Michael Atkinson, No R18+ For Games In Australia: Why It Hurts Children

Michael Atkinson, No R18+ For Games In Australia: Why It Hurts Children
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Australian Gamer has posted a letter one of its readers received from Michael Atkinson, the South Australian Attorney-General against an R18+ rating for games. The letter is in response to the reader’s arguments for the new classification.

I encourage you to read Atkinson’s entire response so you can formulate your own judgement. I’ve previously dissected his position at length, and I won’t be doing it again here – I’m afraid my head would explode from the sheer ridiculousness of the situation.

What I would like to do is pull out a few key points from his letter and explain why I feel they’re “not a good enough reason” to deny an R18+ rating – to use the Attorney-General’s own words.Here’s what I believe are the AG’s main concerns, going from his response letter:
• Despite classification stickers, parents still make “bad choices” in regards to what content their children view (this is “backed” by IEAA survey data);
• Our desire for unedited games shouldn’t come ahead of protecting children from inappropriate material;
• R18+ content adds nothing to the gaming experience;
• Games classification is different to film classification, in that films can be better regulated; and
• Children and “vulnerable” adults should not accept violence as a part of everyday life.

One thing I’d like everyone to note is that these are all valid points. Ignoring Atkinson’s motivations, I can understand his logic. So, it’s not about proving Atkinson wrong, but showing that a compromise between allowing adults to see what they want, and preventing children from seeing what they shouldn’t, is possible. After all, this is what the OFLC is all about, if we’re to believe the National Classification Code.

Before we start: What the community thinks
The other point Atkinson brings up is that it’s not just about protecting children, but considering what society feels is inappropriate. In other words, despite what we may think is right and wrong as individuals, and how well we can back up our opinions, it’s the community as a whole that should influence the OFLC and Attorney-Generals.

Unfortunately, the community at large doesn’t represent the views of gamers, which we can assume are strongly in favour of an R18+ rating for games. This, combined with Atkinson’s pessimism regarding parents and their ability to make informed purchasing decisions, is the primary reason he is not in favour of the rating.

I’d like to use an analogy to illustrate the hypocrisy of this position (please ignore any religious/cultist overtones, they’re not intended). Let us assume that Michael Atkinson is our parent/guardian, and we his children. Let us also assume the other Attorney-Generals, who must vote unanimously on changes to classification legislation, represent the community.

If you’re willing to accept this as a reasonable analogy, then Atkinson, as our parent, is effectively making our purchasing decisions by disallowing the R18+ rating. We can assume he believes he is making the “right choice” based on the information he has. Yet, this decision goes against the feelings of the community. If Atkinson believes parents are, by and large, incapable of making correct and informed decisions for their children, then the decisions he makes for us, against the feelings of the other AGs, cannot also be correct and informed.

• Despite classification stickers, parents still make “bad choices” in regards to what content their children view (this is backed up by IEAA survey data)
This is one of Atkinson’s stronger points against an R18+ rating. And it’s true – parents don’t always make correct and informed choices for their children. However, I’m sure this isn’t limited to just games. DVDs, toys, chemicals – while there are laws in place to dissuade children from watching inappropriate material, swallowing small parts and consuming household cleaners, it is up to the parent to enforce these preventatives.

Atkinson acknowledges that children are able to get their hands on things they shouldn’t, and that his disapproval of an R18+ rating is really just damage control. That’s fine, I can understand that. But is suppressing an individual’s rights an acceptable compromise? I don’t believe so. If parents can learn to not give their three-year olds Lego as a birthday present and to keep ammonia on a high shelf, then they can be educated about games classification. I’m not saying it’ll be quick, cheap and painless – not at all – but if we are to reach a compromise, it has to be done.

Atkinson provides statistics from the IEAA to show that a majority of Australians are not influenced by ratings when they make their purchasing decisions. Let us ignore the fact that the average gamer is 28 – so classification, which only truly affects those aged 15 and under, could not possibly affect their decisions – and that the statistics do not say how many of these people are parents, the data only emphasises how poor a job the government has done at educating people on classification. This is hardly a point the AG should be highlighting.

Atkinson might be doing the right thing on the surface, but it’s a passive, band-aid fix (and a poor one at that) to a wider problem – a lack of education. If he’s so passionate about keeping bad stuff away from minors, he’d be taking a more aggressive stance on not just classification, but toys, drugs and the world’s other evils as well. But he doesn’t, which makes it hard to believe “protecting the children” is his objective.

• R18+ content adds nothing to the gaming experience; and our desire for unedited games shouldn’t come ahead of protecting children from inappropriate material;
On the surface, this first point seems a good one – why have explicit content if it adds nothing to the material? The answer to this question, however, is simple: it doesn’t matter. The “experience” is entirely subjective – what Atkinson believes is nothing, someone else might find poignant, groundbreaking or artistic. Freedom of expression is all about pushing boundaries. What would The Diving Bell and the Butterfly be without the scene where Jean-Do floats naked and crippled in a bath tub, or the moment in the elevator in the US version of The Departed? To some, these scenes are confronting, maybe even disgusting. To others, they are powerful and emotive. For adults, they don’t promote aggression – they promote thought.

