The first major study into Australia's gaming habits in six years, Game Play Australia 2005, has highlighted an incredibly diverse market and renewed calls for a change in the official classification of mature videogames.
Although the Office of Film and Literature Classification has a specific category for 18+ films, Australia remains one of the last Western countries to deny the same level of mature classification for the videogame sector.
Currently, the highest videogame classification is an MA15+ restriction, which prevents anyone under the age of fifteen purchasing certain games unless accompanied by a consenting adult. The lack of a further mature rating has resulted in the outright ban of selected videogame titles, including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, NARC and Leisure Suite Larry: Magna Cum Laude.
The Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia commissioned the survey to establish the gaming habits, target audience and general consensus on videogames and censorship in Australia, polling 2009 household and 3708 individuals.
One of the key facts revealed by the study showed that 88 percent of respondents believe adult-oriented games should be classified 18+ in the same way as explicit or violent movies. 27 percent of respondents were unaware that there was currently no such rating for games in the country.
The survey also revealed that 78 percent of adults in gaming households considered games as educational, and parents took an active role in the game purchasing decisions for their children. 68 percent of adults rated classification of games as 'very important,' with 76 percent of parents stating that they set clear rules about the type of game content their children played. An overwhelming 87 percent confirmed that they are present during purchase or have given prior consent before their children purchase any games.
The market is more diverse than first imagined, as only 42 per cent of all gaming households had children, and althoug the average age of those playing videogames was 24, 38 percent of those who have played games in the last year were female.
IEAA president, John Watts, commented: "Game Play Australia 2005 represents the most in-depth study of the opinions and habits of the Australian public in relation to interactive entertainment since 1999, and dispels many of the long held myths about video gaming. This report proves beyond a doubt that video gaming is not just for children and is no longer the domain of only boys and men."
"Video gaming is something the majority of Australian households partake in on a regular basis and it is not consumed in an addictive manner," he added.
In related news, Gamasutra.com reports that the Australian provincial government of Victoria is meeting censorship ministers this week, to discuss the renewed calls for a change in the national laws with a view to including an 18+ rating for videogames.