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Gaming

Video game classifications explained

With Michael Atkinson resigning as the attorney-general of South Australia, gamers around the nation are gleeful about the possibility of an R18+ classification for video games. We take a look at what content the classification system currently actually allows, and what an R18+ rating would permit.

With Michael Atkinson resigning as the attorney-general of South Australia, gamers around the nation are gleeful about the possibility of an R18+ classification for video games. We take a look at what content the classification system currently actually allows, and what an R18+ rating would permit if it finally gets through.

Will Australians ever see an R18+ rating for video games? (Credit: CBSI)

Don't get too excited yet, though; the classification may only be introduced by unanimous vote by all state, territory and federal attorneys-general.

While Atkinson was the most vocal critic of the introduction of the R18+ classification, only two attorneys-general have actually stood in support of the classification: ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell and Victoria Attorney-General Rob Hull, who has since withdrawn his statement of support, telling our sister site GameSpot AU that "The government supports the release of a public discussion paper on an R18+ classification of video games. I will not be pre-empting this consultation by announcing a position on this issue".

Atkinson, though, was the biggest block to the classification's approval, so following his resignation, there's a very real possibility that R18+ for video games will soon appear on Australian shores.

The reluctance to introduce the classification is based on an erroneous notion that video games are made for children. However, the classifications assigned to games already indicate, if demographics do not, that there is a strong demand for mature content. That's why, particularly when buying for children, it is important to know exactly what Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) guidelines mean, what content you can expect to find in any given game — and what you can expect to see if the proposed R18+ classification is finally approved.

We have outlined the OFLC guidelines for content restriction based on classification below. Content should be justified by context, with the notable exceptions of implied sexual activity and strong coarse language in the MA15+ classification. Nothing in R18+ requires contextual justification except implied sexual violence.

The G classification is for a general audience. However, it does not necessarily indicate that children will enjoy the film or computer game. Some G films and games contain themes, story lines or gameplay that do not interest children.
Material classified PG may contain material that some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance of parents or guardians. It is not recommended for viewing or playing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians.
Material classified M is not recommended for persons under 15 years of age. There are no legal restrictions on access.
Material classified MA15+ is considered unsuitable for persons under 15 years of age. It is a legally restricted category.
At this time, no R18+ classification exists for video games. Material classified R18+ is legally restricted to adults. Some material classified R18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.
Themes The treatment of themes should have a very low sense of threat or menace. The treatment of themes should generally have a low sense of threat or menace. The treatment of themes may have a moderate sense of threat or menace. The treatment of strong themes is permitted. There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.
Violence Violence should have only a low sense of threat or menace. Sexual violence is not permitted. Violence should be mild and infrequent. Sexual violence is not permitted. Moderate violence is permitted. Sexual violence should be very limited. Violence is permitted. Sexual violence may be implied. Violence is permitted. Sexual violence may be implied.
Sex Sexual activity should be very mild and very discreetly implied. Sexual activity should be mild and discreetly implied. Sexual activity should be discreetly implied. Sexual activity may be implied. Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is "simulation, yes — the real thing, no".
Language Coarse language should be very mild and infrequent. Coarse language should be mild and infrequent. Coarse language may be used. Aggressive or strong coarse language should be infrequent. Strong coarse language may be used. Aggressive or very strong coarse language should be infrequent. There are virtually no restrictions on language.
Drug abuse Drug use should be implied only very discreetly. Drug use is permitted. Drug use is permitted. Drug use is permitted. Drug use is permitted.
Nudity Nudity is permitted. Nudity is permitted. Nudity is permitted. Nudity is permitted. Nudity is permitted.