Atkinson Addresses R18+ Rating; Kotaku Reader Responds

Atkinson Addresses R18+ Rating; Kotaku Reader Responds

Yesterday, South Australian Attorney-General and R18+ opponent Michael Atkinson wrote to the Adelaide Advertiser about his favourite topic. A Kotaku reader contacted me earlier today with his own response. Read them both beyond the jump.

Here’s Atkinson’s letter to the Advertiser:

Face the real world
A Queensland letter writer (The Advertiser, 7/3/09) claims that democracy is at an end because I, as Attorney-General, will not agree to an R18+ category for interactive computer games; that “every other state AG is against him”; and the only way to bring back democracy is to vote me out at the next election.
It is true that I am opposed to an R18+ category for interactive games, but I am one of at least four Attorneys so opposed.
I welcome a challenge in my electorate of Croydon at the next general election on this issue.
Among my constituents are hundreds of refugees who are trying to find lodgings for the family, gain employment and sponsor relatives from the old country.
Their vote is hardly likely to hinge on the “right” to score gamer points on the computer screen by running down and killing pedestrians on the pavement, raping a mother and her two daughters, blowing onself up in a market, cutting people in half with large calibre shells, injecting drugs to win an athletics event or killing a prostitute to recover the fee one just paid her (Welcome to the world of R18+ computer games).
Those of my constituents who are refugees have been subjected to the practical instead of the virtual suffering that R18+ nerds seek to inflict for their gratification on the computer screen.

MICHAEL ATKINSON,

Attorney-General, Adelaide.

And here’s a response from Kotaku reader – and 57-year-old grandparent – Terry O’Shanassy:

Face the real world yourself, Mr. Atkinson!
Recently S.A. Attorney-General Michael Atkinson wrote a diatribe of misinformation in support of his stance against the extension of the R18+ Classification category to video games. It was published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the Adelaide Advertiser on 10th March, 2009, under the title “Face the Real World”.

Firstly, Mr. Atkinson claims that there are four other Attorneys-General who endorse his opposition to the measure. In the past, Mr. Atkinson has even gone so far as to claim that he’s been asked by other Attorneys-General to be the ‘spokesman’ in relation to the matter. Not so, Mr. Atkinson. Fact of the matter is that, currently, both the Victorian and the A.C.T. Attorneys-General have publicly expressed ‘in principle’ support for the measure, and no other Attorney-General apart from yourself has publicly stated any position whatsoever in this matter.

Next, Mr. Atkinson goes on to suggest that the matter is one which is unimportant to the ‘refugee’ voters within his constituency, and that he is happy to face an election on the matter to have his stance judged by his constituents. Excuse me, Mr. Atkinson, but I’d have thought your responsibility in your role as Attorney-General was to ALL the people in your State, not just to your supporters amongst your own constituency.

Worst of all, though, Mr. Atkinson utterly misrepresents the entire debate regarding the extension of R18+ classification to video games. He describes the supporters of such a move as ‘R18+ nerds’ who “seek to inflict their gratification on the computer screen” by “running down and killing pedestrians on the pavement, raping a mother and her two daughters, blowing oneself up in a market, cutting people in half with large calibre shells, injecting drugs to win an athletic event, or killing a prostitute to recover the fee one just paid her.” Mr. Atkinson justifies his stance, and has done so for a long time now, with the contention that he is concerned with “protecting the children”.

There are some serious flaws with Mr. Atkinson’s line of argument. For starters, of the examples of offensive content he has mentioned, most would fall within the allowable scope of our current classification system for the ‘MA15+’ classification rating. One would be “Refused Classification” even if the R18+ rating was applied to video games as well as to movies and other media. His mention of a game in which the objective is (in his words) “raping a mother and her two daughters” relates to a videogame title made only for the Japanese marketplace, not intended for distribution anywhere in the world other than Japan, and of a nature which would be ‘Refused Classification’ under our classification system no matter what classification rating it was submitted to occupy. Mention of it in Mr. Atkinson’s missive is an exercise in outright deceit!

Another major flaw in Mr. Atkinson’s line of argument is that ‘video gamers’ aren’t nowadays simply children who are ‘seeking gratification’ by accumulating points in a video game. A third is his continued contention that the ‘interactivity’ of video games makes them a more ‘high risk’ form of media than others.