You can’t make decisions on what’s a good or bad “experience” for adults, and to do so must surely go against society’s expectations of individual freedoms. How can we know what’s “too explicit” if we never have the chance to experience it? How can a classifications board made up of members of the community make informed decisions on censorship if they don’t know where the lines should be drawn? How can the Attorneys-General make legislation on what is and isn’t “inappropriate material” for the entire community, if their ideas of sex and violence are diluted, or even distorted? How can we protect children, while allowing adults to see and hear what they want, if we don’t have a mature idea of where the boundaries are?

I don’t want to speculate, but could the OFLC’s inconsistent application of the classification guidelines be a sign that things have become too protected and insular?

• Games classification is different to film classification, in that films can be better regulated
Atkinson says that children can be protected from films as they’re shown in public locations, as opposed to games, which are taken home and played. Let’s pretend Atkinson isn’t suggesting the 16 to 24-year olds who man ticket booths are in a better position to make classification choices than parents (even though he does). What Atkinson doesn’t acknowledge is that film classification applies to DVD and VHS movies as well, which, like games, can be taken home and viewed. Why do we have an R18+ rating for movies if this is the case? If Atkinson is willing to accept the average gamer isn’t a child, it makes no sense to disallow an R18+ rating on this basis.

• Child and “vulnerable” adults should not accept violence as a part of everyday life
I’m not sure what constitutes a “vulnerable” adult, but the sad truth is that violence is a part of everyday life. The thing is – it has little to do with video games. September 11. The Bali bombings. The invasion of Iraq. Violence is real, it’s scary, and it’s important adults and children understand why it’s wrong. Games are definitely not the way to educate – that’s not what I’m saying – but to stop adults from playing violent games because it will somehow protect them from the realities of life is naive. I don’t know about you, but after a game of C&C: Generals I don’t get the urge to build an army of tanks and declare war on the US or China. After putting down the controller in Grand Theft Auto, I don’t at all feel like driving my car off the edge of an on-ramp. Again, it comes back to education – we should be educating kids about why violence is bad, not trying to hide it from them. Giving games an R18+ rating won’t stop kids from experiencing violence, sex, etc from other sources. If forced, I’d rather a child ask about violence, sex, etc after seeing it in a simulated environment, like a game, rather than the real world.

Okay, so I did end up writing an absolutely massive chunk. My apologies.

If you decide to email the AG to voice your concerns, please do it in an intelligent and considerate manner. We’re all angry and disappointed about the state of classification, but crudeness and vulgarity are not going to win us the day.

Hon Michael Atkinson MP Responds [Australian Gamer]

Comments

  • *Games classification is different to film classification, in that films can be better regulated

    I have a difficult time taking this on as a valid point. It is currently illegal to sell all other forms of recreational products designated “adults only” to minors. Cigarettes and Alchohol require an ID check for Anyone looking close to or under the legal age. If a retailer is found breaching these laws heavy fines are enforced. From a regulatory stand point there is no reason why the same law’s couldnt apply to R 18+ content.

    One argument might be “but kids are alowed into AUS retail stores and as such might have easier access” but last time I checked Beer and Smokes are sold at Woolworths and you dont see kids throwing in a 6 pack with their packet of chewing gum… let alone getting away with it.

    Theres no reason why adult content stuff cant be held behind the counter. I mean hey its not like you dont see R18+ DVD’s on the shelf at video stores. Shit my local news agent has Penthouse sitting directly across from the Atomic’s and PC Powerplay mags.

    Australia really is quite politically progressive in some areas but almost shamefully backwards in others.

  • • R18+ content adds nothing to the gaming experience

    Whether it does or not is irrelevant.

    What companies are willing to revise their game for our small market? How much longer does it take us to get the game anyway.

    I seriously doubt fallout are going to cut out the drugs and submit a revised version for us.

    I doubt this idealistic idiot has any idea thats how it works anyway, im sure he sees games as a group rather than singular titles and blockbusters. One being as good as another.

    The result is no game at all. And thats not much of a result anyway, since everyone who wants it, finds a way to get it (illegally) on the import.

    Someone should break into this guys house and steal any M+ rated media he has, see what he has to say about that.

    The real solution is education to parents. How hard is an ad campaign? Were going backwards instead of Forwards here.

  • Well I sent Michael an email… Doubt he will read it:

    Hi Michael!

    Something you might like to know… 10% of Australia’s gamers are under the age of 18. What makes you think you know what’s right and wrong for the remaining 90%?

    Now you may be thinking “Games do not require 18+ content to make them interesting or any more enjoyable than respectable content”. That statement would be fine if game developers seen it that way. The fact is that highly entertaining games are being developed with 18+ content in them, whether it be mainly 18+ content or minimal, and these games are being sent back to be edited and later resubmitted. You must remember that these are games that are being developed for years, and the development is monitored by fans and critics to the point of release, at which point they plan to play the game that they have been following the progress of.

