Classification Board Upholds MA15+ Ratings After 'Wasteful' Review

Back in November, Attorney-General for South Australia, John Rau, called on the Classification Review Board to reassess how the ratings system was being applied to several high-profile video games on Australian shelves. It was criticised as a huge waste of money, but the Classification Board undertook the review anyway, and now the verdict on said games is in.

John Rau called for 12 video games, all rated MA15+ by the Classification Board in Australia, to be reassessed due to the fact that overseas rating agencies like the European PEGI and the US ESRB had rated them as more mature titles.

The titles were as follows:

- Alien Rage - Borderlands 2 Expansion Packs - Company of Heroes 2 - Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut - Deadpool - Fuse - Gears of War: Judgement - God Mode - Killer is Dead - Splinter Cell Blacklist - The Walking Dead - The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

John Rau didn’t want to remove R18+ games from sale, instead, he wanted to make sure that our classification system wasn’t putting inappropriate games in the hands of 15- to 17-year olds.

"It is quite obvious to me that some games should only be played by adults," he said back then.

"Unlike movies, children can be active participants in the content of video games and the effects, whilst largely disputed, can not be positive."

Despite the calls for a review being criticised as a gigantic waste of taxpayer money, the Classification Review Board produced independent reviews of the titles, finally deciding that they were all accurately rated as MA15+ at the time.

There is a distinct difference between the Classification Board and the Review Board. The Classification Board takes a first look at the material, handing down its ratings after the fact. The Review Board is an independent merits review body and makes a fresh classification decision when a challenge is made to an original rating. Once the Review Board hands down its decision, that new rating supersedes that of the original Classification Board. In this instance, no change was made: the Review Board found that MA15+ was appropriate and rated them accordingly.

In announcing its decision, the Review Board said:

At the request of the South Australian Attorney-General, the Classification Review Board (the Review Board) recently reviewed the classifications of 12 computer games. The Review Board upheld the MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied) classification for all of the 12 computer games. … In reviewing the classifications, the Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games. This is the same framework used by the Classification Board.

The Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) has welcomed the decision by the Review Board, while roundly slamming John Rau for wasting taxpayer money with a "costly and unwarranted" review. It's estimated that the whole process cost in excess of $330,000.

Ron Curry, the head of the IGEA, said that it was a shame it had to happen.

“The basis for the classification review was unsubstantiated and it is a shame that the exercise was undertaken in the first place. The 12 video games were wrongly singled out because of the different ratings received overseas; an argument that does not take into consideration the structural and cultural differences between Australia’s classification scheme and international schemes,” he said in a statement, adding that a serious problem is beginning to stem from classification guidelines that aren’t fit for purpose.

“Most people don’t realise that our current classification scheme was developed over 20 years ago in a ‘pre-Internet’ environment where the only way for consumers to buy video games was at a physical retailer. We need a complete overhaul of the classification scheme, where the guidelines and their application can cater efficiently to new technologies and be consistently applied to media content regardless of the platform it’s found on,” he added.


Comments

    It’s estimated that the whole process cost in excess of $330,000.

    I'm so happy that my tax dollars are being spent so wisely.

    What a dick.

      On the behalf of South Australians, we're sorry. Again. Sigh...

    How the hell does it cost that much to review them in the first place?

      Well of course, to review these games people need to fly to America to get them at the headquarters of the company that makes them. Then, when they get back the reviewers need to buy a house to play them in and all the new consoles. Remember, you can't review games unless you have a new Ferrari to drive around as well.

        What kind of house or new Ferrari can you buy for $330k?!

          Barbie's Limited edition Dream house and Dream Ferrari?

      Running a government office is expensive. Keeping the system running, not just the reviewers themselves takes time and manpower. All of which costs money.
      Rating a game isn't playing it for an hour and making a gut decision. There are tonnes of parameters that need to be measured and recorded by multiple people. Then all the findings need to be taken, integrated and made readable. Then they have to make sure that everyone is marking on the same scale and that the scale accurately reflects the legal framework.

