Read The New R18+ Guidelines, And Prepare For Disappointment

The new guidelines for the R18+ rating have just been released, giving us a concrete idea of what the new adult rating for video games will look like. It's difficult to tell precisely how these will be implemented by the Classification Board when the rating comes into being in 2013, but at first glance, it does not look promising.

To begin with, the issue of interactivity increasing the impact of violence — yep, that old chestnut — rears its ugly head.

Interactivity is an important consideration that the Board must take into account when classifying computer games. This is because there are differences in what some sections of the community condone in relation to passive viewing or the effects passive viewing may have on the viewer (as may occur in a film) compared to actively controlling outcomes by making choices to take or not take action.
 

Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
 

Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also increase the impact of some content.
 

And it looks as though some games that were banned previously in Australia, without an R18+ rating, would most likely be banned under the new R18+ rating. Particularly with relation to in-game drug use.

Computer games will be Refused Classification if they contain: (i) illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards; (ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic.

It's too early to make judgements — we'll have to wait and see precisely how the Classification Board applies these guidelines — but the R18+ rating, at this stage seems to share similarities to the previous MA15+ rating.

You can read the new guidelines in their entirety here.


Comments

    They still think a bunch of 12-year olds are going to buy R18 games. Typical Australian government.

      i dare say some will though, what they should be doing along side this is cracking down on underage sales

        No, what they should be doing is making sure that parents are educated on the matter.

          This! 100 times this! I've been saying this for years. Sure, it's about damn time we get an R18+ rating, but it's not going to do much good considering it's way to easy for minors to get a hold of them. Retailers should be too afraid of getting caught to risk selling them to minors. I was 4 years old the first time I played Mortal Kombat. Sure, I didn't BUY it at 4, my parents had it on the Amiga and I found it one day, but I used to rent MK2 and MK3 when I was around 10 and nobody tried to stop me and I'm sure if I went into a store with a fist full of cash they would have sold them too me as well. I can see what they're afraid of, but what they need to do instead of denying us adults of adult content is focus their energy on making sure only adults can purchase it.

            actually times have changed and they do actually care these days. I'm 23 and I look at least 18 yet I got asked for ID recently when purchasing an MA 15+ game. I laughed at the clerk and showed him my gold license but seriously wtf.

          +1000000

            Because the gov really wants to inform you and put the power in your hands lol

      2014 editorial headline prediction: ARE OUR R18+ GAME SAFE FOR KIDS?

      Laugh now, facedesk later.

        It is illegal for a guardian to allow a child under the age of 18 to view R rated material. MA rated material is OK for people under the age of 15 with a parents consent, this is the major difference in rating.

          It's illegal but it's not really illegal. No cop is going to show up and fine you/arrest you for showing your child adult content.
          At least that 's how I remember it being last time I checked

            I'm sure if a parent was regularly sharing pornographic material with his or her young child then child services would get involved if they were informed. I would hope the same would be true of gratuitously violent content which is also inappropriate and could have a serious repercussions on a child's development.

              There's an big difference between an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and an Porno - which is X-18+ by the way.

              Last edited 16/10/12 2:20 pm

              By adult content, I did not mean pornography, as Hyperthx points out it's not all about porn. There are some violent scenes in games/movies that would be R18+. Showing a child these (child including 17) would not necessarily harm their development. At 17 I was as mature as I was at 18 and as I am at 19, the difference? Almost nothing.

      Well, considering MA15+ is a RESTRICTED catagory, and kids get there hands on them, then it makes a bit of sence. Tho, what I want to see is a site set-up to HELP paretns work out all this shit without the legal mabojumbo

    Still better than the current system where they take games rated R18 overseas and slap an MA15 label on them (proper banning only the graphic dismemberment and the drugs - which leads me to ask, can we take limbs off now?).

      That still looks shady, although post mortem dismemberment with no context will likely remain banned.

    God, I really hope they treat R18 like R18. There has been a lot of good people working hard for this. It would be mega lame to see their efforts fall short.