    To be honest Michael, the majority of the games that have been refused classification due to our lack of 18+ rating, have been terrible. Manhunt and Manhunt 2, while both displaying extreme amounts of unjustified violence, are poor quiality games. Not due to low graphics quality or what have you, but because the context of the story is poor. If the same violence was justified and portrayed in a storyline similar to the likes of the film Braveheart, it would make the content justified and bearable.

    The fact that one of the biggest titles in years has been refused classification saddens me. I refer to Fallout 3. It would be the same as refusing classification for movie titles such as the latest Rambo title or any recent war film. What the concerning part of this is that the objecting content was that the protagonist could use drugs to effect his status, he could heal himself with morphine administered by syringe, and I believe was also able to smoke and also take drugs in a pill form, much like in the real world. The only part that would bother me if this content was removed from the game would be that I never had a choice to view or not view this content. Now the concerning part is that the game was refused classification for this. Not that you are able to shoot an enemy in the head or other body part, resulting in that part basically exploding in blood and body matter once the bullet connects. So once this game is edited and the drug content is changed, players will still be able to inflict much violence upon ingame characters.

    I find it hard believe you think that people under the age of 18 will be getting their hands on content such as this, any more so then cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. What stops this? Their parents. You are basically suggesting that parents aren’t doing their job.
    Now… Michael, I’m an easy going person, I enjoy confrontation but I also am a fairly safe individual. I abide by the law. However, I and any other person who would like material refused classification and not released in Australia, will more than likely import the title from overseas or obtain it by other means.

    Of those gamers that are under 18, and I’ll remind you it’s 10% of the total gamers Australia wide; what percentage of those do you think are likely to obtain an 18+ game without there parents consent? Now answer me what percentage of the remaining portion of gamers will import the game from overseas or obtain a pirated copy? I’ll let you think about that.

    Trent Gore

  • The problem as I see it is one of education.
    Because games have become part of the mainstream so relatively quickly the current generation of parents and really the general public (other than generation y)is scrambling to keep up.
    The idea that all games are for kids is sadly still lingering around.
    Those of you old enough to remember will recall the same attitude to anime when it first started to appear on our shores. I remember seeing ‘Urotsukidoji’, ‘devil man’ and other R rated or mature anime in the kids section of the local video store due to the ignorance of people assuming because it was an animation it was for children.

    So, how are we to illuminate the unenlightened? I doubt the government will spend money on TV campaigns and pamphlets like the drug education fiasco of years past.
    Perhaps it is up to the retailers to inform the customers when they purchase such games , maybe they should be behind the counter and wrapped in opaque plastic bags like porno mags!

    As I said this issue will eventually dissolve as the gamer educated gains more power over these decisions, however in the meantime I have to work out how I will play Fallout 3 and I shouldn’t have to wait a generation to do it…

  • I completely agree with the arguments you’ve posted here against the SA AG. Even when ignoring the gross technophobic bias that he holds against gaming, his arguments are still heavily flawed. I don’t believe he should have a say in whether or not adults have to right to experience R18+ rated material in any form.

  • Logan,

    That was extremely well written and though out. Hat’s off to you good sir.

    I can not help but feel that nothing will change.

  • Logan, as always your essays on the subject are informative and interesting to read, and spot on the money. I really have nothing to add. We’ve been going around this same topic for months, and it just feels like until we get a new SA-AG then we’ll get nowhere. It’s sad, really.

  • I’ve read the previously posted disection of Atkinson’s hot air (really that’s all it is). There’s one point that I noticed in reading all this that I really have to make a point about:

    “• Despite classification stickers, parents still make “bad choices” in regards to what content their children view.”

    Well then that’s the parents’ choice/failure on their part as a parent. Why should the rest of Australians suffer due to the lack of a correct, fair and balanced rating system just because some moron chooses to be a crappy parent?

  • i didn’t read all the way through i already made up my mind that this guy is a wanker.
    I believe as a free nation we deserve the right to make the choices ourselfs not some pencil pusher.

  • I don’t mean to offend the guy, but it kinda feels like Atkinson needs some educating himself on the current society’s trends. I’m sure people have said it again and again to everyone but the important guys: This is just adding to the vicious cycle of the previous generation disapproving of the newer trends being adopted by their next of kin.

    First it was books becoming widespread, then the movies, then the talkies, then the radio, then television, then modern music, then the internet.. now it’s video games. We’re oblivious.

  • i hope that retailers will vest their frustrations with Atkinson because of the huge amount of people that have and will be importing the games. Games can be altered easily to accommodate the MA15+ rating. Movies, on the other hand, can not. It is a blessing and a shame that we even get our “australian” versions of these games. I would like to think that if these games companies such as rockstar and bethesda would REFUSE to release these games in an altered state, then there would be huge pressure to get them released here in their original glory.

  • I don’t understand what gamers over the age of 18 think they gain with R18 content.

    Is a man being dissected graphically going to make a game like Halo better?

    How does graphic violence or sexual content make a game better? Or, is it rather about the ‘ego’ behind it all, knowing that you must be a good gamer to be able to play horrible, graphic games?

    Can someone please give me a valid reason as to why people should be permitted to play horrible things, when they obviously serve no purpose?

    I await your response.

