The Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and
Computer Games) Act 1995 (Act) has been
amended to include an R 18+ category for computer games. This Act
relates to activities in the Australian Capital Territory. As part
of a collaborative scheme, other Australian States and Territories
have enacted similar complementary legislation (with the exception
of Queensland) (Classification Acts).
From 1 January 2013 the highest classification category for
computer games is now R18+ where previously the highest
classification available for computer games was MA15+. Games which
receive a classification of R18+ can only be purchased or hired by
a person over the age of 18 years. The new classification took
effect in all States and Territories in Australia (except
Queensland) on 1 January 2013. The new classification is expected
to be adopted in Queensland later this year.
Under the Act, "computer games" are broadly defined in
Section 5A as follows:
" A computer game is a computer
program and any associated data capable of generating a display on
a computer monitor, television screen, liquid crystal display or
similar medium that allows the playing of an interactive
A computer program, data associated with a computer program
or a computer program and any associated data that:
is capable of generating new elements or additional levels
into a game (the original game) that is a computer
game under subsection (1); and
is contained in a device separate from that containing the
is also a computer game."
(some specific exceptions apply under the Act).
The classification of computer games is made by the
Classification Board (Board). The Board classifies
games based on the Guidelines for Classification of Computer Games
(Guidelines) which have been created pursuant to
section 12 of the Act.
The Board are required to classify computer games according to 6
classifiable elements which are:
drug use and
The Guidelines describe what to expect from each classifiable
element within each particular classification category. For
example, Language in an R18+ computer game means that the gamer can
expect that "there are virtually no restrictions on
language". This can be contrasted to Language found
within a PG (Parental Guidance recommended for children under the
age of 15 years) classified computer game whereby the gamer can
expect to find that "coarse language should be mild and
infrequent, and be justified by context".
The Guidelines also set out content within the classifiable
elements which is considered outside an acceptable level and is
therefore likely to result in a classification of RC meaning the
computer game has been Refused Classification.
The Act also allows for review of classifications by way of
application submitted by certain persons, such as the applicant for
classification of a computer game.
The Classification Board has already commenced R18+ games
classification. Its first R18+ game – Nintendo's
"Ninja Garden 3: Razor's Edge" was classified
according to the Board due to its "high impact bloody
violence" which was said to be "high impact due
to its frequency and the high definition graphics and emphasis on
The penalties for offences relating to R18+ computer games vary
to some degree across the States and Territories according to the
specifically enacted legislation. However, potential fines across
the board are not insignificant. In New South Wales for example,
the selling or hiring of a R18+ computer game to a minor may
attract a fine of $11,000 for an individual and $22,000 for a
corporation. Offences may also arise in respect of inappropriately
advertising or demonstrating a R18+ game.
Care will need to be taken moving forward by those dealing with
computer games to ensure compliance with the new State and
The assistance of Melissa Corbutt, Solicitor, of Addisons in
the preparation of this article is noted and greatly
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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