The Australian Classification Board Strikes Again!

I know what you're thinking as you sit there, rolling your eyes, groaning "not again". This time it is something a little different. We all know that over the last few months / years the Australian Classification Board has been at the centre of some very controversial decisions. From drug names in the Fallout series, the crying koala of South Park: The Stick of Truth, to more recently the "implied" scene in Outlast 2 that was eventually overturned.

Now I am not here to hate on the Classification Board itself, more so their outdated way of doing things and the way all gamers are thrown into the category of being kids. Some decisions I believe are wrong and miss guided. Others, like in the case of "Hatred", I'll support.

The big issue I wish to bring to you today however is the cost of getting your game rated in Australia. Navigating your way through the Classification Board website you will see the cost is $430 Australian, this jumps to $850 for a priority classification. This is just for the cost of the classification itself. Account set up fees would be required up front for a new client to use the service and you need to provide an assessment report completed by an authorised assessor (an unknown cost at this stage.)

While this does not sound like a lot of money and wouldn't be to a big developer, to a small Indie developer this is a big hit, and if for some reason your game doesn't get classified or gets bumped to a higher age rating than you wanted it to be or it is elsewhere in the world, you're up for the initial price again. It has also been reported on in the past that a developer was required to pay $10,000 to have the decision reviewed.

Australia! it is time. It is time to create a new way of doing things. A way that is beneficial to both the Australian system and the people who are creating these games in order for us to enjoy them. I don't have the answers, but I do have ideas. Ideas I am sure will need to be tweaked but it is a good place to start.

Take the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for instance. The ESRB is a self-regulatory organisation that assigns age and content ratings, enforces industry-adopted guidelines, and ensures responsible online privacy principles. In a nutshell, the ESRB realised there are so many games being released that the requirement for a pre-emptive age rating was just not viable. Now the system requires you to fill out an online questionnaire, then the games are monitored on release, verifying that they match the claimed ratings. Massive fines are in place should they not match.

Let's face it, this would not work in Australia for the simple reason that we have a system that is over controlling, going to little to no control will not happen. I think we need to find a mid-point. Something that still retains control but removes the huge upfront costs.

Quite frankly if the classification board doesn't do something to accommodate smaller studio's, Australians will continue to miss out on some brilliant Indie games being released to the rest of the world. It is these Indie developers that continue to inspire many up and coming people who want to join the industry. Without that inspiration, the Australian gaming industry will continue to decline further than it already has and all of our talent will be lost overseas.

Pat (Snoogan512/Snoogs)
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