Media Release

For release: Wednesday May 25, 2011

The draft Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games are contrary to the interests of parents and their children, the Australian Christian Lobby has said.

The draft guidelines, released by the Minister for Justice Brendan O’Connor today, would allow almost precisely the same guidelines for R18+ films to apply to computer games, allowing games with a ‘high’ impact to be legal in Australia for the first time.

“Not only is this proposal contrary to the claim that the introduction of an R18+ category for computer games would protect children by merely relocating existing MA15+ games to a new R18+ category, it would inevitably open the Australian hire and sale markets to a higher level of graphically violent and sexually explicit interactive games,” ACL’s chief of staff Lyle Shelton said.

“For the very first time, computer games with sexual activity that may be ‘realistically simulated’, and games with ‘virtually’ no restrictions on language and the treatment of themes such as racism and suicide, would be legal in Australia according to the draft guidelines.

“Allowing the almost exact same guidelines that caused the film ‘Salo’ to be legally available for sale in Australia under the R18+ category to also apply to computer games is especially troubling given the Director of the Classification Board, Mr Donald McDonald, justified that decision in Senate estimates hearings by saying that ‘Simulated paedophilia could be acceptable in the context of a particular film’.

“The even remote possibility of such content becoming legal in interactive form is truly frightening.”

Mr Shelton questioned how allowing games with higher impact to be legally available in Australia would ‘provide safeguards to restrict the availability of material that is unsuitable for children’ or remove ‘unsuitable material from children and teenagers’, as claimed.

“Research shows that American children regularly play ‘adult games’, despite the official rating.

“There is little to suggest Australian children would not also be able to access such games regardless of their rating, thereby contradicting the suggestion that welfare of children was the key motivator for liberalising the classification of computer games.”

Even gaming interests were now honestly re-evaluating the veracity of supposed benefits to children of an R18+ rating:

“Of course, protecting children is a main concern for us. But he [WA MP Nick Goiran] does have a small point. Somewhere along the line, we switched our main message from “Adults should be able to play what they want” to the more sellable “Children will be better protected with this new rating.

“It’s time to stop pretending an R18+ rating for computer games is a child protection measure,” said Mr Shelton.