Why Australia needs an R18+ rating for games
This is the game that revived Australia’s R18+ video game rating debate. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’s X-rated minigames slipped under the radar for a while, until the “Hot Coffee” modification unlocked them within the game’s code. In a rush the OFLC issued a re-classification of the game that prevented its sale within Australia.
The Soldier of Fortune game series has a chequered past. The original Soldier of Fortune afforded players the ability to blast off multiple limbs from enemies while they lay dead or dying, while the sequel featured graphic depictions of chemical and germ warfare. The third title in the series, Soldier of Fortune: Payback, was refused classification for its portrayal of dismemberment and blood spray — both of which could be significantly reduced with an in-game menu setting.
Dark Sector is a “violent and sometimes gruesome game with a sinister storyline and ominous outcome” — according to the OFLC report that refused it classification. Sound generic? That’s because it’s a time-honoured formula in gaming, with similarly gruesome titles like Bioshock and Condemned being granted MA 15+ classifications.
The OFLC report on this game notes that “computer games that… are unsuitable for a minor to see or play” should be refused a rating under the National Classification Code. This is despite a 2005 survey showing that the average age of Australian gamers is 28 — a far cry from ‘minor’.
Silent Hill: Homecoming cannot be released in Australia in its current format; Atari Entertainment is reportedly discussing modifications with developer Konami. The game won’t be released this year, though — most indications are that it won’t be available until early or mid 2009.
Apparently despite the strong conceptual impact of violent and gory aspects within the game, the OFLC report stated that the main aim of the game was competition and skill. In other words, it’s OK to hit pedestrians with a monster truck and turn them to mush if you’re playing to win.
Second on the chopping block is crowd favourite Fallout 3. Sequel to the gory-yet-dated Fallout and Fallout 2, this post-apocalyptic role-playing saga was refused classification in Australia back in July.
And finally we come to the dark horse. Carmageddon was a 1997 game that, despite offering players the ability to drive over and mutilate pedestrians (and rewarding them for doing so), was not censored or banned within Australia.
The game was toned down to meet MA 15+ classification standards, with no decapitation and limb severing possible. When asked about a sequel, the game’s project lead Steve Sinclair said “I’d love to do one… But there is nothing definitive at this point.”
Despite the game featuring graphic depictions of violence, blood and body chunks a leaked OFLC report stated that the game’s usage of realistic nomenclature for drugs and stimulants within the game was responsible. The game has been modified for its Australian release, but exact details on what has been changed and modified are still sketchy.
The most recent public sacrifice was Atari Entertainment’s horror thriller Silent Hill: Homecoming. The game was refused classification because of its portrayal of “impact violence and excessive blood effects”, in particular scenes within the game in which body parts are severed and attacked with electric drills.
These five games were refused classification by Australia’s classification board, the OFLC. Thanks to the lack of a mature R18+ rating in Australia, these games either featured watered-down content or were pulled from sale altogether.
A re-jigged version was submitted to the OFLC and was subsequently rated MA 15+. The OFLC’s deputy director Paul Hunt defended the OFLC’s lack of a mature rating by saying: “The community is concerned about drug use and sex being related to incentives and rewards. Our role is to reflect community standards, not create them."
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