The R18+ Aftermath: Where To Now?

Friday the 10th of December had an air of expectancy about it. At Kotaku we had been building towards it for weeks, but suddenly it was an issue out of our hands. Democracy be damned, a group of politicians would sit in a room, and natter about a topic we’d been obsessing over for months: should Australia have an R18+ rating video games?

We sat, we waited. With the outcome now completely out of our control, Twitter imploded into a nonsensical blast of Oprah jokes and nervous fervour. Mutterings from Canberra stated that the decision would be delayed, after the WA AG’s Media Advisor let slip that Christian Porter wanted more time to consult with his Cabinet regarding the situation.

The news spread quickly, and instantly deflated the momentum we had gathered. And then Brendan O’ Connor emerged with the final disappointing result: any decision on an R18+ rating would have to wait on a new set of drafted guidelines, and be integrated into what is increasingly looking like a reboot of the entire classification system. Any declarations of victory would have to wait.

Silver Linings But there were silver linings – several in fact. Immediately after the press conference Brendan O’ Connor called us, giving an impromptu interview, and he seemed positive.

“It could’ve gone better,” he claimed, echoing the response of all in favour of an R18+ rating, “but there was a lot of goodwill in the room, and everyone agreed that things need to be changed with the rating system. We need to protect children from unsuitable games and we need to make sure that adults are allowed to play the games they want to play.”

“It’s all about the guidelines,” he continued. “We need to have a clear consensus on the guidelines and we’re on the right track.”

And while commenters seemed quick to judge Christian Porter as being ‘to blame’, O’Connor was quick to dispel such rumours.

“Christian has a really open mind about the subject,” claimed O’Connor, “and he is genuinely worried about the way games are currently falling into children’s hands under MA15+. Like I said there was a real consensus in the room, and this is a good first step. Changes will be made and the way we adjust the guidelines are a very important part of that process. We have to work out what’s in and what’s out.”

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics Incredibly, yet somewhat predictably, the Australian Christian Lobby began pushing this decision as a moral victory. Under the ludicrous headline ‘ACL welcomes refusal of R18+ classification for games’, Managing Director Jim Wallace claimed that“It was very clear to me that the great majority of AsG were in a state of bemusement that anyone could want to make or play many of these games and particularly those proposed for an R18+ rating.”

Jim Wallace, alongside other such as Ron Curry from the iGEA, made presentations during the SCAG meeting, so we can only assume that it was blind ignorance or self promotion that resulted in his dramatic misjudgement of the Attorneys-General's intentions - because almost immediately after the SCAG meeting John Rau, who replaced Michael Atkinson as the Attorney General for South Australia, spoke in support of an R18+ rating for games.

“The proposition I put forward,” he began, “was that I would like the other ministers to think about putting in an R18 classification for games, but removing the MA classification altogether."

This was compounded by the fact that the WA State Council passed a motion stating their support for an R18+ rating shortly after the SCAG meeting. Considering one of the supposed sticky points during the SCAG meeting was the fact that the WA AG needed more time to consult, this is a massively positive sign. Based on what we know of other Attorneys-General and their stance on the issue, it seems like the only obstacle towards an R18+ rating is time, and the clunky bureaucracy involved in creating a new set of deadlines.

Gathering steam There was an incredible burst of optimism in the final lead up to December’s SCAG meeting. What was initially driven by enthusiasm and a zest for common sense has been tempered by the realities of political process, but that does not mean that the case for an R18+ rating has lost steam.

On the contrary it is gathering steam. After spending weeks in the public eye, those involved in the process are now well aware of the R18+ issue and are formulating plans to change the rating system, not just with regards to gaming, but across all media.

But as gamers we’re probably going to have to wake up to the fact that an R18+ rating for videogames won’t happen overnight.

Another problem area in December’s SCAG meeting was the presence of a new Attorney-General (Victoria’s Robert Clark) and by March next year there is a good chance that NSW will have a new AG, which could cause further delays.

For now we’ll just have be content in the fact that progress has been made. The right people are aware of the issue; they’re aware that it matters and recognise that changes must be made. We remain optimistic that those changes will include an adult rating for video games, but for now all we can do is wait. And hope.

