Western Australia's bizarre restrictions on R18+ games need to be examined and questioned.
By Patrick Vuleta on October 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In Western Australia, your copy of Dragon Age 2 has some of the same legal restrictions as a pornographic X18+ film. Unfortunately, this isn’t because it included a hot scene with Leliana and Merril post-credits. Rather, the laws of Western Australia just don’t trust MA 15+ games to be suitable for teenagers.
As it stands, Western Australia’s proposed R 18+ gaming laws won’t change this. As we’ll discuss, the new laws simply apply the existing MA 15+ restrictions to R18+ games, and leave the MA 15+ ones alone.
However, there is still a chance of this being changed for the better. These new laws have been called back for review, with a parliamentary committee set to look over the new laws.
Here’s what needs to be changed.
You can show an MA15+ film in a cinema lobby
Walk into any cinema and you’ll be bombarded with advertisements for MA15+ films. You’ll see posters on the walls, and trailers on the screens. This is because Western Australian law contains a specific exception for the public display of films:
“A person must not exhibit so that it can be seen from a public place that is outside the place where it is exhibited —
an unclassified film that would, if classified, be classified R18+ or MA15+; or
a film classified R18+ or MA15+.”
This says that MA15+ and R18+ films may be shown, publicly, in the place they are exhibited. The cinema lobby that’s viewable from outside, in other words. This is slightly different to X 18+ films, which have no such exception:
“A person must not exhibit in a public place a film classified X 18+.”
And X18+ films, of course, are porn.
But you can’t show an MA 15+ game in a store
Now, which of these two laws are closest to what’s in place to regulate games? If you guessed the porn law, you’d be right:
“A person must not demonstrate so that it can be seen from a public place —
an unclassified computer game that would, if classified, be classified MA 15+; or
a computer game classified MA 15+.”
Obviously, because the themes you’ll find in MA 15+ games are just so corrupting that they need to be hidden from the public eye. Well, in all fairness, I’m still scarred over Samantha Traynor’s inclusion in Mass Effect 3. I wouldn’t inflict that on anyone.
But the differences between games and films do not stop there.
You can sell an MA 15+ film in public
Western Australia doesn’t want children mentally scarred by the shrink wrap found on R18+ films, so ensures that they’re sold in separate areas:
“A person must not display in a public place —
(a) a film classified R18+; or
(b) the container, wrapping or casing for a film classified R 18+,
with the intention of selling the film except in an area of the public place set aside by that person, and conspicuously identified, as an area for the display of films, or containers, wrapping or casings for films, with that classification.”
This law does deserves some derision, because no such law exists for MA15+ films. You’ll be able to browse through a store, and holding each, side by side in either hand, compare the benefits of buying The Wedding Party (containing strong sex scenes), with the video sitting right next to it — Pocahontas.
But you need to cordon off an area for selling MA15+ games
The laws regulating the sale of MA15+ games directly copy those laws regulating R18+ films, not MA 15+ films:
“A person must not display in a public place —
(a) a computer game classified MA15+; or
(b) the container, wrapping or casing for a computer game classified MA15+,
with the intention of selling or supplying the computer game except in an area of the public place set aside by that person and conspicuously identified, as an area for the display of computer games, or containers, wrapping or casings for computer games, with that classification.”
The new laws miss the point of an R18+ rating entirely
In Western Australia, MA 15+ games are regulated like R18+, and even X18 films. Even though they’ve been reviewed and accepted for teenagers, the law treats them as if they’re adult porn.
Unfortunately, the proposed amendments to bring in R18+ for games in Western Australia do not change this problem. They simple say that where the law applies to MA15+ games, it will now apply just like that to R18+ games as well.
This fails at respecting one of the reasons for getting the R18+ classification in the first place. Adults will be able to play games made for adults, and such games won’t be squeezed into the MA15+ category anymore. These games will not be bought by children.
But this isn’t good enough in Western Australia. MA15+ games will still be treated like R18+ and X18+ films, and now R18+ games will be too. Western Australia’s R18+ laws do need to be reviewed, because they need to make the distinction between MA15+ and R18+ much clearer.