New R18+ milestone: First game gets R18+ adults only classification

Australia's Classification Board today announced the first video game to receive the new R18+ classification which came into effect at the start of 2013, indicating the title is to be sold only to adults. Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, developed by Team Ninja, is published by Nintendo for the company's new Wii U console.

The Classification Board advised consumers that the game contains "High impact bloody violence".

“Under the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games, R 18+ computer games will have a high impact and it is for this reason that these games are not suitable for under 18s,” said Lesley O’Brien, director of the Classification Board.

“Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge contains violence that is high in impact because of its frequency, high definition graphics, and emphasis on blood effects.”

Guidelines state that material is classified R18+ if the Classification Board finds "The content is high in impact. R 18+ material is restricted to adults. Such material may contain classifiable elements such as sex scenes and drug use that are high in impact. Some material classified R18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community. A person may be asked for proof of their age before purchasing, hiring or viewing R18+ films and computer games at a retail store or cinema."

The Interactive Games Entertainment Association welcomed the Classification Board's announcement. “The classification guidelines for video games are now more closely aligned with the guidelines for film and TV which makes it easier for parents to make informed decisions about the interactive content they choose to buy and play,” said the organisation's CEO, Ron Curry.

In the US the game is classified M (17+) and in Europe the Pan European Game Information Scheme gave the title an 18+ rating.

The Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games came into effect at the start of this year. Prior to them taking effect, any game judged suitable only for adults would either have content cut or reworked to meet achieve an MA classification for release in Australia.

In February last year the minister for home affairs, Jason Clare, introduced legislation into federal parliament to pave the way for the R18+ classification for video games. For the scheme to take effect, the state and territory governments also had to introduce legislation to allow adults only games.

In May 2011 the federal government publicly released new draft guidelines for the classification video games ahead of a July meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The guidelines spelled out the conditions under which violence, sex, swearing and drug use could be depicted in video games, as well as under which criteria games would be refused classification.

At that meeting, state and territory attorneys-general endorsed the idea of an R18+ classification for video games. An adults only classification for games received unanimous support with the with the exception of NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, who abstained. In August NSW came on board.

In September 2011 the Australian Law Reform Commission released a discussion paper that proposed a "fundamental change" to the classification scheme. The proposals in the discussion paper address whether the classification can in some cases place an onerous burden on media creators, issues of industry self-regulation, and the disparity in the treatment of different forms of entertainment media under the current system.

The ALRC review was the first review of Australia's classification system undertaken in 20 years. The prior review took place in 1991 and led to the Classification Act of 1995. Clare's legislation amended the Classification Act to insert an R18+ classification.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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