The Revised Guidelines For An R18+ Rating Have Finally Been Released

The Revised Guidelines For An R18+ Rating Have Finally Been Released

The revised guidelines for an R18+ rating have now been released and, as you’d expect, the language is vague and completely open to interpretation — that said, the guidelines do make extensive reference to the fact that the impact of games should be treated differently as a result of interactivity, which we find disappointing.

Ultimately, we’ll only be able to see the true validity of the new R18+ rating when it’s implemented. It’ll be interesting to see exactly how the Classification Board will apply these guidelines in the future.

The basic guidelines are as follows…

The Guidelines use the following hierarchy of impact: • very mild – G • mild – PG • moderate – M • strong – MA 15+ • high – R 18+ • very high – RC

Later the guidelines refer to which games will now be refused classification, and still cling to the argument that interactivity affects the level of impact.

Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.

Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also increase the impact of some content.

Interactivity includes the use of incentives and rewards, technical features and competitive intensity. Except in material restricted to adults, nudity and sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards.

Computer games will be Refused Classification if they contain: (i) illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards; (ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic.

Later the guidelines go into more detail regarding the R18+ rating.

R 18+ – RESTRICTED 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. High impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted.

Sexual violence may be implied, if non-interactive and 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. Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.

NUDITY Nudity is permitted.

Ron Curry, the CEO of the iGEA was pleased at the progress of R18+, but raised some concerns about the discussion of interactivity.

“We are pleased to see this process moving forward and understand that great care has been taken to balance the concerns of those who have resisted an R18+ classification and adults who want to play video games designed specifically for mature audiences and readily available in other developed democracies,” he said.

“There will be continued debate about whether the interactivity of video games has a greater impact than other forms of media, and we will continue to refer to the lack of the evidence to support these claims,” he continued. “With that being said, we welcome the commitment from all parties involved to seek a reasonable outcome to address this longstanding issue.

“We now look forward to the Commonwealth, States and Territories implementing these guidelines in an expedient manner.”

You can look at the guidelines in their entirety here.

Comments

    • Well, if there truly is a reasonable adult out there who is offended by something, wouldn’t they just turn off whatever material is offending them and get on with their lives?

      • bah.

        I think we all know that a reasonable adult in the eyes of the govt. Is someone who see’s something removes it from their lives so it’s no longer affecting them. Then suffer’s a debilitating fit of rage and goes out on a personal vendetta to ruin it for everybody else

      • good. We don’t need someone who doesn’t know the first thing about video games, makes grossly uneducated claims. Someone should tell him that if the bible was made into a video game, it would be RC’d hard.

    • There is no standard definition, really.

      Working in liability claims we see the term “reasonable person” and thrown around all the time when we’re discussing whether it was someone’s fault they walked into a big hole in the ground or if they should have been more careful, and what you’re really saying is “My mates and I think the issue here is plainly obvious, and you’re foolish to disagree”.

      Ideally you want a ‘man in the street’ opinion, but that fact of the matter is I have as much right to consider myself a “reasonable adult” as Jim Wallace or Greg Smith does.

      The thing is, we’re got a bit of a Catch-22when we talk about impact. If I watch a movie where a man beats a hooker with a baseball bat, that’s probably going to be MA15+. However, people are gonig to argue that such an act being performed by a personvia an interactive video game should be pushed up to R18+ because it’s more involved, therefore bears a greater impact to the player.

      If you start to argue, it sounds like you’re saying “oh no, that doesn’t affect me, I can brutally slaughter women all day”, which in turn could be used to bolster the argument that games have desensitised you.

      Sigh.

      • Speaking on impact, I think that they’ve got it backwards.

        If I watch a horror movie or thriller, part of what makes me nervous or squeamish is going to be the tension or the gory bits (hypothetically, anyway).

        If I’m playing a game, I’m in control of what content I’m witnessing. Let’s drag out them edia’s favourite whipping post, GTA.

        You can potentially beat a hooker to death then drive over her repeatedly in your care. And I think a “reasonable person” would only take that action if they were comfortable to a degree with seeing that take place, at least in a digital simulation.

        If I am watching a movie where that happens, what control do I have? Let’s imagine for a moment there were a game based on the movie Hostel, that it was a scene for scene remake, only interactive.