      Many of us fighting since 1993′s death of R18 and X18 games.
      (Yes, it briefly existed. BOTH of those!)

    If you read the content of the R18+ rating I really can't see much in there which wasn't already getting into our MA15+ games. So I guess they basically fixed the fact that MA15+ stuff was being underclassified, but video games are still restricted to the same ghetto they always were in the eyes of the government, as a lesser form of media which can't be allowed to be as expressive as its peers. :(

      to be fair, most of the argument for an R18 rating for games was that games rated MA15+ weren't appropriate for minors. The argument was rarely about adults not being able to access more graphic content.
      What you see in this report is basically what was being asked for in all of the petitions.

        Yep, it was always going to turn out this way because of how the debate was couched. The tune changed from "we need an R18+ rating because we're adults" to "MA15+ is broken and getting the wrong content" and it picked up traction as a result, but the reason for that was because the system was obviously not working.

        Now that problem is fixed but we've probably screwed ourselves out of ever getting a real 18+. :(

          Its a start. There will be subject matter creep. A lot of stuff in R-rated films would have gotten it an X rating in the eighties.

            Enter the Dragon and Total Recall used to be rated R18+ among alot of others.

              Triple breasted women are not appropriate for underage kids. At no time should they be subjected to more than one breast!

      Many of us fighting since 1993's death of R18 and X18 games.
      (Yes, it briefly existed. BOTH of those!)

        WTF? The board failed me. This isn't where I put my comment!

    "as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly
    themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for
    harm or detriment, particularly to minors."

    I'd really like it if they could post the references to the peer reviewed published papers that this supposed finding comes from...

      I too would like to see the evidence.

      they really aren't making a definitive statement, go back and read it again. They admit that it's a generalization. There aren't any studies to prove whether they do or don't have a greater impact, and the government is playing it safe by saying that there is a possibility of strong er impact.

      Here's a link to one article which might shed some light on the issue:
      http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2005-2009/06BA.pdf

      The idea that personal interaction is better for learning information and behaviours is surely not controversial. The entire concept of "learning by doing" is based around it, after all.

      That's not to say we should bar responsible adults from violent or sexual content in video games, and an R18+ rating is well overdue, but the fact that interactive activities, not just video games, have some conditioning effect on people's behaviour greater than passive activities isn't, I think, particularly contentious.

        I considered offering a link myself, but having done so before, I know that no amount of evidence will convince people otherwise, even though I think its possible to think interactivity does enhance the effect AND that adults should have access to violent games.

        Yeah, I totally agree with you. I'd like to see a coherent argument that disproved the above theory, but I'm yet to come across one. This is one of the reasons I avoid military shooters, but still watch the occasional war film. I feel more involved in the video game than the film, and the violence in the former can make me feel particularly uncomfortable.

        Only if the children concerned are left to get their life lessons from such sources, rather than their parents.

        Unfortunately, "Get off your arse, and learn some actual parenting skills" doesn't make for a vote-winning slogan. Not when it's easier to go on A Current Affair and blame 'society' for your kids being stupid.

    A victory for the ACL, it would seem.
    Which is always a loss for common sense and logic.

      Not surprised, after the 18+ rating was passed the ACL effectively said that the R18+ rating should be what the current MA15+ rating is. Just this just means that Adult Aussies will continue to Import\Pirate games as they have before.

      It's a victory to all those people who were concerned about children playing inappropriate games and for those parents who will now find it easier to identify inappropriate content

        Explain that comment with the understanding that we're talking exclusively about the content of R18+ games that parents should not be buying for their children regardless of content. Or do you consider the possibility that someone underage might illicitly see the content of an 18+ game reason enough to censor all games?

          I think he is saying now its got an R18 on it, parents will know its NOT for children and wont buy it for them, rather than how it seems now where they see MA and think it cant be that bad cos its only MA.
          That's how I saw his comment anyway.

            That's what he meant.

            On a related note, they'll still buy it to shut up their spawn

              I CAN EXPLAIN MYSELF DAMMIT!

