R18+ Classification & Video Games: What You Can Do

r18_left.jpgThe Standing Committee of Attorneys-General recently announced that it would be asking the public for its opinion on an R18+ classification for video games. At the time this news came out, there was no word on how the SCAG would facilitate such a consultation.

That was then. Now, we have the notes from the March 28 meeting that includes all the details.If you'd like to take a peek, they're freely available on the SCAG website (Word and PDF formats).

Essentially, the SCAG's plan involves putting together a discussion paper that "canvasses options and seeks submissions" on the R18+ rating. The paper will include "relevant research and literature" as well as any amendments to the various Acts that govern the National Classification System (NCS).

This paper, once approved by the SCAG, will be made available to the public and relevant interest groups, such as the IEAA.

It sounds like a passive, round-about approach, but I believe the committee should be as informed as possible before it makes a decision. These guys deal with a lot of issues, not just classification, so while we might know the whole story, they don't.

Regardless, if you can't wait for the discussion paper, there are several avenues you can pursue to get the message across.

Office of Film and Literature Classification e-Enquiry form A web form-based suggestions page for the OFLC. But it's not just a suggestions form! According to the page, you can also throw "an enquiry, compliment, complaint or comment", as long as it involves the Classifications Board. There's also a link to the SCAG's classification policy page, but it has no contact details.

Show Rob Hulls, the Attorney-General for Victoria, your support Simply put, Rob Hulls is a champ. Here's what he had to say regarding the SCAG's decision to consult the public, taken from his official statement:

I believe that censorship laws should strike an appropriate balance between freedom of expression and community concerns about depictions that condone or incite violence, as well as the principle that minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them.

As well as:

It seems inconsistent that in Australia, adults are allowed to view 'adult only' films which have been classified R18+ by the Classification Board, but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.

Yes, Rob has the right idea. You can email him at rob(DOT)hulls(AT)parliament(DOT)vic(DOT)gov(DOT)au, if you feel you can provide him with information for the discussion paper. Sorry for the extended email address, but I'm sure Rob doesn't appreciate the Viagra spam.

It should also be noted that Bob Bebus, the Minister for Home Affairs, has taken an interest in the issue. From his statement:

Seeking community views will ensure that my fellow Censorship Ministers and I can be better informed about community views on this issue.

However, he's sitting on the fence in regards to the rating itself.

"I share concerns about the impact that high level violent content has on minors," Mr Debus said.

"This is not consultation on a proposal to introduce an R 18+ level for games. It is a public consultation process seeking community views to inform our position."

"For example, I am very interested to find out whether parents would be empowered by an R 18+ classification, which is legally restricted to adults, and whether they would find the clear labelling of high level games as R 18+ a useful tool to assist them in knowing what games minors should not play."

Finally, write an old-fashioned letter to the Secretary to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (Censorship) If you happen to adore the magical invention that is the ballpoint pen, you can scribe your concerns and arguments on papyrus and post it to the SCAG. Here's the address:

Secretary to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (Censorship)
Australian Government
Attorney-General's Department
National Circuit

Sadly, there's no email address you can attack directly, but this is better than nothing.

So don't feel like you have to sit on your hands, or your feet, if you happen to have the aforementioned appendages swapped. There's is something you can do. If anyone feels like they can contribute with other ways to inform our government, please post in the comments section. If we get enough, I'd like to put up another post compiling the options.


    Awesome, thanks for the info. I know it's probably stupid to be getting my hopes up, but damnit, they're slowly rising.

    Are there physical addresses for Rob Hulls and Bob Debus? I know that email is more convenient but in this case personally I'd rather send that sort of thing via the old fashioned route. Emails are cheap and easy and convenient so they have nowhere near the weight that a letter does.

    My email:

    Hi Rob,

    It is very rare that I write in to express my opinion. However, the current debate is one that I feel very strongly about. As a 21 year old gamer who enjoys the benefits of living in a relatively free 'democracy', it shocks me that I cannot be trusted to make my own informed decision about my entertainment choices when it comes to video games.

