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Australia Censorship Games Politics

South Australia AG Backs R18+ For Games, But Not MA15+ 68

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-must-be-18-to-read-the-rest-of-this-post dept.
dotarray writes "The Australian classification debate has just gotten a little more interesting, with South Australian Attorney-General John Rau announcing that he wants to go one step further than merely introducing an R18+ rating for video games. His proposed plan would change the system to include G, PG, M and R18+ classifications (while still allowing for games to be Refused Classification or effectively banned), making a 'clear difference' between what adults can play and what is available to children."
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South Australia AG Backs R18+ For Games, But Not MA15+

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  • At last some sense. (Score:3, Informative)

    by shplorb (24647) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @02:14AM (#35960390) Homepage Journal

    It's about time the Labor party pulled its finger out.

    Unfortunately, this announcement is nothing more than an attempt to distract the vapid media from the SA Labor party's woes of last week:

    * The worst opinion poll in the party's history.
    * A Labor MP was arrested for child pornography offences.
    * A minister resigned without explanation less than three months into the job.

    • by bug1 (96678)

      Its not any one party, its individual State Attorney.

      Each state Attorney seems to have a personal agenda about the issue, and it doesn't take into consideration the views of the party or the state.

      Federal government wont/cant do it without all states agreeing.

      State governments need to stand up to their AG and tell them their position is not a license to dictate morality.

      • Well said! I'm a Christian so have my own views about game ratings, but I still think that it is way overdue for Australia to introduce R18+ games, no proven link to violence and reality is a large proportion of the country want the rules changed and a large proportion are indifferent. Parents should be responsible for what is consumed by their children, be it games, movies, music or otherwise.
      • by shplorb (24647)

        I'm well aware of the situation as I've been following it for over half a decade since the former Attorney-General Michael Atkinson first put the kybosh on R18+.

        Unfortunately in SA the Labor party that is the government is controlled by a "Catholic right" faction. The former AG held a lot of sway in that faction until he finally went so off the rails they tapped him on the shoulder and replaced him with the current guy, so you can probably deduce why the government never directed the former AG in how to han

  • by Mountaineer1024 (1024367) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @02:16AM (#35960402) Homepage
    Just taking the existing MA15+ bracket and renaming it to R18 will not do anything meaningful.
    We have a system in this country (Australia) that claims to be about classification, but is actually about censorship!

    I (and many others) want a uniform system across all media, and unless something is illegal to make, it shouldn't be illegal to buy!
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      A uniform system would be censorship... as that's the traditional role of movie classifications.

      I think you mean you want a voluntary rating system, like the rest of the world.

      • by Mountaineer1024 (1024367) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @02:32AM (#35960454) Homepage
        I don't know if a voluntary system would give us anything different here, the problem is that the lack of a rating within the codified guidelines result in a title being illegal to buy locally or import.

        According to the code [comlaw.gov.au] by which these classifications are made:
        The Code
        Under the Code, classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:
        (a) adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want;
        (b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;
        (c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive;
        (d) the need to take account of community concerns about:
        (i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and
        (ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

        Look at A there and tell me how not allowing me (a 30 year old) to legally acquire something like Mortal Kombat or Left for Dead 2 [refused-cl...cation.com] is abiding by their own guidelines.
        • by QuantumG (50515) *

          By definition a required rating is not voluntary.

        • Look at A there and tell me how not allowing me (a 30 year old) to legally acquire something like Mortal Kombat or Left for Dead 2 [refused-cl...cation.com] is abiding by their own guidelines.

          Well, it's the government, so they say they won't do something, that means they'll continue to say they're not doing it as they do it. I vaguely recall some Australian government official arguing that adults don't want the games based on the fact that they're not buying them, so the censorship would be consistent with A. Not addressed was the issue of "How would they buy them since they're not sold legally?" I might be imaging that...

          If it makes you feel any better, that's small potatoes as far as gov

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            Well, it's the government, so they say they won't do something, that means they'll continue to say they're not doing it as they do it. I vaguely recall some Australian government official arguing that adults don't want the games based on the fact that they're not buying them, so the censorship would be consistent with A.

            Except it wasn't the government. The government has always been for reforming the system allowing adults to buy what they want. The problem was one man. One attorney general who under law unfortunately was allowed to force his unpopular opinion on 20million people. He's gone now. R18+ rating here we come.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Yeah, Michael Atkinson (the Attorney General for South Australia) has been replaced - and thank $DEITY for that. However, it seems that Robert Clark, the Attorney General for Victoria, is going down the same path [theage.com.au].

