Recognising the way we currently classify games in Australia is antiquated, the Federal Government has taken on board recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) and is in the process of legislating towards a new, streamlined approach to video games classification.
Amendments to the Classification Act are being made to allow certain video game content to be classified via online questionnaires — a tool that will help ease the massive burden of the Australian Classification Board, allowing them to focus more specifically on borderline cases in the MA15+ and above categories.
The proposed legislation had its first reading in Parliament yesterday.
This legislation, submitted by Minister for Justice Michael Keenan, is part of an attempt to modernise the National Classification Scheme.
"The Coalition Government is committed to providing consumers and industry with a modernised National Classification System that is better equipped to manage content in a rapidly changing, global and convergent media environment," said Mr Keenan.
"These reforms are the first step in the process of ensuring our classification system continues to be effective and relevant in the 21st century."
The move is being made for a number of reasons. Currently all mobile games are being sold in Australia without being classified. This is mentioned in the proposed legislation as something that undermines the Classification Act. An online questionnaire, or "approved classification tool" will make it easier for mobile developers and publishers to do the legal thing here in Australia.
It will also streamline the process in general for all video games across all platforms.
The proposed tool or questionnaire is the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), a service that is attempting to revolutionise the way we classify content on a global level by automatically assigning ratings to different regions based on various different cultural norms as they exist across the Globe. Changes to the Classification Act would allow this tool to be used in Australia.
Ron Curry, CEO of the IGEA, has been pushing for Australia to use the IARC, and sees this as the first step towards updating the outdated Classification scheme.
"This decision making tool is the result of a collaboration between video game industry bodies and classification agencies globally, which includes IGEA, the AGD and Classification Board," he said. "Without changes to Australia’s Classification Act we would not have been able to take advantage of this tool. This legislation will put us in a position to adopt IARC when and as it rolls out."
But according to Ron, even if this legislation does pass, there is still a lot of work to be done.
In 2012 the ALRC released its Classification report along with 57 recommendations designed to bring National Classification Scheme up to speed with the incredible technological changes we've seen in media since 1995, when the Classification Act was first introduced.
"While we welcome the changes being introduced, and congratulate Minister Keenan for continuing the good work of the previous government," Ron said, "there is still a long way to go to ensure we have a National Classification Scheme that is robust, flexible and nimble enough to serve the needs of all stakeholders."