READY Mythbusters: Children Will Have More Access To Inappropriate Games

READY Mythbusters: Children Will Have More Access To Inappropriate Games

First off, a concession – regardless of whether Australia receives an R18+ rating or not, at some point there will be children out there playing games that aren’t appropriate for their age group.

But at Kotaku we believe that the existence of an R18+ rating will lead to less children having access to these inappropriate games, not more.

Mythbusters is a regular section intended to help dispel the misinformation being distributed around the issue of an R18+ rating. Kotaku readers are amongst the most highly informed gamers when it comes to such issues, but we hope that READY Mythbusters will help provide info for when it comes time to inform others of the confusion surrounding the debate.

An R18+ rating will educate parents
At this stage I would suggest that the problem of children having access to video games is primarily an issue of perception – on a number of different levels.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Uninformed parents incorrectly believe that video games are primarily for children, and this is reinforced by the fact that video games do not have an R18+ rating.

But certain video games are absolutely not for children, and the very act of denying Australians an R18+ rating reinforces the opposite belief – that games are for children.

Providing games with an R18+ rating will send a very strict message to uninformed parents across Australia: games are not exclusively for kids. There are out there games that are not appropriate for your child, and you should be aware of this fact and filter this info into your decisions when choosing what games you children can and cannot play.

An R18+ rating will result in a more accurate ratings system
There are video games on the market that feature adult content – ignoring that fact is tantamount to burying your head in the sand. Without an R18+ rating the Classification Board don’t have the tools with which to classify games accurately.

That wouldn’t necessarily be an issue, since the Classification Board do a great job of making sure that games are rated correctly, but problems arise when it comes to a specific directive set out in the code: “adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want.”

Since this core directive is so important when it comes to classification, there is an argument to be made that certain games that exist on the precipice of an MA15+ rating are being approved as a result of that directive. If an R18+ rating existed, is there any doubt that a game like God of War III would have received that rating instead of an MA15+?

This is not to say that the classification board are rating games inaccurately – they’re not, God of War III does fit within the confines of the MA15+ rating – we’re merely pointing out that an extra rating would allow classifiers that extra step when it comes to more violent titles. This would help protect children.

An R18+ rating will bring sense and consistency to the ratings system
Consistency is of paramount importance when it comes to classification, and the lack of an R18+ rating is making it extremely difficult for classifiers to accurately rate material across different types of media. As the Media Classifiers’ Association stated, this inconsistency weakens classification and results in a loss of legitimacy.

Modern media is converging, and evolving constantly – classifiers need a ratings system that is consistent across all media in order to accurately rate material, to make sure inappropriate content doesn’t fall into the hands of children.

At the moment the lack of an R18+ rating is making it difficult for classifiers to do their jobs properly, and that may result in children gaining easier access to inapproriate games.


  • There is also a psychological effect of a R18 sticker on the box. When I was 13 and 14 my parent would let me play and watch media classified as MA15, but sure as hell would not let me watch an R rated film. Also with the current classification system many RC games are often visually toned down or censored, this does not change the way a game is played. A good example of this would be GTA4, the game may have been altered for Australian consumers, but the gameplay was still the same as the rest of the world, the only difference is that younger people will be able to buy a game that has been classified the equivalent of R18 in New Zealand, North America and Europe. How is the availability of a game that is rated the inequivalent of R18 in the rest of the world, but can be bought be 15 year olds in Australia “protecting children” as anti R18 supporters will say???

  • A lot of people don’t understand the difference between M and MA15+.
    Whereas R18 is well known that its for adults only and inappropriate for children.

    Another point, is that its stupid to have 2 classifications with the age of 15 in them. M is supposed to be “not recommended” for those under 15, but they still can go watch a movie unoccupied by an over 18. MA15+ is supposed to be “restricted to over 15” and you must be accompanied by an over 18 to watch a movie.

    They both have 15 in them. People don’t know the difference.

    Throw in the R, and people know right away.

  • “Uninformed parents incorrectly believe that video games are primarily for children” Hell yes!
    I saw this last night when a Kid, I’ll be generous and say he was about 11, walks out beaming with his new copy of Black Ops with (what I assume is) his grandmother in tow also beaming. Clearly that lady sees games as just for kids and I think will have a different look on her face when she sees it. But then again WTF is an 11 year old doing at a shopping centre at 1am on a school night? Maybe its not ignorance and she’s just a plain shitty parent.

