A few short months before the new R18+ rating category for video games is set to become Australian law, the Classification Board has released the guideline document that outlines where the lines will be drawn between the new classification divisions (thanks Kotaku
As Kotaku points out, the document disappointingly makes reference to the interactive nature of computer games necessitating tighter controls than other passive media formats -- a notion that has been diluted by plenty of studies over the years, and never supported by any conclusive findings.
Interactivity is an important consideration that the Board must take into account when classifying computer games. This is because there are differences in what some sections of the community condone in relation to passive viewing or the effects passive viewing may
have on the viewer (as may occur in a film) compared to actively controlling outcomes by making choices to take or not take action.
Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also increase the impact of some content.
Overall, the newly-defined R18+ category does not appear to be much more accommodating of adult-themes than MA15+ is under the current system, however, we do feel that it's important to remember that the discretion of the Classification Board staff tasked with deciding a game's rating will undoubtedly be affected by the simple, yet powerful distinction that an R18+ sticker on the box will exhibit.
You can browse the official ACB guideline document in it's entirety here at classification.gov.au