        Yes, but that's still not $330k worth of work. Even for lawyers.

          No. You are wrong. If you have ever looked at how much it costs to run a department of any sort, you should understand this.
          It isn't the cost of the 3 or 4 reviewers. It's the cost of the cumulative time of a dozen or more people, plus the infrastructure involved. The building and all associated costs. Security, amenities, insurance, security, legal professionals, cleaning staff. Running a business costs a lot of money. Running a department responsible for something that is so heavily scrutinised costs even more.

            Yes. The problem is not that they are paid too much, it's that the guy who made this an issue and decided to spend the money on reviewing the games again is a complete retard and should be sacked.

    And I want to say for the millionth time that this “Unlike movies, children can be active participants in the content of video games and the effects, whilst largely disputed, can not be positive.” is not a valid argument of human behaviour, as a suggestive mind is a suggestive mind, no matter what the context is coming from.
    For example people that believe in psychics are a lot more likely to do something stupid they see on tv (or games) because they are highly suggestive people.

      I came to highlight the same sentence, that right there (specifically the "whilst largely disputed, can not be positive.” portion) is what the hell is wrong with the governing bodies of the country.

      The research is there, you have your proof as to the effect that games are having on children i.e. none, yet you up and say "well it's largely disputed but there's no way it can be positive because I say so and I want to have my own way" then you go ahead and make decisions based on your own ego rather than the facts, blowing out over a quarter million dollars while you are at it.

        Of course games are having effect on children and others that play them.
        If a child plays many hours and many games of the same game type, let's say slashing Zombies, then this will have an effect on them.
        If a child plays many hours and many games of the same game type, let's say Zoo Tycoon are other G rated Sims, then this will also have an effect on them.
        When it comes to "play time" with friends in the yard, what will the child play?
        Killing Zombies or Caring for animals?
        Whether it is positive or negative or neutral does not matter, but IT WILL have an effect.
        Those who dispute this are just in denial and do not understand themselves let alone others.

          bleh, my bad for not specifying "proven negative effect". Of course there is going to be an effect, but if it stretches only so far as to affect someones interests then it is kind of irrelevant.

          You might be right, but the fact is, you can't know that it *will* definitely have an effect on every child/person. A kid that likes to play zombie apocalypse instead of caring for animals might just like this kind of play in the first place, and that's why they like these kinds of games or other media. A kid could theoretically be this way inclined without ever playing a video game. Just like a kid could like playing caring for animals without ever playing a video game related to it. When my nephews play "minecraft" IRL, it's more about collecting crap and making things and usually has nothing to do with zombies, because that's the part of the game that appeals to them. I think it just comes down to diffrent strokes.

          This is a very silly statement! How can you have a neutral effect?? Um please explain....

            An outside influence can have an effect without that effect being demonstrably positive or negative. That would make it neutral. We can't see any reason why a change has made it better or worse, but a change has occurred.

              Your statement contradicts itself. If there is no demonstrable effect how do you know a change has occurred??? Can you give me one real world example of what you are saying!

                The change can be demonstrable. The effect can be positive, negative, or unknown. Or even... Neutral!

                Today I drank water with a slightly higher mineral content than yesterday. I don't know if those minerals are going to be useful for my body. I don't have the ability to test for it and there is no demonstrable difference in my health. I do however know that the water has changed. I must assume that the change is not positive or negative, but neutral.

                  Thank you for responding I not meaning to be a dick I'm just thick but I'm still having trouble with this.

                  In the example you give why wouldn't it be it be a negative effect? Because your body goes to the effort of processing the extra mineral content of the water in turning it to urine and you have not experienced any positive effect. But your body did in fact work little bit more to process the extra minerals?

                  It's cool. You sounded genuine so I'm happy to give a genuine answer. It won't let me reply to you so I hope you see this.