Let’s counter those claims. To begin with, research has demonstrated that the ‘average gamer’ in this country is not a kid playing arcade-style shoot-em-ups to accumulate ‘points’. It has been conclusively demonstrated that the ‘average gamer’ is an adult in his or her late 20s. The video gaming community has matured. 8% or more of that community is 60+ yrs of age. We’re really talking about an activity which is predominately engaged in by mature adults. Those mature adults are not, I might add, simply playing computer games which are simplistic arcade-style shoot-em-ups. Mr. Atkinson is erroneous if he thinks so. Computers and game consoles alike have become quite sophisticated technologically, allowing the production of game titles which are genuinely ‘literary’ in style. Which allow the exploration of themes, and which can be (and sometimes are) used as the basis of literary appreciation and education. Come to grips with it, please Mr. Atkinson. It’s a new world out there, and you don’t seem to be aware of it!

The contention that the ‘interactivity’ of video games makes them ‘trainers’ for anti-social behaviour and even causes anti-social behaviour is an unsupportable one. No study whatsoever has demonstrated this contention to be a correct one. Please don’t insult our intelligence by making claims which simply aren’t true. It might be a ‘popular’ misconception, but its popularity doesn’t lend it any credence nevertheless.

Most alarming of all, however, is the erroneous contention that the absence of an R18+ classification for video games somehow “protects children” by removing their potential exposure to adult material. The classification system and mechanisms we currently have in place and in effect DOES NOT protect children by placing strongly adult-oriented materials into an R18+ classification. Treatment of those strongly adult-oriented themes currently gets placed into the MA15+ classification rating. It does so for ALL forms of media. It is fundamentally and profoundly WRONG to suggest that not having an R18+ classification for games ‘protects’ children.

The truth is that our current systems and mechanisms of content classification are flawed, and they have not been reviewed for some years now. Rather than being a genuinely informative ‘guide’ for parents to follow when assessing content which is suitable or otherwise for their children, our content classification system places “strongly adult themed” content into a classification ranking which parents all too often miscomprehend as meaning “suitable for 15 and over age group”. The only content we deem to be “adults only” is the extreme. The most explicit of sexual depictions. The explicit and extended treatment of gory and/or ghoulish content.

It’s also true that the mature-minded video gaming community is well aware of just how flawed our system of classification is. Rather than simply calling for “more titties and blood” in video games our gaming community is really calling for a revamp of the ratings classification system in this country. For a system which genuinely informs parents of the content their children gain access to. For an ‘adult’ classification which is used and reflects truly ‘adult’ content.

The next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is due to be held next month sometime. The matter of video game censorship classification is scheduled to be raised again at that meeting. The previous such meeting called for a ‘Discussion paper’ to be tabled for consideration. We can only hope that Discussion paper treats the matter with the mature
consideration it deserves, and that Mr. Atkinson will adopt a ‘mature’ approach to it. Any alteration to the Classifications system requires the unanimous support of all Attorneys-General.

It’s difficult to hold out hope though. In a recent missive to Gamespot Australia, Mr. Atkinson not only betrayed his utter misunderstanding of the call for a genuine R18+ classification rating for video games here in Australia. He also bewailed his own children’s video gaming activities as a “physical and emotional obsession”. Goodness me, Mr. Atkinson. I’ve seen a lot of video gaming over a lifetime, but I’ve not often seen it become such an alarming pastime for people. Is there perhaps something amiss in your household, and you’re projecting your floundering ability to deal with it onto me? How about attend to your own hearth. Mine’s fine!

Like many other ‘video gamers’ I deplore the current situation, whereby parents are misled into thinking that “strongly adult” content is somehow suitable for all persons 15 and over. It doesn’t really matter to me if the interaction with the media is active or passive. If strongly adult themes are explored in an adult-oriented mature fashion then the content should be denoted as such. The labelling of it with an ‘MA15+’ rating does not have that impact and Mr. Atkinson has, on numerous occasions in the past, acknowledged the fact.

By continuing his rather obstinate opposition to change, Mr. Atkinson is not, in actuality, “protecting the children”. He is endorsing the very system which lends itself to making adult content already available to them!

Terry O’Shanassy
(Terry is a 57 year old grandparent of 8, a number of whom are young video gamers. He lists video gaming as one of his leisure activities alongside fishing, camping, and cycling.)

So, readers, what are your thoughts on the debate? Has Terry got everything covered or is there some validity to Atkinson’s argument?

