It's something every single gamer in Australia dreads. You are excited about a new game coming out in the near future, when you see somewhere that it has been denied classification by the ACRB. There have been some changes to our classification system recently, and also some controversy about those changes. However let's examine the history of video game classification in Australia.
Since an article published by Hyper in 1993, it became known that video games were not allowed the R18+ rating, meaning that any games that could not be rated MA15+ would be refused classification and not available for sale in Australia. During this time games that failed were able to edit their content to attempt to pass a second time. Wikipedia has a sizable list of games that were initially refused classification, along with the final result of that game.
It was at the beginning of 2013 that the R18+ rating finally took effect, twenty years after the original article by Hyper. Why did it take so long to implement? One of the major blocks came from the governments perception that video games were for children only. It comes as no surprise to those of us who are gamers that the average age for a gamer is around 30, and has been playing games for 10+ years. Despite this, many of those against the implementation of an R18+ rating for video games made their voice known with cries of "Think of the children!"
One of those people was Michael Atkinson the former Attorney-General of South Australia from 2003 to 2010. During his time, he blocked each and every attempt to have a R18+ rating introduced in Australia. How? To get the law passed, it required the agreement of each of the Attorney-Generals; there could be no opposition. By opposing it, Atkinson single-handedly stopped any progress on the R18+ rating. His reasons?
I don't support the introduction of an R18+ rating for electronic games, chiefly because it will greatly increase the risk of children and vulnerable adults being exposed to damaging images and messages.Also in the same exclusive with Gamespot, Atkinson also mentions that his three sons play video games:
I have three sons who regularly play computer games at home--the eldest is now 22. I see my children become physically and emotionally obsessed with games, and it is difficult to drag them away from the gaming console.Because of his personal experiences with and single minded view of gaming, Atkinson continued to refuse to support the introduction of the R18+ rating. Finally, when Atkinson stepped down as Attorney-General, progress was made as John Rau was shown to be more reasonable and supportive of introducing the R18+ rating. The final vote was passed in 2012, with the finalised guidelines coming into effect on January 1st 2013.
It's been a rocky road for the R18+ rating in Australia, and with the recent controversy surrounding Saints Row IV, there may still be some ways to go before we get the R18+ rating we deserve, but for now we do have something at least. As a small aside, I would highly recommend that you read this 2010 article from Youth Studies Australia for very impartial, seemingly unbiased report on both sides of the debate.
But for now, and as always: