Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dark Sector refused classification in Australia

In yet another example of how desperately Australia needs an 'R18+' rating for video games, the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has refused the upcoming XBox 360 3rd person action game, "Dark Sector" classification, preventing it from being sold in Australia in its current form. It was described by the OFLC as, "a violent and sometimes gruesome game with a sinister storyline and ominous outcome...", meaning that once again Australian gamers will pay the price for having entertainment regulators that are behind the times.

With gaming no longer the hobby of children and teenagers (the average gamer being in their mid twenties), surely it is time to embrace a more mature attitude to game classification. Certainly many games are violent, but the vast majority of Australian adults are able to draw the line between violence in a video game, even if it might be realistic and not "stylised", cited by the OFLC as one reason for Dark Sector's rejection. Disappointingly, the rejection comes just a short time after the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA) had promised to pursue an official 'R18+' ratings system for Video Games. With a recent change of Federal Government, it had been hoped that such an outcome could be achieved quickly. Unfortunately it has not come soon enough for Dark Sector, which now joins the unenviable list of games that the OFLC have rejected, including Reservoir Dogs, 50 Cent Bulletproof, Manhunt and the recent Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude.

So what now for Dark Sector's publisher Digital Extremes? Most likely the game will be altered, watering down the violence sufficiently that the OFLC will allow it to go to retail. As a double blow to Australian gamers, this will almost certainly significantly delay the release of the game. We'll bring you more updates on the Dark Sector drama as it unfolds. At Game Theory Online, we're wondering how many more times this will have to happen before the regulators recognise the need for a mature adult classification for entertainment in Australia.