    • Considering education isn’t as it use to be, in terms of difficulty similar to games now days. That school day, weekend day doesn’t quite apply anymore, finger painting is not hard.

      In terms of children getting inappropriate material theres really nothing much a parent can do unless they basically locked up there children (child imprisonment) but that would be illegal in most countries anyways. MA-15 is basically the american T for Teen, and they say kids are having to grow up younger and younger.

      The innocence of youth has been lost.

  • I agree that an R18+ rating sends a very direct message to parents, especially parents who are relatively new to video gaming and don’t necessarily understand the visceral content in some games.

    Ben and JTJ; that’s true: the impact of a black “R18+” sticker is much more culturally entrenched and would be an easy short-hand code for “This game is not for children.”

  • Can’t agree with this article more.

    R18 will educate parents – this is, hopefully, true. When I worked in GAME we’d have all sorts of parents coming to buy inappropriate games for their kids, the best example I remember being BMX XXX for two 12-year-old sons. When I tried to talk her out of it the response was “it’s only a game”. It’s like she didn’t believe all the stuff in it.

    More accurate ratings system – again, hopefully true. GTA4 and God Of War 3 being classified as MA15 when they should be R18. If need be the developers make some small alterations to fit the game into that category, but essentially it’s still the same game that should be R18. It would be easier for everyone (the ratings body who can easily fit the game into an R18, the fans moaning about changes, the developers having to make the changes) if this happened.

    Sense and consistency – absolutely. Films have an R18 rating. Yet games have exactly the same ratings UP UNTIL the R18. Why not?

  • “This is not to say that the classification board are rating games inaccurately” — but they are. Games everywhere else in the world are given the 18+ stamp of approval (Fallout, Gears of War, Saw), but slide in under the 15+ category here. Why? Because there is a problem with the classification board rating them accurately.

    A game like Modern Warfare (lets go with #1 and forget the airport incident), Assassin’s Creed or even Halo: Reach. These games carry the MA15+ banner, yet also fall into the same “classification” as Saw, Clive Barker’s Jericho, Fallout 3, Dead Space, Ninja Gaiden II, even F.E.A.R. all spring to mind as being a ‘level above’.

    Games need the seperation from just being a 15+ game to something else.

  • Excellent article. All of this is the result of a corrupt system where agreement of an R18+ category must be unanimously agreed on by all Attorney-Generals, rather than majority rule. As a result, all it takes is for just one AG to back out and the whole thing is blown to pieces.

    Game censorship just doesn’t work in Australia. Video games rated RC can be obtained anyway by downloading or importing games into Australia, if people have the expertise to do it.

    • “Video games rated RC can be obtained anyway by downloading or importing games into Australia, if people have the expertise to do it.”

      Unfortunately, games that have been refused classification are considered prohibited goods. Thus, it actually is illegal to import such games.

      • Basically anything that is classified RC is illegal to import, not just games. But then it is legal to own any RC material. That doesn’t make any sense.

        Most of the RC games are imported into Australia without Customs noticing. I have managed to import a RC game and a MA15+ game just to be on the safe side.

  • You mentioned the ratings of some games that had been toned down but there was no mention of similar ratings overseas.

    Most recent that comes to mind is Fallout New Vegas – we get EXACTLY the same game as the UK and the disc even has BOTH ratings on it (and Fallout 3 merely had a different sticker on the cover to change it from the UK rating or 18 to the AUS rating of MA 15+). Amazing how many games are classified above 15 in other developed countries but fit in out 15+ category.

  • Let’s be clear- legalising R18+ level games which add higher level violence to the system, will NOT make parents’job easier. Sure parents probably understand R18+ better than they do M and MA15+, but the evidence is clear that even the most responsible parent can’t keep R18+ portable items out of the hands of their kids. It’s been a big problem with DVDs and videos.
    Let’s also be clear that if R18+ games are permitted, the criteria used for assessing them would be the same as now used for films (the systems are tied together). So unless some radical changes took place, the MA15+ criteria would still be the same, and games which fit the MA15+ criteria would still be classified MA15+.
    So where’s the gain for parents?
    So if you want to argue for adult rights to have access to more violent games than you do now, that’s fine, but don’t dress this up as better protection for children.