A summary of decisions from the SCAG meeting has just been released and it stated that the Attorneys-General “will consider draft guidelines to be developed for classification of games at their next meeting, including a possible R18+ classification, taking into account concerns raised by Ministers relating to the difference in nature of film and games; and the interactivity of games.”

Considering where we were on the issue, even as close as two months ago, that is a huge positive step. We just have to keep on moving forward.


Comments

    Ah, Robert Clark. On the Friday I was trying to find out information about our new A-G, but couldn't even find his name. Rob Hulls was a massive supporter, and I wanted to see what his Liberal counterpart would be like/where his views stood.

    Do you have any information on him Mark?

    Do we know when the next SCAG meeting is?

      March if I've heard correctly.

    “The proposition I put forward was that I would like the other ministers to think about putting in an R18 classification for games, but removing the MA classification altogether.”

    Remove the MA15+ classification? or just rename it R18+?

    Whatever comes of it, I'm sure we have many years ahead to debate it....

    Heard you on the Triple J news on Friday afternoon. It's great how both you and Seamus have become some of the strongest voices on this issue to the wider community!

    Consider my anger from Friday soothed. I shall wait patiently for common sense to take it's course
    (Starts Tapping Foot)

    Big round of applause for Mark and his amazing Ready articles. They have been a fantastic Addition to Kotaku.

    Christian Porter is tipped for the treasurer's position within WA's parliament. I can't help reading his 'wanting to canvas his cabinet's opinion' as 'not wanting to ruffle any feathers' right now...

    That said, it was reassuring to see WA's parliament publically support an R18+ rating following the meeting.

    It just seems that any survey's, public consultation, literature reviews, basically any research done in the lead up gets thrown out the window when these guys sit in a room together and they just make personal judgements as individuals.

    Re John Rau's comments - how on earth does introducing an R18+ rating but getting RID of the MA15+ rating constitute a good idea? Why would you create a LESS flexible rating system? Why can you comprehend the idea that there are movies suitable for 15 year olds but not games?

    Why not just keep the MA15+ and add an R18+ above it, and modify the guidelines so the upper end of MA15+ moves up into R18+? I'm not particularly opposed to this, as long as it means adults can play the same games the rest of the world gets in uncut form, but it seems a very strange idea.

    And while we're at it, what about this quote? "The current MA15 rating was a "grey area" that included both family-friendly games and material "very, very close" to being declared adults only, he said."

    Can somebody please enlighten me as to which "family-friendly" games have been released with an MA15+ rating?

    Also this: "Removing the MA15 rating would force distributors to either clean up their games to the point where they could be classified PG or force them to accept an adults-only rating." I hope that's just a case of the writer of the article forgetting about the M rating, or are they planning to abolish that, too?

      M15+ and MA15+ are constantly confused. A lot of people cannot tell the difference between the two ratings and don't know that M15+ is a recommendation whilst MA15+ is a restriction.

      I read a fair bit of the research that was done prior to the revamping of the classification system where we got our horrible little coloured rectangles and one of the suggestions was to change M15+ to just M and change MA15+ to A15+, so to better differentiate the two ratings. It made perfect sense to me and the research supported that would help things. Instead they thought it would be a better idea to have one blue and the other red, something that did not come up in the research.

      When I asked the OFLC (they were still called that when I did this) what was going on here, I got sent a long form letter which didn't address any of the issues I raised.

      My conclusion? Most people dealing with the classification system know as little about it as the general public, which seems rather pointless seeing as the whole thing is there to help people make decisions about what content they wish to see.

        The root of the problem is that the M15+ and MA15+ are not properly differentiated, and honestly in terms of community standards the M rating is treated more like a 12-13+. And then, because no one can tell the difference between M and MA, they get conflated and so MA ends up being considered to sit in roughly the same bracket.

        Honestly I don't see why they don't just make like the UK and adopt PEGI as the official ratings system for games. Their categories are 3/7/12/16/18. Change the 16 to 15 and it's basically exactly what our current ratings system tries to do.

        The "M" classification hasn't had the "15+" suffix for years (ever since introducing the coloured classification symbols), and they don't include an age suggestion in its description.