              It ain't over until everybody agrees that it's over. As long as one state disagrees, the status quo remains. One obstacle disappears, another pops up to take its place. Gah!

        • by wvmarle (1070040)

          I see a serious conflict possible between (a) and (d). Here my interpretation.

          Principle (a) basically allows any material to be rated R18 without further review - if lower classifications are deemed appropriate, then review should be done.

          (b) is very reasonable: that's what ratings are for.

          But also for a lot of material I'd like to know on which grounds (types of content) a rating is given. This is what principle (c) would prescribe. Some material may depict graphic violence, others explicit sex - it see

    • by bennettp (1014215)
      Actually, I think it's illegal to sell. IANAL.
      • by Cimexus (1355033)

        Correct - it's illegal to sell RC games in Australia, but not technically illegal to buy them. Certainly an offence has occurred in such a scenario, but it's the seller who faces the music, not the buyer.

        It is not against the law to merely possess or play an RC game (or any other material for that matter) in any State or Territory except for Western Australia. What this essentially means if you can get you hands on an RC game, you aren't breaking the law (but the person who provided it to you might be).

        Pers

    • by black3d (1648913) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @05:20AM (#35960884)

      Actually, it will make a difference. Almost every banned game would fall under the R18 classification if such a thing existed. As it doesn't, they're refused classification and banned. Bumping MA15+ games up to R18 means while those games fall under the adult category, games previously banned because they were refused classification could be revisited and almost all would fall under the R18 classification. The most recent Mortal Kombat, for instance, was just squeezed out of the MA15+ rating, which means it's banned outright. If an R18 classification existed, it would be allowed - with an R18 classification (Meaning, no children could buy it, etc).

      You may be expressing that you believe that all games that have previously been refused classification would still be, but one of my professional acquaintances performs some of classifications. They have no hidden agenda whatsoever. They simply classify the content as they would any other content - to the best of their ability, of course. If they believe the media in a game exceeds the MA15+ classification, at present they're forced to simply refuse classification. With an R18 rating, they could slap R18 on it an be done with. As long as it's content which would get an R18 rating in any other medium, it will here. Sometimes they let games get through with the incorrect rating (they're only human, and don't play the entire games - publishers actually have to identify themselves which scenes they believe are the most violent, etc, and present those) and those get revisited and reclassified. The classifiers are not out to ban anything - they just use the classification tools available to them.

      This doesn't mean X-rated content would be allowed, however. (In most of Aus, there's no X-rating, either). So no hardcore porn games would be allowed in. Excessive violence falls under R18, with the exception of snuff - except in games it's computer graphics and not considered snuff. Oh, also no beastiality or child porn, as they're illegal.

      • You may be expressing that you believe that all games that have previously been refused classification would still be, but one of my professional acquaintances performs some of classifications. They have no hidden agenda whatsoever. They simply classify the content as they would any other content - to the best of their ability, of course. If they believe the media in a game exceeds the MA15+ classification, at present they're forced to simply refuse classification. With an R18 rating, they could slap R18 on it an be done with. As long as it's content which would get an R18 rating in any other medium, it will here. Sometimes they let games get through with the incorrect rating (they're only human, and don't play the entire games - publishers actually have to identify themselves which scenes they believe are the most violent, etc, and present those) and those get revisited and reclassified. The classifiers are not out to ban anything - they just use the classification tools available to them.

        This doesn't mean X-rated content would be allowed, however. (In most of Aus, there's no X-rating, either). So no hardcore porn games would be allowed in. Excessive violence falls under R18, with the exception of snuff - except in games it's computer graphics and not considered snuff. Oh, also no beastiality or child porn, as they're illegal.