  • Great write up Logon, enjoyed reading it.
    off note: I didn’t notice your weekly home made game this week, did you suddenly bail on us?

  • @Jordan Mitchell: Firstly, thank you for your comment.

    However, it is important to understand that whether “R18” content makes a game worse, better or the same, is not the point. It’s entirely subjective. The point is that games are not treated on the same level as movies or books. It’s about equality and consistency. Atkinson himself has admitted that the average gamer is not a child. Why then are gamers treated like children?

    We have two choices when it comes to classification – we can either censor anything remotely offensive, or we can find a compromise between ratings, education and content.

    As adults, how can we keep what is offensive in perspective if the government makes the choice for us? Are you comfortable with the government telling you what you can and cannot experience? Sure, children should be protected, but the government is not allowing us as parents, guardians and people to do that. Instead of educating the public on classification, it bans any game it deems offensive. A fairly draconian reaction, if you ask me.

    You may be comfortable with the government making these kinds of choices for you, but myself, and many others, are not. By doing nothing about games classification, you’re basically saying “Yes, government, restrict what I can see. Don’t give me freedom of choice. You must know what’s right for me”.

    The US, UK, Europe, NZ – they all have an R18+ rating for games. Australia is mature enough to have one as well, surely?

  • Who cares what the classification is here in Australia and what the overzealous AG’s decide. I purchase my games digitally from overseas and any rating here in Australia will not affect my purchase of 18+ rated games from overseas.

  • @ Rick

    yes but that is for you, unlike most people in Australia, alot of them do not import or download their games. Though not having an R rating doesn’t affect you, It affects the rest of us

  • @Jordan Mitchell: A thought, not about the content itself, but about how lack of content can affect the very gameplay itself regardless of how ‘offensive’ the content actually is.

    I remember when GTAIII first came out here. I was living in Alice Springs at the time, so I was going to wait to pick up a PC copy when our local shops actually got one in. Then the game got pulled, remade and rereleased, censored. I beleive I was 19 at the time (Wikipedia tells me it was 2001). This was my first experience with outright content removal and censorship, and I still don’t own a copy of the game to this day, swearing I could not support this.

    Now: Friends of mine didn’t care, and they did buy the game. I remember at a LAN party shortly after, hearing them complaining about how difficult the game was. Then they mentioned that they consulted a strategy guide which said “Pick up a hooker to regain health at this point.” Now, with this option removed (the so called “sexual violence” being objectionable) this made the game that much harder for Australian gamers.

    Fallout 3: Our latest controversy. A game I have been waiting for with anticipation for 10 years (Fallout 2 being released in 1998). Now, in this game, I was able to choose if I wished, to use stimulants; at the risk of becoming addicted. Quite a moral dilemma, and one which I feel was very mature to enable. This was part of the very moral structure of the game: Your choices would directly affect your world and gameplay experience. Now, this option is being taken out for Australian gamers (one can only assume they will remove the content and resubmit). Here is another core gameplay element being removed in the guise of obscenity.

    Now, I’m 25 at this point in time. I have never taken drugs, smoked, commited any violent acts, robbed banks, killed prostitutes or cheated on my taxes. You’ll note in the above content, which has been deemed R18+ there was no mention of your “graphic violence” or “sexual content”.

    If you consider implied sex such as in GTAIII (picking up the hookers shows a bouncing car) to be sexual content (implied sex being allowed in M15+ movies and some PG if it’s contextual) then I suggest you are in the minority.

    If you consider complex moral choices regarding substance use to be mature…you’d be right! I wouldn’t want kids making those choices, they’re not equipped psychologically to do so. WE as adults ARE. Hence why they would come under R18+. I’m not suggesting every game should have this content. Fallout 3 presents this in a mature and not at all gratuitous light… the way it should.

    I actually happen to agree with Atkinson’s argument behind “Blitz: The League” that kind of drug content is just stupid, much like the sexual content we’ve seen previously. But just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean consenting adults shouldn’t have access to it.

    My sincere apologies for the length of this diatribe, I got myself on a roll and couldn’t quite stop.

  • I’ve got no legal know-how at all, so please excuse me but…I know it’s a very American approach, but can we sue them somehow?

    Get a Judge to make them change it? Or perhaps more realistically, bring up the topic with the National Bar Association?

  • Perhaps, instead of lobbying the SA Attorney General since he is clearly not going to change his mind about this issue, we should be lobbying his bosses the South Australian Labor government ministers; especially the Premier Mike Rann.

    Tell them that we take the issue seriously; and that we will use our vote to record our displeasure at the situation. If they receive enough of this sort of feedback, something may be done about it.

    For the record, I voted Labor at the last few elections. I’m seriously considering voting for the opposition the next time around, partly because of the censorship issue.

  • This guy is a son of a bitch and an attention seeker. How the fuck does some1 who thinks he is living in the 1920s in Adelaide which in itself is a city 20 years behind. fucking get to dictate my life in Sydney that old motherfucker. THis is a fucking joke.

    Fuck u Michael Atkinson u ass fuck. GTFO of Australia u product of 1000 previous whores.

