A Major Amendment Was Just Made To The Australian Classification Act

Starting from today, video game classification in Australia just took a major step forward.

In an Australia where R18+ video games can be bought and sold in stores, it's tempting to put the tools down and say "job well done". But issues with classification still remain. The biggest currently plaguing Australia? The nature of the classification process itself — the cost, the bloat, the endless process. That represents the greatest obstacle.

Put simply, the process needs to be streamlined. Currently absolutely every single game released needs to be classified in Australia and that's a problem. The workload is incredible and games are slipping through the cracks. Apps on the IOS store, for example, are supposed to go through the classification board, but how could they? How could any regulatory body handle the sheer volume?

The short answer is: they can't. At the moment Apple is currently using its own regulatory system, which is technically illegal here in Australia, but who could possibly question them?

Today an amendment to the Classification Act was put through that paves the way for future developers and publishers to push through classifications without having to go through the Classification Board itself. You can read the whole thing here but the most important line is this...

Amends the: Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to: enable certain content (including online and mobile device content) to be classified using classification tools

This amendment basically helps set up a situation where video games will be able to receive classification through some sort of form or online questionnaire as opposed to being sent to the board itself, a process which is incredibly time consuming and expensive. This is the first step towards some sort of industry led co-regulation for games rated under MA15+, a move which (if it happens) will ease the incredible burden the Classification Board currently has to bear.

But it's an incredibly slow process. The Australian Law Reform Commission advised that steps like these be taken back in March 2012 and this amendment is literally the first step forward towards that goal.

We could be waiting a while.


Comments

    So this may delay some games being released to Australia?

      I think it might help some games get here more efficiently. One of the reasons our Nintendo eShop offerings are so poor is because the cost of classification literally makes it not worth bringing certain niche games here. Hopefully this process will be cheaper and make it easier for certain developers/publishers to release games here.

        The idea of the amendment means that content looking for a specific rating, I.E, M or MA15+, can hit the automated process with the use of tools, rather then be broken down by multiple bodies. If something questionable arises, it's forwarded through as per usual. This means that content we deem R rated, will be deemed so appropriately, rather then having a bunch of 45-55 year old geezers thinking that a zombie loosing it's arm in the most stupidest way and/or in the least graphical way (Left 4 Dead 2, prime example), won't take 6 weeks to decide whether or not it's R rated and needs a graphical patch on the game.

        I always wondered what the go was- that's good to know Mark, thanks!

          are you the same guy who writes into Hyper alot? and do you get this question alot?

        Well, yes, I hope, but it also says "that publishers will no longer be able to apply for exemption certificates for unclassified films or computer games". What does this mean for Steam???

        Hopefully, this means Shantae: Risky's Revenge finally making it to the AU eShop.

        huh, wow i never knew that. I always wondered why it was so lackluster here. How come that doesn't seem to affect indies on steam? is that a different process? or does Valve cover costs like that (I doubt it).

    So my games on the iOS App Store are technically breaking the law since they were never classified?

    Last edited 28/08/14 3:54 pm

      I thought the whole thing with the app store was that iPhones are classed as mobile phones therefore don't fall under the Classification Act, so can get away with it. Although I don't know that iPads would be the same...

        Technically smart phones do fall under the Act, but the Act was written even before CD's were being used, so no wonder there's confusion. The last government put forward a Bill that carved out mobile devices to a degree while they sorted out the legislation, but the Bill never got passed, nor the legislation sorted! However, given the 'spirit' of the Bill, there's really been no enforcement happening in digital space (smart phones, iPads etc) to date.

        For a bit more of an explanation, we pulled together an 'Emerging Issues' paper which tries to simplify the issues and offer solutions. You can get a copy at http://www.igea.net/2013/12/emerging-issues-and-solutions-for-the-classification-of-computer-games-in-australia/

      Depends on what's classed as a "Computer Game". It's never been properly defined (and likely won't ever be with the current abhorrent state of classification laws in this country), so every app developer is in legal limbo.

    Maybe we'll be able to avoid some of the dumber shit that this board has done now.
    "FALLOUT IS BAD BECAUSE YOU USE MORPHINE TO GET BETTER! NOW THE KIDS WILL WANT MORPHINE AND HEROIN!"

      Morphine addiction is bad, killing shopkeepers to get your goods for free is all good... also, no matter how much you shoot kids in the face, they don't die.

      Life lessons to learn from Fallout 3.

        And blowing up city's don't get you money and a free apartment lol

      Except that anything that would be reasonably expected to get into a restricted category (MA15+, R18+) still has to go via the old route.

        Not necessarily. IGEA are pushing for any changes to include all classification levels. If you look at the legislation passed today, it covers from G to RC. It's not out of the realm that any other changes would be as inclusive. The comments of the Senate Hearing actually highlights our insistence that all classification levels are covered (http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Legal_and_Constitutional_Affairs/Classification_2014/~/media/Committees/legcon_ctte/classification/report/report.pdf)

    Mark, could you possibly reach out to Bossa Studios in the UK, perhaps find out the reason why Surgeon Simulator wasn't released locally on the PS4?

    The game was never submitted for Classification, so it would be nice to find out why from them and whether or not these changes would help them?

    I am very happy about this news. Hopefully some of the awesome titles that we've missed out on because of the costs and processes associated with classification will be released here finally. It's even worse than Atlus!

    I've already been region switching to buy [email protected] games from the US store, as classification in Australia is too expensive and slow for indie devs to bother.

      I've been doing that to buy games at $59.95 USD

        Yea I do that also haha. Except Diablo 3, because it was cheaper in the AU store for 4 days.

          I saw that and bought that too. I wondered if it was a mistake or if it was just going to be a cheaper price in general since it is in "the game of the year with DLC" territory of releases. Then I wondered if it was going to be even cheaper in the US store. But no, happy mistake.

          My GT is: Shadow Artiste if you wanna do some diablo on Xbone.

    It bothers me how slowly things move in our parliament, not to mention how expensive it is too. When you're earning ridiculous wages and benefits there's little motivation to move at a pace other than that of a snail. But at least we're moving in a forward direction and not being held back by groups like the ACL (or whatever their name is).

    Also, respectfully, I found a few typos:

    "The workload in incredible
    "This amendment basically helps sets up"

    *no fedora was worn during the discovery of these*

      Things move slowly in our parliament unless it's Super Urgent Budget Cuts for the Budget Crisis We're Totally Having!!! WE HAVE TO SMASH THROUGH DEREGULATION OF UNIS SO STUDENTS CAN GET ROGERED IN FIVE MINUTES!

      ...pass the deregulation in 5 minutes, not rogering students for 5 minutes. that's more like four years.

    We need to get the old women and religious fanatics off the damn review board.

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