As spotted over on Kotaku, Brendan O'Connor has released the draft R18+ video games classification guidelines. But having the guidelines and understanding them are two different things entirely.
Aside from the MA15+ and R18+ ratings, most of the guidelines stay the same.
The guidelines for MA15+ are as follows:
MA 15+ – MATURE ACCOMPANIED Impact test The impact of material classified MA 15+ should be no higher than strong. Note: Material classified MA 15+ is considered unsuitable for persons under 15 years of age. It is a legally restricted category.
Classifiable elements THEMES The treatment of strong themes should be justified by context.
VIOLENCE Violence should be justified by context. Strong and realistic violence should not be very frequent. Sexual violence may be implied, if justified by context.
SEX Sexual activity may be implied. Sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards.
LANGUAGE Strong coarse language may be used. Aggressive or strong coarse language should be infrequent.
DRUG USE Drug use should be justified by context. Drug use must not be related to incentives or rewards. Interactive drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted.
NUDITY Nudity should be justified by context. Nudity must not be related to incentives or rewards.
And the R18+ guidelines state the following:
R 18+ – RESTRICTED
IMPACT TEST The impact of material classified R 18+ should not exceed high. Note: Material classified R 18+ is legally restricted to adults. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community.
Classifiable elements THEMES There are virtually no restrictions on the treatment of themes.
VIOLENCE Violence is permitted except where it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified. Sexual violence may be implied, if justified by context.
SEX Sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is “simulation, yes – the real thing, no”.
LANGUAGE There are virtually no restrictions on language.
DRUG USE Drug use is permitted.
NUDITY Nudity is permitted.
It's the R18+ category that raises the most questions. Like how does one have real sex with a videogame? Surely by definition, even the most graphic sexual gaming encounter would be a simulation?
And the fact that there are "virtually" no limits on language in adult games? So in that case, what would be limited? Would calling a virtual grandmother a %*&&^ of a #&%^%))*^% who %**&) their own %*&$$%^$&( with a %*^%#[email protected] while children (^%#^%&^ be considered to much? The same virtual restriction can be placed on themes, which raises the same questions.
Then there's the RC category, which confounds issues even further. While the R18+ rating says drug use is permitted in games, it fails to mention the large asterisk that links back to refused classification. According to the guidelines:
DRUG USE Detailed instruction in the use of proscribed drugs. Material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use. As a general rule, computer games will also be Refused Classification if they contain: (i) drug use related to incentives or rewards; (ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic.
In other words, the use of morphine in Fallout 3, which was the justification for the game receiving an RC rating originally, could still result in the unedited game getting an RC classification under the new system, despite the guidelines stating that Drug use is permitted in the R18+ category.
Still, for all that, there are a few very positive steps forward here. Brendan O'Connor is driving this issue forward in a big way, claiming with the release of these guidelines that, “We’ve recently seen several states publicly express their support for an adult only rating for games and I’m keen to reach a unanimous decision at the July meeting.”
The other notion is that even if accepted, these are still only guidelines open to interpretation from whichever classification worker happens to be working on that particular day. We're probably still going to have contentious RC issues, but on the upside, games like L.A Noire will be comfortably resting in an appropriate R18+ category, out of the hands of people not mature enough to understand it.