        I could not stand watching the scene with the blowtorch and the eyeball hanging out of the Japanese girl’s eyesocket. Eye trauma is my achilles heel, I can’t stand it. Even the ‘Eyes Cold Lemonade’ episode of Happy Tree Friends makes me feel sick.

        If I were playing a game version of this, I would choose to avoid it. If it were forced upon me (such as in the power drill scene that originally got Silent Hill Homecoming RC’d), I would still be likely to not be bothered by it as much because the game is interactive to a degree – not because the content is any more manageable for me emotionally or psychologically, but because I have a controller in my hands that reminds me that it is my actions and my degree of control (however limited) that is causing these actions to play out.

        As “reasonable person” it is easier for me to dismiss the actions on the screen by diverting my attention elsewhere. In a film, you have two options – look at what the filmmaker wants you to see, or don’t. What happens happens regardless of your input.

  • “High impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted.” – Is that a conservative reasonable adult, or your average reasonable adult?

    • “Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.” – So, just because it offends the ACL, it doesn’t necessarily get RC’d.

  • It’s an improvement but the whole interactivity thing is really started to bug me. It was an unfounded claim that has been repeated for decades and now for some reason the burden is on those claiming that the accusations are unfounded.

    That’s not how arguments should work. If you make a claim, the burden is on you to back it up. See: Russell’s teapot.

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

    Aren’t all video games “simulation”? (unless they use real video)

    • That particular guideline was in the original draft as well, and people didn’t understand what that meant then either.

      I *think* it means that you can show the act but not the explicit mechanics, if you follow.

      • What it means is that you can’t suddenly inject thirty minutes of porn into your game. (Same as TV; the actors aren’t really having sex, they’re simulating it) Actually I suspect this is a direct copy from TV/movies, and is less applicable in games.

  • Hmm, drug use as incentive or reward… wasn’t that what snagged fallout 3 originally? If memory serves morphine was changed to medx because shooting up on pretend fictional drugs is fine but on pretend real drugs would be bad

    Any idea what “Themes” might be restricted?

  • Virtually no restrictions still implies that there are some restrictions.

    Nudity… yay. \o/

    I’d like to point out that the fact that it (violence / drug use / sexualised content) takes place on screen, as opposed to in real life, with the boundries of the screen being an obvious seperator, should be a pretty good way to tell that it’s not reality.

  • How does the ‘impact’ differ from what was allowed in MA15+ before? If ‘very high’ was and still continues to be RC, does that mean that effectively we’ve got the same restrictions on violent content except now they’ll be in R18+?

    Not saying that’s a bad thing, that’s probably where a lot of it should have been to begin with. I just want to know if this part has actually changed.

    Also, interactivity aside, why does having a first person perspective make the impact higher? Does that mean that the best way to avoid your FPS’s most extreme moments getting the game refused classification is to pull out to a third person perspective? Because that’s just crazy.

    • I think the idea is that if you’re in first person mode, then you feel you are the one committing the act, therefore the impact is higher. That falls inline with the interactivity argument as well.
      With a movie or a book, you watch / read about people committing whatever acts of violence, etc, whereas due to the interactive nature of games, you are directly involved in these acts.
      There’s always going to be arguments on either side of this argument, and I tend towards not seeing games having a higher impact, but I can kinda see their point.

  • I look forward to more games being RC’d going forward.

    Again we get this disgusting censorship from our government. That’s ok, it’s not like we have a voice anyway.

  • I can just imagine them chiseling away at this until the r18 sees very little use and we go back to the same bullcrap we’ve been feed all along.

  • As far as I am concerned this is still a farce. The ultimate argument still ensues.

    When will the government stop taking the blame for poor parenting. If daddy buys his son call of duty and mum gets the $hits at the ‘no russian’ level and blames the government then goes on TV and channel seven, as they always do, sensationalise it and call it good reporting, who’s to blame? the government for letting the game be sold to minors?

    Ahh no. Last time I checked it was the parents responsibility to take charge and make sure your children aren’t playing something that they shouldn’t.

    And what’s a reasonable adult? A person that can easily distinguish what is real and what is not? Crack pots like that guy in Norway had clear pyschological issues. That much is certain. But don’t ‘assume’ every adult has the same tendancies.