    The argument from the opposition is based primarily around the tenants that:
    a) Exposure to violent video games leads to social violence by young children
    b) Young children can get their hands on these video games which will affect them in a negative manner, psychologically

    For the first point, I must point out that no causal and conclusive link has yet been established. This leads me onto the second point: if the relationship was, indeed, established (which it is not), then it would make logical sense to restrict the sale of questionable video games to only those over the age of 18. This is, of course, easy to implement and police.

    In some other nations where these ratings exist, retailers must not feature R18+ games on shelves. To obtain these games, the individual must present their ID and the clerk would obtain the game from behind the counter. This is the manner in which tobacco products are purchased in Australia.

    This is not to say that there are problems with the aforementioned approach: many purchase decisions are made in-store, so retailers will be less successful in selling these products due to a lack of points of recall available for consumers. However, a purchase is better than no purchase at all. Video game publishers would also put more dollars into the Australian economy, as they try and promote these games more heavily, due to their lack of shelf presence.

    Where else can this system fail?

    As in the case of R18+ films, children can view this medium whilst their parents are absent from home. This isn't a far stretch, as almost all parents will have these films for their own enjoyment. However, what is the percentage of parents with video game platforms who also buy specific video games for themselves? My guess is that the number is quite minimal. If the parent is informed about the rating and content of the video game (a sticker saying 'attention parents: not for children' could even be included on packaging), then there is no reason for the video game to be in the household in the first place.

    Meanwhile, adult gamers such as myself can enjoy our full democratic rights as Australian citizens to make their own decisions as to which media they choose to consume.


    Stas Madorski

    Nicely put Stas, but I would like to try and bring forward a few counterpoints, or at least try to rationlise why people opposing this change feel the way they do. Dismissing their views is irresponsible as they are ours.

    a) Exposure to violent video games leads to social violence by young children
    b) Young children can get their hands on these video games which will affect them in a negative manner, psychologically

    This is part of what they believe, and I think that you can compare the argument with gun control for example. Here, it seems ridiculous to want anyone to have guns in the country, where as in the States it is considered an essential part of living in a relatively free 'democracy.' Yeah, this analogy falls short quickly but the point remains that the opposition wish to retain a certain amount of public innocence. Not only do they not want irresponsible children to play the game, but they also do not want to the irresponsible anyone to play the game. It has just as much to do with moral decay in generations as it has it falling into the child's lap. One of the core tenants of any sort of conservatism is to prevent social decay of values.

    For the first point, I must point out that no causal and conclusive link has yet been established. This leads me onto the second point: if the relationship was, indeed, established (which it is not), then it would make logical sense to restrict the sale of questionable video games to only those over the age of 18. This is, of course, easy to implement and police.

    I honestly don't think these studies affect anyones true beliefs on this subject, because if they did people from both sides of the debate would be pushing for much more research, particularly studying brain activity in comparatively to other forms of gaming, and other activities in gamers and non-gamers. I wonder if it will ever be feasible to do a test on professional sports players to see if their brain activity has similar properties.

    At the end of the day, conservative opinion on video games is that it is basically a public menace such as marijuana, because regulars of both often develop antisocial tenancies because well... some people who game don't get out much. It's that simple. Sociopaths, by definition are antisocial and it's not unrealistic that video games may play a hand in aiding them become this way. It may not be the primary factor (my bets are that it never is myself) but who is to say that if they didn't play video games in the first place then perhaps they wouldn't have strayed as much from social norms. It's feasible, and it's important.

    I hope that all makes sense. I find it utterly stupid that I have to put an argument forward for the opposition of all people, because the only views we end up seeing on here are either utterly nonsensical or fairly neutral. Thats not an attack on Kotaku either, as I think sometimes our older more conservative friends seem to have too much 'dignity' to give it much thought beyond revulsion and disgust and actually present a cohesive argument.

    I actually don't have much view on the debate which is probably why I'm presenting the other side. History reflects that the junk made that gets blocked here are typically games that spend too much time and money working out how to get the media in an uproar and not enough on making a good game. While the gamers have matured, the industry hasn't and I don't believe that we are going to see any masterpieces that essentially need their R18 levels of various adult themes to get their full impact across.

