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Confusion remains over video game rating system: report

The latest Digital Australia report shows that a small percentage of people remain confused about the M and MA15+ elements of the video game ratings system.

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) has released the latest of its Digital Australia reports, DA14, showing the ever-changing role of video gaming in modern Australia.

(Credit: IGEA)

Some of the key findings from the report show that Australian gamers are, on average, around 32 years old and almost evenly split between genders, with 47 per cent of gamers being female — up from 38 per cent in 2005.

The study also looked at how familiar respondents are with the video game classification system in the wake of the introduction of an R18+ rating for games in June last year.

The report paints a picture of Australia as having a pervasive gaming culture, with 93 per cent of households owning a gaming device and 65 per cent of all Australians actually playing games.

The DA14 report found that 63 per cent of parents surveyed said that they were "completely" or "quite" familiar with the ratings system, with 67 per cent saying that a game's rating had either a "reasonable" level or a "lot" of influence when purchasing a game for a child.

However, it appears that there is still some confusion about the M and MA15+ elements of the ratings system: 11 per cent of respondents indicated that they thought an M rating was unclear, with 16 per cent feeling the same about MA15+.

At the launch of DA14 in Sydney, Dr Jeff Brand, author of the report and professor at the Bond University Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, noted that "parents are not as familiar with the classification labels as I would like".

Interestingly, the group covered by the MA15+ restriction, children aged 16-17, make up only 4 per cent of the Australian gaming population.

In all, only 17 per cent of games submitted for classification between January and August 2013 were given a restricted classification (ie, either an MA15+ or R18+ rating). The remaining 83 per cent were rated unrestricted, either G, PG or M, with 68 per cent falling in the G or PG categories.

When asked about so-called "new media" and the potential risks they may pose to children, 37 per cent were concerned about the internet, 33 per cent about social media and 30 per cent about video games.

"Games are normalising and the moral panic around games is starting to fade," said Dr Brand. "Given concerns of the internet and social media, we wonder if parents might actually be seeing games as a safer environment for children."

Certainly, gaming is becoming more of a family event, with 86 per cent of gaming parents playing video games with their children.

A full copy of the Digital Australia 14 report is available on the IGEA website.