              That's exactly what I meant :)

      Fixed:

      "Policy implemented by our terrifying ACL overlords has traditionally dictated that video-gamers (henceforth referred to as 'godless heathens') be forced to 'eat shit'.

      In attempting to look like bringing our country into line with other countries, we have elected to replace the shit with 'muffins', per the request of the godless heathens.

      Please be assured that despite the fact that these are shit-flavoured muffins, topped with shit and filled with shit-chunks, we have weighted the composition, shape and texture of the muffins, such that they are technically more muffin than shit.

      We hope this appeases the godless heathen community."

    So still no games for adult players huh? Figures. Watch, they'll probably refuse MORE games than before.

      Which is what people asked for really, the claim made by gamers was that the game classification system was outdated and needed a reform to protect children from adult content.

      Apparently we don't exist Sniper, Video Games are exclusively played by children didn't you know that?

    I knew they'd screw it up somehow ...

    1st person vs 3rd person. WOW. I am now going to only drink alcohol, take illicit drugs and murder in third person. Thanks for the heads up fun police!

      I only ever shoot heroin in front of a mirror so I can fully appreciate my shame. Second person view FTW.

      I think you'll have a hard time experiencing life in third person...

        I knew keeping this link in my clipboard at all times would pay off one day

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcD7LMDNG0w

    Well at least sex related to incentives or rewards wont be a paddling.

    How do they define drugs? I really don't want a game banned because my character can drink Wine, Coffee or Cola...

      They define it as real-world drugs or realistic drug use right there.

      To put it simply, if it's something that is readily and legally available or does not actually exist - so for example, Max Payne's painkillers - then it's cool. You can't interactively snort lines of coke or take morphine to regain health. What really clinches it usually is 'incentives or rewards' which you can interpret as 'has an effect on the gameplay'.

      That particular rule is so inconsistently applied though that god knows what it actually means in practice.

        Isn't that how Fallout 3 was banned the first time round because they had real life drugs and scenes of drug use? So really, Fallout 3 would STILL be banned under the new adult rating.

    Import FTW

    Just order from overseas, that's what I do. I've still got the recent Mortal Kombat game, Kollector's Edition, sitting in my house in the open. I mean this has to be the most legal offence you can commit. F*** the authorities, it's legal.

    So all this hype? all this long drawn debating and waiting, all amounts to nothing? that simply MA15+ is now the new 18+?

    This is as ludicrous as the whole Dead or Alive Dimensions re-classification from PG to M which makes no difference in the slightest..

    Looks like the importing shall continue, at least the local prices are easing up so local retailers aren't completely screwed.

    I thought the whole fricken point of this review was that the R18+ classification would be universal across all media?!

    Someone makes a game version to TRAINSPOTTING, it gets RC'd, but the film is available everywhere. With the exact same themes....

    WTF IS THE POINT, IF YOUR R18+ RATING IN A FILM IS WORSE THAN ONE FOR A VIDEO GAME??!!!

    ARGHH!!!

    So much for sense and transparency. Jesus Christ.

      A game can't be banned based on its themes.
      Drug use is also certainly not seen as a reward in Trainspotting, this is a poor example. You could see your character take drugs in a cut scene, however a 'press A to inject heroin' function would not be permitted.

        Fair enough on the 'press A to inject' call. But what is the difference between shooting heroin and shooting an innocent civilian in the face. Pretty sure the second one is the worst. I remember going to a bar in GTAIV and although I didn't actually press a button to make my character take a swig I fully understood what he was doing when he was in there. Maybe something like "Inject Heroin, press A". Then you press A, then your character dies from some dodgy needle. Fun of injecting = removed.

        From the Wikipedia entry on games RC'd in Australia, the game Contenet Under Pressure:
        "Originally released with a MA15+, Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock used his power to later appeal the decision to get it banned for high impact themes involving the glorification of graffiti."

          If you read the guidelines you'll see that under the new regulations games cannot be refused content based upon their themes.

