In the last four months, Australia outlawed over four times as many PC games as it did from 1994 to 2014. Around 220 computer games were denied classification since March 2014, rendering them illegal to sell or display, compared with only about 50 banned games from 1994 to 2014.
Starting on July 1, 2015, Australia will run a one-year pilot version of the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) tool, which currently governs video games released in other territories. Digital games that were not previously regulated must now go through the rating process. Game developers must complete an IARC questionnaire which takes potentially offensive material and breaks it up into hundreds of groups.
The form asks questions like, “Does the game contain any bodily functions such as belching, flatulence, or vomiting when used for humorous purposes?” and whether the game includes naked breasts on fictional beasts like harpies.
Commenting on the IARC tool, CEO Ron Curry of the International Games and Entertainment Association stated, “The good thing about IARC is because it’s a global system, it doesn’t need to be a family in Melbourne that sees a problem with [a game], it could be a family in Munich who highlight it. And if it’s highlighted in Germany, for example, and the classification is changed in Germany, or anywhere else in the world, every other jurisdiction will be notified.”
Before Australia’s adoption of IARC, indie developers like Leigh and Rohan Harris, who released medieval city builder Towncraft, would have had to pay about as much for classification as was required to actually make the game. But as long as developers upload their game to the Google Play store, IARC provides a free alternative.
Professor Catharine Lumby, one of the authors of Google’s report on the progression of media governance in Australia, stated that “in this era, any parent who thinks that government alone will protect their children from inappropriate content is dreaming.”
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