You may or may not have heard that the highly-anticipated upcoming computer game "Fallout 3" was recently Refused Classification (i.e. banned) in Australia by the Office of Film and Literature Classification due to "drug use" in the game. (The player can for example take morphine to temporarily suppress pain. There are negative effects as well as positive ones, obviously.)
Apparently this is far too "adult" for a video game, despite the hundreds if not thousands of movies and TV shows that contain medicinal drug use!
This decision highlights the need for an R 18+ rating for games in Australia. We are the only developed country without such a rating; the maximum age bracket for games here is MA 15+, despite the fact that we do have an R 18+ rating for movies. This has two bad results. Firstly, some games which should really be marked R 18+ are shoved down into MA 15+, thus being inappropriately rated; secondly, some games which would fit within the criteria used for R 18+ movies are banned entirely, as with Fallout 3.
The first result means that parents cannot trust the classification system. Why have an OFLC at all if they're restrained from doing their job properly? An R rating is needed so that certain games can be marked "adults only", as they should be.
The second result is hurting our games industry and frustrating Australian gamers. Australia has a rapidly-growing local games industry worth millions of dollars; however, the bad international press that occurs every time Australia bans a game is unquestionably discouraging foreign countries from further investment here. Why would you spend millions of dollars to fund a development studio in a country with a clearly games-hostile government, when you could just fund a US or European developer instead?
If you agree with me that this is a ridiculous situation, and you're from Australia, please take a moment to sign this online petition:
While the effectiveness of such petitions is unclear, every little bit helps. If you want to take further action, you can write to the Secretary to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General or complain directly to the OFLC, as described here:
Thanks! Please feel free to forward this on to anyone you know who you think might also be interested.