Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Manhunting a proper ratings system for games!

Thursday, September 30, 2004
The game Manhunt has been banned in Australia. The technical term is "refused classification", but what that term might not make immediately obvious is that there is no R18+ category for games in our current game classification system. As iTnews notes:
Manhunt is all about being part of a snuff film. You play as James Earl Cash, a death row inmate who awakens after he was supposed to be executed, only to find he had become an unwitting participant in a series of increasingly violent set pieces, played out for a mysterious director of ultra-realistic filmic violence. It is brutal and disturbing in nature but no more so than any number of R rated movies out there. This is what the banning of Manhunt really highlights -- the fact that there is no way in Australia to legally restrict the sale of the game to adults. People are still stuck in the mindset that games are the domain of children, but this is something that has changed dramatically in recent years. Surveys by the US based Entertainment Software Association (www.theesa.com) have highlighted the fact that the average age for gamers is now 29 years old, yet still we have no 'adult' games classification here.
Australian IT notes also:
"In the Classification Review Board's opinion, the game warrants a refusal of classification because it contains elements beyond those set out in the classification guidelines and legislation for a computer game at the MA15+ classification." With classification refused, the game "cannot be legally sold, hired, displayed for sale or hire, demonstrated or advertised in Australia". Penalties for doing so range from a $4500 fine and six months imprisonment in Queensland to a $24,000 fine and two years in jail in Victoria.
While I do sympathise with not wanting to play this game ...

... I do believe that mature adults should have the right to make up their own mind. More to the point we need a ratings and classification body that has some (even vague!) notion of who is actually playing videogames, so that an 18+ classification can be established. (It's also worth noting that this classification almost guarentees that tens of thousands of teenaged Australians will download the game p2p just because it's banned!).

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