From Lootboxes To ‘Disturbing Content’, The Government Wants To Revamp Australia’s Classification Code

From Lootboxes To ‘Disturbing Content’, The Government Wants To Revamp Australia’s Classification Code
Image: solarseven / iStock

Gamers, it is, unfortunately, the worst time of the year: federal election time. Surprisingly enough, Australia’s video games industry has come up during this wretched time, and not even to the tune of ‘we are going to boost the local industry.’ That’s help that typically falls to state governments after all.

We are once again talking about games and Australian classification criteria.

As reported by The Guardian, communications minister Paul Fletcher announced on Wednesday that if the Liberal Party is re-elected, it would ‘update’ the Australian classification code. As mentioned by writer Josh Taylor, the code has not been updated since ‘the VHS era’, apart from the allowance of R18+ ratings for games in 2013.

The code update would seek to address ‘a range of issues’. These include a minimum classification rating for games that include loot boxes. Games found to contain loot boxes would need to denote that they contain ‘simulated gambling.’ The update would also seek to address content that ‘sexualises children or depicts suicide or violence against women’.

Fletcher states during this announcement:

“The government’s priority is keeping Australians safe online, so having clearer advice alerting parents and other consumers to the presence of in-game purchases, such as loot boxes, will help them manage their and their children’s engagement with this content.”

This announcement could be a reflection of the government’s proposed game-focused review of the Australian Classification system. However, submissions for this review closed in February 2020 and in the period since, no public responses to said submissions nor publicly-published results of the review have ever materialised.

Ron Curry, the CEO of IGEA, reportedly worked closely with the Coalition government on the 2019 review and is also still waiting to see the results, so it seems like it could be possible that there’s a correlation, but also perhaps not. Taylor also reports that game developers ‘were not consulted’ prior to the announcement.

When reached for comment, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young replied via statement: ‘Not only has the Morrison Government say (sic) on these recommendations for the last two years, the Coalition has been in government nine years – if they were serious about this they would have acted by now. The Greens have raised serious concerns about the risk to children and vulnerable adults from developing gambling-related harms through interaction with loot boxes. We consider these risks to be of such significance that stronger regulatory action should be taken. The next parliament should get on with it, regardless of who forms government.’

Labor MP Tim Watts shared a similar sentiment, but was rather more direct. “If Scott Morrison had acted on the recommendations of two Parliamentary inquiries into loot boxes when they were made, back in 2019 and 2020, this work might already have been done and there might already be updated consumer advice.” Watts’ statement goes on to mention that the review of the Classification scheme is not the only thing the Coalition is ‘running late on’.

The Minister says he wants to classify games that simulate gambling yet meanwhile there’s still no sign of the National Self-Exclusion Register that was meant to be up and running by May 2020 to allow individuals at risk of or experiencing gambling-related harm to exclude themselves from interactive wagering services and limit their exposure to direct marketing activities,” Watts said.

Based on the official announcement from Fletcher, it doesn’t look like this update of the code will be looking at anything else outside of the aspects listed above. While Fletcher states the move “isn’t about banning or censoring content,” and rather is concerned with “ensuring families can make more informed choices,” the proposed updates might see games with loot boxes and disturbing themes face harsher restrictions in future.

Comments

  • It’s time to stop referring to the Liberals/Nationals as The Gubament, at least until 21 May.

    Unless they win the election the Lib/Nats are nothing more than two more political parties making brain vomit promises that they may or may not be able or willing to keep.

  • Historically the Libs have tougher censorship on games & movies than Labor, remember that when casting your vote.
    The politicians still haven’t woken up that most game purchases are downloaded from overseas, rather than picked off a retail shelf in Australia. The upshot is that Australian classifications are not seen by Australian consumers.

    • Most game purchases also don’t pay their fair share of taxes in Australia, usually taking advantage of Apple, Google’s, Microsoft, Sony etc offshore payment and banking arrangements.

      There is no reason for the government to protect loot boxes, as spending in this industry does not benefit Australia.

  • Think it is a good thing that loot box and other simulated gambling behaviours like GATCHA summon games get a look at
    cant be called anything but exploitive, prices are ridiculous and certainly nothing in it is beneficial to the player

  • Election “promises” are the equivalent of a kid running for class president
    “We’re gonna have two lunches!
    Less homework!
    And a pizza parties every Friday!”
    I call bullshit until there’s some real change.

    • Lib: We promise to improve/fix this issue?

      Me: Why didn’t you do that in the last 3 years since the inquiry? Or the 9 years they been in power?

      The only time a politician admits there is a problem, is when they promise to fix it… cause obviously this wasn’t a problem yesterday, cause the government doesn’t have a problem.

  • Not surprised their ‘ideas’ are sexist, hypocritical, and all around backwards with a nice helping of dumb. This crap never changes. You know what else never changes? Parents buying their kids R rated games like GTA without a second thought…

    • One other thing that never changes is Ody posting barely intelligible rants on Kotaku about topics that are, at best, tangentially related to the articles themselves.

      • You couldn’t understand that? If English isn’t your first language there are services you can use to help. Hopefully then you’ll also understand how the LNP’s sexism and regressive nature are relevant to them updating game classifications.

        • You’re reading a hell of a lot into a post that you think you agree with. Also, you’re new around here, aren’t you.

  • While I agree that our rating system needs an update to “move with the times” I don’t see the LNP being that parry to trust them with doing these reforms. We have an R18+ rating that rarely gets used and when it is used the game has to be altered for something like a sex scene or in game drug use. It’s just beyond stupid if I’m being honest. If I can vote/smoke/drink/have sex why can’t I do it in an R18+ video game specially when most gamers are like in their 30s any way. And I would also change up the board that “protects” its citizens from unforeseen harm (currently all ppl on the board are 55+ and haven’t played a game besides candy crush on their phones). I have no issue with labelling lootboxes as gambling or mentioning lootbox mechanics in games. I have issues with a LNP government run by conservatives (aka ye olde hillsong cult) telling me what I can and can’t play. All I see is more blurs/editing in games cause adults can’t play adult games.

    • “(currently all ppl on the board are 55+ and haven’t played a game besides candy crush on their phones)”

      Most board members are in the 40s or younger actually. There’s only a couple that are of retirement age. You really should educate yourself on these things before you make yourself look like a fool.

  • As long as they keep the church out of it. It may surprise politicians but we are not all in favour of a religion making decisions for our country, regardless of their false sense of morality.

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