The Australian Attempts Criticism of R18+ Classification for Video Games

r18_left.jpgSigh. Refuting opinions against the R18+ classification is really starting to tire me, especially when a little research on the author’s part would save me a lot of time. But hey, that’s what I’m here for.

Take this rant today by Ross Fitzgerald over at The Australian, regarding the SCAG’s decision to consult the public on the R18+ rating.Fitzgerald first remarks on a comment made by Quentin Tarantino on the OFLC qualifying the violence in Kill Bill. According to the piece, the comment was: “How violent are the movies here, when this is ‘medium’?”. Fitzgerald then goes on to ask why the SCAG, based on this comment, did not investigate “whether levels of violence in Australian entertainment are set too high”.

All I can say is Ross, that’s an excellent point. But how is an R18+ rating for video games going to hurt this situation? If anything, it’ll mean games currently slipping into the MA15+ category will be correctly rated.

Given that this is the first time SCAG is composed entirely of ALP attorneys-general…

Sorry, I’m going to stop you right here. I know it’s a lot to ask, but less political bias and more on the issue at hand, please? Take your left-wing/right-wing/turkey breast somewhere else, because we don’t care. We really don’t.

Back to the show:

… one would have thought they would have at least paid lip service to their 2007 federal election platform, which stated that the ALP was most concerned about violence and sexual violence in classification matters and that federal Labor would in fact commission an extensive research project on the impact of the portrayal of violence on our society. So why don’t the Labor attorneys-general just honour their commitment to convene this inquiry and get the research under way?

Maybe because they have? If you read the latest notes regarding the public consultation, you’ll see that the attorneys-general are in the process of putting together a discussion paper that will contain research on the issue. This is for the benefit of not only the AGs, but the public and interest groups as well. Sounds like they have the right idea to me.

I’m no supporter of Atkinson’s deep social conservatism.

Fantastic, neither are we!

Fitzgerald goes on to stipulate that R-rated films are around 80 percent violence and 20 percent sex. I’m not going to ask where these statistics are from, but I’m happy to assume, for the sake of argument, that they’re reasonably accurate. He mentions that if it’s plain old sex you’re after, there’s X-rated porn that’ll serve your purpose.

There is no suggestion that R-rated computer games will be any different from R-rated films in this regard and so this will be a category for mindless and instructive violence for those who get off on this sort of thing.

Wow. Just… wow. Way to miss the point, Fitzy. It’s okay though, I’m happy to entertain this argument. Let’s have a look at two recent games that have been banned here, but overseas received an adults-only rating.

Most recently, there’s Dark Sector. We’re getting a modified version that has no decapitation and other forms of dismemberment removed from human characters. Otherwise, it’s the same version the rest of the world has. Graphic, maybe, but I fail to see how it’s instructional, unless humans somehow gain the ability to throw glaives from their arms and aliens invade the Earth.

Next, there’s Soldier of Fortune: Payback. The OFLC banned this title, then Activision came back with a new version the board approved that had reduced ragdoll physics and blood effects, and no dismemberment. Apart for these changes, it’s the same game the rest of the world got.

Now, the setting in SoF is a lot more realistic than that of Dark Sector and the series has always been (sadly) about the gore rather than gameplay. But it’s still about a nigh-invincible mercenary jumping into foreign countries and taking out entire armies solo.

If an adult is taking instruction or “getting off” on either of these games, I don’t think the problem is with the classification system. Just like no one is going to rent out Rambo 4 in the belief it’ll make them some sort of unkillable commando. It’s just stupid.

I will say that if there’s any game that should be R-rated, it’s SoF: Payback. I actually agree with the board’s decision here – the game is pretty absurd with its violence – but denying adults the right to purchase the game as the developer intended is a disservice to our rights. It doesn’t matter if it contains mindless violence – if I want to play a game like SoF, I should be able to. Being able to separate fantasy from reality is not the issue – of course we’re mature enough to do that. We can do it for films with an R rating and we can just as easily do it for games.

Countries with R-rated games seem to handle them just fine. No riots, no violent orgies. It might have something to do with the government being mature enough to realise it’s up to parents to monitor what their kids are subjected to, but that’s just a guess.

Fitzgerald then argues that the entire classification system needs a review, citing a number of reasons including the system’s love of Hollywood violence and strong political influences. Hey, this may indeed be the case. All we’re asking is that games be treated in the same way that films and books are. Once that’s done, feel free to look at the classification system as a whole. If things need to be toned down or more regulated, fine, we’re prepared to roll with that. But as it stands, games are regarded as a kids-only pastime when research by the IEAA quite clearly shows it’s not. How can you compare forms of entertainment when they’re not even on equal terms in the eyes of the government? Now that’s utter nonsense.

He then makes this statement:

With the conspicuous exception of Atkinson, the rest of Australia’s state and federal attorneys should hang their heads in shame for trying to foist a category of computer games on us that will contain mostly mind-numbing violence.

What Fitzgerald fails to realise is that the push for an R18+ rating for video games is not about “trying to foist a category of computer games on us that will contain mostly mind-numbing violence”. Yes, I, a 24-year old games journalist, want an R18+ rating so I can enjoy mindless violence. Please. The rating is about a great many things. It’s about giving the OFLC the ability to properly rate games, reducing release delays, reducing the amount of games we import from overseas, reducing piracy and bringing our ancient classification system in line with the rest of the world. I’ve already talked about this at length.

But there are powerful forces behind this push. In 2006, sales of computer and video game hardware and software in Australia exceeded $1billion and Australians purchase 12.5 million computer and video games each year. A survey of popular Sega and Nintendo games taken a few years ago found that 80 per cent of them primarily featured violence or aggression.

Amazing! Games contain violence! So do books and movies. All three industries have lots of money behind them. Is there anything else blindingly obvious you’d like to share with us? If anything, it shows that games are an expanding industry, one that includes children, teenagers and adults. It should be considered as a form of entertainment enjoyed by people of all ages and our classification system should reflect this.

Fitzgerald wraps up his opinion with this:

… I don’t have a problem with consensual sex on film and vastly prefer it to films showing murders, rapes and serious assaults. On this I believe I carry the support of most fellow Australians. So why can’t the attorneys find a way to introduce a regulatory scheme to make non-violent erotic films legal in all our states and territories and, at the same time, keep violence away from impressionable young minds?

I can’t really argue with Fitzgerald’s approval of sex but not violence, that’s personal preference. What I can argue with is Fitzgerald’s assumption that games are just for kids. How many times can I say this: They’re not. According to the IEAA, the average age of the Australian gamer is 28. Twenty-eight. This is hardly an impressionable young mind. It’s a mind that wants the freedom to watch, read and play what it wants, without the government getting all uppity in its space. Just as Fitzgerald, who I’m assuming is an adult, is okay with sex, gamers, as adults, are okay with violence.

Feel free to add your own opinion to the proceedings. I’m interested to hear what you have to say. If you’d like to help with the push for an R18+ rating, be sure to read my post from last week.

R-rated video games sop to powerful [The Australian, thanks Patrick]


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