With two more games refused classification, it's time to ask what actual benefits the R18+ rating brings us.
By Patrick Vuleta on July 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm
So, what’s the deal with our new R18+ regs? The impression I get from reading the gaming news is that the Classification Board is banning games left right and centre. Some gamers have even claimed that R18+ is just a rebadged MA15+, and that any games now approved under R18+ would have been done so under MA15+.
Which is… actually kinda true. Most games that have been let through under R18+ would have been let through under MA15+. Only a couple are “true” R18+ games. Yet despite this, our classification system is giving us more certainty over what we’ll be allowed to play. It’s an improvement. To see this, we need to compare what’s been Refused Classification with what’s been accepted under R18+.
Both State of Decay and Saints Row 4 were refused classification since R18+ came in, for much the same reasons. State of Decay had explicit drug use with benefits, as discussed by the Australian Classification Board:
“In the Board’s opinion, the game enables the player’s character to self-administer proscribed drugs which aid in gameplay progression. This game therefore contains drug use related to incentives or rewards and should be Refused Classification.”
Saints Row 4 was refused classification for both sexual violence and drug use. According to what I took out of the GON news article comments, this was specifically for having weaponised alien dildos. However, here’s the Board’s comment:
“In the Board’s opinion, Saints Row IV, includes interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context. In addition, the game includes elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards.”
Both these games crossed the line by either having sexual violence, or actively promoting detailed drug misuse by linking drug taking to rewards.
What’s been let through?
In contrast to the two refused classifications, fourteen games have received an R18+ classification:
- Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus
- Spartacus Legends
- Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge
- Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition
- Ride to Hell: Retribution
- Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel
- Chivalry: Medieval Warfare
- Atelier Totori Plus: The Adventurer of Arland
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
- Dead Island: Riptide
- The Last of Us
- Metro: Last Light
- Mars: War Logs
- God of War: Ascension
Of these, only Mortal Kombat had been previously refused classification. Originally released in 2011, the Board found the game had violence stronger than MA15+ allowed. Once R18+ came in, the game was reclassified to R18+.
However, several of these games give pause for thought. According to our review, Dead Island: Riptide was just a lame reskin of the original, MA15+ game, with the same amount of gore. The previous game in the God of War series was still pretty bloody, with dismemberments aplenty, and yet also classified as MA15+. I’m not entirely sure what Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is all about, but surely cannot outdo the controversy created when Tim shot a tiger in the face, right? (The tiger had it coming.)
This illustrates two conflicting outcomes of R18+. At least one game has now become available when it wasn’t previously — a clear victory. However, R18+ is also being used to label games as R18+ that were previously MA15+. This does create scepticism. Yet this relabelling is a good thing.
R18+ creates certainty
Back when God of War III came out, there was a big controversy over whether it would be banned. With so much gore, the game wasn’t reaaallly MA15+ material, and just about everyone, including the developers, expected it to be banned. However, it wasn’t, because. Just because. No one knows.
However, we do know specifically why Saints Row 4 and State of Decay were banned. Nowadays, the key Refused Classification criterion is that games cannot:
“depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”
Before R18+, however, some games, like Mortal Kombat, were also banned due to being:
“unsuitable for a minor to see or play.”
An extremely broad category. Unfortunately, aside from strong themes and the usual no drugs, sexual violence, or drugged sexual violence, what’s suitable for minors isn’t exactly clear. Prior to R18+, every game had to be measured against this standard. If the game contained sex, violence, or coarse language beyond some uncertain concept of what was suitable for a 15 year old, it could be banned. Some violent games, like God of War III, made it through, and yet others, like Mortal Kombat, did not.
The distinctions were, in many cases, completely arbitrary, and developers had little to go on other than tone the games down just to be on the safe side.
The new regulations are an improvement because now games are not subject to such vague decisions, and give far more certainty to what’s right, and what’s wrong. If some games have to be “upgraded” to R18+ to define the boundaries, then so be it. We’re in a process of defining certainty, and that’s fine. At least now we know that games should only be banned if they breach common community standards, specifically:
- Sexual violence that rewards participation
- Drug use that promotes prohibited drugs
- Any truly disturbing material such as the portrayal of black-haired Yeomen.
All these will still be Refused Classification, and rightfully so. But hopefully, they will now be the only games that are Refused Classification.