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On New Years Day Australia’s new R18+ adults-only video game category came into force. Games with the new rating can only be bought or rented by people over 18.

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.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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