  • This was my Email to the man living 100 years ago:

    Dear AG,

    I grow tired of your decisions dictating the games i can play. Have u come to realize perhaps, that you are yesterdays and your ultra conservative stance and fascist viewpoint on withholding sales of incredibly popular games might indicate to you that its time to modernize?

    You, and your team of imbeciles that refuse to adopt and r18+ classification system for games in order “to protect children” are only kidding yourselves as many individuals who would be the game in anycase, will just import them from overseas and guess what there isnt a thing you can do about it. I find it laughable that there exists and R18 classification for movies and not games, quite the contradictory stance if i may say so. So children get exposed to R18+ in movies just as easily as they would in games. Why is it that your prehistoric viewpoint on this issue leaves Australia lacking a descent classification system, and moreover leaves it AS ESSENTIALLY THE ONLY DEVELOPED NATION without a R18+ classification system. What we need is Reasonably youthful individuals in your chair, as obviously your views are meant for an age with no television.

    Good day.

    P.s i would be more than happy if you would leave your office and im sure the average Australian gamer (age 28) would be too. You are a joke.

  • Guys, I’ll say this again.
    For the love of god (or at least your anus) DON’T IMPORT!!

    Why?! Because you’ll either slapped with a 20,000 dollar charge or thrown into jail for 5~10 years!!

    If you want the game badly (I can’t believe I’m saying this) TORRENT IT.

    As illegal as it is to download pirated software, it’s even MORE illegal to import banned software.


    What the **** kind of world are we coming to?!

  • Ok so say this was prohibition and it’s alcohol rather than R video games we’re talking about.

    • Despite classification stickers, parents still make “bad choices” in regards to what content their children DRINK (this is “backed” by IEAA survey data);
    • Our desire for ALCOHOL shouldn’t come ahead of protecting children from inappropriate material;
    • ALCOHOL content adds nothing to the SOCIAL experience;
    • ALCOHOL classification is different to film classification, in that films can be better regulated; and
    • Children and “vulnerable” adults should not accept ALCOHOL as a part of everyday life.

    Makes it seem something lifted out of George Orwell’s 1984 doesn’t it. When you compare what he’s comparing to another item you can see how narrow the thinking is.

    I have to admit I doubt I would be a R+ gamer but I don’t agree with that thinking at all.

    To think all games are for children in the eyes of these people or adults are “vulnerable”, What? people need the nanny state to make their decisions and think for them? Never may that be. With prohibition that decision was made and the results are clear today when I can go to Dan Murphy’s, get a nice botttle of Scotch and drink moderately.

  • To Attorney General Michael Atkinson,

    I’m a 21 year old university student currently based in Perth, and I am writing in regard to Australia’s current lack of a R18+ classification for our video games. I realise you already have a lot on your plate as an attorney general and recognise that your position is a demanding one, however I was hoping you could spare the time to read this letter and to hear my perspective on the games classification issue.

    First, allow me to start by saying I have been playing video games since I was a young boy, around the age of seven. In all that time, I’ve played all manner of violent games and have followed the growth of the video game industry with keen interest. For me, video games haven’t only been a great source of entertainment. They’ve also been a great source of stress relief. I’ve never emulated the behaviour or violent actions that take place in the games, nor have I seen anyone else attempt to do so as a result of playing these violent games.

    That said, I recognise the danger violent games pose to the minds of Australia’s youth, especially as graphics are far more realistic now than they were when I was a boy. Even though up to this point you have acted with the best of intentions, I feel I must politely disagree with your choice to reject the R18+ classification. I personally feel the lack of R18+ is endangering Australia’s youth more than it’s protecting them. Allow me to elaborate a bit on this.

    When I’m not studying at Murdoch University, I work for EB Games, the most dominant chain of video game stores in Australia at this time. When I’m on the job, I try to be vigilant when it comes to the kinds of games I’m selling to people, especially minors. However, I continue to be shocked by just how many parents will carelessly buy their children MA15+ games, especially when the child in question is scarcely 10 years of age.

    One particular series of games that we have a lot of young children asking for is Grand Theft Auto (GTA). I’m not sure how familiar you are with the series or its controversial history, but whilst every game in the series has been given a MA15+ rating in Australia (often after some modifications made by the developer), the GTA titles are incredibly mature games, scarcely appropriate for teenagers, let alone children! If I see a parent buying any of the GTA titles for a child, I’ll first make a point of telling them the kind of content the game has; heavy violence, drug use, profanity, prostitution, etc. In some cases the parent will look at me in utter shock and immediately put the game back on the shelf with the child usually protesting quite loudly. Unfortunately what happens more often is that the parent will say something along the lines of “Well, it’s only MA15+ so it can’t be that bad.”

    And GTA isn’t the only games being purchased in this fashion, there are countless other violent titles that despite MA15+ ratings are getting into the hands of young, easily-influenced children. I feel that a lot of the games we sell on our shelves that carry the MA15+ classification could quite easily slip into an R18+ classification, had it been available. Imagine the difference that could have been made for example, if all the GTA games carried R18+ ratings? A lot more parents would think twice before buying such titles for their children and more importantly it ensures that the game is only being sold to its target audience, mature adult gamers. This is the other point I wanted to touch base on briefly.

