The Rudd Government’s proposed Internet filtering system could have a big effect on online gaming in Australia. During a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra yesterday, Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, admitted that the lack of an R classification in Australia for computer and video games was "under policy consideration" in light of Internet filtering plans.
"We are currently considering the interaction between the lack of consistent classification processes for games material," Senator Conroy said at the hearing. "[Online] games ... don’t have the same process of classification as does other material — there is a reasonable and valid issue that’s been raised that we are considering."
Because Australia lacks an R/18+ classification for games, any title deemed "adults only" cannot legally be sold. A key issue is whether online games will fall under the same classification system as boxed single-player games. (Online game content is currently overseen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, not the OFLC.) If it is deemed that boxed and online games should fall under the same ratings umbrella, it could spell dire consequences for online gaming.
The lack of an R rating for games in Australia has been a cause of mounting frustration among gamers. Last month, it was announced that EA’s hotly anticipated Left 4 Dead 2 had been refused classification in Australia by the OFLC due to "high-impact" violence. Other recent games to run afoul of the OFLC include Silent Hill: Homecoming and Fallout 3.
Additional reading: Banned Downunder: Five games that didn’t make it past the censors