Or is it? That’s what I’m accustomed to thinking. We’ve been talking about it seriously happening for the past three years, and for another five before that as a faint possibility. Every time it took a step forward in the past something pulled it right back and we seemingly got nowhere.
But now, we have a tentative date. If all goes well, Australia will have an R18+ classification for video games on January 1, 2013. That’s less than a year away, and the quickest it can realistically happen.
I’ll believe it when I see it. Nothing should go wrong from here, the hard work is done, but the Senate is still standing in the way. If they don’t approve the bill, all progress since July last year is lost. It’ll have to be redrafted and submitted to parliament again and we’ll wave goodbye to a 2013 reform.
Then there are the States. Each must contribute to the legislation to ensure it meets the criteria of its own laws. You would think, in 2012, Australia would have consistent laws regarding classification in each corner of the country, but you’d be wrong. The laws vary in each State and Territory, so the final bill has to satisfy them all. It should be relatively simple, but I doubt it will happen without delay.
Two years ago, Michael Atkinson was the reason we couldn’t have an R18+ rating for games. His deluded arguments about it harming the children showed he was an old man, surprisingly without a beard, who didn’t understand video games. Yet, he had the power to deny an R18+ rating for 22 million Australians.
We thought he was the problem. In the end, it was one obstacle in the massive debacle. When he stepped down as South Australian Attorney-General, his successor, John Rau, was in support of the amendment. However, his New South Wales counterpart, Greg Smith, decided that he wasn’t happy with progress, and we were almost back at square one.
Eventually they did all agree, after communications minister, Stephen Conroy, pledged his strong support in early 2011. All was quiet until the Gillard Government decided to back the idea, but even that didn’t really mean anything. Just last month Tony Abbott said something to the effect of “I don’t always say stupid things, but when I do, it’s about video games”. I can’t remember what histonyness was on about, but he wasn’t fledging full support to the R18+ rating. It led to an inquiry that didn’t amass to anything, but it was another scare.
That’s just an extract of the whole shambles. There have been a great many other problems that have delayed the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games, making it impossible to say it will happen until it already has.
Now that it’s through the House of Representatives, it finally feels like it’s making progress. It might actually happen. I’m hesitant to believe it, as I’ve been burnt before. We thought it was going to happen long ago, and then not at all. Now I don’t know what to believe.
The legislation should be enacted in January. I don’t see why it would get rejected by the Senate, but stranger things have happened. It won't harm all the children, it should help them, although perhaps not in their eyes.
Games won’t stop being refused classification if they deserve it. Titles like Syndicate, which are stupidly banned, should be allowed into the country, but others that are currently MA15+ will be bumped up to R18+. It’s entirely possibly that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 4 will carry an R18+ rating. After all, Modern Warfare 3 carries a Pegi 18 rating in the UK, but is listed as 15+ in Australia because there is no alternative. An R18+ rating should actively help protect young minds from excessive violence and virtual side-boob.
Unless someone in the Senate doesn’t understand that logic, and it’s entirely possible, we should have an R18+ rating in Australia when we celebrate the new year.
By Ben Salter - Tweet @Ben_Salter