Brendan O'Connor Releases Draft R18+ Guidelines

Today Brendan O'Connor released the draft guidelines for a proposed R18+ rating. These are the same guidelines which have been distributed to each of the Attorneys-General meeting in advance of the upcoming SCAG meeting in July, and detail the specifics of the R18+ with regards to how each game will be evaluated during classification.

“The Gillard Government wants to provide better guidance for parents and remove unsuitable material from children and teenagers,” claimed Brendan O'Connor in an accompanying statement.

“The introduction of an R18+ classification will help achieve that and will also bring Australia into line with comparable nations,” he said.

“This issue has been on the table for many years, without the necessary progress to make a change.

“We’ve recently seen several states publicly express their support for an adult only rating for games and I’m keen to reach a unanimous decision at the July meeting,” Mr O’Connor said.

According to the proposed deadlines the MA15+ rating, which AG John Rau was keen to remove, remains. The guidelines do, however, seem to suggest a tightening up of that rating, in order to create a clearer distinction between MA15+ and the proposed R18+ rating.

“The draft guidelines make it clear that sexually explicit games or games with very frequent, strong and realistic violence will not be allowed in the MA15+ category,” claimed O'Connor.

The guidelines are, as you might expect, relatively straight forward. All ratings besides MA15+ and R18+ are similar.

The guidelines for MA15+ are as follows:

MA 15+ - MATURE ACCOMPANIED Impact test The impact of material classified MA 15+ should be no higher than strong. Note: Material classified MA 15+ is considered unsuitable for persons under 15 years of age. It is a legally restricted category.

Classifiable elements THEMES The treatment of strong themes should be justified by context.

VIOLENCE Violence should be justified by context. Strong and realistic violence should not be very frequent. Sexual violence may be implied, if justified by context.

SEX Sexual activity may be implied. Sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards.

LANGUAGE Strong coarse language may be used. Aggressive or strong coarse language should be infrequent.

DRUG USE Drug use should be justified by context. Drug use must not be related to incentives or rewards. Interactive drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted.

NUDITY Nudity should be justified by context. Nudity must not be related to incentives or rewards. Note:

And the R18+ guidelines state the following:


IMPACT TEST The impact of material classified R 18+ should not exceed high. Note: Material classified R 18+ is legally restricted to adults. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.

Classifiable elements THEMES There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.

VIOLENCE Violence is permitted except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified. Sexual violence may be implied, if justified by context.

SEX Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is “simulation, yes – the real thing, no”.

LANGUAGE There are virtually no restrictions on language.

DRUG USE Drug use is permitted.

NUDITY Nudity is permitted.

And a game will be refused classification under these circumstances.

RC - REFUSED CLASSIFICATION Note: Computer games that exceed the R 18+ classification category will be Refused Classification.

Computer games will be refused classification if they include or contain any of the following:

CRIME OR VIOLENCE Detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence. The promotion or provision of instruction in paedophile activity. Descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years. Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of: (i) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed; (ii) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have a high impact; (iii) sexual violence. Sexual violence related to incentives and rewards.

SEX Depictions of practices such as bestiality. Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of: (i) activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent; (ii) incest fantasies or other fantasies which are offensive or abhorrent.

DRUG USE Detailed instruction in the use of proscribed drugs. Material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use. As a general rule, computer games will also be Refused Classification if they contain: (i) drug use related to incentives or rewards; (ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic

You can find read the proposed guidelines in their entirety here.


    It will certainly be interesting to hear the ACL's reaction to this...

      Won't be anything new. THE CHILDREN! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

        As a gaming Christian parent I truly, desperately hope the ACL do think of the children. I want them to support a legally enforceable R18+ classification. I want to know the true content of the games my kids will be playing, not have R18+ content shoe-horned into an inappropriate MA15+ rating.

        Now the A's-G just need to employ some rationality and reason, and approve these sensible guidelines we've seen released today. Please God.

          As a Christian parent, I don't understand why you'd want the ACL on your side at all?!

            Wow - I never saw this story. Wish I could have spoken to that guy for the feature we did.

              Hadn't heard this either - interesting news.

                Violence is permitted except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified.


                people don't be blinded by this bullshit. Games will still get banned this is just to shut us up even if it doesn't happen....

                  It's not just about you and the games that you want to play.
                  This is about redefining the system to allow parents and people make better decisions about the games they wish to expose themselves and their families to.

                  It will also provide an R18+ classification that will hopefully dissuade retailers and parents/guardians from buying such games for younger children.

                  Like I said, it isn't about you and Mortal Kombat.
                  It'd be nice if we did get many of the games that have been banned, because we ought to have the right, as adults, to determine what media we wish to purchase and engage in, but this debate and issue is larger than just us.