    There has been parental controls in games and profanity filters in mmo’s for as long as I can remember. And I’ve been gaming since commodore 64 days. Why slap a band-aid on these things when really it’s more about education for the parents. Perhaps the government shoud spend my tax and run campaigns on how to enable these settings to be a proper parent.

    More padding for the walls in an already very padded society.

  • There have been reports from the US that crime has gone down compared to in the 1980-90s period, what even more surprising is that it has gone up despite economic hard ship, a period in which most crime occurs. One clear possibility for this decline could be that of the subsequent rise in video games and that instead of roaming the streets fighting each others and getting into gangs, the violent youth and adults are releasing there tensions on video games instead.

    We are all violent and need to express/release our violence and its better to beat some virtual NPC to death with your own virtual hands then to stick a fist into your wall when Jim Wallace speaks a word from his mouth.

  • From my reading, games like House of the Dead Overkill would still be banned under the new guidelines thanks to frequently gratuitous violence, although as others have stated, who gets to define a “reasonable adult”.

    I’m starting to fear that this is simply politicians pretending to give us what we want to shut us up.

    You wanted an R rating, well, we gave you one. Now stop bothering us.

    Children may be better protected under these new guidelines, but it seems like adults will still be prevented from playing games they have a right to play.

    • To be fair, only violence “that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted.”

      key to that wording is “and”, i.e. the violence in question must satisfy ALL of the above criteria. I would say that, in context, that game is not exploitative or offensive to a reasonable adult, depsite its gratuitous nature.

      • Then you get my vote to be the role model for “reasonable adult”.

        But the pessimist in me thinks they’ll go for someone along the lines of Jim Wallace.

  • “Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.”

    So Fallout 3 would still be modified if released under these guidelines eh?

  • Intuitively, interactivity does seem to me to cause a greater impact. For example, I love me a good horror story or movie. Scary or psychologically thrilling media is one of my favourite things to consume. However I’ve always been way too creeped out by scary computer games to ever finish one – I don’t think I’ll ever finish Shock 2, for example.

    As a story, Shock 2 isn’t scarier than lots of the stuff I’ve seen and read. But the game’s ambience makes me *feel* it more, thanks to the illusion of me “being there” – a function of first-person interaction.

    I would like some real studies on this though. I can only offer anecdotal evidence!

    • That’s the problem though.

      It sounds like it should be true but nobody has been able to actually demonstrate it. They particularly have not been able to demonstrate that the interactivity offered by video games makes material more impactful.

      So people are able to easily repeat that argument without having to back it up, which unfairly puts the burden on those who are arguing against that even though that goes completely against how logic works.

      Positive claims (interactivity makes media more impactful) require proof. It’s like claiming to own a unicorn and then demanding that anyone who disagrees proves that you don’t.

      You make the claim, you provide the evidence. Unfortunately, this is not an argument where the rules of logic seem to apply.

      This isn’t directed specifically at you, just something that really bugs me.

  • OK. Firstly, I’m happy that the R18 is happening. I think we all are.
    But secondly, The type of ambigous language still being used in these guidelines is stupid. “a reasonable adult”? WTF is the definition of a reasonable adult?
    I understand that every game / movie etc must be classified on its own merrits, and setting standards for what constitutes ‘strong’ impact is almost impossible, but honestly, ambigous language is gonna result in ambiguous classifications with widely varying standards… theres gotta be a better way than leaving it up to what the censor of the days idea of what a reasonable adult is.

    • The problem becomes though if the language in the legislation / guidelines is extremely detailed, you end up with being unable to cover all possibly scenarios and stuff that that should be RC’ed gets through due to essentially technicalities. Just look at the recent situation with the synthetic marijuana being legal as it hadn’t been specifically envisioned at the time of “natural” marijuana being declared illegal.

      Also, they would need to be re-written / updated more frequently as community standards change or evolve. As we’ve seen changing guidelines tends to be a long drawn out processes. In this way the classification board members can possibly develop and routinely review and update internal procedures that add some guidance around practical application of the guidelines to assist in greater consistency, while still being able to adapt to the prevailing community expectations.

      On the use of “reasonable adult”, that’s language that has been in use for years in a whole range of legal and contract situations – definitely nothing new or unique.

