R18+: A brief history of the battle

Leigh Harris
R18+: A brief history of the battle

With Australia's first ever R18+ title going on sale yesterday, it bares looking back at the events which led us to this point.

It was first noticed by gamers that there was no R18+ classification for Australia when Grand Theft Auto III was pulled from shelves after it was revealed that you could have animation-and-sound-effect-free sex in cars.

A few other 'scandals' later and action had begun to take shape. Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, had attempted to speak to government officials about getting an R18+ on the agenda, but it quickly became clear that most politicians considered videogames as childrens' passtimes and didn't see the need for an adult age rating.

Dr Jeff Brand from Bond University then compiled research into what the 'average gamer' actually was in the Gameplay Australia Report, finding that the average age of someone who played games was 28 years old.

With the aid of local media helping to shape the dialogue around the R18+ issue, Curry was able to speak to politicians with well thought-out, constructive criticism, with a 90'000 person strong petition in hand.

"There were a lot of setbacks, like when [Michael] Atkinson was really ensconsed as Attorney General and he simple said 'I will not ever allow an R18'," says Curry. "There was no way around him. He wouldn't even meet us. We gave his office a call to ask if we could come down to talk and they just said 'Nope'."

"At this point, we'd been in every state and territory talking about the issue, to get around this, but they still wouldn't discuss it."

After Atkinson's resignation, however, trouble continued as successive Attorneys General were able to look at the precedent Atkinson had set and follow suit.

"That's when our work began because we had to get back in there as a lot of these people were disengaged," Curry continued. "Victoria was always supportive, but almost everyone else was uncommitted."

Shortly thereafter, Curry and the iGEA had decided not to pursue the issue, and to put it aside. It was at that time that Brendan O'Connor called them and asked to speak about R18+ out of the blue.

O'Connor was, at the time, the Minister for Home Affairs, and was the first politician to stand up and take notice of the issue.

"Other ministers before that would say 'Well, let's see what the states say'," says Curry. "O'Connor just said 'I don't care what the states say now, I'll get R18+ on the books, you've convinced me of why we should have it.'

O'Connor did extensive research himself, was the first minister to speak to games press, looked at the issue pragmatically and made the call to push the issue with the Attorneys General.

It took several meetings of the Standing Committee of the Attorneys General (SCAG) to get the rating through of course, but it got the ball rolling.

"We're very happy that [Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus] is on sale this week and we can finally stop talking about it," added Curry. "For us, [R18] always got in the way of every other conversation about anything, whether it was cyber-safety or classification - R18 was always in the way. I'll be happy not to have it dominate all of our conversations going forward."

"Let's move this thing along to at least the 20th Century, then we can move it into the 21st after that."

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Tags: r18+ , politics , age ratings , igea , ron curry , Jeff Brand , Bond University

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