                  I think you are taking that a bit too pessimistically. All media forms have that same caveat, which prevents things like detailed scenes of torture being on-screen for long periods of time. I don't like that, in principle, but it doesn't actually affect anything in the mainstream very often.

                  Even if that's true, it would still be a step in the right direction to gather momentum for continued change.

    Sounds good. I'd be interested on how these R18 guidelines compare to the adult rating guidelines of other countires, America in particular. Could be we're getting a bad deal.

      The US ESRB ratings have an Adults Only category, but nothing ever gets classified in it because none of the console manufacturers allow adult-rated games to be certified on their systems. The highest you can practically get in the US is an 'M' which is effectively the same thing. They're actually not a good comparison because our own ratings categories are very different. It'd be more useful to compare these guidelines against a PEGI 18 rating (and I suspect they'd end up looking quite similar).

        I was under the impression that noone made adults only games because bulk purchasers like walmart refused to sell them rather than it being an imposed decree from console manufacturers

    This is all well and good, but if we do finally get an R rating, will they release Mortal Kombat here?

      All games that have been refused classification will remain that way. Unless they resubmit I'm guessing.

      Probably depends on whether its violence still "offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified." Which could conceivably be the case.

      I like the overall gist of these guidelines though!

      I didn't think they could resubmit an already RC'd game, but I guess there's nothing stopping them repackaging it with extra content and calling it an Ulitmate Edition or something to that effect.

        Publishers resubmit previously RCed games fairly regularly. Trying to think now what the most recent one was and I can't quite get it... right on the tip of my tongue..... grr.

    So how much closer does this bring us that having an R18 game rating? if they are just proposed guidelines does it really mean much?

      Hopefully this will make the decision easier for the SCAG meeting. It's been delayed enough because various attendees haven't done their homework.

    Based on some films I've seen I wouldn't say that this is perfectly in line with the way R18+ content is handled for movies - then again movies probably get as much leeway on R18+ as games currently get with MA15+. Either way, it's definitely a huuuge step in the right direction and I can't think of any worthwhile games that we've missed out on or had censored that would continue to be restricted.

    Most importantly, it gives the classification board the power to deem what content that's currently making it's way into the MA15+ category that should rightfully be restricted to adults. If nothing else, this proposal clearly shows where the line should be drawn and helps eliminate the grey area.

    I would be satisfied with the outcome if this was adopted into our rating system.

    Wow... that almost looks like common sense.

    Next SCAG meetings in a few weeks right?


    haha yeah totally. let's see how they spin this into their "protect the children" angle.

      it spins perfectly into their think of the children line.

      No where here does it talk about tightening regulations with regards to the sale of said games.

      All this outlines is that essentially anything is go so long as the sex doesn't include any of the downstairs parts.or sexual violence.(which does kill their stupid rapelay thing)

      and that one can't have morrally outrageous violence.

      Fact is nudity, excessive violence, sex and a bunch of adult themes will all be open range.

      and since the ACL plays the if it can be sold the children will get their hands on it line. it simply comes down to the fact that the content will exist. how it's classified in their eyes is irrelevant.

      The ACL is against the content that could be allowed not the rating itself. as like tobbaco, alcohol, and your porn stash. A kid always seem to be able to find it no matter it's age rating. And that's the position they argue from

    Overall it seems like a good start to me.

    "Sexual violence may be implied, if justified by context".

    So any depiction of sex is fine (because it doesn't get more simulated than 2 computer generated people getting it on), as long as there are no depictions of sexual violence. I'm still willing to put money on the ACL mentioning Rapelay a few more times before this is over.

    "Violence is permitted except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified."

    someone please clarify what this means.

      ie you can't kill someone feed on their flesh then stick them on the pike for the world to see.

      It's essentially saying no sadistic violence.

      Violently beating someone to death for information would be fine, mutilating their body afterwards for no good reason wouldn't

        They have never seen one of the racial traits of the Undead race in World of Warcraft then. Kill the person or thing then feed on them to regain health & such.

      It roughly translates to: you can put any amount of violence in, but if people get particularly tetchy about it we'll use this vaguely defined phrase as justification for refusing classification.

        What the law considers a "reasonable person" can swing by a pretty huge degree. I don't consider the ACL reasonable persons because they're crazy and will argue without facts on a topic they don't udnerstand on the basis that they're standing up for values and principles.

        Unfortunately, people keep listening to them, and they drag us down. At the other end of the spectrum, you have anti-socials and degenerates, who'll approve of just about anything.

        Technically they should balance things out and leave people like us in the middle.

      Cases of extreme violence i would assume things like killing babies, sexual violence (rape and the like) etc.

