How Australia Rates Video Games

The Classification Board is the body responsible for rating video games (and other stuff!) in Australia, and as such, is often blamed for the mess our system currently finds itself in. Thing is, it's not their fault.

The Board's job is to look at a game, assess its content, then award it a rating. That's it. The decision to add an adults-only rating for the country's games rests with politicians, not this apolitical body, something a representative from the group is able to explain in great detail as part of this interview with AustralianGamer.

The unnamed rep, revealing the Board's methodology under condition of anonymity, goes into great detail about how a game is rated in the land without an adults-only classification, saying most games are played to completion by staffers, and those that aren't are classified on the basis of video footage and a description provided by the publisher.

Of particular interest is the Board's guidelines on what constitutes excessive violence, which was the reason given for Aliens vs Predator's initial ban:

Overall in terms of the guidelines violence that exceeds a "Strong" rating is a scene that contains the use of greater detail that can include slow motion, close-ups, extenuation techniques (such as lighting, perspective and resolution), uses special effects in colour, tone, images and sound. A key factor in some of the controversial decisions you see is the use of prolonged violence.

Also provided is what the Board looks for when examining sex and drugs in a game, which has been an issue for titles like Fallout 3:

Two of the key things are, as a general rule, accepting material that is restricted to adults, nudity and sexual activity which must not be related to incentives and rewards. What this means is if a game contains nudity or sexual activity, that is connected with incentives or rewards, that game falls out of the MA15+ category. Also material that contains drug use and sexual violence that is connected to incentives or rewards falls out of the MA15+ classification.

It's interesting stuff. The excerpts above are just a taste; the full interview can be found below.

Classification Board of Australia Part 1 [AustralianGamer]


Comments

    I cant read the full article at work so I apologize if I am covering something already discussed.

    I personally find the part about drugs interesting. All drugs are connected to incentives and rewards in real life. From the day you are born, drugs are taken to alleviate pain and discomfort. There is a natural connection in people's minds between drugs and rewards.

    I think it is short-sighted to penalize Fallout 3 for its portrayal of drugs simply because they provide a reward to the character. I think the use in Fallout 3 would actually be good for a younger audience to see, because it plays up the downsides to extended drug use. If anything it can scare people away from drugs because the abuse effects are so extreme.

    Though in the fallout case most if not all of the drugs also had a negative effect. Seems like that should have negated the 'reward' for using them.

    In the AvP case I think I can see where they're coming from. Though some of the violence is very detailed and gory it only lasts for a couple of seconds. From a game design perspective this works well as it means that it's just as shocking each time, rather than becoming de-sensitised to it.

      Though the drug they had an issue with was not those addictive drugs it was morphine which just gave you health.

        Morphene was re-named to Med-X, which is not the health-boosting drug if I remember correctly. It -was- addictive, and gave the player a damage resistance. A pretty strong one, too. But the consequences for addiction were pretty steep, given that the drug was uncommon at best in most places around the DC Wasteland.

    I used to be an authorised OFLC assessor for video games and have had to play and rate games that were on the upper end of MA15+, often having to explain why exactly the game should be allowed within the 'context' of the game, i.e. if the game is based on an alien world you can get away with stronger violence than based on Earth (especially in modern real settings).

    In regards to drugs, the reward vs penalty is very important. In Fallout 3, I never 'got addicted' once while playing it, took the drugs whenever I wanted and found no negative effect, hence the reason for the name change of drugs. If you look at something like, say, GTAIV or Saints Row, when you took too much drugs it had the negative effect of making you drive or walk badly, making it easier for cops to arrest you, so usually you would avoid using any of those drugs unless absolutely necessary to get back health..

    what i am noticing alot lately, is the amount of games that are rated 18+ overseas that are getting into Australia as MA15+
    Alot of people say that australia is conservative etc but we are not. We are happily giving games that are rated for adults only all around the word, to kids here with no age checks.
    I am certain that most people do not know this, especially those people who might vote against a r18+ rating. A r18+ alone is not enough to fix our system, the whole system needs reworking!

    Shouldn't that technically make Mass Effect (both of them) R18+? You can sleep with your crew members, get achievement points for doing it and opens up further options in the game sometimes(and possibly exp, can't remember). There's clearly reward in doing it.

    I suppose if it wasn't mentioned by the developer and the assessor testing the game didn't follow that line of the story they may not have known it was in there. Can anyone shed some light? Maybe Pdaddy being that you've had first hand experience in the classification process?

    Clint, that's one of the key arguments for an R 18 rating. These games should be rated R, but they aren't because the rating doesn't exist, so they are shoehorned into MA 15+.

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