        That is exactly my fear, that the new legislation will simply move the existing MA15+ content to R18.
        There's been zero transparency from the government on their intentions and to my cynical mind Mr Rau's pronouncement on the subject looks designed to deliberately fail - and then afterwards he can spread his hands and say "It's not my fault none of the other AG's wanted R18".
        The liberal government did basically the same thing to stop us getting out from underneath the monarchy about a decade ago. Rather th

        • by black3d (1648913)

          Well, that's a very real possibility. While most "shooters" would be reclassified down to M, those which glorify the violence (such as, Borderlands), and many "fighting" games would most likely be bumped up to R18 - as the distinctions would be even easier for them to make than it currently is. "If a headshot produces a blood spray, it's M. If it produces gore/brains/gibs, it's R18". Realism and glorification thereof taken into account. Maybe I'm not concerned because I'm over a decade over 18, but consider

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Of course it would do something meaningful. Things are refused classification because they don't fit into any of the buckets. Clearly there are things that will fit into R18 but do nt fit into MA15+. Hence less things will be redused classification.

      Now while some things will still be refused classification, you can't call that doing nothing meaningful. Every single mainstream game that has been refused classfiication in Australia would instead be classified R18+ (if it was resubmitted, etc).

      Things don't hav

    • by Hatta (162192)

      We have a system in this country (Australia) that claims to be about classification, but is actually about censorship!

      All classification systems are about censorship.

      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        All classification systems are about censorship.

        Classification systems are about organizational and information purposes. They can be *mis-used* for censorship, of course. I don't think it's a bad thing that videogames have a coherent classification system that informs parents as to their general conduct and age-appropriateness. Where I tend to have a problem is with government-enforced classification (along with related laws), which is indeed censorship.

        Should one oppose a loosening of censorship laws on the grounds that all censorship is obscene?

  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @02:21AM (#35960422) Journal

    We keep insisting in this society that children must be protected at all costs until some magic age, when we suddenly rip away all that protection. It's clearly easier to pretend children go from 8 to 18 in one giant step than to actually teach them responsibility slowly and gradually. And then we wonder why 8 to 18 year olds go stupid and make choices that have devastating consequences, or are selfish. They've not been taught responsibility in a calm and gradual fashion. They've been treated like infants for a decade instead. What do you expect!? It's like teaching someone primary school math for a decade then expecting them to jump to vector calculus literally overnight.

    • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Thursday April 28, 2011 @02:51AM (#35960514)

      What a time for me not to have mod points. This is absolutely, positively, 100% correct.

      People always underestimate what children are capable of understanding. Children are naive and do not have fully developed decision making skills, but they do understand their limitations if you are honest with them. By attempting to hide everything from a child that you deem inappropriate, you lose valuable education opportunities for them.

      For example, with sex you can say that their bodies will grow faster than their ability to handle the dangers of sexual relationships. If you tell them this too late (when they are teenagers) they will take offense at it - nobody teen likes to be told that they are not ready for some things. If you want to know how to deal with a rebellious teenager, just teach them how to be a teenager before it happens. Preparation is the key.

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      Ummmm I think this is actually very good for children, It allows PARENTS to introduce the material to them as appropriate rather than kids running down to the local store and getting whatever they want. Parents should be responsible for raising their children not a government censorship system. R18+ would at least allow adult games to be sold to adults (something we have lacked in Aus) and where parents think appropriate given to their children. The government should not be responsible for how children are
      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        False! What you are describing is a system that involves an MA15+ rating. MA15+ requires parental supervision for someone under 15 to legally purchase the content. The M rating is a recommendation and anyone can go and legally buy an M rated game without any parental supervision at all.

        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          NO, what I am describing is bloody parents doing their job for a change, instead of relying on incompetent governments to do it for them. Australia's current problem is not even adults can buy games that would receive a rating higher than MA15+, if it means abolishing MA15+ and having a R18+ I am all for it, even if that means 15-18 year olds have a harder time getting stuff (unlikely as they will get it anyway or get controlled access from parents).
          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            Except it can't happen without an MA15+ rating. I'm all for parents doing their jobs. They should be able to police content for kids and introduce it to them at the rate they want.

            But not now. The only content parents can introduce to kids is R18+ content. Is your kid 9? Awesome he can go out and buy any M rated game he wants without any parental supervision at all, including all the games that publishers will try to squeeze in right under the R18+ system which would previously have been restricted to paren

            • by bloodhawk (813939)
              Actually it would be the reverse, more titles will be forced into the R18+ with less available to 9 year olds. If 9 year olds have the unsupervised cash to go into a shop and buy 60-100 dollar games (the price in Australia) then parents have already failed. incidently I am all for both MA15+ AND R18+ being available. The problem is without the SA AG's support we cannot have any changes, a change to at least having R18+ while not perfect is at least a step forward.
        • Uhh, so does the R rating. Not having an MA just shifts the boundaries, it doesn't change the fundamental system. Without an MA rating, that material will probably just get bumped into the R18 class, relegating it to "parental decision". MA15+ is always problematic, because validating age is harder. At 18, people will often have at least their learners permit, or else age cards for them to get into bars/clubs which also have the same 18-year limit. At 15, kids generally don't have any reliable ID, and aren'

          • by thegarbz (1787294)

            The problem is not shifting the boundaries it is one of removing the boundaries and squeezing the remainder into the now broken system. What you're effectively saying is that someone who is 9 is mature enough to go out and buy the same content as someone who is 17 as all ratings below M15+ are only guidances.

