We can all agree that classification is a complex issue and despite an R18+ rating for video games getting the go-ahead early last year, its existence and application will continue to be discussed (and potentially legislated) for years to come. Western Australia is the latest state to reconsider the ramifications of the rating, with a recent report suggesting games classified as R18+ should be banned outright from sale in the state.
Before you get too worked up, it's important to note that the context in which the recommendation is made is not solely focused on exiling R18+ video games for their violent (or otherwise questionable) content. It covers the broader topic of the sexualisation of children in all forms of media, of which games are just one aspect.
The recommendation appears in a report, published this month, from the Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People. The report itself has been through a few revisions, the first incarnation delivered back in early 2013. Due to the WA state election in March last year, consideration of its findings was delayed until recently.
As of today, it's in the hands of WA's Attorney General Michael Mischin, who the report explains is "best placed to conduct further research and progress any necessary legislative changes". This includes banning R18+ classified games from sale.
The specific suggestion is outlined in the report's fifth proposal:
Proposal 5: Amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996 (WA) Further consideration be given to possible amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996 (WA) • To prohibit the sale, supply, demonstration, possession or advertisement of a R18+ computer game in Western Australia; or • To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a R18+ computer game to a minor; and/or • To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a R18+ film to a minor; and/or • To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a Category 1 Restricted publication to a minor.
This point is expanded upon on page 63, however, it doesn't steadfastly stand by the opinion that R18+ should be done away with in the state, in fact, it provides another option where it would be flat-out illegal to sell an R18+ game to a minor, even if a guardian or parent is present (which seems like an ideal compromise):
It is possible to amend the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996 (WA) and either ban outright the possession, distribution, sale or supply of R18+ computer games in Western Australia. Alternatively, the Act could be amended to make it an offence to sell or supply a R18+ computer game to a minor even if the person selling or supplying the computer game is a parent or guardian of the minor. This would result in R18+ computer games being treated in the same manner as RC films and RC computer games.
It goes on to mention that such a decision should be accompanied by an "education campaign to ensue that parents and guardians understood their obligations and took steps to ensure that R18+ computer games were not accessible by children and young people". I'd argue this should be done regardless.
Interestingly, the report also advocates doing away with separate classification schemes — instead, a "Classification of Media Content Act" would replace the multi-headed approach currently employed:
Platform-neutral regulation: The ALRC recommended that there should be a new 'Classification of Media Content Act dealing with all classification obligations including publications, films and computer games currently dealt with under the Classification Act; state and territory classification enforcement legislation ... In this regard, it was recommended that the classification categories G, PG, M, MA15+, R18+, X18+ and Prohibited be applied uniformly for all media content and, therefore, the different classification categories that currently apply to publications and some television broadcasters would be abolished.
You can read the entire report on the Parliament of Western Australia website. Forewarning — it's a healthy 103-pages long.
The Commissioner for Children and Young People's 2013 report on the Sexualisation of Children [Parliament of Western Australia, via Polygon]
Image: Classification Board