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Australian government to review classifications of 12 video games

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As requested by South Australian Attorney General John Rau, the Australian Classification Review Board will be reviewing the classifications of 12 video games, according to an announcement by the Board.

The full list of games that will undergo classification review includes: Killer is Dead, Alien Rage, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist, Deadly Premonition the Director's Cut, Company of Heroes 2, God Mode, Borderlands 2: Add-on Content Pack, Fuse, Deadpool, The Walking Dead, Gears of War: Judgment and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.

Rau's request follows his statements in September that he believes Australia's video game classification rules are not applied strictly enough and should be further investigated by the Federal Government. Rau said that he wanted federal Attorney-General George Brandis to reassess how the Australian Classification Board rates video games.

"It is concerning to me, particularly as a parent, when I see that 13 games have been released in Australia as MA15+ whilst exactly the same game attracts up to an R18+ classification overseas," he said at the time. "These particular games have been assessed as having intense violence, blood and gore, nudity and suggestive themes."

The Australian Federal Parliament passed legislation to create an R18+ category for video game classification last February. The new classification system, which included the R18+ rating, came into effect Jan 1, 2013.

The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association — which estimates that each video game examined by the Board costs approximately $28,000 per decision — is "highly critical" of the classification reviews especially considering that none of the games listed have received formal consumer complaints for mis-classification nor for offensive material.

"Most people don't realise that before a video game lands on a store shelf, it has already been rigorously examined against a set of guidelines set out by our Government," CEO of IGEA Ron Curry said in a statement. "In fact, Australia is one of the few developed nations to have classification guidelines determined by Government."

"Not only have these games already been examined against stringent guidelines, we also haven't heard of any formal complaints made by parents or adults who think the video games are wrongly classified," he said. " The review is an unwarranted and costly exercise to satisfy a vocal yet unrepresentative minority."

Curry also noted that, taking cultural differences into account, classification schemes for respective countries are structured differently.

"In addition, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) in the US does not have an equivalent to Australia’s MA15+ rating. Any game that is considered to be for a mature teen will automatically receive a ‘Mature 17+ rating," he said. "For all titles requiring review, none have received the highest classification in the US, their AO (18+ only) determination."

While the US and European classification schemes are led by the video game industry, Curry pointed out, the Australian scheme is led by its Government.

"This is an example highlighted by the Australian Law Reform Commission of the dysfunctional nature of Australia’s classification system," he said. "Like the ALRC, IGEA calls for the urgent modernising and nationalising of content classification in Australia."

The Classification Review Board will meet on 18, 19 Nov. 18 and 19 and Dec. 2, 4 and 5 to consider the applications. Once completed, decisions published on the classification website. Those interested in making a submission to the Review Board regarding the classification review are invited to write to the Convenor of the Review Board (address provided here).