Australia’s Classification Board has gone on something of a rampage, banning more than two hundred controversial computer games from classification within the country! New statistics released by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department reveal that a new model for classifying games is having serious effects on the release of digitally sold games.
In the past, the Classification Board has been reticent to ban too many games. In the two decades between 1994 and 2014, just fifty games were turned back. Since March of this year, two hundred and twenty titles have already been banned using a new IARC tool. As a result, titles such as ‘Douchebag Beach Club’, ‘Drunk Driver’ and ‘HoboSimulator’ cannot be sold, advertised or exhibited in Australia.
The new International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) tool is part of a global effort to classify digitally sold games. A pilot program- involving the USA, the UK, Canada, Brazil and several European nations- has begun to take effect in domestic markets. Essentially, the tool requires developers and distributors to submit an online form with their classification application. In the form, issues such as violence, nudity and content are probed; the information is then collated into a single form that is tailored to each classification context.
The Attorney-General’s Department asserted that it would be impossible to manually classify each game, given the yearly market expansion and boom in game production. “Due to the online explosion, there are hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of games currently available online,” a department spokesperson told the media. “It is not realistic or practicable for the Classification Board to manually classify each of them. In preparation for the pilot, a large ‘back catalogue’ of games has been classified — more than 150,000 to date. After 12 months, classification ministers will determine whether the IARC tool should be a permanent part of the Australian classification scheme.”
Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) CEO Ron Curry says that his industry group welcomes the move towards standardised international classification. “If you look at some storefronts that exclusively do digital, over the last year they released about 180,000-200,000 titles” Mr. Curry explained. “If you look at the Classification Board, they’re doing about 400 Classifications a year, so you can see there is a big gap between what they are doing and what’s been released.”
Mr. Curry adds that the IARC tool comes with in-built oversight mechanisms designed to counter disruptive reporting. “The good thing about IARC is because it’s a global system, it doesn’t need to be a family in Melbourne that sees a problem with it, it could be a family in Munich who highlight it. And if it’s highlighted in Germany, for example, and the classification is changed in Germany, or anywhere else in the world, every other jurisdiction will be notified.”
Despite this, some critics maintain that the ACB must maintain a hardline to restricting certain content deemed offensive within the Australian community. Macquarie University Professor Catharine Lumby told the ABC that it comes down to community values. “New media platforms and technologies have outstripped their capacity to do that, and really, what this brings on is an opportunity as well as a necessity for Australians to think far more reflectively about what are our values around what content is appropriate,” Professor Lumby explained. “In this era, any parent who thinks that government alone will protect their children from inappropriate content is dreaming.”
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