          I am glad someone pointed that out. I am amazed that people still think it's M15+ instead of M

          That's interesting, and I have to say I've never noticed it before, last time I needed to look at an M rated game it said 15+, mind you that was when I HAD to to make sure I could hire it :P

    This article really needed to be written. I hope GameSpot and maybe even SMH will run something similar to sort of calm the really angry waters that erupted even here at Kotaku on Friday afternoon.

    There was never any chance of emerging from that meeting with an actual R18+ rating in hand. This result isn't exactly as good as I had personally hoped for, but it isn't far short of it either. Good work Mark.

    Perhaps its time to take a little break for most of us. Have a good Christmas and pick up the fight where we left off in January. I believe the next SCAG meeting is in March, so write a letter in January, you've got lots of time.

    “The proposition I put forward,” he began, “was that I would like the other ministers to think about putting in an R18 classification for games, but removing the MA classification altogether.”

    And then what happens to content that is too strong for the M classification but should not be given the R18+ classification? Somehow I don't think Mr Rau fully understands what is wrong here.

    Is it really that hard to put together a classification system that is consistent over all visual mediums? When I watch a MA15+ movie, I have expectations of what I will and will not see in it, why should I not have the same expectations for a MA15+ video game?

      I personally don't like the fact that there is a M15+ and a MA15+ rating. Who ever came up with that was not thinking straight.

      When I worked in a video shop there were so many parent/kid arguments about what was ok to watch. Particularly kids who are in the early teens,

      It is more about the name than anything else, they are certainly different categories. Maybe a pg13 instead of M15 would make it clearer for parents. But two ratings both with 15+ in them was a bad idea.

    The R18+ Aftermath: Where To Now?

    To infinity....AND BEYOND!

    Sorry, that was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the headline. So it sounds like it's getting there, which is great news. Props to you Mark and also to Seamus for great coverage on this, both on Kotaku and on TV.

    Can't wait for March! (Mainly because March is my Birthday, ICO/SoTC HD is coming out in March, and Portal 2 will only be a month away! And I suppose there's going to be another SCAG meeting too :)

    An effective classification system for games in three easy steps:

    1. Open up the movie classification system and press then
    2. Open up a new document and press
    3. Press in the new document and find "movie" and replace with "game" and then click "Replace All".

    DONE - now pay me what would normally go to the hoard of beaurocrats who will be working this out.

      Whoops shouldn't have used bbcode brackets around my Ctrl key references. Fill in the blanks in this order:

      Ctrl-A
      Ctrl-C
      Ctrl-V
      Ctrl-H

      and it will make more sense!

    We've got a long road ahead of us, and like I've said before, everyone is welcome to catch up on the fresh news at "R18 Games Australia" (if they want), which will stay up and running until R18+ is FINALLY created.

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=110767468939052

    My major concern now is that we will get an adult rating for games, but that it will effectively just comprise of the existing MA15+ rating criteria. We've spent so much time and energy on the (effective) argument that the current MA15+ category is effectively unsuitable for children and framing the debate in terms of children that we've more or less let the adult choice side of the argument slide.

    The SCAG may see adding a nerfed version of R18+ as a nice compromise: adults get the R18+ rating they've been demanding, but the 'moral guardian' groups are placated because we're not still not allowing in, say, unedited versions of Left 4 Dead 2.

    Will they ever stop using the new AG excuse? State elections are held every 3-4 years. Even if the ruling party isn't ousted, the AG may well lose his/her seat, requiring a replacement.
    However, this certainly feels like a move in the right direction and I'll be looking forward to March next year to see what progress is actually made.
    At least it's better than having a myopic Atkinson sitting there with a tree lodged in his rectum and a "Just say no" approach to R+18.

    My concern with the new guidelines is that we will end up with an R18 classification that will be R18 in name only. That it will be the same as our current MA rating with current MA games being rated R and games like L4D2 still being refused classification. I mean yeah I know quite a few of our MA games are rated R overseas but you guys get what my concern is right?

