Monday, 21 December 2009

Should Australia introduce R18+ ratings for video games?

Australia is currently considering whether to introduce an R18+ classification for computer games, but I wonder whether the system itself is really set up for games. The trouble is that games can have widely differing content, may allow you to create your own content (innocent or obscene), may be modified after market by patches, and may contain (as the "hot coffee" incident with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas showed) content that is not normally accessible, but can become so.

I think the classification system needs to inform us more prominently of what the content is, rather than to whom it is deemed appropriate. It would result in a more complicated scheme, rating the level of language, violence, sex and horror individually, not to mention drug use, supernatural themes and antisocial behaviour or whatever else they rate. It would take longer to absorb and would make ratings decisions more complicated, but they are complicated already. It's just that we allow the dumbed-down rating to guide us faster to a less-informed decision.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A "G" rating is more about what is not included.
PPS - So an "R18+" rating is always going to be more complicated than that.


littlemissrandom said...

Ultimately this is how parents should make decisions on what to allow their children access to anyway, rather than relying on a rating which is, comparatively, arbitrarily assigned.

For example - my husband and I are fundamentalist Christians. We don't want our 15 year old son exposed to any content that involves fould language, violence, sex, horror, drug use or supernatural themes.

By contrast, what if my husband and I were just your average Joe parents - we don't want our 15 year old son exposed to excessive amounts of violence, horror or drug use, but are not so worried about language or sex, because we know that he has exposure to that in other places.

Clearly, the game (or movie or whatever) chosen in either of those scenarios would be different, and not both caught by an M15+ rating.

Ultimately, I think it should come down to the parents making educated decisions as to what they allow their children to access, rather than relying on some 'standard', which isn't going to be based on their own code of parenting anyway.

P.S. I didn't get married without telling you. Just thought you should know.

John said...

It did take me a second to parse that and decide it was a hypothetical example.

I agree that the ratings are not hard-and-fast rules for everyone to live by, but they are an upper limit on what the government says is suitable for people. It sounds draconian when it's put like that, though.

That's why I advocate more granular information to allow people to make more informed choices. The ratings are essentially arbitrary, and are based on values you might not share, as your example points out. If you have a more detailed summary of what you can expect from some piece of entertainment, be it movie or game, then you can be more confident what you're getting into before the fact.