On Friday we learned that the Australian Federal Government intended to implement a number of classification recommendations put forward by the ALRC. For video games, two recommendations have the potential to change the way content is classified in this country. We spoke to Josh Cavaleri, Legal and Policy Counsel for the iGEA to figure out precisely what these changes might entail.
One recommendation allows minor modifications to be made to computer games without further classification. According to Josh this is most likely a move to help facilitate the games industry’s ability to release add-on content for existing video games, and to allow updates to video games to get past classifiers with relative ease.
“The proposed reforms for modifications are likely to cover the usual range of add-on download content for games including map packs, weapon packs, character packs etc,” explained Josh. “The reforms are expected to confirm that such modifications do not require separate classification and can simply inherit the classification of the original game. This approach will certainly be welcomed as the games industry continues to sell a growing amount of DLC online and through local retail channels.”
But that’s arguably the least interesting change — the government’s intention to use video games as a trial for a new automated classification system could be a genuine game changer, making it markedly easier for developers to classify games here in Australia. The extra time and expense of classifying content has long been a problem for many publishers in the Australian market, and has led to many games not receiving official releases locally.
This new pilot system is something the iGEA has made reference to before. According to Josh, it’s a system they’ve been developing alongside the Federal government for some time.
“[It’s] an exciting project that iGEA has been working on over the last two years in collaboration with the Attorney-General’s Department,” he said. “The system is expected to allow developers and publishers to generate a local classification for their game for each participating territory around the world by completing a sophisticated questionnaire. The questionnaire will cover a number of classification elements we are familiar with — including themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity. The system will use responses to provide a dynamic classification that coincides with the cultural expectations and classification requirements of each participating territory around the world, including the classification guidelines in Australia.”
The iGEA have discussed this system before, and believe it would be extensive enough to cover the different cultural sensitivities of most countries across the globe, with a few exceptions. For now, Josh believes, the government will most likely restrict the pilot system to mobile and online games.
“We are yet to see the specifics of the reform, however we certainly expect that it will cover games that are sold to be playable on mobile devices as well as games that can only be played with an active internet connection (MMOs, social networking games and possibly even the latest Sim City). In due course, we hope that this pilot program will be extended to include all exclusively digitally distributed games.
“We will obviously have a more comprehensive understanding of the impact of these reforms once they have been published and introduced for debate.”