R18+ classification has now been passed in two states and territories, ACT and NSW, with the rest still playing catch-up — but when the NSW parliament sat to discuss its own legislation, MP Greg Donnelly stated that, post the introduction of R18+, "steps will be taken" to reclassify up to 50 MA15+ rated games at a higher classification.
"Following the introduction of the new framework on 1 January 2013," he said, "steps will be taken to look at what are colloquially referred to as the 50 video and computer games — at least 50 — that it is believed in one way or another have been shoe-horned into the MA 15+ category and should now be rated at the higher classification."
In context, it's an interesting statement. Brendan O'Connor had previously stated games that had been refused classification under previous guidelines would not be given the chance to be reclassified as R18+ under new guidelines, so we had assumed that would apply across the spectrum of categories — including games that had previously been classified as MA15+.
In the wake of the above comments, however, it appears as though the waters have become muddied. O'Connor's statement may have been made in an attempt to quell the 'floodgate' fears — fears that an R18+ rating would bring new, more explicit video game content into Australia. Perhaps that doesn't apply to already classified MA15+ games?
But if it is possible for MA15+ games to be moved into the R18+ category, does this then mean games such as Mortal Kombat, which were refused classification in the past, could now be reclassified under the new guidelines?
Getting a straight answer to that question has been difficult — we asked the Attorney-General's department to confirm precisely what will and won't be allowed under the new guidelines.
"Games that are currently Refused Classification will remain RC under the new arrangements," said a spokesperson for the Attorney-General's department, "unless reclassified."
But, according to the AG Department's spokersperson, the classification board may seek to reclassify content on its own initiative. A request for reclassification can also be made at the request of the Commonwealth Minister responsible for classification.
In addition, individual state and territory Classification Minsters can also request the same process. This may be the method by which Greg Donnelly intends to reclassify current MA15+ rated games at R18+.
It's also worth noting, however, that games can only be reclassified in this way two years after the game's previous, existing classification.
We've asked for clarification from Greg Donnelly's office on his precise position on the matter. If games have been "shoe-horned" into an MA15+ rating then, of course, reclassifying these games is absolutely the correct course of action. But the same rule should apply to games that have been refused classification under old guidelines. If MA15+ games shift up a category, surely it's only fair that games that would have passed under the new guidelines also be reclassified.
In addition, we're keen to see precisely how this process will work. All 50 of these MA15+ classified games are already on shelves — the logistics of reclassifying all these games could be troublesome.
Thanks to Dan Golding for the tip!