The state of South Australia is once again kicking up a fuss over videogame ratings, saying it will dump the MA15+ rating in favor of R18+ no matter what the rest of the country does.
South Australia has a long history of making life difficult for gamers down under. For two decades it was the home base of Michael Atkinson, the state Attorney General and poster boy for the country's anti-R18 effort. His retirement led to high hopes that the land of milk and honey was just over the the horizon but that hasn't quite turned out to be the case; things are moving forward but at a glacial pace, and now South Australia has thrown another curveball at the process by declaring that it will act unilaterally to impose changes to the system that critics say will just create more confusion and headaches.
Australia's Standing Committee of Attorneys General is scheduled to meet later this month to hammer out a scheme for bringing a proper "mature" videogame rating to the country, after the federal government forced the issue by stating that it would consider "other options" if the Attorneys General didn't get their act together. Guidelines for establishing an R18+ rating include a call to tighten up the existing, amorphous MA15+ rating in order to more clearly differentiate between games appropriate for children and those that are not. But South Australia now says it will take matters one step further by ditching the MA15+ rating entirely, regardless of what happens at the upcoming SCAG meeting.
If that happens, videogames in the state will effectively be divided into two groups: those for kids and those for adults. Games rated MA15+ in other states will instead get an R18+ rating in South Australia, keeping them, in theory at least, out of the hands of young teenagers. The problem is that by establishing a de facto independent rating regime, the state will once again throw plans for a coherent, nationwide rating system into disarray.
"I think it would be bizarre if they were to go it alone," said Opposition Justice Spokesman Stephen Wade. "The Attorney General has indicated that he appreciates that people will continue to access games, through downloading them and through mail order. So it would be clearly an unfair impost on South Australian retailers at a time we are very aware of the competition between the online retail marker and the shopfront retail market."
Australia's Interactive Games and Entertainment Association CEO Ron Curry added that the move would further hinder the industry by making it "nearly impossible" to advertise videogames nationally.
The next meeting of Australia's Standing Committee of Attorneys General takes place on July 22 in South Australia. Finger crossed for you, Aussies!