      IMO games should be rated on the same criteria as movies. I mean, how many movies are banned for having 'morphine' or 'weed' in it? (fallout 3 and risen)

    It will not matter in March next year. The same arguments will be used by the christian party again. They will once more lobby against the AG forcing him to put his next election before the will of the people.

    This is the state of our politics for everything. The majority wants a bill past like gay marrige, a lobbying political group does not want what the people do. They phone/email the heads saying they will pull support and money for the next election if passed.

    Hell these days it can just be banks and corporations who can say they will pull campaign funding if they do not get their way. This is what has happaned to our country money and religion has poisoned our politics.

    If we can not take hold of the money running in and out of the hands of pollies in Canberra. We will never get anywhere as a nation.

      money and religion has not poisoned politics, for as long as there has been politics, there has been those who are willing to use it for their own gain.

      Thus is the nature of politics, money doesn't corrupt, power corrupts and politics is all about power.

    "We need to protect children from unsuitable games and we need to make sure that adults are allowed to play the games they want to play."

    That makes a lot of sense. Hopefully it'll be passed next time then.

    Back to buying games online again and sending money out of Australia.
    Why would the current LABOUR and Christian leaders want to give ANY freedom to adult Australians.
    They want to control, to filter, to log and monitor everyone, and God forbid if any of them actually listened to what the MAJORITY of Australian want.

    I'm actually really hopeful that the AGs themselves will listen. They didn't outright say no, and the WA AG didn't show a vehemant disdain towards violent games like Atkinson did.

    I'm more worried about the nutters from the ACL pulling their usual 'we're trying to protect the children' shtick. They made some blatantly faceceous comments in an article saying that the gaming industry is simply pushing for the rating to make more money. I think they've missed the point that it's the majority of the outcry is coming gamers - the consumers, not the distributers. We have a right to play what we want. The ratings system exists to allow this while preventing children from playing this material. If they don't believe we should have an R18+ rating, they're essentially saying they lack faith in the ratings system.

    I'm a Catholic, and it's groups like the ACL that make me ashamed of admitting my faith to others.

      Fun fact - I just posted a response to the linked ACL article about the 'refusal'. I calmly gave my reasons for my stance and said this was a matter of freedom from censorship.

      Turns out my comment didn't get past the moderation stage and they deleted it. Oh the irony.

    Rather than venting my frustration and disappointment for on e, I just want to take this opportunity to thank Mark Serrels and Seamus Byrne (along with the rest of the Kotaku crew) for championing this cause so brilliantly. I'm thankful that Kotaku is here to advocate the cause for us mature gamers and articulate our thoughts and feelings about the subject so well. You guys have put in so much effort and you should be commended for it. Thanks again!

    As a few others have said: it is completely useless to get rid of the MA15+ rating when introducing the R18+ one.

    I'm really hoping that the "reboot of the entire classification system" means that we will be getting a standard system that is consistent over all media.

    (Also, something to hammer home that the "M15+" rating doesn't exist anymore wouldn't go astray...)

    “The proposition I put forward,” he began, “was that I would like the other ministers to think about putting in an R18 classification for games, but removing the MA classification altogether.”

    Oh for sure! Let's just make R18, our MA15! That way, we can still ban and restrict the stuff we normally do, but at least it'll look like we have an adult ratings system.

    It's statements like this that make me glad a decision wasn't made.

    Y'know, I once tried to compare our rating with the Americans way of rating games. If we change their E, E10+, T, M17+ into our way of rating games, we'd get: G, PG, M15+ and R18+.

    Interesting...

    Labor are desperate to win back the youth vote.

    They cannot now govern in their own right without the support of the Greens and Independents.
    So where you see a silver lining, I see only political opportunism that is blatantly obvious.

    There was nothing impromptu about Brendan O'Connor calling Kotaku for a interview.
    Just a politician trying to influence Gen X/Y voters by paying lip-service in support of a policy (R18+ rating) by appearing pro-active but in the end delivering nothing...again.

    The only way we are going to see a R18+ rating become a reality is if the balance of power in government is further tipped away from the Labor/Liberal coalition.

    This can only be achieved by voting for truly progressive political parties or Independents (Greens, AusSexparty, Secular party of Australia etc.).

    Do not fall for political spin!

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now