Being a gamer in Australia today means that the topic of censorship in games will be a part of your life at some stage and it will most likely be a hot topic for a while to come. For those readers who do not hail from the land down-under, let me enlighten you to the current state of affairs in relation to game censorship as it stands at the moment.
Currently in Australia, when a new game is released, it must be given a classification in order for it to be sold in a retail outlet. There are a total of five possible classifications that can be given to a video game.
E-Exempt (games that cannot be classified or are educational)
G-General (games that are deemed suitable for everyone)
PG-Parental Guidance (games with low level impact)
M-Mature (games with higher impact themes such as language and medium level violence)
MA15+-Mature Adult, 15 years and over (games with the highest levels of violence, drugs, nudity, language etc. Cannot be purchased by a person under 15 years old).
Now here is where the problems start. In Australia today there is no classification for a video game higher than MA15+, even though a film can be classified as R18+, this classification does not exist for video games. Because of this, any game that is deemed to need a rating higher than MA15+, cannot be classified and therefore cannot be sold in Australia.
If this does occur, the game must be altered and then resubmitted in order to receive a classification, as was the case with Left 4 Dead 2, where the game was altered in order to make it less violent or Fallout 3 where the game was altered to make the in game drugs have fictional names and have less of an impact on the player.
However, times may be changing in Australia. Recently there has been a debate about whether or not to introduce an R18+ rating for video games. In response to the debate the Australian Government has released a discussion paper on the issue where people can lodge their opinions and essentially vote on whether or not to introduce the rating. This shows that the Government is willing to consider changing the laws in order to modify the classifications system and hopefully there will be changes made in the near future.
The issue of the censorship of video games can be a touchy subject for many people on both sides of the debate. However the fact that many people find “adult” games to be offensive or unnecessary shows that the idea that games are “just for kids” is still strong in many people. In order for video games to be seen as a multimedia form equal to others such as film, there needs to be a way for more complex and yes, sometimes more adult games, to be classified and released to the (adult) public.
And as a discussion topic, do you think that there should be such a thing as game censorship? If so, why and in what form?
For anyone interested, “An R18+ Classification for Computer Games- Public Consultation” can be found here: http://www.ag.gov.au/gamesclassification