    I must confess, the fact that Australia is the only country in the world to not have an R18+ classification has been a point of great frustration for me. To be fair, what few titles have thus far been refused classification haven’t been particularly good, or interesting. However I find it a little upsetting that despite being an adult, I’m being denied the freedom to buy games developed for more mature audiences, I don’t really appreciate that my most beloved pastime is treated as something that only children should be able to enjoy.

    Given the frightening speed that computer graphics are improving, it’s not going to be long before more and more games have to be refused classification because of how realistic they are becoming in their portrayal of violent acts. This could in turn hurt the Australian economy, as more and more people will look to illegally import their games. I already know several people that do this just so they can have the original, unmodified product, the way the developers originally intended them.

    I think to really protect the children of Australia, the best solution is to add an R18+ classification, to ensure that we have less inappropriate games in the MA15+ classification, and even more importantly, to better educate parents on the importance of these classifications and how they should be taking a more active part in the lives of their children by monitoring what games they are playing.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, I sincerely appreciate it and hope you’re able to take something away from it.

  • Gee.. Attorney General for South Australia? The same state where you can have a strip club and a church almost side by side?

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that one person can enforce their own morality on the Australian public. Look at Tony Abbot at the federal level – who used his religious beliefs in his decision making on health policy issues.

    The sooner this clown in South Australia leaves office or the constitution is challenged about allowing 1 short sighted individual hold the country to ransom the better.

  • That letter from Atkinson is such a trite piece of demagoguery and a perfect example of the nanny-state attitude to treating everyone like children who don’t know what is good for them.

    Their inability to discern between mature, socially relevant choices within a mature environment, and childish pandering to power fantasies is absolutely ridiculous.

  • What people like Jordan Mitchell seem to be negating is the fact that it’s not always just a matter of having a game ‘censored’. Some games are simply not released due to a single element the OFLC deems ‘unsuitable’. There could theoretically be just one 30 second long sex scene for example that only just falls outside of the MA15+ classification and then the publishers/developers decide it’s simply not viable to release the game in Australia in an edited form.

    But even so, as stated, the quality of the game(s) in question is absolutely irrelevant in the big scheme of things. Us adults should be able to make our own choices. It’s laughable that cigarettes and alcohol are freely available yet a game with some drug usage isn’t. Stuff that has been banned from games in Oz is common place in MA15+ and R18+ movies. It doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. Many many adults only activities (which are far more harmful to minors) are freely accessible in Australia. Is Michael Atkinson really suggesting that video games are more harmful to kids than alcohol or smokes? If Alcohol and cigarettes can be effectively policed then why can’t the sale of R18+ games?

    In any case one man dictating 21 million people is not democracy. Why because of one state do the rest have to suffer? Australia is a federation with independent state jurisdictions, shouldn’t they be free to decide for themselves? Is that not the entire point of a state? Why not simply change the system to allow for a majority vote? If Atkinson doesn’t want an R18+ rating in South Australia then fine don’t apply such a rating in S.A.

  • A very well thought out piece of writing Logan.

    On a lighter note, and I quote, “I’ve previously dissected his position at length, and I won’t be doing it again here – I’m afraid my head would explode from the sheer ridiculousness of the situation.”

    and then,

    “Okay, so I did end up writing an absolutely massive chunk. My apologies.” Hahaha….exploded much?

    I’m over ‘hating’ Atkinson. It just takes too much energy. Not to be a defeatist, but I just think changing his position will be as easy as moving a mountain.

  • This is such bull dust, this guy is so out of touch it’s not even funny. And the OFLC is so inconsisten with it’s rulings that they lose all credibility in my book.

    Is there some sort of online petition for this?

  • People, are you reading the subtext of what the Attorney General statement?

    The AG could be claiming that video games cause tumors and strange growths of hair on the nose for all that it matters. His statement is open end with lots of vague, ‘may’ and ‘could’ ultimately displays its disregard for the facts with a prominent fuck you.

    I’m no expert on South Australia’s ALP, or its politics but my experience has found that these issues are a football to pollies who love nothing better then to pick em up and run em down the field for the perfect try. Who knows what’s happening with SA’s ALP party, and its notorious right wing. What sort of posturing and positioning that goes on and as Machiavellian as the Battle Tech story

    Anyway what does he have to lose? He insults at best a small cottage industry that has barely any benefits to local employment, and knows full well that no he’d never lose a vote based on this policy.

    I’m a serious gamer and put my money where my mouth is and yet if this politician was advocating the same polices as I believed then I too would vote for him even with his opposition to R18.

    Computer games simply aren’t that important.

    My last case in point, imagine if I was really into scrabble and Parker Brothers wanted to release a nudie version, or a gorey violent zombie one (graphic pictures covering the board and tiles).

    Would anyone really care about how my freedom to roll around in the filth of zombie porn scrabble was curtailed because the government moved to ban its release? Of course not. You’d laugh (and hell it be a beaut story for Kotaku) and go on with life, not caring whatsoever about the the few zombie porn loving aficionado’s out there and their loss.