            The ID issue is separate and not helped by inconsistent and often easily forgeable student ID cards which every student should have. Yet I never once had a problem providing proof of age to get concessi

            • No, what its saying is that if the content is sufficiently tame, anyone can buy it, and if it's over a certain threshold, under 18s need parental permission. Sounds fine to me. Kids can vary greatly in maturity in the 13 - 17 bracket, and the people in the best position to judge are their parents. This puts the responsibility for those cases onto the parents, which is where it should always have been in the first place

              • by thegarbz (1787294)

                False. Go read up on the R18+ definitions and how they apply. A parent is not allowed to authorize someone under 18 to acquire legally content with an R18+ rating. Come back once you have learnt how our rating system works and how the laws apply.

                • Yeah, parents aren't allowed to "authorize" someone to buy it. But they can buy it themselves, and screen it for their children. Whether or not that's technically against the law is dubious - the law's framed around cinemas and stores. But to my knowledge, there has never been even an attempt to interpret it that way in a court case, nor any prosecution of a parent for screening a film for their child under that law.

              • Kids can vary greatly in maturity in the 13 - 17 bracket

                So can people in general. But, really, what does "maturity" have to do with it? Whether they're mature or not, they likely won't go 'insane' from playing a video game.

                and the people in the best position to judge are their parents.

                It's probably better than the government or someone similar doing it, but it is by no means a good solution.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Ummmm I think this is actually very good for children, It allows PARENTS to introduce the material to them as appropriate rather than kids running down to the local store and getting whatever they want.

        How exactly is that a good thing for children? What evidence do you have that one produces more desirable outcomes than the other?

        I know it's a good thing for control freak parents, but that's not the same thing.

      • by syousef (465911)

        Ummmm I think this is actually very good for children, It allows PARENTS to introduce the material to them as appropriate rather than kids running down to the local store and getting whatever they want. Parents should be responsible for raising their children not a government censorship system. R18+ would at least allow adult games to be sold to adults (something we have lacked in Aus) and where parents think appropriate given to their children. The government should not be responsible for how children are introduced to such content.

        How the fuck does making a game R18+ instead of MA15+ give the parent control? It criminalises their choice if that choice is to introduce material earlier!

        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          You seem confused, the current situation in Australia is THEIR IS NO CHOICE. games are banned if they are of a violent, sexual or drug use related. for instance Mortal Kombat is banned as is Left for Dead 2. R18+ would at least allow the majority of games onto the market here instead of completely cock blocking them.
          • by syousef (465911)

            You seem confused, the current situation in Australia is THEIR IS NO CHOICE. games are banned if they are of a violent, sexual or drug use related. for instance Mortal Kombat is banned as is Left for Dead 2. R18+ would at least allow the majority of games onto the market here instead of completely cock blocking them.

            I'm not confused at all, you are. The current situation in Australia (where I live by the way) is an international joke, and I am well aware there is no R18+ category, and that this has resulted in game bans. We're not discussing that specifically. We're discussing plans to finally add an R18+ rating but coupled with removing MA15+ supposedly so that there is a "clear distinction" between adult games and those targeted at children.. That is also a bad joke that means if a parent disagrees they are breaking

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Indeed! Why do the people not get this. This will push a lot of games from the MA15+ category which can be purchased by under 15 year olds only with adult supervision into the R18+ category essentially banning content from some people who the rest of the world deem of suitable maturity to consume.

      This will teach kids 2 things:

      1. They are kids until they are 18. Suck it up 2nd class citizens. While we're at it remove their driving rights (this was actually proposed along with raising the drinking age to 21).

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        First of all, it's a guideline. It has some consequences (makes it harder to buy stuff directly) but doesn't block access.

