The following IGM Aus is rated R for Radness. Or maybe not.
I wanted to take a little time out this week and focus on an issue that has been building up and up for a few years now. Something that many people here in Australia have been waiting on for some time which, as of just a few short days ago, has finally become reality. It is, of course, the R18+ rating.
For many countries, an R rating is a given. Restricting the sale or viewership of a certain piece of entertainment to those above 18 years of age seems rather obvious given the modern depiction of violence and our tendency to protect our children from it (where we can). Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said of the Australian industry, who’s ratings system until just recently never had an 18+ rating. That meant the sale of many games to those aged 15 or over.
As of right now, the R rating is finally a part of the code. That means games just too violent for MA15+, or featuring high levels of sexual content and language, will be allowed into the country if it passes the strict requirements under the adults only category. We already have our first entrant, the Tecmo created Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for Wii U, which is certainly warranted given that series’ penchant for blood letting at the bucket load. In the past, such a title would have been banned in Australia (as in Warner Brothers’ Mortal Kombat reboot) or edited/watered down (a.k.a. Left 4 Dead 2).
So what does all this mean to the local Indie industry? Not a great deal, at least not yet. This rating only relates to retail stores, not those online. Given that both Apple and Steam provide their own ratings system outside of those used in any release country means that it’s up to those providers to bring about some kind of balance. Apple is actually rather strict when it comes to releasing games on their system (well, at least when it comes to content, maybe not nearly as good when it comes to quality control … but that’s another story). Both also allow some kind of parental guidance over what you purchase, warning users if the content is adult only before purchasing for example.
This could all possibly change in the future. There’s been calls over recent years to control online ratings in the same way as retail stores, wiping the slate clean to provide one clear and concise system (or something of that sort). Given how freely it is to purchase and download anything you want these days, controlling that content was an inevitable suggestion by those with the power to suggest it. That’s not to say it’ll happen any time soon, if at all, but it’s something to keep a close eye on.
If it did go ahead, it would mean more hard work for those indie devs trying to release their game locally, instead of a universal system as it stands now. That problem has already reared its head recently, with Frozenbyte’s Trine 2: Director’s Cut on Wii U still awaiting release in Australia because of a delay in submitting to the ratings board, pushing the release date well back from its scheduled time frame. No doubt many headaches have set up shop ever since.
Here’s another interesting note; a majority of Australian indie games rarely reach the heights of such a rating. One that does come to mind though is upcoming PC horror game Huntsman: The Orphanage. If it did ever go to retail stores (which I certainly hope it does), it’s hard to say if it would reach an R rating, given the game forgoes violence in favour of straight up horror scares. Then again, it’s hard to predict exactly what will or won’t be given such a rating in the future. Violence is one thing, but how will the board see psychological issues or depictions of scary or unnerving scenes?
For now the R rating should hopefully provide extra incentive to adults to find out exactly what it is their kids are playing, to ensure they aren’t getting involved with something that’s just not built with their imaginations in mind. Let’s not, however, use this higher rating to glorify a love of violence et al in games. That’s the last thing this world needs right now.
Devs make games that entertain, but they also make games for certain audiences, especially adult ones. That’s not a law of course, just an industry trend.
That’s all for IGM Aus this week. I think next week I might have to talk about rainbows or cookies … or maybe not. Game on!