In a bid to push for an 18+ rating for video games in Australia, Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan OConnor has compiled a table of games comparing their ratings across various countries. Many games on the list such as Borderlands, Bulletstorm, Duke Nukem Forever and WET to name just a few, were rated M15+ in Australia while being adults only (17-18+) across Europe, US, Canada and NZ. In what I could only assume would be pressure from gaming companies and the massive profits that would be lost if the Australian market was excluded, these games are being pushed into the wrong categories and into the hands of many impressionable kids around the country. Don’t get me wrong I actually haven’t got any issues with a 15 or 16 year old kid playing whatever games they want but it’s a little bit out of hand when 5 years olds play war games or get that demonic look on their face while taking out pedestrians in GTA.
OConnor believes that “If the new category is introduced, it could result in computer games that are currently classified M15+ being re-classified R18+, providing a new level of protection for children”. While I do believe that passing a law such as this is a step forward for the gaming community I think its goals as set out by O’Connor will fail. My argument is that Mr OConnor is basing his argument on the fact that introducing these new laws will keep these games out of the hands of young children and it won’t. Laws are already in place to keep children under 15 from buying these games but does this stop them, no it doesn’t. The only thing that will stop children of a young age from playing violent and disturbing video games is their parents awareness or concern for what their kids are doing.
What an R18+ category will provide is a means for parents who do monitor their childrens gaming activities to be better informed of the games content. As a parent you may deem a game labelled M15+ as suitable for your 14 year old son but would not consider looking at the R18+ range. Currently parents are being slightly misguided due to the massive inconsistency and variation of games all lumped together under the M15+ rating. Interestingly OConnor notes that games that are currently deemed unclassifiable such as Mortal Kombat will remain so under the new laws, as many parents were worried that new R18+ laws would see the introduction of even more raunchy titles. Without starting a debate, surely if there was an R18+ rating in place then games like Mortal Kombat could be reintroduced for sale to their intended audience with fines in place for retailers caught selling it to children. Sure they could buy it over the internet, but they already can as the PS3 is a multi-region machine and there’s a multitude of websites just eager to supply desperate gamers with a copy when the legitimate stores cant.
While it may seem a step in the right direction, and I do agree with keeping certain games away from kids I really don’t think it will keep the games out of the hands of those who want to play them. Kids these days have seen pretty much everything from Sly Stallone wasting over 200 enemies in his last Rambo film to Sub Zero ripping out a spine in the original Mortal Kombat (which I remember the hoard of schoolkids waiting to play at the local milkbar). And with his statement regarding currently unclassifiable titles it doesn’t even look as though it will benefit adult gamers and give them access to these previously unplayable titles. F any of this was going to work there would need to be a universal ratings system that correlated closely with movie ratings. There’s no point banning a violent video game but allowing an equally violent movie to be available at the cinemas.