  • Under the RC details:

    “CRIME OR VIOLENCE
    Detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence.”
    That’s Saints Row out, for promotion of crime and violence.

    “CRIME OR VIOLENCE
    Depictions of:
    (i) violence with a very high degree of impact which are excessively frequent, prolonged, detailed or repetitive”
    That’s Ninja Gaiden, Left 4 Dead, and others out.

    “CRIME OR VIOLENCE
    Depictions of:
    (ii) cruelty or realistic violence which are very detailed and which have a very high impact”
    So Mortal Kombat is still out.

    “DRUG USE
    Computer games will also be Refused Classification if they contain:
    (i) illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards;
    (ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic.”
    So Fallout 3 is still out, due to realistic depictions of Morphene.

    What the hell did we achieve? This isn’t an improvement at all, with the exception of the depiction of sexual content, which is now pretty much cool in R18+.

    • add Modern Warfare, Battlefield and God of War to this list under the violence heading.

      This looks MORE restrictive than the old guidelines but presented to make gamers think they got what they wanted

  • Related, what criteria do they use to quantify and stratify degrees of intensity for the purposes of categorising violence? What is the difference between “Medium” “Strong” “High” and “Very High”? Or is it just dependent on what the reviewers ate for breakfast?

  • Find some evidence that the “interactivity may increase the impact of some content” before you start basing policy on it please.

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

    Can someone please tell me how intercourse can be real in a game? Or is there some rule of physics I’m missing here?

    • See my comment above – I think basically it’s a prohibition of actual pornography with real actors (i.e. a video clip). As noted above, probably copied verbatim from TV/movies classification without much thinking…

    • I guess developers can’t use real physics modelling for those bits then.

      /Internet explodes when Australian teenage boys realise Miranda/Tali was faking it in ME2.

  • Is it common practice for people who apply ratings to games (in au) to watch videos of gameplay, or to actually play the games themselves?

    • The rating system generally has the publisher/developer put forward a demonstration of the game. highlighting the area’s that will most likely affect the rating.

      Pretty sure if they purposely mask something in those proceeding’s they can get into some pretty hot water too

  • Interested to see how this eventually does work out. I’ll be pissed off if it ends up being a case of them just shifting the more explicit ‘MA15+’ titles into R18+, while still banning games outright.

    • Unfortunately I have this sinking feeling that you, and I, and the majority of adult gamers, are going to be pissed off….

  • there was a study showing how pvp games increased players aggression. So maybe they can add that and ban first person shooters. mmos have also been likened to addictive poker machines, so maybe ban them too. dlc pack price gouging fuels corporate greed.

    I think i like these classification guys. A few tweaks and maybe they’ll usher in a new era of 3rd person fantasy coop action games with only expansion dlc?

  • I always found it odd that while the whole GTAIV debacle was going on, and being used as a scapegoat by network television… The TV series that was being discussed by the water-cooler and receiving accolades was Underbelly. I only ever saw it once, but in that 5 minutes I was exposed to the protagonist (?) snorting mountains of cocaine off of a naked prostitute.

    Its fairly typical for TV to attack any other form of media that undermines its position as the number 1 form of entertainment. As I see it he content is no different, and so the rating should be no different.

    Interactivity can effect the impact I suppose. A war movie, no matter how violent will probably have a lesser body/bullet count than most war games. The violence subsides for a bit of narrative to creep in. TV/Movie narrative is linear, so harmful scenes happen once and move on, but games give players the choice to linger. I was always respectful of the GTA whores, how many times do you have to run them over before it becomes high impact? I guess you can always rewind and freeze frame a video. Should Basic Instinct have a higher rating because of slo-mo playback interactivity.

    I dont get the drug vs reward restrictions though. When I was young I was always told: Drugs are Bad. Why do people take them then? BECAUSE DRUGS ARE AWESOME! We were lied to – A game should be able to depict drugs realistically – with reward and harm.

    Lets hope this turns out OK. Like us. Suckled on the teat of interactivity.

  • Australia. No freedom of speech. No freedom of expression. No freedom of choice.

    Why does the government get to decide whether or not I, as a supposedly free citizen, plays very high impact video games?

    They’re not far behind Iran that throws filmmakers in jail. Give it a decade and watch the Christian Taliban of Australia’s claws sink deeper into our politics.

