This analysis compares the classifications assigned to films and games by different countries. Classifications around the world can be substantially variable as are the symbols, names and meanings used on classification labels. It is interesting to find out what is similar and what is different between New Zealand's classification system and those of other countries.
The classifications assigned to films and games by different countries are substantially variable as are the symbols, names and meanings used on classification labels. Nevertheless, it is interesting to compare New Zealand classifications with those of other jurisdictions to find out what is similar and what is different between us.
To enable comparisons to be made, we have developed and applied a scoring system. Classifications are listed and ranked in increasing order of age restriction. A numerical score is attached to each classification, with less restrictive ones receiving lower scores. In general, classifications allowing parental/caregiver accompaniment below a given age are considered weaker than those that have an enforced age restriction.
260 films and 112 games are included in the analysis for 2012 and 2013. The film titles were mainly for cinematic release, but in some jurisdictions were only released in home viewing formats. Respectively, 102 films and 77 games were classified in all of the jurisdictions compared.
Note that the samples are selected from films and games that the New Zealand Classification Office deals with, that is, content for mature or age-restricted audiences. In New Zealand, classifications of films and games for general or younger audiences are adopted from Australia or the United Kingdom and supplied with an equivalent local label displayed.
The comparisons for film show that:
- Overall, film classifications in New Zealand are less restrictive than those of Singapore and the United Kingdom, and more restrictive than those of the United States, Ontario, and Australia.
- The average strength of film classifications in all six jurisdictions (for 2012/13) has changed little since our last report (for 2010/11).
- Film classifications in the United Kingdom are most consistent with New Zealand’s with 75% of titles in our comparison receiving a similar classification.
- Film classifications in the United States are the least consistent with New Zealand's with just 18% receiving a relatively consistent classification.
- In general, the greater range of age restrictions available in New Zealand (R13, R15, R16, R18 etc) means that decisions can be tailored more here than in jurisdictions with fewer labeling options. This means that in some jurisdictions a wide variety of content will receive the same classification. For example, there are only two restricted ratings for films in the United States and 87% of the film sample was rated R in that jurisdiction. The ESRB system for games (used in the United States and Ontario) also has only two restricted ratings, and 91% of the game sample was rated M17+ by the ESRB (all other titles were unrestricted).
- Australian film classifications are generally more liberal than New Zealand’s mainly due to Australia's MA15+ classification. The Australian system places more emphasis on parental choice than New Zealand's.
- The United Kingdom’s system is the most similar to New Zealand’s, but its overall strength score is higher mainly because titles classified M in New Zealand were almost all restricted in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom does not have a classification equivalent to New Zealand’s unrestricted M ‘suitable for mature audiences 16 years and over’.
- United States classifications are generally more liberal than New Zealand's, however, a significant number of M titles in New Zealand are rated 'R' in the United States. This may be because of differences in our levels of concern about depictions of sex, nudity, and offensive language.
- Ontario’s system is based on parental consent rather than full age restrictions, even more so than Australia's. Nine out of 10 films in the sample were given a partial ‘parental accompaniment’ restriction in Ontario. Overall, it is a much less restrictive system than New Zealand’s.
- Singapore’s film classification system is the most restrictive of those compared. It is the only jurisdiction with an R21 classification (the highest age restriction in other jurisdictions is 18). While many titles received a classification relatively consistent with New Zealand's, there were a significant number of outliers. The Singapore sample also included the most number of titles modified by cuts in order to receive a lower classification.
- Of the 102 titles classified in all jurisdictions, the most highly restricted was the film Blue is the Warmest Color, followed by Shame.
The comparisons for games show that:
- Overall, game classifications in New Zealand are less restrictive than those of the United Kingdom and Ontario, and more restrictive than those of Singapore, Australia, and the United States.
- The average strength of game classifications in different jurisdictions (for 2012/13) is similar to our last report (for 2010/11).
- There have been changes since our last analysis however: the United Kingdom is included in the games comparison as it began enforcing the European PEGI system in 2012, and Australia began using an R18+ classification for games in 2013.
- Having adopted the European PEGI system and legally enforced its age ratings, the United Kingdom now has the most restrictive classification system for games of any jurisdiction in our study. Game classifications in the United Kingdom are most consistent with New Zealand’s: 89% of titles in our sample received a relatively consistent classification in both jurisdictions.
- Game classifications in the United States are the least consistent with New Zealand's, with just 18% of the sample receiving a relatively consistent classification.
- For games classified in Australia in 2012, only 14% of titles were relatively consistent with New Zealand's, but this rose to 49% in 2013 after the introduction of an Australian R18+ classification for games. The overall impact of the introduction of R18+ is that games were more restrictively classified in Australia in 2013 than in New Zealand.
- The ESRB system in the United States is the least restrictive system for game classification because it is not legally enforced. However, when fully enforced in Ontario, the system is more restrictive than New Zealand’s.
- Singapore’s game classification system is considerably less restrictive than its system for films, and is one of the least consistent in this regard when compared with other jurisdictions.