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Australia Opens R18 Debate, Invites Public Submissions

The Australian government has opened the issue of whether or not to implement an "R18" rating for mature-themed game content to public debate, encouraging citizens to submit their feedback at an official website.
Australia Attorney General Michael Atkinson's assertion that only "a small number of very zealous gamers" want an over-18 classification for video games in the region may soon be tested, as the Australian government has opened the issue to public debate. A government internet portal presents the arguments in favor and against an R 18+ classification for video games, and asks citizens to submit their feedback. The discussion paper accompanying the submission form notes opposition to the R 18+ rating based on fears that games at a certain level of violence can affect viewers: "Concerns are frequently raised that playing violent computer games has a greater negative effect on people than viewing the same degree of violence in films," it says. "There is research that indicates at least a correlation between exposure to violent computer games and an increased likelihood of aggression," the paper continues. But the argument in favor suggests it's necessary to have that classification to address the needs of adult gamers as well as to "[send] a clear, unambiguous message to parents that the game material is unsuitable for minors." The rating is also necessary to help Australia's approximately 50 studios and 1500 developers -- who generate $140 million in annual revenues -- remain competitive, argues the statement: "The lack of an adult classification for computer games in Australia may affect the competitiveness of this industry internationally and could be resolved through the introduction of an adult category." Users of the site are encouraged to fill in the submission template and either mail, fax or submit it online, and they have until February 28, 2010 to do so. Games without a rating cannot be released in Australia, so titles that would have been classified for mature content simply don't see store shelves in the region without content edits. Aliens vs. Predator is just the most recent game to come up against this roadblock; major titles like Left 4 Dead and Fallout 3 are other examples. Industry figures such as Tom Crago, head of the Game Developers Association of Australia, have criticized Australia's approach to ratings as "antiquated" and "a joke". The Attorney General firmly opposes the classification, however, stating: "You don’t need to be playing a game in which you impale, decapitate and dismember people."

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