Australia's video game rating system has struck again.
While the country is slated to get an equivalent to the North American ESRB's M rating, there still seems to be a long way to go. A primer for those not from Oz: Australia instituted a rating system back in the 1990s in part due to the dangers of the original Mortal Kombat. Problem is, the upper-level rating is MA15+, meaning that all games in that rating should be suitable for people 15 years of age or older; so a 45 year-old isn't allowed to play anything that a 15 year-old isn't allowed to play.
This law means that many games deemed unsuitable for 15 year-olds essentially get the kiss of death in Australia. While some games get neutered so that Australian gamers can get their hands on them without ordering from outside the country (which can lead to worldwide censorship); other games - ones which are arguably inappropriate for 15 year-olds - get shoe-horned into the MA15+ category, making consistency an issue in the ratings scheme. Meanwhile, others games just don't make it onto the country's soil. Games like EA's reboot of Syndicate, which the company doesn't seem to be willing to censor. According to the publishing giant:
"The game will not be available in Australia despite its enthusiastic response from fans. We were encouraged by the government's recent agreement to adopt an 18+ age rating for games. However, delays continue to force an arcane censorship on games - cuts that would never be imposed on books or movies," EA Corporate Communications' Tiffany Steckler wrote Joystiq in a statement. "We urge policy makers to take swift action to implement an updated policy that reflects today's market and gives its millions of adult consumers the right to make their own content choices."
While it's tempting to editorialize (more than I already have...), about a ratings system which suggests that gamers stop maturing at 15 years of age, Aussie Gamer lays it out clearly, and without pulling punches:
The rating system in Australia is broken. It's beyond broken - it's an embarrassment. It protects nobody. It harms the economy by sending the wrong message to people who don't know any better. Games like "Zumba Fitness Rush" are given a "PG" rating for "Mild Themes" (probably because children shouldn't exercise or anything) - a clear over reaction. Timeless classic games like "Mortal Kombat" are banned, whereas other games like "Madworld" - which involves killing people with a chainsaw and has the most swearing of any video game ever made in the history of the world - are given "MA15+" ratings and are wildly available.
For more information about the push for a modern Australian ratings system that would include adult-tier classifications, click here.
[image credit: the Fox media empire]