Games ratings losing the battle?

Teenage gameplayer (from Shutterstock)

The new classification system for video games, introduced in January this year, is not providing the promised better protection for Australian children, according to Elizabeth Handsley, Professor of Law at Flinders University and President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media Australia.

“Our review of the statistics for the past three months has shown that violent material that was considered too extreme for teens in the US, Canada and Europe is readily available to that group in Australia,” Professor Handsley said.

“Over two thirds of the 23 video games to receive an MA15+ rating since the introduction in January of the new classification system are rated for adults overseas. Those ratings have principally been for extreme or intense violence,” she said.

“The introduction of the new video game classifications was a response to a concern in the community that the material available at MA15+ was too strong for 15 to 17-year-olds.

“The new guidelines were supposed to be stricter, so that such material would go into the new R18+ category. However, 16 of the 23 games rated MA15+ were deemed not suitable for 15 to 17-year-olds by either the Entertainment Software Rating Board (US and Canada) or Pan European Game Information or both.

“It would appear that the new system has not resulted in a tightening-up of the classification system at all.”

While 13 titles have earned the new R18+ rating, Professor Handsley said the classification discrepancy between Australia and other parts of the world showed that the new guidelines have not achieved the intended result.

The Australian Council on Children and the Media calls on the Standing Committee on Law and Justice to review the guidelines in light of these findings, and to open the matter up for public comment.

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4 thoughts on “Games ratings losing the battle?

  1. I’m not convinced this is comparing apples with apples. America does not have an equivalent of an MA rating. The next step up from PG is R, so anything not appropriate for a 13 year old gets rated R. Subsequently any material (movies, games, etc) that is only suitable for 15 year olds and up would be rated MA here, but R in America. This is how it’s been for many years now – the MA rating has not changed, it’s just only recently that any games strictly 18+ have been able to get an R rating here, same as what happens with movies.

  2. I wondered where I had seen the name “Australian Council on Children and the Media” before. Turns out they were the main group opposing the introduction of the R rating for games when it was first proposed. They were completely discredited when they started claiming families were “more at risk from gamers than outlaw motorcycle gangs” and the effect of gaming on youth violence was “much greater than the effect of smoking on lung cancer”. They have a reputation for distorting the facts and ignoring information that doesn’t support their viewpoint, no matter how overwhelming the evidence is. In light of this information, it’s a bit easier to understand how the strange conclusions in this article were reached.

  3. It would be interesting to also compare the ratings given to films during this same period of time by different classification boards. I am sure the same kind of statements could be made about the system for rating movies to be failing some group when compared to a different country. America only has a PG rating that says material is not thought to be suitable for under 13s, then straight to their R rating which is similar to our MA except it is under 17s that need to be accompanied, not under 15s. And then their NC17 rating which is like our R rating but one year younger. There are plenty of films that younger Australian audiences can see compared to their American counterparts and vice versa, why isn’t this reported with the same outrage and questioning over relevancy?
    As Python points out, America doesn’t have the equivalent of an MA rating so of course more of their games will attract an American R rating even though our system says they may be suitable for an Australian MA rating.
    One recent example where our new R18 system appears to have worked is with the release of a previously banned game, Mortal Kombat (2011), under the new R18 rating. In the US that same game is available to people aged 17 and over without any supervision or to any age if they have parental supervision/permission. Surely Australia making this game more stringently restricted points to the system starting to work.
    I also agree with Python that other statements this group have made should be brought to attention for their lack of truth to give people an idea of the sort of statements they have made in the past.
    Not all games in Australia that were previously rated MA should suddenly now be rated R just because that rating exists, to say they should is silly. There is guidelines for the ACB to follow and if a game doesn’t have content making an R rating necessary then it should not receive one and should still be rated MA.

  4. I agree with Python’s first comment – making the comparison between AU and US systems is just silly. The general comparison with recent worldwide games classifications is likely valid, but is this not a result of ‘desensitisation’ of the AU classification system (and public) due to us not having a proper (adult encompassing) classification system for so long?? Surely this will normalise to world standards within a few years..

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