Yesterday the Australian Classification Board brought down the ban hammer on yet another video game.
This time the game in question is Saints Row IV, and its Refused Classification status effectively makes it illegal in Australia.
This follows just six months after the Australian Government introduced an adults only R18+ rating January 1. And as it turns out, means absolutely nothing.
The point of an R18+ rating as argued for years by many, passionate and level headed gamers, is to allow Australian adults the choice to purchase video games that deal in, to use the Board’s own phrasing, “high level impact” sexual themes, violence, drug use and so on.
It should be underlined, and in bold, that not for one second the adult gaming population of this country, nor the Aussie-Gamer editorial team, condone and support the content that appears in Saints Row IV, or any other game of its nature.
No. this is an argument about consumer choice and the right to purchase content as we, consenting adults over the legal of 18, see absolutely fit.
To take inspiration from Ty’s example; a 19 year old Australian can legally go to a bar and consume as much alcohol as he sees fit. That same 19 year old Australian can then choose to go and watch a strip show, or attend any one of the gentlemen bars populating our major cities. Or, he might even decide to go home and simply watch “high impact” sexual themes and violence on free-to-air TV.
According to the Australian Classification Board, however, this consenting adult who, is more than capable of doing any one of the above, and more, is unable to walk into a retail store and decide for themselves which video game product they want to purchase.
In response to the ban of Saints Row IV, local industry body iGEA (Interactive Games and Entertainment Association) released the following statement;
We can’t specifically comment on the Classification Board’s decision to issue Saint Row IV with a Refused Classification as we aren’t privy to the specific content of the game. Broadly speaking though, one of the key reasons an R18+ was introduced was to ensure that we strike a balance between giving adult Australians access to adult games while protecting children from inappropriate content.
Under the new guidelines, we celebrate the fact that adults can now access age-appropriate games which may have otherwise been refused classification, but as we have argued, we also must accept that there will be some video games which will fall outside the scope of the R18+ guidelines. Whether we agree or not with this specific classification, it highlights that the classification system is functioning as it should and that R18+ was never meant to open the ‘floodgates’ for all types of content.
Overall, we remain confident that the Classification Board is applying the new guidelines as they see appropriate, but we also recognise that with any change to a system as subjective and complex as applying classification guidelines, there will always be a ‘settling in‘ period where all stakeholders strive to find an appropriate middle ground. Currently, we’re at the ‘high water’ mark where there’s a natural inclination to err on the side of caution.
This is a total sidestep of the issue, especially since the content of Saints Row IV appears to be not all too different from all previous entries in this over-the-top franchise – all of which were rated MA15+ in Australia upon their respective releases.
And while many may believe the Australian Classification Board might be attempting to protect Australian citizens from content which they deem too corruptible or inappropriate, the reality is they essentially do not know how to properly use the power which they have been handed.
In six months seventeen games have been rated R18+, and while it can be argued some titles deserved the rating given, there’s just as many that did not.
One such example is Atelier Totori, a PlayStation 3 RPG that was rated ‘PG’ for Parental Guidance upon its original release, then later re-rated for PlayStation Vita under the R18+ category. The same game re-rated based entirely on a handful of new missions, weapons and so on.
There’s also the matter of Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for Nintendo Wii U, Australia’s first R18+ rated game. The game is an enhanced port of, again, the same game released not 12 months earlier with an MA15+ rating. And this is but just the tip of the ice berg.
To boil it all down into a schoolyard mentality; the Australia Classification Board is nothing more than a child who has become out of control with their new toy, slapping an R18+ rating on games that arguably would had fallen within the MA15+ months earlier. This is not on.
The underlining argument presented just above, in case you missed it, is if games that originally would had fallen into the MA15+ rating are now automatically R18+, where does it end? If a game that contains the same content as previous entries in the same franchise is now deemed inappropriate, well… A total overhaul of this nation’s classification system is needed, and needed now.
If you’re an adult who likes to be treated as such, and you want to have the rights we all lobbied for with the introduction of an R18+ rating, than make your voice heard. Contact the Classification Board and the Attorney-General’s Department and make them aware of your lack of faith in the current system.
If gamers as a collective group can get Microsoft to reverse its DRM policies with Xbox One, surely an entire nation full of gamers can sway its own Government to revise its stance on video game classification.