        If you only watched the first half of Trainspotting, you could actually come out of it thinking taking drugs could be pretty fun (ie: physically rewarding)

    So... are they even aware of why we want an R rating for videogames?

    I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

      Funniest comment I have read all week.

      Gold.

      We must go! Our planet needs us!!!

    It's still a step in the right direction. Will worry more when games are getting rc'd.

    Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the
    participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly
    themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for
    harm or detriment, particularly to minors.

    There are two issues that I have with this.

    First of all, there is an assumption that interaction increases "impact". This has never been demonstrated. It sounds like it should be true and everyone has just run with it.

    Secondly, it assumes that repetition universally increases impact. While repetition can increase impact, it can also lessen it by removing the original context that made it impactful in the first place. Does anyone really think that the fatalities in Mortal Kombat stand out to anyone after seeing them fifty times? What about those brutal finishing moves you do in Assassin's Creed? Do they really sit with you after you've seen the exact same animations hundreds of times over a few hours?

    It's a shame that people think that they're applying common sense when really they're just not thinking critically.

    Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the
    participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly
    themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for
    harm or detriment, particularly to minors.

    There are two issues that I have with this.

    First of all, there is an assumption that interaction increases "impact". This has never been demonstrated. It sounds like it should be true and everyone has just run with it.

    Secondly, it assumes that repetition universally increases impact. While repetition can increase impact, it can also lessen it by removing the original context that made it impactful in the first place. Does anyone really think that the fatalities in Mortal Kombat stand out to anyone after seeing them fifty times? What about those brutal finishing moves you do in Assassin's Creed? Do they really sit with you after you've seen the exact same animations hundreds of times over a few hours?

    It's a shame that people think that they're applying common sense when really they're just not thinking critically.

      Arguing that video games desensitize one to violence is probably a poor stance to take on this issue...

        It desensitises you to the violence depicted in the games. I'm yet to see any evidence of people being desensitised to real violence through exposure to virtual violence without them already having some sort of mental illness.

        It seems less like the argument is that games desensitize us to violence, and more that repetition reduces impact by drawing the game further away from its perceived realism. I mean a movement might seem brutal at first, but after 50 times of the same thing it's more like watching a mannequin and not being able to not see the strings. Our suspension of disbelief wavers more and the fact that we are directing a character on-screen, rather than "being" that character, is far more evident.

        Well that's how I feel about it at least.

      OKAY OKAY WE GET YOUR POINT ABOUT REPETITION

        The irony is not lost on me.

          I barely noticed it the second time around. Oh well.

      The bigger issue there is the line "particularly to minors." This is the big problem with all of this. The government STILL treats video games as a "children's medium" when the average age of gamers have been proved time and time again to BE OVER 21+ YEAR OLD!

      Yes, interactivity does have an effect on learning behaviours.
      http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2005-2009/06BA.pdf

        I'm just a layperson and this was clearly not written for someone unfamiliar with this field to read.

        What I did make out of it was that the interactivity aids learning by performing the actions. Basically, working something out is better than rote repetition. Once it got into the field of aggression and video games, the paper seemed to rely heavily on Anderson's previous (controversial) papers linking violent video games to aggression.

        I did not see anything that explain the disconnect between performing a violent action virtually with a few button presses and actually performing the action. There are different levels of interactivity.

        Fairly sure this paper was used by the ACL and was dismissed by the government during the buildup to us getting an R18+ classification.

        But like I said, I'm a layperson. This was not written for the layperson and is no doubt open to plenty of misinterpretation from those looking to try and prove their point. That's why most studies that are cited in the media are often grossly misinterpreted or just flat out wrong.

    One step forward... 8000 steps back.

    I hate this country

      You hate this country? Because of games classification?

      You should be ashamed of yourself.

        Believe me, i have much more to be ashamed of this country for. This "new classification" is just the cherry on the shit Sundae.

        And yes, I'd leave this hole and move elsewhere if i were in a financial situation to leave.

        Yeah, you should really hate this country for the widespread racism, xenophobia and idiocy. The whole R18 thing is further down the list.

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