                  If we can't tell that the change has been positive or negative, we have to assume that it is neutral. If we could measure the difference and then we could tell that maybe the body used a few more calories in filtering it, then we could decide positive or negative. Maybe you want to burn the extra calories, who knows?

                  Or here's another example:

                  I like blue and green equally. Those colours are awesome as hell. But I have a yellow car. Yellow is a lame colour. Looks dumb. Yellow killed my family in the war.
                  Someone offers to repaint my car free of charge. They do it in blue. I'm happy. Positive change.
                  The same person come past a week later and decides to repaint it again for me, again for free. They paint it green. I'm equally happy. Neutral change.
                  The paint job is identical in quality and there's no mechanical difference with my car. I'm equally happy with blue or green, so even though there's a very visible change, that change isn't positive or negative. It's just different.

      I came to highlight that, too. Let's just paraphrase what he says into layman terms:

      "There's no real consensus about these things being good or bad for you, but they have to be bad for you. "

      Cool logic there, fella.

    I'm more disturbed by the fact anyone spent any more time doing anything with TWD Survival Instinct.

    Abbot got rid of the Climate people, because he doesn't believe in climate issues - Australia has no longer a climate problem.
    Why doesn't he get rid of the classification guys? No more classification problem.... And tax dollars would be better spent... Like maybe trying to keep Holden in the country.

    Make the bastard SA AG pay for the cost of the reviews.

    I don't see what the problem is. $330,000 to confirm that the system is working as it should is PEANUTS. Or, if you prefer, it's a little under Tony Jones's annual salary (QandA). Big whoop.

    Ron Curry's comments about how taxpayers' money is spent are entirely fit to question. Entirely self serving, and waving a red flag at a bull. Or does he intend to share his wisdom on the rest of Australia's fiscal policy? Go do your job and advocate the industry - the IGEA doesn't pay you to needlessly attack a governing authority.

      The comment on the IGEA site was:

      However, the industry body maintains the review imposed by the South Australian Attorney General and the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) was unwarranted, costly and only served to confirm the Classification Board’s ability to accurately apply the classification guidelines.

      To me, that doesn't read as an attack on the ACB/CRB, but on Rau causing for $330k to be spent appeasing a right-wing lobby group.

      You are missing John Rau's intent buddy. The intent was not to "confirm that the system is working" he BELIEVED that these particular games had been incorrectly classified. Based off of his now proven misguided belief he wasted $330,000 of tax payer money.

        Exactly. This review did nothing to prove that the system works. Unless the intent of the system is to spend money, then I guess it works okay.

    How does it cost $330,000 to review twelve games? That's $27,500 per game! For $27,500 you could easily pay 10 people for a full 40-hour week. If each of those ten people played each game for 32 hours, then spend another full 8-hour day writing up a report, you might justify $330k for twelve games.

    That said, I think it's pretty clear that the way we do classification here is just broken. I think a voluntary system, where the publisher rates their own games and a review board only steps in upon request by a third party, is a better model. Then, if the review board agrees with the publisher's original rating, the person requesting the re-review ponies up the cost. If the review board *disagrees* with the review and issues a new rating, the publisher pays for it.

      There's also office rental and other related expenses.

      While I agree the cost is unexpectedly high, a full review requires that EVERYTHING in a game be checked. You're not looking at the time to play a game to completion, but the time required to play all possible permutations of each game to completion, plus time to snapshot/capture key images and audio to document the decision.

      I pretty much agree with the suggested alternative that you suggest, and you're not the first person to suggest it. I would tweak it so that a conservatively high rating wouldn't be regarded as a mistake.

      I posted this up top, but here it is again:

      Running a government office is expensive. Keeping the system running, not just the reviewers themselves takes time and manpower. All of which costs money.
      Rating a game isn't playing it for an hour and making a gut decision. There are tonnes of parameters that need to be measured and recorded by multiple people. Then all the findings need to be taken, integrated and made readable. Then they have to make sure that everyone is marking on the same scale and that the scale accurately reflects the legal framework.

