In a move sure to chap the ass of former South Australia Attorney General Michael Atkinson, the Aussie federal cabinet has approved the adoption of an R18+ classification for games down under, effectively eliminating the tacit ban on any games deemed unsuitable for an R15+ – formerly the highest rating.
This still has to be approved by Australian states and territories, and presumably adopted by Parliament as well, but it’s a step in the right direction. Kind of.
The Australian government makes it pretty clear they’re not doing this to open the country’s shores to mature-rated games, so much as to punish those who allow games rated 15+ to kids of that age, when some of said games should have carried an 18+ rating… but didn’t because there wasn’t one.
Games that are outright banned in Australia will remain that way, according to Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor. That’s also a sticky subject, because Australia’s method of banning stuff so far has simply been to refuse it classification. Lots of violent games have been refused classification in Australia, making it illegal to sell them (scroll the comments yonder to see an informal study conducted by reader Jarrod on unclassified games available through Steam in Australia). But of those games, practically none are ban-worthy. They’re violent, like Fallout 3, and worthless, like Postal 2, but in general they’re pretty innocuous titles. I mean, really, in a world where every Halloween sees the release of a new Saw movie, the ability to club a man with a nine iron and knock his head clean off (as I did just last night in New Vegas!) really isn’t that horrifying a concept.
Personally I think most of the “banned” games will start to trickle into Australia, rated suitably at R18+. Proponents of the new rating’s key argument – that there are people over 18 who should have a right to choose their own entertainment – has always held water. And while Australia is a surprisingly conservative place in many ways, it’s a free country and shouldn’t be subject to tiered freedom of expression.
We’ll be seeing, in weeks and months to come, what the adoption of this rating (if it is adopted) will mean for our friends in Oz. With luck, they’ll finally have a chance to enjoy some classic, if bloody and/or sexy, games.
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