Banned Down Under – Australian Classification of Video Games

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The pull of a trigger, a thunderous crash and my enemy is falling to his knees. Spurts of blood pulse into the sky and pool on the ground. The blood-lust sated for now, the beast within draws back into the darkness, not asleep, still ready to fight but the hunger fades. I’ve killed a man. He had a family, at the very least a friend. His body will become food for carrion and his bones will bleach out in this wasteland.

Will have to save there though. Promised I would babysit my niece and nephews. No murderous rage when someone cuts me off on the highway. The petrol station remains without flames when I find them to be out of Gatorade. I don’t beat up my house-mate for slowing our internet by downloading bad television (though I come close). Wow, despite playing hours of video games in my lifetime I have yet to become a violent person.

So why am I legally unable to obtain the new Mortal Kombat?

The media always makes a fuss about violence in video games. We’ve all heard the rants and ravings of mothers worried about the evils of gaming. Some content isn’t suitable for certain age groups. That’s fine by me, I am legally able to choose what content is suitable for me. Be it; animated cars talking and forming friendships, the camaraderie of grizzled space marines fighting a bloody war or even representations of people setting fire to their own homes.

Rating systems are in place to aid consumers and parents in understanding the content of the game. In America, the ESRB rating symbols are;

EC – Early Childhood

E10+ – Everyone 10 and older

T – Teen (13 and older)

M – Mature (17 and older)

AO – Adults only (18 and older)

RP – Rating Pending

Very simple and straight forward. Every age group is covered in some way

Jump across the world to my home, Australia has some of the most restrictive Internet and Video Game policies of any Western country. Down in Oz we have 6 classification markings.

G – General

PG – Parental Guidance

M – Mature

MA15+ – Not suitible for persons under 15 years

R18+ – Restricted to 18 and over

X18+ : Ristricted to 18 and over do to sexually explicit content.

 

And in colour, or color, depending where you’re from.

These rating systems may not be as precise when it comes to age group but it does inform the consumer about some of the content in the film or computer game. The problem I have with the Australian classification system is this line from their website, “Please note: Classifications of R 18+ and X 18+ are not applicable for computer games.” (http://www.classification.gov.au/ )

This is why certain games are banned from Australia. The Classification Board (ACB) doesn’t technically ban the games, it just doesn’t give them a rating if their themes are too violent or adult. Because of this, I am now missing out on playing Mortal Kombat(the new one).

The Border Protection guys are getting legally serious about Mortal Kombat. A spokesperson for the Australian Customs and Border Protection service stated, “Any copies of the games detected at the border, including via international mail, will be seized.” Anyone caught trying to import games that have been refused rating could expect a fine up to A$110,000.

 

Bombs are scary, video games are scarier

Many games have come before the ACB and have had to been re submitted with some censorship or changes. Fallout 3 had to have Morphine re-labelled MedX, because rewarding players for taking drugs (that exist in the real world) isn’t appropriate for developing minds. In Left 4 Dead 2 the changes included less blood splatter and zombie corpses de spawned eventually.

Why are Video Games being treated differently to films or other works of entertainment? According to Andrew Hazelton, author of the website “Say No to R18+ Video Games” There is not one single ‘benefit’ of R-rated games that will enhance or improve character.”

It boils down to one simple issue. According to these purveyors of fear, video games aren’t art. Films, books, television, music and paintings are different because they have been around longer. New media is always seen as evil or destructive. Plato wrote in his Socratic dialogue that writing, “…could create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves.” Sounds awfully similar to what people were saying about television rotting the brains of children when it was still the latest form of entertainment.

Have you heard of ‘We Dare’ yet? Maybe not if you are in the United States, Ubisoft the developer described this game as, “a sexy, quirky, party game that offers a large cariety of hilarious, innovative and physical, sometimes kinky, challenges. The more friends you invite to the party, the spicier the play!” The ACB managed to put this one through as PG. I’ll just link the video and let you make up your own minds about this.

 

We Dare

This isn’t the only case of the ACB displaying bizarre behaviour. Some games are getting rated in Australia has MA15+ when they have an M or AO rating overseas. Some of the games include, Borderlands, Duke Nukem Forever and Left 4 Dead 2.

The Classification board has been accused of being, “asleep at the wheel” when it comes to rating some games MA15+ but the Victorian Christian Lobby still believes, “That’s not a reason to create an R18+ category.”

Australia has some really weird laws when it comes to censorship. The ACB is now applying refused classification to some pornographic films and magazines who picture women in their late 20s with an A cup size. Turns out that women with small breasts look like they are under-age and that just looking under 18 is illegal.

Voting is compulsory

According to the Australian Sex Party(Yes, a real political party), “It may be an unintended consequence of the Senator’s actions but they are largely responsible for the sharp increase in breast size in Australian adult magazines of late.” The ASP are also keen for an R18+ rating for video games.

I know how I voted

The future is unsure for adult gamers in Australia. The Attorney-Generals need to unanimously support an R18+ rating for video games for it to be passed. I’ve spoken to some non-gamers my age and asked them what they think. Unfortunately the majority still take the opinion of, “why bother?” or, “Well if it protects the children.” Giving video games an R18+ rating will protect children. Currently Films and Video games rated MA15+ are legally restricted and need a proof of age to purchase. How would extending an R18+ rating to video games be any different. At least if their parents do their part and not just buy it for the kids anyway.

This frustration at the government fills me with a terrible rage. Maybe I should Hulk out and go destroy some property and intimidate people through abusive emails. Unless, that’s the exact behaviour that leads Religious groups to fear video games/gamers. Guess I’ll go take it out on some unsuspecting Super Mutants in the Mojave Wasteland.

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