January 1st marked the first day of the new, much-campaigned-for, long-awaited R18+ legislation for computer and video games in Australia. Under the new legislation, the Classification Board is now free to classify games up to an R18+ level, although it’s likely that we won’t see our first R18+ rated game for some months to come.
Queensland remains the only Australian state or territory yet to pass the R18+ legislation, although this is expected to be resolved shortly. This does mean that Queenslanders will be unable to purchase any R18+ rated games until this matter is concluded — although it is widely believed that no games will be rated R18+ and released before the legislation is passed.
Gamers hoping that already-classified games will be re-rated to R18+ are unfortunately in for disappointment: there’s a mandatory two-year period before a game can be re-classified. Games like Left 4 Dead 2 which were released in 2009 could potentially be re-rated, assuming that Valve were willing to stump up the costs.
The IGEA’s Ron Curry, speaking to Gamespot, expressed cautious optimism. “We are weary though of how the revised guidelines will be interpreted and if we are really getting an R18+ category, or just a movement of MA15+ into higher level of classification,” he said.
“Initially, we expect the Classification Board to be a little cautious in how they apply the new guidelines, so we may need to wait some time to see how the dust settles on this.”