Classification Board Upholds MA15+ Ratings After 'Wasteful' Review

Back in November, Attorney-General for South Australia, John Rau, called on the Classification Review Board to reassess how the ratings system was being applied to several high-profile video games on Australian shelves. It was criticised as a huge waste of money, but the Classification Board undertook the review anyway, and now the verdict on said games is in.

John Rau called for 12 video games, all rated MA15+ by the Classification Board in Australia, to be reassessed due to the fact that overseas rating agencies like the European PEGI and the US ESRB had rated them as more mature titles.

The titles were as follows:

- Alien Rage - Borderlands 2 Expansion Packs - Company of Heroes 2 - Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut - Deadpool - Fuse - Gears of War: Judgement - God Mode - Killer is Dead - Splinter Cell Blacklist - The Walking Dead - The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct

John Rau didn’t want to remove R18+ games from sale, instead, he wanted to make sure that our classification system wasn’t putting inappropriate games in the hands of 15- to 17-year olds.

"It is quite obvious to me that some games should only be played by adults," he said back then.

"Unlike movies, children can be active participants in the content of video games and the effects, whilst largely disputed, can not be positive."

Despite the calls for a review being criticised as a gigantic waste of taxpayer money, the Classification Review Board produced independent reviews of the titles, finally deciding that they were all accurately rated as MA15+ at the time.

There is a distinct difference between the Classification Board and the Review Board. The Classification Board takes a first look at the material, handing down its ratings after the fact. The Review Board is an independent merits review body and makes a fresh classification decision when a challenge is made to an original rating. Once the Review Board hands down its decision, that new rating supersedes that of the original Classification Board. In this instance, no change was made: the Review Board found that MA15+ was appropriate and rated them accordingly.

In announcing its decision, the Review Board said:

At the request of the South Australian Attorney-General, the Classification Review Board (the Review Board) recently reviewed the classifications of 12 computer games. The Review Board upheld the MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied) classification for all of the 12 computer games. … In reviewing the classifications, the Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games. This is the same framework used by the Classification Board.

The Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) has welcomed the decision by the Review Board, while roundly slamming John Rau for wasting taxpayer money with a "costly and unwarranted" review. It's estimated that the whole process cost in excess of $330,000.

Ron Curry, the head of the IGEA, said that it was a shame it had to happen.

“The basis for the classification review was unsubstantiated and it is a shame that the exercise was undertaken in the first place. The 12 video games were wrongly singled out because of the different ratings received overseas; an argument that does not take into consideration the structural and cultural differences between Australia’s classification scheme and international schemes,” he said in a statement, adding that a serious problem is beginning to stem from classification guidelines that aren’t fit for purpose.

“Most people don’t realise that our current classification scheme was developed over 20 years ago in a ‘pre-Internet’ environment where the only way for consumers to buy video games was at a physical retailer. We need a complete overhaul of the classification scheme, where the guidelines and their application can cater efficiently to new technologies and be consistently applied to media content regardless of the platform it’s found on,” he added.