    • Why does the government do it? Because people are pussies and let them. When the populace was disarmed due to fearmongering, the government took away the best chance the population had to keep the government in line with the wishes of the public.

      I’d say vote from the rooftops one bullet at a time, but the retards out there gave ’em up. Whoops.

  • ‎”NUDITY
    Nudity is permitted.”
    Uh, with this loophole, it won’t be long before we see naked erections in gaming. WIN for the ladies and bi/gay guy gamers!
    (Seriously, this is VERY loosely defined.)

  • Is a man not entitled to play a video game made for adults?
    “No”, says the man in the Classification Board, “we cannot allow games that exceed our guidelines”
    “No”, says the man in the A-G’s office, “we must all agree before the guidelines can be changed”
    “No”, says the Catholic extremist, “it will turn you into a criminal”
    “No”, says the plebeians, “we cannot protect our children otherwise”
    (Does that sum up our situation?)

    • I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible!

      I chose…RESPONSIBILITY.

      The world where the child is rightly disiplined. Where the adult is make to accept the consequences of his action. Where the parents actively parent their children.

  • Video games bear more impact than movies: true.
    A horror game is scarrier than a horror movie.
    However… There are NO banned movies. There is nothing which the government has deem far too graphic for depiction in a movie. Is the difference in the impact of a video game vs a movie enough to have the game cross the line?

  • This really is a joke. This has not improved anything IMO. All we’ll see is most MA games being moved up to R. With ones that were previously banned, still being refused. That’s it!
    And the guidelines still say its recommended that people under 15 be accompanied by an adult when playing a PG game. And that M is recommended only for people over 15. WTF.

    So they think a 14 year old is only capable of playing a G game by themselves? Really? These are the people that are deciding what’s acceptable?

    All just a bunch of crap. Nothing will change and you’re naive to think otherwise.

  • Any adult who is reasonable cannot be offended by a game, so nothing should ever be banned based on violence. Anyone offended is, by definition, unreasonable.

  • Okay, let’s examine this carefully: we wanted the impact standards to be identical for films and games, we wanted interactivity to not have any impact on ratings, and we wanted restrictions on drug use and criminal activity to be removed.

    We got the big one: the current guidelines for films match these ones for games. The same language is used for games is it is for films, including the ‘reasonable adult’ clause, which is generally understood to mean the Classification Board. I have no reason to believe the Classification Board has any interest in banning things willy-nilly considering the amount of stuff they’ve let under the bar.

    The second we didn’t get, but it’s not as bad as it seems: the current rules says that impact may be greater if a scene ‘encourages interactivity’. These new rules take pains to point out that it’s the repetitive nature of games that matter, as well as how much players see. This might be interpreted as ‘take into account how often gibs happen and that players have control of the camera’ which I think I can live with; the current rules do say that the placement of the camera in films matters.

    The litmus test would be something like Fahrenheit, where there’s one sequence in the game where the PC has sex and you move the stick, but it’s one non-repeatable sequence. If that’s considered the same impact as a cutscene of the sequence then we are golden.

    The other two provisions we’re not going to get. They also apply to film, anyway; we’re simply going to have to be vigilant when someone tries to claim that a video game is providing ‘detailed’ instructions on a criminal act, which frankly we should do anyway. (Besides, it’s mostly a political stick; if GTA Chinatown Wars’ drug dealing minigame wasn’t sufficiently detailed for the Board, it’s unlikely to crop up a lot.)

    Honestly, this is acceptable. We got the big one: an R18+ that’s not just a rebranded MA15+.

      • That is a fight you’re not going to win – basically every media market, including America, has de facto censorship. Besides, I think a little disincentive for gratuitousness is worthwhile; creators should be using violence and sex intelligently to serve the story, instead of to get attention. Movies and games should make money because they’re good, not because they’re titillating.

        As I said, far as I can tell these guidelines should reduce the amount of games banned to just ones we can fight for. We probably could have argued against Getting Up – it was by no means ‘detailed’.

  • So…

    Basically they squeeze some of MA into R, and nothing changes. We’re still bearing down legally on scientifically disproven assumptions and the wording is almost verbatim what it was before.

  • I say they put games up for vote by a comity of “Reasonable adults” to give it a rating, this gives a non-biased rating for the game and is more fair for everyone.

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