The country of Australia (which is on the cusp of summer right now, and oh-so toasty warm) still lacks a video game rating equivalent to the ESRB’s “Mature” (M) classification. That means games with adult content can’t be legally sold in the country. As it stands, a game with adult content is either classified on a lower tier as “MA15+,” or else any violent/sexual content is edited so that the game is appropriate for teenagers. Sometimes, the release of M-rated games simply bypasses Van Diemen’s Land altogether.
A common misconception going around is that the Australian government has outright banned games with adult content. In truth, Aussies can import adult games without fear of prosecution. Doing so is expensive and time-consuming, however, so it’s understandable why Australian gamers feel they should be allowed to be treated like grown-ups along with the rest of the gaming world.
They have the support of the continent–overwhelming support, in fact. A survey put together by Galaxy Research discovered that 80% of the people polled support the formation of an R18+ classification. When the government conducted its own consultation, it garnered nearly 60,000 respondents, with 98% of them favoring the creation of the new rating.
Australia’s governing Labour Party has thrown its support behind the creation of the R18+ brand. A final decision on the matter might come as early as this Friday at a meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
If the decision is positive–and there’s little reason to believe it won’t be, but as far as politics are concerned, you never know–it’ll reflect positively on the games industry worldwide, not just down under. Australia’s hesitation to classify adult games alongside adult movies might be thought of as the last big wall that was keeping games from being acknowledged as an all-ages pastime instead of a distraction for kids. Finally, games have moved ahead: They’re not just for socially awkward teenage shut-ins anymore.
Of course, that’s a bit of an exaggerated viewpoint–to say nothing of a bit optimistic. Video games have always been enjoyed by girls, boys, men, and women. But it’s the stereotypical portrait of the little Nintendo-loving boy, or the reclusive “nerd” that showed up most often in movies and on television.
And that’s still the case, when you come right down to it. That’s why Australia’s support for an R18+ is a spot of sunshine: People are obviously thinking differently about gamers’ ability to choose and behave responsibly, maybe thanks in part to a wider adoption by the mainstream.
Video games still have a lot of battles to fight, a lot of wearying statistics about youth violence and obesity to defend against. But every victory is indicative that the world is taking the business of fun more seriously. Good luck, Australia.
Picture Source: Kotaku