The Australian government has put forth significant changes to its national video game classifications system through a recent press release, which includes the introduction of a mandatory R18+ rating for video games with simulated gambling elements and an M (15+) rating for games with paid loot boxes. Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, who cited the growing concerns surrounding simulated gambling’s negative impact on children, has proposed these changes to protect the youth from the perceived harms associated with video games. The proposal would impact games that feature gambling elements as part of their narrative or casino-style mini-games.
More Clarity and Certainty for Consumers
The proposal is intended to provide clarity and certainty to consumers and the video game industry by clearly signaling that games with simulated gambling will face a particular rating. “We want to be very clear and very binary in this regard, and the certainty that is provided by a proposal that says if there is simulated gambling in a game, then it is subject to a particular rating,” said Rowland in an interview with ABC News. This would enhance protection for vulnerable groups like children or those with gambling addictions.
The Impact of the Proposed Changes
The most significant impact would likely be for general audiences and mainstream games that feature loot boxes. If this proposal is adopted, the FIFA video game franchise, which currently has a G rating (for general audiences), would be reclassified to M, which is recommended for individuals aged 15 or older. Though younger individuals would not be restricted from purchasing these games, the R18+ rating would impose a legal barrier. This marks a significant shift from the current classification system, as there is no mandatory classification required for simulated gambling elements in video games.
Risky Gambling Behaviors in Australia
Controlling video games with gambling elements and loot boxes has become a pressing issue in Australia due to the country’s high levels of risky gambling behaviors. A report published by the Australian government in 2021 revealed that in 2018-2019, citizens lost $25 billion on legal forms of gambling, representing the largest per capita losses in the world. The proposed changes to bring mandatory ratings for video games with gambling elements and loot boxes may help to reduce the harm from gambling.
Global Regulation Efforts
Australia is not alone in its efforts to regulate and control the use of loot boxes in video games. Several other countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, have already put in place regulations that prevent video game developers from implementing loot boxes and other digital gambling elements. For instance, the mobile spin-off of Diablo Immortal could not launch in both Belgium and the Netherlands last year due to their strict laws against loot boxes.
A Step Towards Responsible Gaming
The proposal by the Australian government is a step towards responsible gaming and towards protecting individuals who may be vulnerable to the potential harms of simulated gambling elements and loot boxes. The proposed mandatory ratings would provide clear guidance for parents and individuals, enforcing responsible decision-making when purchasing video games. If the proposal passes, Australia would join countries like Belgium and the Netherlands in protecting their citizens from the harms associated with gambling in video games.
In conclusion, Australia’s newly proposed ratings for video games with gambling elements and loot boxes will provide consumers with certainty and a clearer understanding of the content they purchase. This would help individuals make informed decisions regarding their video game choices while fostering responsible decision-making and protecting vulnerable groups susceptible to the harmful effects of gambling.