Queenland AG's Office Writes On R18+ Issue, Makes Dumb Statement

Reader Dean has sent in a letter he received from the office of the honourable Kerry Shine, Queensland's Attorney General, regarding the need for an R18+ rating for video games. While the AG wasn't in a position to reply, Derran Moss, his Senior Policy Advisor, was. His response is thought-out, if a little generic, and makes mention of the SCAG discussion paper. Sadly, in the sixth paragraph Mr Moss shows just how narrow-minded our politicians are about video games:

Effective enforcement of the R18+ classification may also be difficult to achieve where the product is located in the home and parents/guardians are unlikely to have the skills, time or opportunity to appropriately monitor computer game use by minors under their supervision.

The sheer dumbness of this statement stuns me. What sort of skills does a parent need to stare at a computer screen or the classification sticker on the box? How hard is it to not buy an inappropriate game or take it away if a mistake is made? No harder than doing it with DVD movies, which do have an R18+ rating and haven't caused kids to go on murderous rampages, despite being available in homes.

To Moss' credit, he does admit that adults "should be entitled access to R18+ classified computer games", so there's hope yet for Queensland and the rest of Australia.

Oh, and to any politicians against R18+ who may be reading this, please stop with the "can't be regulated at home" argument. It's bullshit.

I've included JPEGs of the letter after the jump, if you'd like a read. [Thanks Dean]


Comments

    They want to protect children...

    Yet they wont institute a rating that would prevent people under 18 purchasing them.

    They dont see that they're forcing games that could be put into the R Rating, into the MA rating, meaning the children are able to gain access to the material easily...

    I dont see why they cant make it like Liquor...change the MA 15+ to MA16+ and pass legislation that stores have ask for ID when either kids or parents with kids present purchasing the game..

    You wont stop it from getting into the hands of kids...but you might wake parents up to the fact that these ratings actually mean that there may be questionable material that isnt suitable for younger people.

    Logan, the R18+ sticker only works at the point of sale. Any adult I know who is not into games can't tell a kids game from any other by looking at the screen, and I'm sure if a child wanted to disguise the R18+ sticker it wouldn't be hard...

    The senior policy advisor makes an intelligent and informed statement.

    What I'm shocked at is why people aren't happy with playing games, why do they need increasingly violent, sexual and low-social standing games?

    "MA15+ is a legally restricted classification. Computer games classified MA15+ can only be sold or hired to people 15 years or older, unless they are accompanied by their parent or guardian, or in Queensland by an adult."

    (Excerpt from Classification Board fact sheet for retailers)

    Obviously this tool is not parent. Neither am I for that matter, but at least I have common sense!

    Please, politicians... get this in your head. Parents are not stupid enough to buy games with a R18+ rating (if there was one) if they have kids at home. And even if they did, I'm sure they'd keep it well away from the minors, like in a safe or something. Have you ever heard of a parent who had willingly given Grand Theft Auto to a 6 year old?
    Let's get this straight once and for all.
    Video games do NOT have ANY significant psychological/mental impact on the player. Very little or none at all.

    @Jonathan: I agree the letter is for the most part informed. I mention this in the article.

    As for the R18+ sticker - if a child is going to the effort of covering up a classification sticker to trick their parent, that's an issue of trust between the child and parent. The government should not be compensating for bad parenting. If parents are unable to determine the difference between a G, PG, M, MA15+ and R18+ rating, then that's their fault, and the government's fault, for not staying educated on classification. No one said being a parent is easy!

    Regardless, parents should be monitoring what their kids play. If they can recognise violence in a movie, then they should be able to recognise it in a computer game as well, and take appropriate action.

    Even more important is the issue of censorship. As adults, the government doesn't tell us what movies we can and cannot see, so why should it be the same with games? I don't know about you, but I'm not comfortable with a government that won't let me see or play what I want.

    As for "increasingly violent, sexual and low-social" games? Wow... you make games out to be murder or sex simulators. Is The Godfather low brow? How about The Departed? Should Batman be condemned for its violent and dark content? Of course not! These movies have compelling characters and stories, and touch on real world issues. They make us think and feel, and sometimes they do that in a confronting way. Games do the exact same thing and should not be penalised for doing so, simply because our politicians are narrow-minded and ill-informed.

    I hate it when people categorise games as something only kids do or have an interest in. Does that mean all the adults that create, publish and sell games are sexual deviants and prone to violence? No, and to say otherwise is ridiculous. They want to tell a story and craft an immersive, compelling experience, and are harnessing the power of the medium to do that.

    Jonathan, if the R18+ classification was enforced at the point of sale, how did this "child" get the game in the first place without their parent's knowledge?
    And regardless of people wanting "increasingly violent, sexual and low-social standing games", I believe the introduction of an R18+ rating would serve to better protect children.
    Firstly it sends a clear message that some games are intended for adult audiences, and are not suitable for children. The currently the lack of any "adults only" categroy helps to support the misguided notion that "all games are for kids".
    Secondly as it stands we are constantly seeing violent games that probably should be R rated squeeze through with an MA15+ rating so that the Classification Board doesn't have to ban them outright. In the most extreme cases, if a game is refused classification, minor changes get made to the most objectionable content so that the game can squeeze through with an MA15+ rating. But these are still games that were intended for adult audiences.
    Do you really think the removal of a few blood splatters from GTA IV or the word "morphine" from Fallout 3 makes the remaining themes and content of these games suitable for people 15-years-old or younger?
    Because until we get an R18+ rating, these games will keep being shoe-horned into the MA15+ category.

