GamesIndustry.biz (registration required) has revealed that the long awaited vote on applying the R18+ rating classification for video games will take place this February, revealing that a cabinet reshuffle hasn’t delayed the vote.
In addition, ex-Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor had responsibility for the bill and was a vocal supporter of the R18+ rating for video games. However, in the reshuffle, he was moved to the role of Human Services minister and replaced with ex-Defense Material Minister, Jason Clare. Clare’s stance on the R18+ rating was unknown before he took his new office, but in an interview with Gamespot, Australia revealed he would continue to push the bill in the lower house and senate.
Australia currently only has a fifteen-and-older classification (MA15+) as its highest content rating for video games, causing many controversial and mature titles to be banned by the government. After the vote on February 7 in the lower house, the bill will be passed to the Senate for final approval.
Supporters of the bill expect it will pass with no problems.
Analysis: This is about damn time. For those not following the story and wondering why Australia only got around recently to getting this thing done, it’s because former South Australia Attorney General Michael John Atkinson was a staunch opponent of giving R18+ to video games on the basis that their interactivity makes them more harmful to people than violent movies and the like. Atkinson retired in 2010, so the bill’s biggest obstacle has been removed and the classification will soon be approved.
The ban on mature video games has hit titles like Mortal Kombat, Syndicate, and Left 4 Dead. However, it’s been proving to be of little consequence for Aussie gamers; systems sold in Australia and New Zealand run the same PAL system as European consoles, so it’s easy to import banned titles online from the UK. The real kicker? Even with shipping costs, it’s often cheaper to import than buy locally as the cost of goods in Australia and New Zealand is impractically high.
For PC titles like Left 4 Dead, Valve simply released the less violent German version of the game to Australian markets. It was subsequently modded by users to return the violence to the levels seen in the normal game, completely defeating the purpose of the ban in the first place.