Comments

  • Wow, just Wow!
    Pretty much covered all the points that most gamers in Australia have been trying to get across for along time. The big one for me has always been the whole no R18+ just means adult content gets watered down and squeezed into M15+ where it shouldn’t possibly belong.

    Well done Terry!

  • Here Here Terry O’Shanassy. I could not agree more.

    The unfortunate mess we are in right now, in my opinion, is that there is no way that Michael Atkinson will change his misguided views until sever pressure is put on his ability to maintain his position as Attorney General.

  • Terry I think you covered everything very well but why bother Mr. Atkinson is out of touch with todays people. Mr. Atkinson must still see his teen/adult kids playing with dolles and tonka trucks in his happy little dream land. Lets hope he’s electorate is smart enough no to vote in back in.

  • Terry’s letter is excellent and does cover pretty much every issue that video gamers have with Mr Atkinson, and his point of view.

    I really hope that Terry actually has his letter published by The Advertiser, or sends it to Mr Atkinson, or basically puts it somewhere else besides Kotaku, where he is preaching to the choir.

    Unfortunately I doubt that Mr Atkinson will actually read Terry’s letter, and even if he does, I doubt that it will influence him in any way, as he has heard/read it all before, but still holds onto his (incorrect) beliefs.

  • Terry basically covered everything, and did so extremely well.
    Although that doesnt change the fact the Atkinson is as open minded as a KKK member at a Black Liberation protest.

    Great work Terry, Atkinson you can go *R18+ Content*

  • Thank you for repesenting our community and our views so well Terry. I too would really like to see this published at least in Atkinson’s electorate, if not the entire country.

  • Great read Terry. Unfortunately some greater exposure to the public is needed. If not, you’ll just end up preaching to the choir.

  • Well done Terry – an extremely adroit articulation of the issues at hand with the current classification system.

  • sounds like Mr Atkinson needs to face the real world that terry and the rest of us are living in.
    Old people have power to long.
    cant keep up to date with how fast the world changes with there slow tainted minds.

  • what is with these conservative politicians, don’t they see there are many more dangerous things in the world….video game in the hands of mature, level headed adults are not dangerous! OR does he believe he is the captain of moral police of Australia

  • Terry, that was an excellent, thoughtful and well constructed letter. Lets hope it gets the exposure it deserves

  • Well said Terry. I am 33 and have been gaming since pong and the intellivision and colecovision came out. I’m sick and tired of this guy deciding what games I can and can’t play. In response to the game where you “rape a mother and her two daughters” as Terry said that game is exclusively available in Japan, and I would sign a petition to stop the sale of it in this country if they even considered bringing it here. I own plenty of violent games and I don’t go out committing crimes, I’m a regular law abiding citizen. It all comes down to your parents and how you are raised. Mr. Atkinson if you want to do anything about violent games in this country and their availability to young people you should be educating parents and approve the R18+ rating so adults such as myself can by these games instead of kids. And if parents still buy those games for their kids then they are irresponsible and they should be held accountable.

  • Terry, well done my good man. As previously mentioned, this is great for us to read, but it’s place isn’t Kotaku. This (or an abridged version) needs to be in the eyes of non-gamers and the mainstream public/media.

    Thank you, for representing all Australian gamers with consumnate maturity and etiquette.

  • A Sample History of Media Vilification throughout the ages:

    * 15th Century: Books depicting the history of the Mayan culture (a Mayan Codex) are destroyed by Spanish Conquistadors and priests, for fear of their influence over the native population. Almost all Mayan history is lost.
    * 16th Century: The Waltz is described as a “savage” dance.
    * 17th/18th Century: Newspapers are effectively censored, because of concerns of their harm inflicted on people’s morals and minds.
    * 19th Century: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is banned by many libraries in America. The Concord Public library describe it as trash suitable for the slums. It is now regarded as one of the great American novels.
    * 1920s: The Blues are regarded as the Devil’s Music.
    * 1950s: Rock and Roll is regarded as the Devil’s Music.
    * 1950s: Dr. Fredric Wertham publishes ‘Seduction of the Innocent’, a book that claims comic book reading harms children.
    * 2000s: South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson effectively bans Adult Games, claiming that they can harm children and vulnerable adults.

    Well done to Michael Atkinson. History will remember you.

