To any Australian readers, I tip my hat to you. Hopefully this will allow you to get your hands on some of the more ‘hardcore’ titles a little bit easier. To those who aren’t wholly sure what I’m talking about, I urge you to go look up the previous rating scheme that the Australian government used. Or, if that doesn’t sound interesting enough to you, you can go check out Yahtzee Croshaw’s reviews on games like Manhunt and Mortal Kombat: he outlines the problem pretty clearly.
Put simply, the previous rating scheme made it very difficult for Australian gamers to get hold of some of the more “extreme” games with ‘M’ ratings: games like Grand Theft Auto, or the aforementioned Mortal Kombat, where the violence is brutal, bloody, and (let’s be honest) often completely mindless. The problem was that, up until now, the Australian rating scheme only included classifications for games that were rated around +15.
The new R18+ rating functions extremely similarly to our ‘M’ rating:
“The R 18+ category will inform consumers, parents and retailers about which games are not suitable for minors to play, and will prevent minors from purchasing unsuitable material.”
This gives adult gamers complete control over what they buy and play, while (in theory) ensuring that younger gamers aren’t exposed to content that could be harmful. This is just the start, though: the individual states and territories are in line to pass their own legislation to make sure that these R18+ games are properly regulated. The scheme is set to go into effect nationally on January 1st of next year, after all of this extra legislation is put into place.
We’ll see if the Australian regulations are anymore effective at keeping R18+ games out of the hands of minors. Our own M rated games often wind up in the hands of those who probably shouldn’t be playing them. I’m not saying that I agree with the whole idea that violent video games breed violence in children, but that doesn’t change the fact that 8- or 9-year-olds probably shouldn’t see excessive gore and brutality, and definitely not within a medium where it’s their interaction that’s causing it.