Since 2012, plain tobacco packaging laws forced stores to sell cigarettes absent of all branding in an attempt to dissuade young people from buying them.
A few Target stores in South Australia seemed to be doing the same thing with video games.
They believed they were following the letter of the law and -- bizarrely -- they might be right.
Above image via NeoGAF
The above picture was taken by NeoGAF user nephilimdj in Target Edwardstown, South Australia, in the Castle Plaza shopping centre.
As you can see, all R18+ games have been placed in plain packaging with the warning "you must be 18 years or over" to purchase.
This is a rare sight in South Australia, rare enough that it was a surprise to many when it was posted -- even those living in South Australia. Rare enough that, when we saw it, we contacted Target Australia directly to ask what was going on. Was this a Target policy at the South Australian state level? Was this something they did across all stores? Or was this one rogue store acting on their own impulses.
Target Australia responded with this statement:
The photo you sent to us is not company standard. The store in question took itself to action the display featured in the photo you provided. Target Australia complies with the relevant legislation in each state on the display of 18+ games. We have tracked down the store and this has now been corrected.
In short: this was not company policy. Target Edwardstown had been contacted and was asked to correct the situation.
We decided to speak to the Target store in question to ask why the games section had been altered in this way.
We were informed that the store had been inserting plain packaging into its video games as seen in the image above. We were also told that the store would continue doing this, because it is asked of them by South Australian legislation. The store representative confirmed this wasn't specific to video games -- that Blu-rays and DVDs were being treated similarly.
We checked the legislation. In 2011 IGN Australia reported that plain packaging laws could be applied to video games in South Australia. The reality: this legislation had already been passed and put into place in January 2010 and was already applicable to video games.
Of course, in 2010 Australia didn't have an R18+ rating for video games. Australia's first R18+ game was released over three years later in 2013. When that happened it was assumed games would fall under the same state legislation in South Australia.
The applicable section reads as follows:
An occupier of premises (other than adult-only premises) at which computer games with a classification lower than R 18+ are sold must not display material for a computer game classified R 18+ at the premises— (a) unless— (i) the material is displayed in a different area (including, for example, in a different aisle or on a different shelving case, stand or table) from that in which material for other computer games is displayed; and (ii) the area is marked as an area displaying material for computer games classified R 18+ by a notice complying with subsection (2) displayed in a prominent place near the area; and (iii) the surface area of the material that is on display (for example, the cover of a casing containing the game, where that is on display) isnot more than 300 cm²; or
(b) unless, at all times while on display, the material bears no images or markings other than— (i) the name of the computer game in letters of 10 millimetres or less in height; and (ii) the determined markings relevant to its classification
The key words in this section are "or" and "unless".
South Australian legislation requires only that stores do one or the other: they either create a marked R18+ specific section or they cover R18+ games as seen in the above image.
As you might expect, most stores opt for the simpler R18+ specific section, like this Big W store:
Image via RedArtifice
Or this JB Hi-Fi:
But plenty of stores ignore the legislation completely:
Images via Jickle
We've been informed that a large number of stores in South Australia don't bother following the guidelines at all.
But these few Target stores appear to be following both suggestions at once. They appear to be creating an R18+ specific section and obscuring the front covers.
And Target Australia has practically confirmed this to us over the phone, informing us that this was the result of a miscommunication between stores.
According to Target Australia the display shown in the image above is being dismantled as we speak.