  • Democracy dies with thunderous applause

    Terry what you have just written can be considered incompetent. To be quick, you have mentioned that Atkinson is defeating democracy by destroying your right to buy R18 games and are quick to back it up by saying that the majority of gamers want the R18…please, if gamers were the majority that why has Atkinson so sarcastically mentioned he was brought to his position via democracy. So in a sense you are saying the minorities opinion wins because its the majority of the minority….zar? Maybe its because your becoming senile at your age, I’d suggest some good ol Nintendo brain age to fix you up, oh and of course its rated G.

    Last but not least, those who have argued that by educating parents to know better, so R18 would not harm kids… get a reality check please. Think of all those ads about binge drinking for the underage or Kids being overweight, under many of your opinions we’d be living in a society without stupid bingers and overweight children right? Oh wait Australia stills remains cursed with bingers and is one of the worlds fattest countries, coincidence? I don’t think so.

    • plmko, you seem to have overlooked the fact that your views would require alcohol prohibition and government-controlled diets for all citizens, including those who are responsible, intelligent and mature enough to look after themselves and their children.

      Furthermore, the majority of the relevant minority are not only better informed on the issue, but the only ones who have anything to lose or gain based on the policies regarding video-game restrictions and censorship. You seem to have missed the point that nobody is talking about gamers as a majority; simply put, gamers are not a majority, but the majority of gamers (who are, apart from perhaps the parents of younger gamers, the only part of the population affected by Atkinson’s legislation based on uninformed opinions) understand and agree with Terry’s viewpoint. Clearly, the majority of the populace (rather than the majority of gamers) are either unaware of or do not understand Terry’s points. If those with no knowledge on an issue (or, at least, inaccurate information regarding said issue) are in charge of how such an issue is dealt with, they should not have input. Michael Atkinson is not in his position for his stance on video-games; in fact, since this only affects a minority (gamers), it is likely that those who support Atkinson (a majority) are not even aware of his views on the issue or the very nature of the issue itself! Since Atkinson is in a position where he should be providing accurate information to the populace so that they may make informed decisions regarding specific issues, it seems particularly unfitting for him to tell ridiculous lies for the sole purpose of supporting his flawed logic.

  • *Stands up and applauds*
    I think Terry just said everything us gamers have been wanting to.
    Hopefully this doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

    • Of course this will fall on death ears as Michael Atkinson will not read it, or at the very least, he wont say he read it.

      He is a politician after all and as such he is full of crap, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good pollies, however Mr. Atkinson doesn’t seem like a good pollie.

      Any ways, Im speaking as a young adult gamer, I am shy, quite and mild mannered, polite and courteous person… and I play GTA, Left 4 Dead and games of similar calibre… all of which are highly violent, graphic and not suitable for children and teens.

      And if a game I want to play is not in Australia for reasons known then I will probably download it if I am unable to get it in Australia. Some of the games I play probably wouldn’t even make the R18+ rating, but still I like playing these games. They for me are a form of stress relief from the daily life of work, study and religion.

      :/ would be nice if I could legally get my games, I like supporting the developers and being able to tell them that they are doing a great job, however if I am forced to download a game that is refused classification in Australia then I am unable to support the developers and give input.

      Anywho maybe we should send that reply from that guy to Michael Atkinson’s office, email and possibly home.

      That would make him read it at least once.
      Thanks for reading my view on the matter ^_^

  • Here is what I sent to Mr. Atkinson

    Dear Mr Atkinson,

    I respect your view of the R18+ category of Video Games, which you strongly oppose, despite not agreeing to it myself, but I would like to point out a few inconsistencies in your published letter in the Advertiser, March 10, 2009.

    In your letter, the “raping a mother and her two daughters,” no doubt reflects the game that was made aware to the public a few weeks ago, the Japanese game, “Rape-lay”. This game was developed only in Japan, and never intended for any legal release outside of the country. Obviously this game is quite an extreme, and even if there was an R18+ rating, I would like to think that this game would not even be allowed to be sold anywhere.

    Also, you refer to “blowing oneself up in a market, cutting people in half with large caliber shells,” which are quite common elements in shooting video games, and are passed with an M or MA rating. Such games as the many Call of Duty games, Grand Theft Auto, Saints Row, Unreal Tournament, Resident Evil, and Left 4 Dead.