    • It doesn’t “add higher level violence to the system”. It simply places high-level violence into a new category; R18+, rather than what those kinds of games are currently being placed into; MA15+.

      The introduction of an R18+ classification will not increase the level of violence in video games; it will simply make it easier for parents to understand which games contain violence that isn’t suitable for children.

      • That is true, but some parents don’t take notice of ratings and just buy the games anyway, and some store clerks think that ratings are ‘suggestions’.

        This is an example regarding a movie, but falls into part of the problem: Pulp Fiction is rates R18+. I bought it when I was 13, and wasn’t asked for ID. That was not the first time either – in fact, I’ve never been asked for ID when buying or renting movies and I probably should have been several times – and I definitely don’t look 18.
        Not that long ago, I read something about the sale of R18+ material to minors being an offence with some pretty serious penalties.
        There is apparently an agency handling enforcement, but it relies on the public to tell them who is breaking the law, and this is also pretty useless – I can safely bet that at least 70% of Australians wouldn’t know that selling an R18+ movie to someone under 18 is against the law.

        So an issue to come with this will be the enforcement. It’s useless to have these laws unless they’re enforced, and ignorance is not an excuse. I think most of the issue is that store clerks and perhaps even entire retail chains aren’t aware that ratings are not suggestions and are backed up by the law.

    • barbarella – People like yourself are one of the reasons why an R18 is needed. If you seriously believe that “games which fit the MA15+ criteria would still be classified MA15+”, your knowledge of the games on the market is simply too shallow to make an informed choice as to which games are appropriate for your (hypothetical) 15 year old. That sounds harsh, but I beleive it.

      There are games rated as MA15 here, which are rated as R18 overseas. That is fact.

      Alien Vs Preditor (violence)
      Fallout 3 (violence, prostitution, drug use with benefit, dismemberment of corpses, mass murder, theft)
      Fallout New Vegas (as above)
      Modern Warfare (violence)
      GTA4 (violence, murder, theft, murder of police, prostitution, drug themes)
      These games, simply put, aren’t appropriate for 15 year olds. This is adult content

      If we had an R18 classification in Australia, the above games would instead be rated as R18. Instead, they are either released unchanged (Alien VS Preditor, originally RC, released unchanged on appeal as MA15), or with minor cosmetic changes (Fallout 3 – Morphine renamed to Med-x, ignoring the dismemberment, prostitution, theft etc) as MA15 games.

      If you think that a R18 rating wouldn’t help parents make more informed choices, and therefore help limit to some degree the access children have to this media, you’re kidding yourself

      On a sidenote, does anyone have any idea just how many games *are* RC each year? I wouldn’t imagine it was more than 2-3, judging by instances of it in the media

  • James and Dahvood. I know that my knowledge of the classification system is more informed than yours seems to be.
    The proposal before the AGs is to introduce an R18+ classification for games. It’s not to change the classification criteria for MA15+. All the hype about how games presently MA15+ would be pushed up into the new R18+ is bunkum. That’s not what is being proposed.
    You see, there is just one classification system which covers both cinema films and games. There are criteria for assessing whether films would be R18+ , and if there is to be an R18+ for games these same criteria would be used. That’s the way the system is set up.
    Only if the classification system for games was uncoupled from films, could the games criteria for say M, MA15+, and a new R18+ be modified, so that “strong violence” was pushed up into R18+.
    I don’t think such a radical revision of a joined- up system (which only happened in 2003)is what is in the AGs’ minds.
    Allowing an R18+ for games just adds high level violence, drug taking and sexual activity to the present scene.

    • One of the priorities for classifiers is that “Adults should be allowed to see, hear, read what they want”. This means that games on the precipice, that do fall under the MA15+ rating guidelines, but might be better served as an R18+ will be rated under MA15+. It’s not the fault of the classifier, he is doing his job correctly, but having that extra step, that extra tier, allows for some more common sense judgement.

Log in to comment on this story!