Australia's new classification guidelines for computer games have been announced, finally including video games to be classified R18+.
What has been revealed under the new video-game classification guidelines (PDF) will probably surprise none and disappoint all. Although there is now a long-overdue R18+ rating for games, the new guidelines are more restrictive than those for other media, such as TV and films, citing the hoary old chestnut that interactivity makes video games more impactful.
Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also increase the impact of some content.
Like classifications for film, context is key; violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity are permitted under all classifications to varying degrees, so long as the context of the game justifies its inclusion.
Just as the guidelines for classification are more restrictive, so too are the guidelines for material that is Refused Classification. No actual sex is allowed, along with simulated (but realistic) sex, as opposed to films, in which both are permitted under the R18+ classification. There can also be no use of illicit drugs depicted in video games in Australia, whereas all drug use is permitted under the R18+ guidelines for film and television.
What do you think? Are the new R18+ classification guidelines for video games fair?