    The third discrepancy in your letter comes about “killing a prostitute to recover the fee one just paid her (Welcome to the world of R18+ computer games)”. This is no doubt in reference to the highly acclaimed “Grand Theft Auto IV.” In the Australian, MA15+ censored version of the game, you are allowed to pick up prostitutes in a car, and are allowed to kill them afterwards. The only difference (in the same circumstance) between the censored Australian version, and the uncensored European/American version is that in the uncensored versions, there is a free camera angle, that allows the player to view the act of the prostitute, as opposed to the censored version, where the camera is fixed behind the car, with no visual action being seen by the gamer.

    By simply instilling an R18+ rating on a limited proportion of video games, it does not mean that absolutely anything will be allowed to be sold, as with some movies being too violent or graphic to be shown. There are some games that have been banned internationally (Manhunt 2, the prime example).

    Whilst I don’t believe that democracy is at an end because of this issue, I do think it is an important policy point, and deserves some fair discussion. I do believe that there needs to be harsh penalties for stores selling restricted games to minors, as the ratings system has declared that they are not old enough to view/play such content.

    I view some of these games as entertainment, which some people may not understand, but it can be viewed in the same way that some people an entire TV Series (Law and Order: SVU) devotes itself to crimes of a sexually based offences.

    I thank you for your time,

    Michael x (20)

    I went for a softer stance in the hope of encouraging negotiation

  • Great letter, and well written, but it’s not the first of it’s kind.

    Hopefully it can hit anywhere that helps.

  • Thanks Terry for bringing this to light for the rest of the populace that so far has missed this battle. I dont have a exact reference on hand but there was a survey done where an alamring number of parents didn’t even know that there was a lack of an R18+ in Australia and almost every one of them said yes when they asked would they like to see it implemented.

    A very good piece, mate, you should run for AG.

  • @ plmko

    I never said anything about us living in a society where there’s no binge drinkers or overweight kids. Although it would be nice I know that it’ll never happen.

    I also know that there’s always going to be sales assistants and parents that are either irresponsible or just don’t give a shit as well as unstable adults. What I would like to see happen is for the R18+ rating to be introduced but if these idiots are caught selling/buying an inappropriate game to/for a minor that they be held accountable. Should the rest of us have to do without just because of a few idiots.

    Also, yes There are binge drinkers and fat kids but they haven’t banned alcohol or junk food.

  • The thing is, games that should be put as R18+ get slightly modified and go into the MA15+ basket, or don’t get modified at all.

    Surely if we point this out to M.A., he may be more on our side

  • Let’s hope Atkinson’s electorate take this issue into account in the next election as clearly, his decision doesn’t only affect his electorate but the whole nation!

  • plmko,

    You didn’t honestly think that by opening your comment with a quotation from Princess Amidala you would be taken seriously, did you?

    May the farce be with you.

  • Nicely written letter, Atkinson doesn’t seem to understand the need for a 18+ rating. How does someone so blind come into his position?

    @plmko

    You are constantly making pointless and uninformed comments, find another site to troll.

  • If people are interested, I believe the letter he is responding to is the one I sent to the advertiser via the internet after reading about how he refuses to release the discussion paper as a means, I believe, to get his own way simply by stalling the process forever. I started writing him an angry letter then decided the best thing to do was to contact South Australian newspapers instead, I encourage anyone else to do the same.

    This was the letter in its entirety, I have not seen what was actually published.

    “I am disgusted that South Australia’s Michael Atkinson continues to prevent democratic process in Australia on ratings systems reform, because he knows that by deliberately dragging chain he can get his way – the way of no reform at all – when every other state AG and a majority of informed citizens are against him.

    I can only hope that the people of South Australia return democracy to the whole country via the only avenue he is giving us – by voting him out.

    http://www.gamepolitics.com/2009/03/…ing-r18-rating “

  • Nice letter Terry. To be honest though, Atkinson’s letter shouldn’t be dignified with a rebuttal… or rather it doesn’t need to be. It looks bad enough as it is.

    plmko: Care to connect your own dots? Your argument about childhood binge drinking and obesity makes no sense.

  • Their vote is hardly likely to hinge on the “right” to score gamer points on the computer screen by running down and killing pedestrians on the pavement, blowing onself up in a market, cutting people in half with large calibre shells or killing a prostitute to recover the fee one just paid her (Welcome to the world of MA15+ computer games).

