With the sole exception of a media that’s campaigned for the legislative change, World+dog has greeted the activation of Australia’s R18+ game rating with a collective yawn.
The existence of the rating means three things: a rating now exists under which some games, previously refused classification and therefore illegal to sell, may now be sold; some games that previously held an MA15+ classification will be upgraded to the new rating; and finally, it’s illegal to sell or rent so-called “high impact” games to anyone under 18 years old.
It also means that Australia retains government-mandated censorship of computer games, a largely irrelevant role given the ease with which games can be purchased from overseas outlets.
The R18+ had long been a political football in Australia: the change in regulation required approval of all states as well as the commonwealth. As a result, any change to the legislation was hostage to any individual state’s attorney-general opposing it.
The “breakthrough” in state-level negotiations came last year when South Australia agreed to the new regime.
The new regime only makes it legal to import games that fall within the new classification guidelines – and it’s important to remember that the Classification Board still retains “refused classification” as an option. Regulation of game display and sale at the retail level, including levying fines for selling R18+ games to minors, is enforced at the state level. ®