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Classification board bans 219 games in 4 months, but clears 150,000

A new ratings tool has led to more games than ever being refused classification, but advocates say this is just a fraction of the massive list of 150,000 games now classified for the first time.

Image by Claire Reilly/CNET

A new gaming classification system has seen a spike in the number of games refused classification in Australia, leaving fans of games such as Douchebag Beach Club, Knife Shoot or the creatively-titled Chicken2.0 The Adult Sex Game looking elsewhere for their fun.

But despite the spike in refusals, supporters of the scheme, including the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA), have praised the system as a quick and effective way to ensure more games are classified for launch into the Australian market.

As of July 1, Australia will be trialling a new automated classification system from the International Age Rating Coalition, allowing games publishers to complete a questionnaire about game content in order to have their titles classified.

In advance of the official launch of the pilot program, the Government's classification body Australian Classification has classified a "large back catalogue" of more than 150,000 games, of which 219 have been refused classification (according to official figures as at June 23).

That figure is roughly 4 times the number of games refused classification in the 20 years since 1994 -- all in the space of just a few months.

However, Australian Classification says the number of games refused classification as a proportion of all games reviewed has stayed roughly on track -- with refused games accounting for under 0.5 percent of all titles.

IGEA CEO Ron Curry said that despite the increase, the figures point towards the system's success.

"Whilst people might jump slightly and say 'That's a lot of games refused classification'...it gives us a bit of comfort that there's consistency in the number that are being refused. We haven't seen a big variance," said Curry.

"Also what is more encouraging is we've got a whole stack of games now that are classified that weren't classified two or three months ago. And that's what we're happy about. We've got games that have the appropriate labels on them, giving parents and caregivers important information."

First announced in March this year, the IARC classification system will put the onus on publishers to disclose information about the content of their games in order to get classification. Australian Classification says it will audit ratings on big titles and random games to check the system is working and publishers can also request a "ratings check" if they feel their game has been wrongly classified.

While there have been a number of high-profile refusals of classification over the past year, including the controversial Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, it's no longer just big console titles that need to be classified.

A massive influx of mobile gaming titles and an increase in the popularity of these games means the classification board is just as likely to be reviewing a tap-and-play app game as a hyped AAA title.

Though we are left to question what kind of illicit content led the board to refuse classification for Circus Accident as well as New Little Horse Puzzle and Wild Animal Quiz -- For Kids.

Australian Classification declined to comment further.