Australia's Federal Parliament passed legislation today to create an R18+ category for video game classification, the culmination of a years-long effort to legalize the sale of adult-oriented games down under.
Jason Clare, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice, said that the legislation's passage means "adults are able to choose what games they play within the bounds of the law." Clare introduced the bill into Parliament in February, and with support in both houses, it was expected to pass quickly. Australia's individual states and territories must now pass similar legislation; pending their approval, the law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
The introduction of an R18+ rating for games aligns the medium with Australia's current categorization of films, as well as international standards for game ratings. Australia's R18+ category for films, and now games, is "legally restricted to persons 18 years of age and over," according to the legislation, which means it is more akin to the United States' ESRB AO (Adults Only) rating for video games. (The Australian Classification Board is a government agency, so its decisions are not guidelines, but law.)
In effect, however, the R18+ rating will serve as a rough equivalent of the ESRB M (Mature) rating, the U.K.'s BBFC 18 classification, and Europe's PEGI 18 category. Until now, Australia had no classification for video games above MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied), which denotes content "not suitable for people under 15." This meant that games exceeding the content parameters for the MA 15+ category would often be refused classification — amounting to a ban — unless their makers edited the games to remove, reduce or censor the offending content.
As for video games that were previously banned, Australian law allows for reclassification by the Board, but only after two years have passed since the original decision to refuse classification. Thankfully for Australians, NARC was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2005, so it can be reclassified R18+ as soon as 2013 rolls around.