        Sexual violence gets its own specific guidelines and what's permissible in it is likely to be a lot more restricted.

        I'd expect that 'Extreme' violence would be more the sadistic kind. Post-mortem mutilation, extreme torture, that sort of thing. It's also I imagine about the detail, presentation and agency involved. So for example, there's a cutscene in The Darkness where your character gets tortured with a power drill. If they had you in control of that, and showed it in detail, and you were just doing it for kicks so that the victim died in as painful a way possible, that would probably be 'Extreme' and grounds for RC under these guidelines. However when it's perpetrated on you by a third party and because of the perspective you can't see the detail, that's not 'Extreme'. At least, that's my reading of it. (The Darkness is also a good example of a game that should have been 18+, IMO).

      It's deliberately ambiguous.

      The definition of 'reasonable' is very unclear, it just gives them scope to ban content that would generally be seen as too extreme. Basically up to the judgement of the classification board.

      I doubt many, if any, commercially produced games would fall under this category.

        You read my mind. I was just having the precise same thought.

          I try ;)

          I mean, it's not as though studios go out to create games with explicit, unreasonably extreme violence - and definitely not for wide commercial release.

            And when they do, they make sure that when people explode there are no less than seven rib cages.

              Because six just isn't enough. [nods]

        Whilst we might see the word 'reasonable' as being ambiguous, either deliberately or not, in Australia and other common law countries there is an understood meaning for the word 'reasonable' when used in legislation, that has been developed through case law over many, many years.

        Part of the reason for using the word reasonable is that it is flexible. What is reasonable to the 'man on the clapham omnibus' 100 years ago will be different from what is reasonable to the 'person on the 380 to Bondi'.

        Using the word reasonable means that the legislation at least has some chance of adjusting to match the prevailing views of Australian society into the future, rather than trying to lock in the views of Australian society in 2011.

          This is a very nice way to put it, yeah.

          It's at least acknowledging the possibility of change in social attitudes.

    That's stupidly easy to understand. In fact anyone over the age of 13 could comprehend those guidelines.
    Anyone that tries to refute that, shouldn't have any say in our legal system at all.

    Yes they can release Mortal Kombat here if we get a R18+ rating.

    What they would need to do is called it Mortal Kombat Game of the Year edition and then include any DLC and then it will be eligible for rating.

    WOO a picture of Win :P

    i was starting to get sick of the facepalm and australian ones

    F*** yeah.

    And here come the Mrs. Lovejoys to ruin everything

    It's an improvement seeing as I can't think of any currently RC game that would not fit into the new guidelines. At least, reading the brief version.

    It's a good step forward and will hopefully push the AG's in the right direction. But it is a step and nothing more, the vote still needs to pass and the Christian lobby still needs to release it's vice grip on the balls of every AG in the country.

    These seem like eminently reasonable guidelines.

    Sensible, even. Let's hope SCAG feels the same way.

    Looking good except for that vague rule regarding violence under R18+. I can see that being used as a reason to review ratings.

    Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is
    “simulation, yes – the real thing, no”.

    I thought all sex in video games were simulated, they are just a bunch of pixels after all, despite what the ACL think.

      I guess they mean no live action pornos in the game.

        not so much live action as not Penis or vagina. Id be saying you can essentially have softcore porn, tits ahoy. but showing anything more graphic than that is a bit much.

    With the RC drug use one - "drug use related to incentives or rewards" - would that mean that Fallout 3 with the morphine would still be a no go?

    Mortal Kombat is pretty damn brutal, though. Based on those guidelines, it'd still be 50/50 if it even makes it into the R18+ rating.

      Exactly right. I don't see these new guidelines allowing a whole not more content through. Rather, I see them giving retailers more power to bar certain content from minors. That's all good and fun, but as a 26 year old I'm not particularly optimistic about how this fares for adults.

      It should make it through "Violence is permitted except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified" reasonable adults. We've found that the classification board has squeezed games into the MA with it's violence level lower then the proposed R. I am of the belief it's perfectly reasonable for adults and the guideline would allow it. Although i doubt it will be re-submitted.

    As far as I'm concerned, no reasonable person would ever be in favor of censorship.

      A reasonable person would agree that animal torture and child pornography should be censored.

      The real issue is where the classification board will draw the line, and if that line is OK with the majority of reasonable Australians.

    Why is the (proposed) rule for sex in R-rated games different to the rules for sex in R-rated movies?

    DVD-player games have thus far been clasified as "interactive video content" under the movie rules. It does not make sense that putting this on a PC would somehow warrant different treatment.

      there not.

      Actual sex in movies is meant to garner an X18+(ie illegal to buy sell or rent).

      Simulated sex gives you an R18+ rating, which realistically means no penetration.

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