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R18+ Australian games classification now in effect

Although there aren't yet any games to take advantage of it, Australia's brand new R18+ ratings category for games came into effect with the New Year.

ABC News marked the happy occasion, speaking with South Australianattorney general John Rau, once one of the most vocal critics of extending games classification to include adult age brackets.

"We've actually achieved a good balance where in effect MA15+ has become more restrictive and games that previously would have been in MA15+ are now going to be sitting in R18+," he said of legistlative changes.

"It's a win for the gamers who wanted to have the opportunity as adults to purchase these games, but it's also a win for parents because they can be more confident that games that are age-inappropriate will not be available to people under 18. The regime still contemplates that some games will be so unsatisfactory that they will be refused classification altogether. Now, that will continue."

Prior to January 1, 2013, Australia had no provision for the legal vending of games considered suitable for adults only; as such, some games like 2012's Syndicate and 2011's Mortal Kombat, were Refused Classification, making their sale or import to the country illegal. Other titles such as Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead 2 were censored, and interest groups argued that some games too extreme for the MA15+ ratings category were allowed through regardless.

The new ratings category is hoped to allow for more consistent classification, increased adult access to age-appropriate games and more informed choices for parents and guardians - but local trade body IGEA warns that sustained distinction between games and other forms of media is a cause for concern.

It is up to individual applicants - usually publishers or their representatives - to resubmit previously banned games for reclassification should they wish, although waiting periods apply. There has been some call to re-classify controversial MA15+ titles.

The R18+ ratings classification was passed by the House of Representatives in March and the Senate in June, after literal years of debate and political pressure, and was then provided for at individual state and territory level before going live nation-wide this week.

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