Dev: We want Australia's games rating system to change

5:07 PM, Mar 27, 2011   |    comments
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Nic Watt of Australian developer Nnooo Games.
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A number of years ago Nic Watt, formerly a lead games designer at Electronic Arts London, moved from England to Australia and founded the game studio Nnooo.  Designing video games in the commonwealth, he found, has one key flaw:  the country doesn't allow mature-rated games to be sold within its borders.  The game developer and studio founder commented on the Australian censorship dilemma with news10.net's Game Guys during the 2011 Game Developers Conference.

"You obviously want to be sure the people in your country would be able to enjoy your entertainment," he says.  "I think [not being able to sell your own M-rated games] would provide frustration to whoever would want to make that sort of game."

The country has some of the most restrictive censorship laws in all of the Western world and while the government seems resistant to change, Watt tells the Game Guys that both developers and consumers alike want that to change.

"There's a big movement, actually, and the federal government did some analysis across the country asking not only people who play video game but generally consulting Australians to see how they felt about having an 18 rating," Watt explains.

It seems that the majority of the country can't understand why they're not allowed to have an 18-plus rating on video games.  Possibly adding to the confusion is that other mature forms of entertainment including R-rated movies are allowed and accepted with little issue.

Watt believes that while the country is quite progressive with a number of mature subjects, a possible Christian movement within Australia is worried that children would be affected by being able to play M-rated titles.

"What [these Christian groups] don't realize at the moment is some games are being downgraded to a 15 because they want to be able to be sold and the people who are actually rating games realize that this content should be made available," comments the Nnooo founder.  "And so 15 year old kids are getting a hold of content that maybe should be an 18 and having a higher rating actually means that there would be less likelihood of children being able to get a hold of this content."

M-rated games that were initially banned in the country then reclassified a 15-rating (equivalent to an ESRB T-rating) after some post-release editing include Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Valve's Left 4 Dead 2.

While Australia's government seems to be in no hurry to change its video game censorship laws, a telephone poll taken near the end of 2010 by the Australian government's Attorney-General Department found that 80 percent of respondents are in favor of an 18+/Mature video game rating.

Until a change happens, though, Nnooo and all of the other Australian video game developers are forced to either work their craft in a country that cannot enjoy all of the fruits of their labor or move to a country that can.  For Watt, though, he's fine with developing his games in the land down-under while his government figures out what to do with the growing support for M-rated games.

"We love working in Australia and despite the fact that there's obviously strange legal issues around M-rated games, it's a great place to work." says Watt as he smiles with pride.  "We wouldn't change very much of it other than the rating system."

- Game Guy Barry White bcwhite@news10.net

News10/KXTV

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