Legal Opinion: Gaming, Nudity and Australian Law

Legal Opinion: Gaming and Nudity

By on July 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm

The Secret World, unlike Age of Conan, does not show bare breasts. Wait… it does… sort of. On the demon succubi. And the zombie broodmothers, too. You can see everything there.

But what it doesn’t show is human female breasts. And nary a male nipple to be found. This oversight—of immense disappointment to roleplayers, naturally—was explained by the game’s director as being caused by the European ratings system. The naked truth in Sweden is that games for sixteen year olds can show demonic boobs, but not human knockers.

This raises the question: how will our future R18+ rating match the American and European ratings? Each ratings system is different, making the vaunted goal of being in line with the rest of the world perhaps difficult to achieve.

What’s allowed under R18+

Once the R18+ rating for games becomes law, games will be able to show ‘adult’ material. This is everything that’s unsuitable for minors, with two important exceptions. First, anything involving explicit, offensive sexual violence, or abhorrent fetishes will be refused classification. That stuff isn’t even allowed in film.

Second, anything involving actual sex between two real people will be refused classification. Films can be rated X18+ for that, but not games. Sadly, I’m going to have to abandon my hopes for Mass Effect 4: Kelly and Shepard’s Life After The Reapers In Glorious FMV.

However, R18+ will still allow us full-frontal make-believe nudity, which I’m sure will please the makers of The Witcher. Likewise, graphic, bloody violence, as long as it isn’t sexualised, will still be allowed.

Differences with America

The American games market is huge, so America’s ESRB system will often be the first influence on a game’s content. Here we need to make one thing clear: our future R18+ rating is in no way similar to the American ESRB 18+.

America’s obsession with free speech makes government classification of games illegal in itself. Instead, games are classified voluntarily by the industry, and major retailers have agreed to only stock classified games.

This also makes the ESRB ratings somewhat… open. While our R18+ games will still have many restrictions, ESRB Adults Only (18+) is anything goes. However, only 1% of games get an Adults Only rating. Most games fall under ESRB Teen (13+) or Mature (17+).

The classification issue this causes for us is that our MA15+ games could well be 13+ in America, and our R18+ games could be 17+ in America. Games that could fit into the ESRB 18+ rating could still be refused classification in Australia.

Differences with Europe

Just as big as America, the Europe games market includes all the members of the European Union. Each of these countries is regulated by the PEGI system. PEGI has most games falling under PEGI 12, 16, or 18.

PEGI is best described as tame at the low end but hardcore at the high end. While The Secret World at PEGI 16 cannot show human female breasts, PEGI 18 is closer to America’s ESRB 18+. PEGI 18 allows sexual violence, sadism, and many other uncomfortable pursuits.

PEGI 16 games will fall under Australians MA15 rating. However, PEGI 18 games could still exceed our R18+. Incidentally, as a PEGI 18 game, Dragon Age 2 could have been much more graphic than it was. Merril could have been so, so bad.

R18+ is still restrictive

Whenever people talk about R18+, they always do so in terms of “Bringing Australia in line with the rest of the world.” However, that’s not quite true. While R18+ will open some games up, it is not a free pass for content.

R18+ will still impose on us one of the most restrictive classification schemes in the world. Much of what will be disallowed under R18+ would still be happily stocked in Britain. And if you’ve watched V for Vendetta, that is quite something.

What R18+ really does is allow the selling of games that are ‘commercially acceptable’—those games, like the refused classification Syndicate, that are graphic enough to be confronting, yet tame enough to sell.

On the other hand, a game where you play as a serial rapist may well be legal in America and Britain, but wouldn’t sell very well. So publishers wouldn’t take it on. But in Australia, it just would just be refused classification. Unlike America that uses the market to regulate, we use the government.

This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing. Who would want to play such a twisted game? But at the same time, the arguments of those who see Australia’s R18+ rating as ‘evil’ should be put in context. We’ve still got the most restrictive classifications out of the major western countries, and we’ve still got a long way to go before someone needs to think of the children.

17 comments (Leave your own)

Well if you can have sex legally at 18 and we cant see breasts in a video game with a 18+ rating( if it gets RC), whats the point?

Patrick Vuleta

Oh you can still see that in R18 games. The main point I made was that our R18 is not like ESRB 18 or PEGI 18. :)


One of the best things, in my mind, about an R18+ rating, is allowing for games that would currently get an MA15+ rating to be given R18+ Instead, allowing for more informed decisions by parents who buy their kids whatever games they want.

Common justification I’ve seen is “Well, he’s 13, it’s only for 15+, that’s not far off”, but if it’s 18+? That might be enough to make some rethink it.

