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Over 200 games banned in Australia in 4 months, new ratings system on the way

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Australia has refused to classify around 220 games in the past four months, more than four times the number refused classification from 1994 to 2012, according to Australia's ABC. The move is a way of clearing a backlog of titles in advance of a pilot game ratings initiative starting on July 1.

Information released by Australia's Attorney-General's Department lists many obscure games, with titles like Douchebag Beach Club and Drunk Driver, but also more well-known games such as Hotline Miami 2. Upon being refused classification, ABC says, titles become "illegal to sell, advertise and publicly exhibit" in Australia.

From 1994 to 2012 only 50 games were denied classification in the country.

"It is not realistic or practicable for the Classification Board to manually classify each of them," said a spokesperson from the Attorney-General's Department. "Due to the online explosion, there are hundred of thousands — if not millions — of games currently available online."

In 2015 the board has been working through a backlog of titles, more than 150,000, in advance of a pilot of the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). Instead of relying on the Classification Board to preview games, the IARC tool allows individual developers to self-report their content and then translates those reports into ESRB and PEGI-style ratings, or whatever ratings system a region uses.

"Parents looking for age appropriate games or apps can continue to rely on familiar and credible sources reflecting their region's cultural norms," says the IARC's promotional video, embedded below.

"If you look at some storefronts that exclusively do digital, over the last year they released about 180,000 to 200,000 titles," said Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA), an independent industry association representing the Australian and New Zealand video games industry. "If you look at the Classification Board, they're doing about 400 classifications a year, so you can see there is a big gap between what they are doing and what's been released."

Moving forward, Curry said that it will be up to players to report discrepancies in what developers self-report about their games.

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