The long-awaited Guidelines for Australia's new R18+ ratings category for video games have met with with a mixed reaction from interested parties.
The new guidelines, which can be accessed directly from the Classification Board, contain a troublesome segment arguing that that games should not be treated in the same way as film or other media:
"As a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors."
The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, Australia's premiere trade body, gave the guidelines a "reserved and qualified welcome " in a statement released today.
"Given the opposition to the introduction of an R18+ category from a vocal yet unrepresentative section of the community, along with a largely conservative group of Attorneys-General, it is no surprise the new guidelines hold video games to a higher standard across a number of categories compared to film and what originally existed for video games," the organisation said.
“As we have previously stated, we are concerned with the acknowledgment in the guidelines that interactivity has greater impact on players, despite the Federal Attorney-General’s office publishing a literature review in September 2010 that found no evidence to support these claims. There will be continued debate about whether the interactivity of video games has a greater impact than other forms of media, and we will continue to refer to the lack of the evidence to support these claims.
"Ultimately, we will need to wait to see how the Classification Board interpret and administer the new R18+ and revised M and MA15+ categories. We trust that they will reflect the standards of morality, decency and propriety accepted by reasonable adults, not just the vocal ones."
As Kotaku notes, the new Guidelines also maintain an unusually straict stance on the depiction of drug use, carried over from older classification rules, which would mean games like Risen 2 and Fallout 3 would still encounter issues in meeting even the R18+ guidelines.
After literal years of campaigning and parliamentary wrangling, Australia's R18+ category was passed into law in June, with the ACT becoming the first territory to implement it in late August.
The existence of an enforced R18+ ratings category has been welcomed as step towards protecting minors from content designed for adults, but was also expected to put an end to Australian classification difficulties.