    There fixed that for you

  • The scary thing is, Atkinson’s comment is hauntingly similar to comments made by one Jack Thompson, the most infamous of the anti-gaming community in the States.
    While Thompson never REALLY caused any direct harm, Atkinson is in a position where he can, and has been, by refusing at least a considerable look at the classifications.
    And Atkinson seems to be “getting worse”, the more comments he makes about the subject. Previously he has just commented on that he thinks it will endanger children, without too much description in to what he thinks. But with this post, he is showing just how out of left field his thoughts are on the subject, again very similar to the way Thompson came to the fore surrounding the Hot Coffee bruhaha.

    Hopefully something will cause Atkinson to at least look in to the matter personally, rather than relying on generalised social rhetoric concerning gaming, but I am not holding my breath.

  • You can describe Atkinson in one word: Dogmatic

    The way he cherry picks certain gaming elements and writes about them as though the key focus of all adult games is limited only to these six examples, makes him look extremely ignorant. He then proceeds to use them to peddle his view in a very sensationalist manner which really does mirror Jack Thompson in every way. if you focus on HOW he conveys his view, you really can’t help but come to the conclusion that he is Australia’s Jack Thompson in a position of power.

    What I find most astounding though is that he goes on to generalize and misrepresent supporters of an R18+ rating by calling them nerds and basically dismissing them because he knows if he misrepresents the argument to the SA population he will be voted in once again. What the hell do refugee’s have to do with any of this? It’s disgusting how condescending and immature he is towards those who disagree with him. He has little to no respect for gamers. Worst of all he can’t even convey his view in a mature, professional way.

    it’s not only ‘R18+ nerds’ who are in favor of it, a multi-billion dollar industry is in favor of it. Fact is Atkinson and the people of South Australia who keep voting for him are the minority. The rest of the country is in support of the measure. It’s about time he stopped pissing on democracy and gave the people what they want. Taking advantage of the fact your in a position of power and have the ability to force your personal views upon everybody is not democracy. It’s called a dictatorship. But just take a look at the state of South Australia. It’s arguably the state which offers the least quality of life, the weakest local economy, the worst local government and the most conservative/regressive place in the country. I should know, I moved out of the place 4 years ago.

  • Great letter Terry!

    Atkinson probably sees this as his legacy and will fight tooth and nail to be remembered for something – the more media attention he generates for himself the more he enjoys it.

    Reality is though – its not a matter of IF we get an R18+ classification, its a matter of WHEN. He is fighting a losing battle, unfortunately it may take until he is removed from office for the battle to be lost.

  • @ Ben

    “I really hope that Terry actually has his letter published by The Advertiser, or sends it to Mr Atkinson, or basically puts it somewhere else besides Kotaku, where he is preaching to the choir.”

    I buzzed a copy to the Adelaide Advertiser as a courtesy, but I wouldn’t hold any hope that it’d be printed. Newspaper editors are generally looking for ‘reader letters’ of about 200 words or less. I’m also preparing an explanatory letter and planning to buzz a copy of it to Rob Hulls, my own State A-G, and will cc that to the other relevent A-Gs. But that’s as far is it goes from me. If ‘gamers’ in general think that my words represent their point of view then it’s up to THEM to “spread the word”. To ensure that the dialogues conducted address the concerns and issues they want it to address, rather than sitting back reacting or sitting back letting others speak for them.

    @Trent Kusters

    “Thank you, for representing all Australian gamers with consumnate maturity and etiquette.”

    As intimated above, I don’t consider myself to be in any way a ‘representative’ of anyone except myself.

    I was motivated to write the letter for two reasons. Firstly, I’m sick and tired of the misdirection and deceit conducted by an official in high office. Secondly, because I’ve been heavily involved with the ‘gaming’ community at PCPowerplay forum for a long time, and in the course of academic debate there regarding the censorship kerfuffle it became patently obvious to me that what people were REALLY after was for much of the content currently being classified as MA15+ to be instead recognisably classified as ‘adult’ material.

    @Michael

    “The thing is, games that should be put as R18+ get slightly modified and go into the MA15+ basket, or don’t get modified at all.”

    And there lies the weakness of much of the current ‘pro-R18+’ lobbying conducted. That contention often comes up and it gives an incorrect impression. Reality is that, currently under our system of classification, most of the games referred to by such comments “should be” MA15+ titles, because their thematic direction fits in with the MA15+ classification. Most such games only really tip over the edge and get refused classification when the IMAGERY in them becomes a bit too explicit, and a “slight modification’ is all that is currently REQUIRED for them to fit the MA15+ rating.