        As a parent I think ratings are great as it gives you a very quick idea on the content of material. Whether you want to introduce it to your child, is a separate decision, and depends on the child. Of course waiting until some magical age and then open the floodgates all at once is a bad idea, but presenting a violent R18 movie to a 6-year-old is also not a good idea. And that's what ra

        • The G, PG and M15+ are guidelines. The MA15+, however, is not: it is a category explicitly intended to block access by certain portions of the population. The difference is that if I get caught selling an M15+ game to a 10 year old, the most I'll get is a dirty look or two; if I sell the MA15+ game to that same 10 year old and get busted, I cop a fine, and potentially jail time. That the category hasn't actually managed to block access effectively does not change the fact that it's intended to do so.

          Cla

    • The magic age is when they can vote. People who are under 18 don't get their hands counted at election time so politicians don't need to keep them happy. The parents, on the other hand, do vote and many are persuaded by "think of the children".
    • by black3d (1648913)

      As it's possible to watch naked people having sex (simulated) and excessive violence (simulated) under the M rating, what planet are you living on that youths aren't gradually introduced to these concepts? You seem to believe that they're coddled from a young age and suddenly the world of sex and violence is thrust on them at 18. This simply isn't the case. Please elaborate on the intermediate steps between:

      M: Naked bodies, with breasts visible, in simulated copulation
      ???
      R18: The ability to view reproductiv

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      There's still an M rating in his proposal. So how does it not increase gradually?

      Was Australian society really so bad in 1992 when we didn't have a MA15+ rating at all? Were we protecting the children until a magical age just by having a slightly less fine-grained rating system?

  • by Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) on Thursday April 28, 2011 @02:28AM (#35960440)
    his suggestion of removing MA15+ will do exactly the opposite of what he wants to do.
    all MA15+ games won't automatically be rated at R18+
    some will be recategorised as M (suggested for 15+ but not enforced) and from that point on game studios will try to bring their games in under the R18+ radar and get them categorised as M because R18+ games will require photo id (drivers licence or passport) to purchase*
    in theory MA15+ games require a student card or some form of valid ID to show the purchasers age, doesn't always happen in practice, but that's for the parent to notice and rip into the staff at the store who sold their child the game* (anecdotal reference: I remember requiring my student id to see MA movies at the theatres when I was 15, sometimes I was asked, sometimes I wasn't)

    *this is (naturally) assuming brick and mortar stores are the only way to purchase goods... and that kids don't lie about their age when signing up for a steam account...

    video game classification in Aus is a sick joke.
    • To be honest, I'm kind of fine with them removing MA15 and adding R18. That being said, I still think the system should mimic exactly that which the tv/movie/music industry adheres to. The system shouldn't need to be created from scratch again, so they really have the choice of using the same system that other media uses, or just slapping the R18 on the end to cover the gap that is missing at present. Heh, maybe the labour party has been waiting for a globalised agenda on classification rulings to appear
      • by thegarbz (1787294)

        The problem with the lack of MA15+ rating is that the M rating is a recommendation not an enforceable rule. Effectively you won't introduce kids into content at an appropriate rate. They'll go right from jumping on turtle shells to ripping people's heart out in Mortal Kombat without any middle ground. They are effectively removing a rating that sits right in the middle of the bell curve of popular game titles which ends up polarizing games.

        So the end result is copying, piracy, or otherwise acquiring games t

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      How is that the opposite of what he wants?

  • This is another clear example of how our politicians are out of touch with technology.

    They only ever needed to do one simple thing... make the ratings system the same for all kinds of media - movies, games, books, etc.

    Was that so hard? Apparently, the answer is yes.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Digital content delivery needs to be rated consistently across all deliveries mediums and until this is addressed, the politicians are always going to be trailing behind market developments.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I disapprove of strippers but approve of prostitutes all the way

  • by AbRASiON (589899) * on Thursday April 28, 2011 @06:23AM (#35961038) Journal

    but we're fucked, South Australia might now be fixed but the Victorian one is now an imbecile.

    FWIW I'm a Victorian and I was under the impression this is one of the more progressive states in the country. Can I just be frank and say,.. when will these fucking religious people die out? I'm 33 - 95% of the people I know aren't religious, we don't care about religion. It's dead, it's finished. Go away and stop putting your idiot values on others.

    Sigh.

  • It's like the 90's all over, with people blaming MK for all the woes in the world! I feel young again!!!

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