Australia was previously the only advanced western country without such a rating. R18+ games are where “the material included is only suitable for adults. These are computer games where the content is considered to be high in impact.”
All computer games, in all categories, must display classification markings. These are the rating of the game as well as consumer advice which highlights high level content. Categories are similar to movies:
- G: General. Very mild impact
- PG: Parental guidance recommended. Mild impact
- M: Recommended for mature audiences. Moderate impact. Not recommended for people under 15.
- MA15+: Not suitable for people under 15. Strong impact. People under 15 must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian to hire or buy these games. They cannot be demonstrated in public.
- R18+: Restricted to 18 and over. High impact. People under 18 not permitted to hire or buy these games. They cannot be demonstrated in public.
Despite the uniform rating system across the country, differences still exist between the states. Only South Australia and Western Australia have conditions on how R18+ games are displayed for sale or hire, and penalties for breaching the classification rules vary considerably. Selling an R18+ game to a minor attracts a $2600 fine in Tasmania, for example, but a $27,500 fine in the ACT.
The new rating scheme end years of squabbling between the states. Former South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson consistently opposed any adults only rating, but his successor John Rau was more cooperative, and a deal was struck between the states and the Commonwealth in July 2012. The video game industry had been lobbying for years for the rating, and has welcomed its introduction.