    In this country, the difference between MA15+ and R18+, insofar as content is concerned, is effectively the difference between “very adult content” and “very adult content with really naughty pictures”! They’re not R18+ unless they include the ‘really naughty pictures’, and if the ‘really naughty pictures’ are removed then they’re no longer R18+ titles. That’s why it’s (currently) wrong to claim that R18+ titles are being bunged into the MA15+ category. It’s why we need change to the classification system overall, if people want some of these titles to be recognisably classified as ‘adult’ ones.

  • @ Ben

    “I really hope that Terry actually has his letter published by The Advertiser, or sends it to Mr Atkinson, or basically puts it somewhere else besides Kotaku, where he is preaching to the choir.”

    I buzzed a copy to the Adelaide Advertiser as a courtesy, but I wouldn’t hold any hope that it’d be printed. Newspaper editors are generally looking for ‘reader letters’ of about 200 words or less. I’m also preparing an explanatory letter and planning to buzz a copy of it to Rob Hulls, my own State A-G, and will cc that to the other relevent A-Gs. But that’s as far is it goes from me. If ‘gamers’ in general think that my words represent their point of view then it’s up to THEM to “spread the word”. To ensure that the dialogues conducted address the concerns and issues they want it to address, rather than sitting back reacting or sitting back letting others speak for them.

    @Trent Kusters

    “Thank you, for representing all Australian gamers with consumnate maturity and etiquette.”

    As intimated above, I don’t consider myself to be in any way a ‘representative’ of anyone except myself.

    I was motivated to write the letter for two reasons. Firstly, I’m sick and tired of the misdirection and deceit conducted by an official in high office. Secondly, because I’ve been heavily involved with the ‘gaming’ community at PCPowerplay forum for a long time, and in the course of academic debate there regarding the censorship kerfuffle it became patently obvious to me that what people were REALLY after was for much of the content currently being classified as MA15+ to be instead recognisably classified as ‘adult’ material.

    @Michael

    “The thing is, games that should be put as R18+ get slightly modified and go into the MA15+ basket, or don’t get modified at all.”

    And there lies the weakness of much of the current ‘pro-R18+’ lobbying conducted. That contention often comes up and it gives an incorrect impression. Reality is that, currently under our system of classification, most of the games referred to by such comments “should be” MA15+ titles, because their thematic direction fits in with the MA15+ classification. Most such games only really tip over the edge and get refused classification when the IMAGERY in them becomes a bit too explicit, and a “slight modification’ is all that is currently REQUIRED for them to fit the MA15+ rating.

    In this country, the difference between MA15+ and R18+, insofar as content is concerned, is effectively the difference between “very adult content” and “very adult content with really naughty pictures”! They’re not R18+ unless they include the ‘really naughty pictures’, and if the ‘really naughty pictures’ are removed then they’re no longer R18+ titles. That’s why it’s (currently) wrong to claim that R18+ titles are being bunged into the MA15+ category. It’s why we need change to the classification system overall, if people want some of these titles to be recognisably classified as ‘adult’ ones.

  • @Terry,

    Beautifully eloquent. Bravo. I would suggest that in addition to the other Attorneys-General, you forward a copy to Mr Atkinson’s opposite number in the SA Parliament, Isobel Redmond MP. She is in favour of review of the classification procedures, including the introduction of an R18+ classification for games. Her email is heysen parliament sa gov au.

    @Michael,

    Even more bizarre is the inconsistency with which the ratings system is applied. For example, GTA IV was censored prior to submission for the PS3 and Xbox360 releases and received an MA15+ categorisation; yet the PC version was submitted uncensored and received the same rating. Moreover, Fallout 3 was refused classification due to in-game references to ‘morphine’ (this was changed to Med-X to avoid this issue in the final release); however, Velvet Assassin makes frequent use of morphine and received an MA15+ rating.

    The system is clearly broken; however, Mr Atkinson will not be on our side. He is immune to reason in these arguments, which is why I resorted to farce: http://intouchwiththeobvious.wordpress.com/2008/11/16/an-open-letter-to-michael-atkinson-mp/

    He is yet to reply.

    Once again, Terry — well done.

  • @MattR

    I think the problem with Fallout3 regarding morphine was that in game you could become addicted to it. (I do have assassins creed, but not sure about the morphine parts in it, yet)

  • I bet Mr Atkinson reads plenty of books and may watch the odd arthouse movie.

