Australia's restrictive video game ratings discourage innovation, says senator

"Every signal we send to the gaming community in this country is of censorship, disapproval, and discouragement," said David Leyonhjelm of the Australian Liberal Democratic Party.

Australian Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm spoke out against the Australian Classification Board yesterday in a speech that criticized both the government's attitude towards video games and the board’s practices.

The Australian Classification Board has an infamously strict set of guidelines games need to follow if they’re to receive classification in the country. Without being assigned a rating by the board, a game is banned from releasing within the country.

Developers whose games are deemed unacceptable must then cut the offending content from their game, or miss out on an Australian release altogether. 

IGN reports that Leyonhjelm’s speech to congress criticized the government’s policies, and used the board’s decision to refuse classification to Outlast II based on an explicit scene featuring sexual violence against the game’s main character as an example of this behavior. 

“The mere suggestion of an out-of-screen encounter between a creature and a human character was enough to get it banned altogether by the Australian Classification Board,” said Leyonhjelm. “All of this operates on the false assumption that people who play video games are impressionable children who would play out anything they saw.”

Games like House of the Dead Overkill, Dead or Alive: Dimensions , and Mortal Kombat have all run afoul of the classification board in the years before it adopted an 18+ classification. But even after an 18+ rating was added to the system in 2012, games like Saints Row IV and Outlast II have still been deemed unacceptable for release. 

As another example, Leyonhjelm said that graphic and violent content featuring real people is widely available online and faces less government scrutiny than the content within video games. 

He notes that many game websites like Polygon, IGN, PC Gamer and Gameplanet, are blocked on politicians’ work computers but that neo-Nazi forums and websites rife with videos of actual violence against human beings are unregulated. He says this speaks volumes about the “illogical, censorious attitude bureaucrats have about video games.”

“Prime Minister Turnbull claims to have an innovation agenda,” he said. “But every signal we send to the gaming community in this country is of censorship, disapproval, and discouragement.”

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