Australia Shelves Mature Game Rating Proposal

The battle to introduce an R18+ rating for Australian games, potentially stopping bans on titles such as Fallout 3 and Silent Hill: Homecoming, has received a major setback as South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, a longtime op
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson withdrew his support for a discussion paper and public consultation process on introducing an R18+ rating for video games in Australia, effectively dismissing the proposal and refusing to allow the report to be made available to the public. The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), Australia's media ratings board, does not currently employ a rating above MA 15+ for video games, which restricts titles to users age 15 and older. Thus, games leaning towards adult content with violence and sexual content are banned from sale. Just in 2008, the board has refused classification for four titles -- Shellshock 2: Blood Trails, Dark Sector, Fallout 3, and most recently Silent Hill: Homecoming. All of the titles have been adjusted or will be adjusted to fall under the MA15+ rating. Titled "R18+ For Computer Games," the rejected paper detailed the advantages and problems with introducing an adults-only rating for video games. The paper would have been published online and given to game industry groups to seek their opinions. Atkinson is a longtime opponent against the introduction of an R18+ rating, previously telling parliament that it was necessary to deny Australian adults with the choice to protect children from mature and potentially harmful material. "Games may pose a far greater problem than other media - particularly films - because their interactive nature could exacerbate their impact," said Atkinson, according to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald's Screen Play weblog. "The risk of interactivity on players of computer games with highly violent content is increased aggressive behaviour." Deputy chair Senator Guy Barnett argued against this thinking at the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs last week, where he said, "Some of us are dumbfounded as to why we do not have an R rating for video games." He continued, "We have a real problem, and this is something the Senate and the parliament is going to have to address. If we have one state opposing this, South Australia, then clearly we are not going to have any R rating of video games. That simply cannot occur as a matter of course legally." The issue will be brought up again at next month's Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting. Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who led the drafting of the discussion, believes that it is unlikely that the issue will proceed any further or that an R18+ rating for video games will be adopted.

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