As the Australian government evaluates the introduction of an 18+ category for videogames within the OFLC age rating system, it's important to remind ourselves that in today's global videogaming audience, the average age of a gamer is 28.
At EA we are committed to the belief that adult consumers can have responsibility for their entertainment choices. Just as a grown up can decide to see a film or read a book with mature themes, so should he or she be entitled to choose the same in interactive entertainment.
Government policies that don’t allow for the rating of mature content in videogames effectively censor entertainment choices for adults. These policies show a poor understanding of today's videogaming audience. Existing legislation in Australia that limits age ratings of games to 16 demonstrates a distance between those policies and the reality of the videogame industry and the people that play interactive games in Australia today.
The spectrum of gamers is as wide as the viewership of television, movies, theatre, and the readers of books. Governments don’t insist that all books be written for children, or that all television shows be cartoons. Adult gamers want their governments to treat them with the same respect they get as movie goers and book readers. Adult Australians should be allowed to choose the games they play, including those with mature themes.
Around the world, our industry takes very seriously the responsibility we have to protect children from inappropriate content in games. We are committed to robust, easy- to-understand age rating systems designed to help people make appropriate content choices for the right age groups; the OFLC in Australia, the ESRB in North America, PEGI in Europe, CERO in Japan. These systems have been proven as the most efficient way to protect children from inappropriate content and offer parents the right set of information about a game through a recommended age rating, and on-pack information and icons to illustrate themes present within the content of the game.
A government policy that keeps our mature games out of stores and forces developers to rewrite code is censorship. It also forces lesser quality games into that marketplace, often stripped of their intended content and features. What will be next? Will adults be forced to see edited versions of mature films? Read books with certain chapters removed? As policy measures increase restrictions on available content, so too will consumers increase the practice of parallel imports from neighboring or same-language markets, depriving their home country economy of the associated industry revenue.
As the Australian government moves to participate in the economy of the global gaming market, policy makers should consider the environment they create for game makers. Governments that design policies hostile to game developers and their creative medium will struggle to attract investment from the global industry. The global gaming industry is robust and growing faster than any other entertainment medium. It has already largely surpassed cinema and music. If Australia seeks to benefit from this tremendous creative and economic opportunity, its policies should reflect an understanding of the marketplace and a willingness to participate.
A change in the Australian age rating system is needed. We call on the Attorneys General in their next general session to vote unanimously in favour of the introduction of an 18+ rating for videogames to allow adults to make their own choices about the entertainment they choose to enjoy. The implementation of a new 18+ age rating classification is the right step for consumers, and for the industry, in Australia.