    If anything, there should be an R rating so that games like GTA come through uncensored. The idea that removing imagery of a guy humping a girl and a few other small details, then releasing the game able to be purchased by kids of any age seems irresponsible to me, at least by their own values. GTA is after all, about empowering the player with the freedom to be a gangster and menace to society and gaining power in criminal circles. As far as I can tell you can do all of that in the 'censored' version.

    In other news, long post is long.

    no email adress wtf.

    I might as well chip my message into slate and deliver it on a horse and cart, holy fuck this is some backwards shit.

    I agree with Stas Madorski's comments on the R18+ classification for video games. I too am a 21 year old gamer who would appreciate the freedom to access R18+ games in Australia.

    As far as I know, most countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia, well anywhere in the world have a 18+ classification for video games. The nature and purpose of video games is comparable if not identical to that which defines our film industry. If we have freedom to relax and enjoy excessively violent films, why is this freedom extended to games? Games and films are part of our recreational lifestyle in Australia.

    Even if you wish to take the 'psychological' approach to argue that such a classification would be detrimental to our society, please consider the following. There would be little or no psychological difference between a video game where you 'kill' another player with no blood depicted, and another game where there is copious amounts of blood/guts. Any increase in violent behavior or unsociable conduct in gamers will not be due to the level of gore in a game, if this does happen at all, it will be because of the nature of the game, ie - killing other players.

    If the Australian government is actually serious about protecting our children from violent games, they should ban ALL games that involves any crime. Of course they would never do that because that would essentially wipe out 75% of the video game market and would have massive consequences on the economy and elsewhere.

    I could go on for hours but instead I will sum up the the arguments I believe illustrate why Australia should have a R18+ classification for video games:

    Matter of choice, like in films. Freedom of expression.

    More adult gamers in Australia then ever before.

    Sales to 18+ gamers easily enforced.

    No correlation b/w level of gore and antisocial behavior.

    I dare say 90% of the world have a 18+ classification, in a time of globalism it is embarrassing that Australia censors the content we as individuals choose.

    Economic benefits. Both in terms of the general economy and of taxes for the government.

    Theres probably more, I might add to this a little later, these are just my initial thoughts on the issue.

    Dear Mr. Hull,

    I just came across a quote you said awhile back

    It seems inconsistent that in Australia, adults are allowed to view 'adult only' films which have been classified R18+ by the Classification Board, but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.

    It seem your are one of the very few people left in "power" who has common sence and for this i thank you.

    Parents these days do not want to "parent" their children anymore, you would not let your 8 year old child watch a R18+ Movie, same goes for Video game's. We need a Rating system in Australia to:

    A: Give people a break from having to parent their children.

    B: Let the average gamer (30 years old) to play what he want. (Last time i checked we are not in Communist China), (yet).

    Many People Argue that
    Young children can get their hands on these video games which will affect them in a negative manner.

    Hopefully you will bring up the point of were does a 10 year old get $120 to by this game? Children see 10 times worse on TV these days, its 4pm at time of writing this and South Park is on, now this is hardly TV for children just fished school, yet you will not see this protested.

    Myself am a 20 year old gamer, and am disgusted that I can not choice which game to play because some people are scared a 10 year old will play it, yet they can watch worse on TV/films no problem.

    Simply put we need a Game rating system, just like DVD's and the rest of the world has, A 10 year old cant by a R rated film, and shouldn't be able to with R rated Video Games.

    I salute you Sir. for standing up on this subject and for all the rest of the sheep's just following the crowd, all i can say to you is BAHHHHHH.

    Look forward to your reply,

    Jean-Michel De Goede

    i very rarely post to anything at all but someone mentioned fire arm control in relation to video games classification and i'd just like to put my 5 cents in (we dont use 2 cents anymore) that i have felt the effects of both over the top censorship laws. I am 20 years old a gamer and a licensed firearm user. Within the licensed firearm culture (in australia) there is no argument with the strict laws implaced on us as we are participants in the taboo just as gamers are. However I do believe this can change.
    I do find it interesting that i am lawfully allowed to purchase and obtain certain firearms (and do so) but i cannot purchase at all, certain video games at least in their original and intended form.
    Any feed back is most welcome, thank you.
    BTW this is just a post not a letter to anyone in particular.

    It may have been suggested already as I didn't have time to read all of this but can't you start a petition on one of the onlone petition sites.

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