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Australia creates adult-oriented R18+ game classification

Thanks to a few key Australian politicians who refused to allow the creation of an adult classification for video games, grown-up gamers living down under haven't always enjoyed easy access to titles with mature content. That's about to change.

Representatives from all of the country's major jurisdictions agreed Wednesday to create an R18+ rating for games with content geared for adults. When the legislation passes later this year, games with strong violence and sexual themes will no longer be refused classification, a policy which has in the past effectively banned the sale of violent games like Mortal Kombat, Left 4 Dead 2, and Manhunt.

The new category, which should function much like the country's R18+ classification for films, will allow consumers 18 years of age or older to purchase and view adult-oriented interactive entertainment. Previously, publishers of adult games had been forced either to edit their products or petition to have graphically violent games such as The Punisher and Fallout 3 released with an MA15+ rating, despite the much stricter classifications these games received in other parts of the world.

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According to a news release on the Australian Labor Party's web site, the Attorney-General for New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, was the final holdout. He has now given in-principal support for the new classification.

"I am delighted that NSW has decided to support what is not just a practical public policy, but a very popular policy," said Minister for Justice Brendan O'Connor in the release, which also notes that a telephone survey of more than 2,000 Australians indicated 80 per cent of the country's citizens supported the new classification. "The introduction of an R18+ classification for computer games will provide better advice to parents and help prevent children and teenagers from accessing unsuitable material. Once introduced, the new classification will also afford adults the opportunity to view material designed for adults."

However, the new classification doesn't provide publishers with free license in game content. Games with highly gratuitous content could still be denied the R18+ classification, which would effectively make them unavailable to the public.

It's also likely that the kind of games that were once pushed through with MA15+ ratings—like Grand Theft Auto IV—will now receive the stricter R18+ classification. So while the rating has potential to allow a new breed of violent games to populate Australian store shelves, the R18+ category will likely help keep games designed for mature audiences out of the hands of younger teens.

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About the Author
Game and Gadget Reporter

Chad Sapieha has been writing about video games and consumer gadgets for the Globe and Mail since 2003. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites across North America, and he has appeared as an expert on television and radio newscasts. More

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