SEXUALLY explicit and violent video and computer games banned in Australia could soon be sold here after all state and federal governments except New South Wales agreed to an R18+ rating for video games.Now as I've mentioned before, the reason we don't already have one was that one state, South Australia, would not agree and that unanimity was required for change on this, so you'd be forgiven for thinking that nothing much has actually changed. NSW abstained rather than objected as SA had done in the past, although the new Attorney-General from NSW, Greg Smith, is reportedly a conservative (yeah, that Liberal kind of 'liberal' again) and argued against introducing an R18+ classification.
Mr Smith said he abstained from the vote because it needed to go to state cabinet first as the government was new - it was elected in March - and so he could consult the community.Same same but different, you'd think, because that's really not far off the old situation - one strongly conservative view, quite possibly religiously influenced, held by a paternalist know-it-all in a position that lets him decide for the whole country rather than just his state (or better yet, his family) has apparently been exchanged for another. However, the federal government are not letting one state lay down the law for the whole country anymore. Kind of begs the question why they've been content to do so up to this point, but nevermind.
Brendan O'Connor says the Federal Government would over-ride NSW and implement the R18+ rating regardless of its decision.And then there's that community Greg Smith mentioned, and that can be divided into three groups: the gamers, who overwhelmingly want to be able to buy adult oriented games since so many of them are adults; the non-gamers who mostly don't care or support the gamers; and the small but phenomenally noisy and, for their numbers, highly influential Christian lobby, who up 'til now have mostly opposed games that would be rated R18+ because of the violence and the risk of a T&A being included. Presumably the feeling is this sort of thing inevitably leads to hot women playing World of Warcraft in the nip and naked gaming parties, which in turn can only lead to sticky sheets, Kleenex shortages and babies, and this game-induced lust-fuelled sexmageddon will meet the game-induced bloodlust-fuelled murderpocalypse head on.
No, I don't know how they get there either, and that many of the kind of games they worry about are not only not banned but are sold to 15 year olds here in Australia because of rather than despite the lack of an RA18+ rating seems to have escaped them until now. On that point there seems to have been a waking up and smelling of coffee...
THE Australian Christian Lobby has overturned its opposition to a new R18+ category for adult computer games, saying a new in-principle deal would keep extreme games out of Australia.... though it's not exactly a Damascene conversion.
“The draft R18+ guidelines as originally proposed would have matched the R18+ guidelines for films,” spokesman Rob Ward said.So while the Christian lobby, or at least one of its most vocal parts, has worked out that the current situation is counter-productive they haven't gone quite as far as conceding that they don't speak for 'the community', just themselves, or that adults in Australia should be able to buy the same games that are available elsewhere without the game developer having to specially ruin it for the local market.
“This was clearly never in the interests of the community, with the boundaries of the R18+ film guidelines slowly eroded to allow extreme violence, actual sex and simulated pedophilia in films.
“Although ACL awaits the final detail from the meeting, it appears that the existing ceiling for games has been maintained with a commitment to move the more extreme MA15+ games into a newly-created R18+ rating.”
Still, the main thing is that the opposition to an R18+ category has pretty much dried up and I'd say it's almost certain that it'll be in place in time for Christmas orders. And I'd be prepared to bet that although the wording on the game classification guidelines may be slightly different to those for other media I'd be prepared to bet that the official censors - the people who've been employed to nanny us but have often allowed games aimed at adults to slip through as MA15+ - will allow into Oz unaltered games that they can't at the moment.
I'd prefer to see an end to the gaming nanny completely, and realistically with online sales growing - my last two games purchases were made via Steam and with the prices of games in the shops I'm likely to carry on buying that way - I don't see how they expect to stop someone downloading games that aren't for sale here anyway. Even if the internet filter plan hadn't stalled I'm sure serious gamers would be working out ways around it so they could download ZombieSplatterKill4 from the US or elsewhere.
So I have mixed feelings about it, but overall there are more positives than negatives. It didn't go as far as I'd hoped and certainly not as far as I'd like, but baby steps I suppose. Progress has been made and Nanny is going to let us play the scary and slightly naughty games now, which for a country with the biggest and most blatantly sited sex shops I've ever seen is probably about time.
View Larger Map -- Sexyland, just off the Tullamarine freeway about ten minutes from Melbourne international airport
For those who are interested there's a good potted history of the road to an adult games rating on The Age's Screen Play blog.