    Skills, time or the opportunity?

    What about alcohol or cigarettes? I'm sure most parents leave a 6 pack around. Or a pack of cigarettes if they smoke. Will they have the TIME, OPPORTUNITY or SKILLS to prevent them from becoming addicted to cigarettes or getting drunk. Trust a government institution to come up with a statement like this. Retards.

    Consider the ESRB rating system - there's a few extra ones than we have, and M is restricted to 17+, but the 18+ rating, which is AO, is almost as effective as a ban on a game, because many retailers refuse to sell games of that classification.

    Remember the alternative here in Australia - the R18+ rating. I believe that all shops would sell R rated games like normal, just like R rated DVDs.

    Is this an indication that R18 would be similar to America's M17? The ages vary between the two systems quite a bit, but that would mean that we're effectively missing a rating AND too strict on classification.

    Do we need an X rating for games? I believe not. And the age restrictions on each level is fine too. More games would receive R18 ratings here than AO in the US because of the age gap between 15 and 17. But the Classification Board seems to be too strict on judging the appropriateness of a game's content.

    You only need to look at certain recent games that have been "censored" to be appropriate for our country. (And what little was actually changed.) The concept in itself is ridiculous. Soon the developers will get tired of our arcane content judgement and just give us the German version, complete with hamburgers instead of blood, ruining any sense of immersion.

    Look at the current state of Third Party publishers on Steam. There is a significant number of publishers that don't let Australians buy digital copies of their games. You'll probably find that so many games are "silently censored" before being submitted to the Board, and so they are not allowed to let Australians purchase and play the "uncensored" version.

    @marcus: Unfortunately I can't agree with you on the whole "parents aren't stupid enough" thing. I've seen many parents doing stupid things with their children. Just a couple of months ago I was in a local video store, and a woman was there with her son (about 10ish) and told him to pick a movie. He picked the ne american pie (i think it was the band camp one, but can't be sure) which I'm pretty sure is MA. She didn't bat an eye, and just added it to the ones she was holding.

    However, I definitely agree with logan, correcting the idiocy of some parents is not the role of government. Besides, it's just possible that the introduction of an R18 rating (and the ads that the 'Board formerly known as the OFLC' would have to run) might (just maybe) inform some parents that 'games' are not just for kids.

    @ Logan,

    I understand completely your 4th paragraph in your comment, but what I don't under whingeing stand is how R18+ storytelling is required. Why are Australians about the removal of drugs in Fallout 3? Surely enjoying the game is more of a relief than having to import it to get your hands on a game that has been refused classification.

    On a side note, I was bored one day and browsing the (then) OFLC website. I stumbled on an interesting piece of information. A movie will be refused classification if it displays interactivity in the any if the elements that have given it an adult rating. For example, promoting or describing how to break the law, etc. Is there anything more interactive than a video game besides actually doing the activity?

    PS: I support the classification of R18+ games since I know people are importing Manhunt, Rule of Rose and Leisure Suit Larry anyway. I also support our government's choice to ban adult games in the same way I don't support car jacking and robbery.

    I work in a video game store and will not sell anything MA15+ to anyone that can't provide ID. If they turn around and say "I'll just go get my mum/Dad/brother," I turn around and then inform the parent/sibling that the game is not appropriate. Then if the parent/guardian/sibling STILL wishes to purchase (and it's usually accompanied by something along the lines of "oh he/she's played all the other ones" or "Oh it can't be that bad, can it?" I'll inform them as to just how bad it actually is, then I menatally roll my eyes and continue to serve these customers with a smile on my face and a want to slap them on the inside. Parents are willing to buy their children anything nowadays, espescially since most kids will just bitch and moan until said parent/guardian/sibling gives in. And it disgusts me how many parents leave it to the TV/console/computer to raise their kids. Take them outside to the park or the beach and allow these sorts of entertainment for treats, eg after homework/chores/reading is all done. We deserve to not be told what we as mature adults can/cannot see/do/listen to. Pisses me off in fact, because I've never ever once wanted to go destroy an entire city or kill the next door neighbor because I saw someone do it in a game. IT'S NOT REAL. And I think %97 of people realize it. Politicians need to wake up and realize it's the 21st century
    I don't even like GTA

    Jonathan, R18+ storytelling isn't required. There are plenty of great games and movies that tell a great story without delving into adult concepts. Finding Nemo is a great movie. There are also movies made for adults, and those movies often use violent, sexual and drug themes to tell their story. In regards to your query 'is there anything more interactive than a video game besides actually doing the activity?', probably not, but there are more detrimental and impresionative things than a video game. The research (yes, some has been done!) shows that movies have a greater impact on children (I know children aren't the issue you're tackling here, but I don't know any research conducted on adults) than video games, in concern to promoting violent behaviour.

    In regards to your earlier comment 'why do they need increasingly violent, sexual..', well why do people need to see increased violence in films? A film maker has the choice to cut down or increase violence to suit their target audience and storytelling techniques.

    Either way, this isn't even the topic of debate, unfortunately the politicians are stuck on the protecting children from their parents issue.

    I also support the classification of R18+ games, the same as I support the classification of M movies, classification is important in keeping the wrong content out of the wrong hands.

    I do not support the government's choice to ban adult games in the same way I would not support the government banning cars so unlicensed drivers couldn't drive.

    All this 'protect the children from the parents' gets me fired up, I think I might do a letter box drop with a leaflet informing parents about console content protection and how little trust the government have in their parental abilities.

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