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Whaddyareckon?: R-rated video games

As a censored Grand Theft Auto IV hits Australian shelves, we're asking whether this country needs an R rating for video games.

Midnight sees the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, a video game that had to be censored for Australian release due to its explicit content.

So how come gamers in other countries will be playing the original, unedited version? It's all to do with Australia's gaming classification scheme. Unlike the US and Europe, Australia lacks an adult rating for games with high-impact violence, sexual content and drug use. Our highest rating is MA, and to fit into this classification, games must be deemed suitable for people aged 15 and up.

This means that games that are too explicit for 15 year olds are either censored -- like GTA IV -- or banned altogether. Recently Dark Sector was banished from the Australian market because its mutant hero did a little too much decapitating with his magical razor frisbee. This same game is freely available on American shelves to anyone aged 17 or older.

While some Aussie gamers have been using words like "puritanical" and "draconian" to describe the nation's ratings scheme, others see no need to overhaul a system that keeps explicit content away from local consoles. Would an R rating for games give adults more choice, or is it a fast track to a flood of nasty titles? That's what we're asking in this week's Whaddyareckon?