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.