For the better part of a decade the major issue with classification in this country was the lack of an R18+ classification for video games. Now the Classification Board faces an arguably greater challenge: managing the dramatically increased volume of video games being sold in Australia. How does a small team like the Classification Board keep up? Yesterday the Australian Government took steps towards solving that problem.
Yesterday Michael Keenan, the Minister for Justice, announced that Australia would officially begin trialing a new system that helps ease the astronomical burden currently being placed upon the Classification Board.
The International Age Ratings Coalition (IARC) is a globally unified age ratings classification system and Australia is now part of that coalition, meaning digital and mobile games can now be classifified using this system, as opposed to going through the traditional process with the Classification Board. Developers obtain ratings by answering a short questionnaire about the content of their video game. The system then outputs an age rating based on the country and that country's specific social norms. 36 countries are now part of the IARC and Australia is the latest to join.
A trial period will begin next month, and will initially be overseen by the Classification Board.
"After close collaboration between the IARC and my Department over many months to ensure the tool meets Australia’s requirements, I have approved the IARC classification tool for an initial 12-month trial period to begin next month," said Michael Keenan.
"As part of the trial, the Classification Board will audit a large number of classifications made by the IARC tool to ensure they reflect the Australian community’s expectations and standards."
"The Board also has the power to revoke classifications made by the IARC tool if it decides it would have given the game a different classification."
The government took steps towards this ultimate goal in 2014, when it amended the classification act in 2014 to allow questionnaires to be used in the classification process. The ultimate goal with this legislation was to allow digital and mobile games to be classified using the IARC tool.
It's a move long supported by the local games industry. Ron Curry, the CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, made this his next port of call almost immediately after R18+ classification passed. He's been petitioning for a move to the IARC for years, a move that is consistent with recommendations from the Australian Law Reform Commission back in 2012. He was pleased with yesterday's decision.
"The IARC tool, which is a global industry lead classification solution, will help developers keep pace with classifications and ensure that games are classified appropriately for Australian gamers, with Australian classification symbols." he said.
The trial period will last for a total of 12 months.