No system is perfect, but adding r18+ will help.


Excellent and valid points all around. Something that opponents of the new rating changes should take into consideration.

Not to get too off topic, but working in a gaming store I’m always slightly disturbed buy the questions I’m asked by parents when buying games for their children. From the parents who feel GTA is fine, but balk at the warning of ‘sexual references’ on the cover of the Mass Effect games. To the parents who don’t mind buying their kids any of the myriad of modern warfare style shooters – just so long as they don’t have any swearing in them.

Don’t get me wrong, my attitude is always ‘as long as the kid understands the difference between real life and make believe’, but sometimes I really wonder about the priorities people have in regards to what offends them and the messages that then gives to kids.

Village idiot

Im saving this article to give to the stupid masses that I continue to argue with – I’m simply sick of repeating this over and over again to people who fail to comprehend. Now your article can do the work for me. Thanks!

Unworthy King

The R18+ doesn’t make much of a difference anyway.

If you want games like Syndicate and Mortal Kombat (whichever it is). You can easily get it.


V for Vendetta was rated MA15+ in Australia, for violence and coarse language. Same as Britain. Unless you’re talking about a version other than the one with Natalie Portman?

Sexual violence is allowed, but only where it is not for the purpose of entertainment and is not explicitly depicted. G.I. Jane, for example, features a humiliating rape scene during boot camp, and that was only rated M in 1997. There are many other examples in film and television where sexual violence is used.

It’s certainly not going to be open slather but I think you’re painting a far more restrictive picture than will be the case, if games are held in line with other media.


I think it’s odd that something that is natural and that everyone will end up doing many many many times in their lives at some point, was/is frowned upon so heavily. (I.E Sex.)

But when it comes to Killing other people with Knives, guns, explosives or killing giant groups of civilians it was somehow seen as alright for teenagers/kids to view.

I dunno.

Patrick Vuleta

The V for Vendetta line was referring to censorship in post-apocalyptic Britain. :)

About the violence.. I’d have to watch the scene in question, but I suspect it was, as you say, not explicitly depicted. I’ll chuck in the word ‘explicit’ there into an article for accuracy. :)

While films can get away with this by making it removed from the audience, I suspect the interactivity of gaming will continue to be a sticking point here.


Unavailability (ie: RC content), combined with the silly price gouging in Australia, probably accounts for 90% of piracy. I believe steam is a massive deterrent to privacy because they overcome both of those hurdles (usually) and it offers a superior service to pirated copies. That being said, If a game isn’t available in Australia (ie: RC content)… I believe a lot of people will adapt and overcome that quite easily – and both the tax man and the developer will miss out on a lot of money.

I also fully agree with lordapophis’ comments. Its silly how you can hack and slash at people in games and get nice low classifications, but show someone a bit of natural loving and its all censored. I blame the church and all those god-botherers – it goes back thousands of years where commandments say not to fornicate but knights were crusading and killing in the name of God. (nothing personal there against people that believe in that stuff – thats just my opinion on the matter)

Lastly, I think “actual sex” is classified differently (at least in movies) than “simulated sex”. So if you can’t actually see any penetration, then the developers can say “it was simulated sex” and get it classified differently

Good article Patrick


I just started playing The Witcher for the first time and i’ve just seen True Blood for the first time. True Blood is all titty.

It feels like there’s this weird idea that it’s just gross guys playing these games and the only reason dev’s put sex in it, is so the game can be played one handed. There is obviously an issue with the over sexualisation of women in games, so perhaps that fuels the reason these games get such a hard time with classification and double standards.

I still find it stupid that for a game to have boobies in it, needs an R rating. Honestly, it’s like M and MA don’t exist.


Wouldn’t sex in a game be considered simulated regardless of what was shown because they aren’t real.

Patrick Vuleta

It would, unless we were to have a resurgence of FMV. :) (Full motion video.)

Black Patriot

There is obviously an issue with the over sexualisation of women in games, so perhaps that fuels the reason these games get such a hard time with classification and double standards.

Well there’s always the full frontal male nudity in GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned to balance it out a bit.


Well if you can have sex legally at 18 and we cant see breasts in a video game with a 18+ rating( if it gets RC), whats the point?

Did you somehow miss the Witcher 2 train and the naked snuggling in the first five minutes?

Also, sentence structure…


Patrick Vuleta:
It would, unless we were to have a resurgence of FMV. :) (Full motion video.)

Oh no… please, just no.

You’re interfering with my reverse psychotherapy.


I am kinda conflicted. Part of me was still hoping for a Wing Commander 3 R18+ celebratory patch, but ‘Flint’ must be about 50 now so maybe this is a good thing.

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