Changes to the ratings guidelines tighten regulations on sexual content, but the Board is still wary of drugs and interactive violence.
The Australian Classification Board has recently made some amendments to the original November 2011 release of the rating guidelines, but some parts of the document are still being met with disapproval.
The original edition of the guidelines said that the MA15+ and R18+ categories could allow for implied sexual violence, provided that it was non-interactive and justified by the context of the game. The new release, on the other hand, states that "implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted" for R18+ rated games. The updated rules also revealed that, while simulated sexual activity that is not "explicit and realistic" is considered to be okay, depictions of "actual sexual activity" were not suitable for classification.
The initial stance on games that rewarded illicit drug use or portrayed detailed and realistic drug use remained unchanged; these games would still be refused classification.
In addition, the updated guidelines still retained this statement on the impact of interactivity in videogames:
Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also increase the impact of some content.
It's not a definitive statement, but the fact that this section still exists has drawn some criticism. The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) commented on the statement: "As we have previously stated, we are concerned with the acknowledgment in the guidelines that interactivity has greater impact on players, despite the Federal Attorney-General's office publishing a literature review in September 2010 that found no evidence to support these claims".
"Ultimately, we will need to wait to see how the Classification Board interpret and administer the new R18+ and revised M and MA15+ categories," the Association said. "We trust that they will reflect the standards of morality, decency and propriety accepted by reasonable adults, not just the vocal ones."
The updated classification can be found on the Australian Classification Board's website.