing your games. I hope it doesn't cost a ton of extra money to get the games you want. (Yes, I know the US government is losing it's ENTIRE mind of late, but at least we have our games!)

    Less-egregious censorship is still censorship. Stop the goddamned censorship, assholes.

    Wait a sec...

    So you need to wait 2 years to re-submit a game for classification once we have a R18+ category...but if you change it in some way, you can resubmit it straight away?

    So for example, change one line of dialogue, and re-submit, bypassing the 2 year waiting period?

    Umm...what?

      The idea is if you change a game then it is considered a new product, and so it can be submitted as a new thing. mmhmmm.

        Yeah I was more remarking about how ridiculous that is. Why have the 2 year wait if it can be bypassed so easily is what I'm wondering.

    The interesting thing will be what happens to MA15+. The desire of at least some of the AGs (SA clearly) is to completely replace MA15+ with R18+. I think 15 is too young for some (most?) MA15+ games, but 18 too high. MA16 or 17 maybe? My problem is I see 12yr olds buying CoD, and I don't want that to be my child. Only an R18+ rating has the impact to significantly reduce those sales.

    I still have 5 copies of Left 4 Dead 2 AU version sitting in my Steam inventory. Until it gets reclassified I don't think I'll give them out, just to spare anyone the unfortunate experience it brings.

    Or something.

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