Australia has banned more than four times as many computer games in the past four months than in the entire period from 1994-2014, according to new figures from the Attorney-General’s Department.
About 220 computer games — with titles such as Douchebag Beach Club, Drunk Driver and HoboSimulator — have been refused classification since last March.
Material that has been refused classification is illegal to sell, advertise and publicly exhibit in Australia.
By contrast, the department’s figures show the Classification Board refused classification of only approximately 50 computer games between 1994 to 2014.
The huge spike in the number of games being censored results from a decision by the Federal Government to adopt a new model for classifying games sold through digital storefronts.
From July 1, Australia will officially begin participating in a global pilot program that attempts to regulate the enormous volume of games being released online using the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) tool, which has been adopted by the UK, the USA, Canada, Brazil, and most of Europe.
Before the IARC model was adopted, video games released through digital storefronts did not have to be rated by the Classification Board.
‘Not realistic’ to manually classify each game
A spokesperson from the Attorney-General’s Department has acknowledged it is not realistic for the Classifications Board to have direct oversight of the vast amount of digital content available.
“Due to the online explosion, there are hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of games currently available online,” a department spokesperson said.
“It is not realistic or practicable for the Classification Board to manually classify each of them.”
“In preparation for the pilot, a large ‘back catalogue’ of games has been classified — more than 150,000 to date,” the spokesperson said.
“After 12 months, classification ministers will determine whether the IARC tool should be a permanent part of the Australian classification scheme.”
The tool requires game developers to complete an online form that categorises explicit content like violence and nudity into hundreds of sub-categories.
The sub-categories questions cover a vast range of potentially controversial material.
For example, the IARC form enquires: “Does the game contain any bodily functions such as belching, flatulence, or vomiting when used for humorous purposes?”
The form also asks developers whether their game contains fictitious creatures that bare naked breasts, offering the example of a harpy.
The results of each IARC form are then calibrated to the unique sensitivities of each participating country’s classification board.
The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) is welcoming the Government’s adoption of the IARC tool.