Non-Aussie gamers may not be aware of this, but for years now getting a video game title designed for adults approved for distribution in Oz has been a bit of a nightmare. Basically, the rating system ends at "MA15+", meaning that any title in that category is intended only for those 15 or over. So that lands it somewhere between "T" and "M" for those of us in North America. This has meant that games that are deemed suitable for teenage audiences are the upper limit of the violence/sex/Satan worship that is allowed in games that are allowed into Australia. To illustrate: The Mortal Kombat reboot was banned from reaching Australian shores (which is perhaps not a surprise, considering it's one of the series that prompted game ratings to be established worldwide), while Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead 2 had to be "edited" to be deemed acceptable. In fact, the censorship required for Fallout 3 to make the cut, as it were, ended up censoring the game globally. Essentially, if you want to make a game for grown-ups to play, and you want it to sell in Australia, you have to make it okay for fifteen year-olds to play as well. While one could argue until one was blue in the face over how "mature" and "adult" most games are that are made for mature adults, the Australian rating scenario is nevertheless...well, bizarre. As Aussie-Gamer points out, this situation has resulted in games that are clearly for adults - such as those in the Grand Theft Auto series - being shoe-horned into a rating system that makes it accessible to kids who can't even drive yet.
Enter Minister for Justice Brendan O'Connor, who recently announced that Australia would finally, at long last - remember, this has been going on since the very first Mortal Kombat - be getting an adults-only game rating, à la the North American M. Titled R18+, it mimics the country's long-standing rating for movies that are clearly for grown-ups. While it isn't in place yet, the proposed amendment to the current system has been accepted in principle by all jurisdictions in Australia and has the backing of the federal Minister for Justice, meaning all signs point to yes for the new classification's passage, and for a victory for civil liberty down under.
Now, here's hoping they work it out better than it does here in Canada, where this writer recalls watching a mother buy a copy of Conker's Bad Fur Day for her grade-school aged son without even a cursory glance at the box. Still, that's better than the next person in line, who un-ironically bought two copies of Snow Dogs...
For more of the back-story on this issue check out our previous coverage: