Sex games

Australians will be able to buy sexually explicit computer games legally for the first time, under a Federal Government proposal.

Justice Minister Brendan O'Connor revealed draft classification guidelines today to regulate the sale of games in this country.

Australia is the only developed nation in the world without an adults-only classification for computer games.

However, a national survey conducted last year found four in five Australians supported overturning the ban in favour of an R18+ category for games.

Mr O'Connor said all Australian attorneys-general had now agreed to introduce the category, rather than maintain a prohibition on the products.

The guidelines would still ban any game that depicted excessive violence, sexual violence or child sex, or that promoted illicit drug-use, he said.

"Introducing the new classification will give parents better advice about what games are suitable for their children, while allowing adults to view material designed for adults."

Classifiers will assess each game's themes and its use of violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity, and consider whether a "reasonable adult" would accept those uses.

The draft guidelines propose five categories - G, PG, M, MA15+ and R18+ - as well as a refused-classification category.

Under the R18+ rating, "sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The general rule is 'simulation, yes - the real thing, no' ".

Nudity is permitted, as is drug use - as long as it is not related to incentives or rewards.

"Violence is permitted. High impact violence that is, in context, frequently gratuitous, exploitative and offensive to a reasonable adult will not be permitted. Sexual violence may be implied, if non-interactive and justified by context,'' the guidelines said.

Games would be refused classification - and therefore banned - if they implied sexual violence related to incentives and rewards or had child sexual abuse.

The could also not include "depictions of practices such as bestiality [or] gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of: (i) activity accompanied by fetishes or practices which are offensive or abhorrent; (ii) incest fantasies or other fantasies which are offensive or abhorrent."

Mr O'Connor also issued the findings of a second survey yesterday, which canvassed the views of more than 10,000 people earlier this year.

It found 71 per cent supported the R18+ category.

Interactive Games and Entertainment Association chief executive Ron Curry said today most Australians gamers were adults, with the average age being 32.

"Like all other media, there is an appetite for age-appropriate content, particularly for those who are 30 years or above."

He supported the proposed introduction of an R18+ category, but warned that the "test will be in how the guidelines are applied".

"And that will tell us whether in fact we've widened the range of games that are available, or we've just pushed stuff from MA15+ into the R category."

Earlier this year, Australian censors banned the massively popular fighting game Mortal Kombat, citing "violence that exceeds strong in impact".

The game's developer, entertainment giant Warner Bros, appealled against the decision but was unsuccessful.