    Now hardcore gamers (and i’m not talking about general gamers here as they obviously don’t count) would barely make up 1-5% of the population (yes that figures out my ass but I figure there are more aboriginal out there then there are hardcore gamers). The fact that we’ve presided and are responsible for the absolutely poverty and decline of that group clearly illustrates that a smaller minority of people, i.e. hardcore gamers, would have to (and I hope) far less in the the consciousness of the nation.

  • @ Stropp

    Atkinson helped Rann take power of the Labor party with his right wing faction “Unity” (a misnomer if I’ve ever heard of one). So don’t expect Rann to be swayed from supporting his right hand man.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, we need leadership from the IDGA and GDAA to do more than beg the federal government for money.

    They need to put political pressure onto politicians over this issue, make the average person aware of this issue and what is at stake.

    And we need to start framing this in terms politicians can understand. Money.

    I’m no mathematician, but lets look at some simple numbers.

    Let’s say the game cost $100, which is around RRP.

    Say 250,000 people were going to buy Fallout 3, which is not a long stretch by any means.

    If every person who was going to buy Fallout 3 now imports it, that’s nearly $25 million that is NOT spent locally. That’s a lot of money going out of the country.

    Considering GST is 10%, that’s roughly $2.5 million the government misses out on.

    Amplify that across the sales of all “RC” games, and you’ve got quite a lot of money the government is missing out on.

  • @Wombat That’s really the price for importing restricted goods? Huh. In that case, I think I’ll be putting in an order with my good friends at GameTraders.

  • Mark my words… Michael Atkinson’s name will appear in the news again I’m sure of it when he’s indited for child porn…

  • I am a game developer and I like to think I am a reasonable human being also.

    I think the most frustrating part of this whole debate is the sheer lack of understanding and inconsistency from those against an R18+ rating.

    Part of me understands there fears, I totally agree that children shouldn’t view these products, most of my fellow game developers do as well, one of the reasons we are so keen to see the R18+ rating in Australia.

    It’s a very easy leap to make that the depiction of drugs, violence and/or sex in video games will somehow corrupt our youth.

    The problem is it is naive and ill informed.

    If there was any compelling proof for their arguments I’d stand behind them 100% and I make video games for a living.

    The funny thing is, I don’t think that most studios actually use the full potential with which the subject matter has to offer.
    In film and literature you will often find it used in a provocative manner, however in games on the most part any depth is generally boiled down into uninspired shock value. Maybe thats why we are such an easy target?

    However, this is not to say games can’t use these themes to produce thoughtful, confronting and meaningful comments on the human condition.

    To stifle our creative freedom is appallingly archaic as it is, but to halt our personal freedoms as consenting adults is an attack on our very rights and for me something far more frightening than what they are trying to protect us from.

    Apart from the obvious fear of a police state mentality, I have two major issues with the stance of AG Michael Atkinson.

    Firstly, if he has such a strong moral issue with the content contained in R18+ media it should be a consistent one, his current stance shows more political posturing than passion, by attacking one section of the community he is seen to be ‘protecting the kiddies’ however he hasn’t offended the majority by saying something along the lines of, “All violent and sexual media should be banned in Australia.”, that would be too much of a risk.

    In some ways I’d at least respect that amount of conviction however this is merely a stunt to appease his constituents.

    Secondly, the continual vilification of the interactive nature of games is really quite flawed.
    To somehow find a link that since I have a controller to manipulate the actions of a game I am somehow more likely to be adversely effected by it content is ridiculous.

    If that was the case then surely the fact that literature uses 100% interactive thought to create immersion is far more troubling?

    I can tell you right now that the human imagination is far more capable of atrocities than any of the media that would fall into the R18+ rating.

    When I read about wartime atrocities the images my mind conjures up are far more confronting to me than anything I have seen or will see in film, TV and games yet there is no one wanting to see literature banned.

    In the end it just feels like Michael Atkinson and his supporters have unwittingly aimed there moral cannons at the wrong people.

    Education is the key, not the typical knee jerk censorship politicians are so fond of.

    It all depends on how hard our leaders want to work, or in this case ‘be seen’ to be working.

  • I would like to point out to Mr Atkinson that whilst he views himself as some sort of moral guardian and protector of Australias children, the current ‘broken’ ratings system in Australia has achieved exactly the opposite effect in keeping questionable material away from minors.

    The best case scenario of this is GTA4 which was released in Australia with very minor edits which allowed it to be sold to 15 year olds in this country. These edits did not remove any of the most explicit material from the game and unlike the rest of the modern world where the game was only to be sold to 18+ year olds, in Australia it was legally sold to kids!

    Surely an 18 Rating would mimise the instances of this occurring and would make it clear to parents that certain content is not suitable for those under a certain age. It is then up to parents to monitor what their children are purchasing, viewing and playing.

  • @ chugs

    A small cottage industry? Wow you’re as out of touch as he is. The global gaming industry is now arguably larger than the film industry.

    The reason people in this country put up with having their lives dictated like this is because Australians are politically ignorant and stupid. Australians are too laid back to really consider the long term consequences of not giving a shit about how their country is being run.

