Everything That Will Get Your Game Banned In Australia

Australia might have an R18 rating for video games, but we also have some hugely strict limits on what can actually be classified R18.

Video games have always had a tougher time getting classified, thanks to the prevailing attitude around interactivity. The official guidelines for classifying video games notes that “interactivity is an important consideration” and that generally, computer games “may have a higher impact” than similar themes or tropes in film, TV or literature:

Interactivity is an important consideration that the Board must take into account when classifying computer games. This is because there are differences in what some sections of the community condone in relation to passive viewing or the effects passive viewing may have on the viewer (as may occur in a film) compared to actively controlling outcomes by making choices to take or not take action.

Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.

At the higher classification guidelines, the “impact” of an element becomes particularly prominent. Impact is basically a catch-all term that covers the effect of a gameplay sequence, cutscene or set piece. It covers whether scenes are realistic (as opposed to stylised), whether some form of incentive is involved, the in-game cinematography, any repetition, special effects and the length of those particular elements.

“Impact may be lessened where reference to a classifiable element is verbal rather than visual,” the guidelines say. “Also, some visual impacts have less impact than others: for example, an incidental depiction may have less impact than a direct one.”

The 6 Elements Of Classification

Games in Australia are classified on six things: nudity, drug use, language, sex, violence and “themes”. Themes basically means any social issues and topics covered by the plot or environment, like suicide, crime, death, illness, racism, and so on.

As far as the legislation is concerned, it’s mostly applicable for the lower classifications — R18 games have “virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes”, while MA15 games can cover strong themes provided they are “justified by context”.

The two major redlines flagged in the current guidelines are drug use:

Computer games will be Refused Classification if they contain:

(i) illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards;

(ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic.

But if you read further, there’s also a lot of very stringent limits on sex and violence that will also get a game banned. For instance, R18+ video games in Australia cannot have “depictions of actual sexual activity”. Simulated sexual activity “may be permitted”, but if those simulated depictions are “explicit and realistic”, then those cannot be accommodated within the R18 guidelines, and any game with that would be refused classification. (Sexual violence is treated in a separate section, and not as lax as the guidelines for film.)

Here is the full list of what a R18+ game can have, as far as Australia’s classification system is concerned:


The impact of material classified R 18+ should not exceed high.

Note: Material classified R 18+ is legally restricted to adults. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.


There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.


Violence is permitted. High impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted.

Actual sexual violence is not permitted. Implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted.


Depictions of actual sexual activity are not permitted.

Depictions of simulated sexual activity may be permitted.

Depictions of simulated sexual activity that are explicit and realistic are not permitted.


There are virtually no restrictions on language.


Drug use is permitted.

Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.

Interactive illicit or proscribed drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted.


Nudity is permitted.

For the full list of reasons that will result in a game being refused classification in Australia. Some of the reasons are far less advertised, like the clauses around instructions on violence.


Computer games will be refused classification if they include or contain any of the following:


Detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence.

The promotion or provision of instruction in paedophile activity.

Descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years.

Depictions of:

(i) violence with a very high degree of impact which are excessively frequent, prolonged, detailed or repetitive;

(ii) cruelty or realistic violence which are very detailed and which have a very high impact;

(iii) actual sexual violence.

Implied sexual violence related to incentives and rewards.


Depictions of actual sexual activity are not permitted.

Depictions of simulated sexual activity that are explicit and realistic are not permitted.

Depictions of practices such as bestiality.

Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:

(i) activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent;

(ii) incest fantasies or other fantasies which are offensive or abhorrent.


Detailed instruction in the use of proscribed drugs.

Material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use.

Computer games will also be Refused Classification if they contain:

(i) illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards;

(ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic.

These guidelines were put together in 2012 when the R18 classification for video games was introduced. They’re currently being reviewed by the Classification Board — and they said as much following DayZ‘s RC rating — but nobody knows precisely how far down the road that process is, or how long it will take.

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