Starting from today, video game classification in Australia just took a major step forward.
In an Australia where R18+ video games can be bought and sold in stores, it's tempting to put the tools down and say "job well done". But issues with classification still remain. The biggest currently plaguing Australia? The nature of the classification process itself — the cost, the bloat, the endless process. That represents the greatest obstacle.
Put simply, the process needs to be streamlined. Currently absolutely every single game released needs to be classified in Australia and that's a problem. The workload is incredible and games are slipping through the cracks. Apps on the IOS store, for example, are supposed to go through the classification board, but how could they? How could any regulatory body handle the sheer volume?
The short answer is: they can't. At the moment Apple is currently using its own regulatory system, which is technically illegal here in Australia, but who could possibly question them?
Today an amendment to the Classification Act was put through that paves the way for future developers and publishers to push through classifications without having to go through the Classification Board itself. You can read the whole thing here but the most important line is this...
Amends the: Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to: enable certain content (including online and mobile device content) to be classified using classification tools
This amendment basically helps set up a situation where video games will be able to receive classification through some sort of form or online questionnaire as opposed to being sent to the board itself, a process which is incredibly time consuming and expensive. This is the first step towards some sort of industry led co-regulation for games rated under MA15+, a move which (if it happens) will ease the incredible burden the Classification Board currently has to bear.
But it's an incredibly slow process. The Australian Law Reform Commission advised that steps like these be taken back in March 2012 and this amendment is literally the first step forward towards that goal.
We could be waiting a while.