      It isn't a few people playing a game at home and writing a few pages about it.

        for the record there's 5 people on the panel, the only one I can find pay rate for is the Deputy-Convenor who is the 2ic of the panel. at $724 per day + travel expenses. Which if they worked all year would be pretty much on par with the majority of CEO level/APS SES employees.

        I also sure there will be additional staff from the Attorney General's Department involved in the process too.

        I don't think anyone thought it was just someone sitting at home and writing a few pages about it. Good on you for treating everyone like idiots though. Problem is that there is no actual breakdown of how the cost is so high. When you give money for something and ask why you had to pay so much; "It's just expensive" isn't an answer.

          I didn't treat anyone like an idiot. Codeka showed that he/she doesn't understand the costs involved with running a large department. I explained that there was a lot more to it than that. There are other factors that could make up the gap in cost. I never said "It's just expensive" and called it a day.

          Good on you for being a smarmy guy who ends his posts with condescending remarks.

    " Rating a game isn't playing it for an hour and making a gut decision. "

    I've read several times that the classification people don't actually play the games but rather they watch a video of the contentious scenes. What's the truth there I don't know.

    It should be a gut decision then imo. Might be better. The legal framework sucks. It's too anal. A more open system is needed.

    ..and the comment below:
    " It isn't a few people playing a game at home and writing a few pages about it. "

    Well it should be. That's what games are about. Entertainment and relaxing. They have a lot of work to do and lots of things get rated. Can't they just spend an hour on each game ? They can watch the contentious scenes as they do.

      They can't do that because that's not how laws work:

      " It isn't a few people listening to a murder trial for an hour and deciding who goes to prison. "

      Well it should be. That's what court is about. Punishing the guilty. They have a lot of work to do and lots of cases get tried. Can't they just spend an hour on each trial? They can listen the contentious issues as they do.

        Yeah I know, my comment was more like a fantasy of mine.

        Why bother changing the figure of speech?

        Ridiculous comparison anyway. Comparing game classification to murder.

        In other news, I'd like to buy a WRX for $5.

          It came across as a serious assertion. Laws don't work like that. That's all.

          I know it's a ridiculous comparison. You wouldn't treat one law so flippantly, so why another? Classification laws are important. They govern what media can and can't be consumed and by whom. They are also a matter of constitutional law.

          Good luck with your unrelated WRX hunt?

        " It isn't a few people being self-important smart arses on the internet and deciding who to respond to. "

        Well it should be. Everyone has the right to be totally smug as they hide behind their computer monitors and own others with their hyper intelligent responses. That's what websites that allow responses from the public are all about. Punishing other comments. People who post comments have no work to go to and a lot of free time on their hands, and a lot of peeps need to get owned. Can't they just spend a minute on each comment? They can listen to the Arnie Kill Count commentary as they do.

          Is this a dig at me? Who was I punishing? How was I being smug? How was my response hyper-intelligent? What does it matter to you if I have a job or not? Would it surprise you that I probably work more hours than you?

          What exactly did you add to the conversation? You were being smug and trying to punish someone on the internet by making fun of imagined smug owneration on the internet.

          Just imagine that this sentence is a picture of Psyduck clutching his head. That's what you are doing to me right now. None of this makes any sense.

    In other news. South Park the Stick of Truth has had some parts of the game censored here in Australia (and once again, only Australia). What is the point of this R18+ rating if something like South Park is being censored. I mean, seriously. The show has been around for 15-20 years now, if they think that by playing South Park, I am going start capturing my farts and throwing it at people, they are wrong. I've been doing that since I was 7, where I learnt from my 5 older brothers.

    Remind me of the perks of gaming in Australia?

    -Slow internet
    -Expensive
    -Crap ratings system
    -Censored games

    Honestly think the only perk is actually living in Australia and even that is going down the shitter, great government we have here. If you didn't realise, there was a lot of sarcasm.

    Last edited 18/12/13 12:23 am

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