  • Well, I’m just going to take my preorder deposit from this game and go spend it on the cheapest ugliest drug fucked hooker i can get my hands on.

  • What happens when a video game has movies within it? I submit both Wing Commander 3 and Wing Commander 4 for your consideration. Both are considered to be brilliant games… here’s the thing though… Wing Commander 4 is rated Mature 17+ in the USA (it has some pretty bad gore in the cutscenes) nothing we’re seeing today is as extreme as video footage of a guy getting his throat slit or a person getting gutted by kilrathi claws (in LIVE ACTION VIDEO!) no less. These laws are ridiculous. a film has 50 times the gore and yet it makes it through when a game doesn’t? not to mention the ratings being applied now were totally skipped on older games. This needs to be changed and quickly it’s making Australia a laughingstock.

  • In regards to the issue of Australian government not allowing an R18+ classification to games, I myself think its ridiculous, there is one point no-one seems to be addressing. If there was an R18+ rating allowed for games underage people would find it considerably harder to get their hands on, well in comparison to the MA15+ rating, this is due to the fact that MA15+ can be bought for underage persons by a parent or guardian which accompanies them, whilst an R18+ rating is legally restrictive and sale can be refused if it being thought to be supplied to a minor whereas the MA15+ rating can’t be refused. That will definitely put an end to a 10 year old coming in with good old responsible mum and dad and simplying saying “I want that one”.

  • This is what I emailed to M. Atkinson.

    {{{{{

    To Mr. Atkinson

    The other day I walked into a Pizza shop and waited for my meal. A plasma TV was on display showing channel V (the music channel). I watched as a Father and son walked in and sat down beside me. The sons eyes were glued to the screen. I also began watching it.

    First a film clip was shown where 10 people (majority female) danced around in a room completely naked in sexual poses. Small content filtering bars barely covered them. The father was not watching the clip but his son was very intently.

    The clip that came afterwards was ‘Flashing Lights’ by Kayne West. At the end of the clip a woman in her underwear is seen killing a man in her car with a shovel. The video can be seen here:
    http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=mEccxPPwXmI

    At first I thought that maybe I should complain to the storeowner. Perhaps write them a letter. Maybe complain to the police. Maybe these things should be restricted.

    I’m going to University and am studying to become a teacher. I was ducks in my earlier degree. I’m also an avid gamer. If you have stuck with me this long I would like to thank you for your patience. I’m not here to complain about your stance on the R18+ issue (although one of my favourite games has been affected by the ban: Silent Hill, violence being an integral part of the emotion the game is trying to produce, horror).

    I just wanted to let you know that as a teacher and also someone who takes care of children on a regular basis I agree with your points. But at the same time violence, sex, and other adult themes are (and will always be) part of life. There are so many forms of adult themes that children already have access to. A child could purchase a game for $100. That same child is still able to purchase a R18+ DVD (ie: pornography) for less than

    My final point:
    If you REALLY care about the children of this country, instead of keeping things from us launch a government ad campaign that educates parents and adults of the ratings system (not just for games, for movies and other media too). We have already seen similar campaigns for smoking and fatal car accidents. Build up the Australian people’s morals instead of their ignorance. Make them aware instead of blinding them from the world that will always exist around us.

    The western world is going to continue down this trend of moral depravity with or without us. It is only going to get worse. Please make sure our people are ready for the decline in values not by building walls on our shores but rather our minds. We must adapt.

    Sincerely,
    James *********

    P.S: If you haven’t already seen this:
    http://www.kotaku.com.au/games/2008/07/michael_atkinson_no_r18_for_games_in_australia_why_it_hurts_children.html

    }}}}}

  • February 4, 2011 at 2:09 PM
    People are obviously more likely to be violent because of your restrictions.

    There is strict and there is too strict.

    Lets say I was a child.

    Let’s say 15 years old.

    Lets say you tried to rule my life like you are doing to Australian adults right now.

    If you were my dad; I would be the one to grow up and whoop your ass for being such a judgmental prick always thinking you know what’s right.

    Well you’re not doing this to children you’re doing it to adults and your outdated ideals are actually in turn detrimental to those that you try to protect.

    Michael Atkinson: You obviously lack common sense because every statement I read about you makes you look like a bigger and more arrogant idiot every day. Grow up, pull your finger out of your ass and let us Adults get on with being adults.

    I have probably seen more violence, drugs and sex than you have ever seen in your life and I believe I would be more kind, caring and one HELL of a lot less judgmental than you.

    Seeing violence does not create violence. Watching the twin towers blow up does not make me want to do it myself. When I saw that shit on TV I was horrified. As you can OBVIOUSLY tell those idiots who bombed the towers were defected from a young age.

    It is obvious that the guardians of children in 99.99% of all cases are the providers of the guidelines in which children will spend the rest of their lives following.

    Parents need to be more in tune and educated rather than ignorant and censored.

    As I said I think it is YOU who needs to grow up and STOP thinking you know what is best because you’re doing a terrible job.

    Hopefully you will die soon so we can all get on with enjoying our media without you fucking it for the rest of us.

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