    I also bet that with his ‘real life’ perspective that many of these have murder, rape, sex and other ‘adult’ themes depicted that he seeks to remove from adult computer games. I find the level of hypocrasy to be astounding, really.

  • @Michael,

    Velvet Assassin, not Assassin’s Creed. It is scheduled for release in about a month. And you can become addicted to it in this game too.

    My point about the system being broken: shouldn’t addiction to a fictitious drug have exactly the same rating requirements as addiction to a real drug in an overtly fictitious setting?

  • Can we get Terry to run for Attorney General? Atkinson is failing his duties to the public and needs to be replaced. Also, the rules need to be changed so that a majority vote of Attorney Generals is enough to have a bill passed.

  • I would like just to leave this, anytime you let the government decide how to do things for you, you lose that right and someone with an agenda decides what when and where. In a nutshell if you care so much about your kids monitor them

  • Please move to Croydon Mr O’Shanassy,
    I want to vote for you and in doing so vote out the misguided Mr Atkinson.

    Tarrith DoUrden
    36 yr old gamer, father of four (who are also gamers down to my 4 yr old)

  • Salute, Terry. You’re far better with your words than I could hope to be. My draft letter to the OFLC had only gotten so far as, “The censorship and banning of computer games in Australia is archaic, and out of touch. Computer games are beyond being an emergent media form, and have the ability to engage the broadest range of audiences of any media. To exclude content targeting particular groups is to limit the growth and development of the industry and the medium. The consumers are quite capable of condemning poor products that rely on gratuitous violence or sexuality by not buying them.”

  • I recently wrote to the classifications board. It seems now that I had the wrong target. Heres what I wrote.
    Dear OFLC
    I am writing as a concerned citizen in regards to a recent censorship made on the video game Left for dead 2 and also on the topic of censorship in general.
    Firstly I disagree with the fact that we as adults need to censor anything at all. That’s why rating systems have been put in place. If there is something that “I”, as a grown adult would like to watch or play or whatever, I should have the freedom to make that choice. If a medium i.e. film or game, is deemed too graphic or adult related then there needs to be a rating system that allows for this medium to reach it’s intended target and let grown adults make the decision for themselves.
    We are supposed to be living in a free society yet day by day I see more and more of my rights being stripped from me. Australia is slowly starting to head down the path of becoming a dictatorship and if we as an intelligent society can surely see through history, that this is a very dangerous path to take.
    I, myself am a strong non believer in religion and consider myself a rationalist, but I don’t have the right to tell others that they can’t believe in such things. How would you like it if I decided that all religion is now banned and that I made that decision based on my beliefs? And trust me I would if I could but, if I did do so, I would be taking away people’s rights. As crazy or insane as I think those religious people are for believing in such nonsense, I don’t have the right to take that away from them. And that is the point I am trying to make. Who are you to take my rights away from me….? And by not offering an R rating or Adults only rating for video games, you are doing exactly that. You are taking away adults freedom of choice…
    Australia needs to unban such content or if the censorship board thinks that some content is too graphic then they need to introduce a rating for adults. Considering the majority of game players these days are adults, there needs to be a rating system that caters for them. Gone are the days when video games are made for kids… In fact we now live in a time where certain age groups tend to stick to different game systems. Young kids and teens tend to have the portable systems and the Nintendo wii, whereas the majority of Xbox 360 and ps3 owners are adults or late teens. Therefore a ratings system that caters to them is needed. Censoring or banning is not the right path to take and it is only heading our society backwards…

  • A great response to a MAJOR issue I think. Australia’s classification system is veritably prehistoric, and has been held hostage for far too long by someone who is clearly putting his own opinions before those of the people he is paid to be representing. Really, there is just no place for ego-maniacal, self serving fossils in the classifications decision making process. However I don’t think Terry brought up the one point that really gets my blood boiling about this issue (and I apologize if you did and I missed it, Terry). As an adult over the age of 18 I can, for example, choose to join Australia’s Defense Force, a decision which could very well lead to a situation where people are in fact trying to cut me in half with large calibre shells, as our ever more popular Attorney General so eloquently put it. Is it so stupid of me then to think that as an Australian citizen, and a law-abiding one (at least until Alien versus Predator ISN’T released early next year), that I do in fact have the “right” to score gamer points on the computer screen in pretty much any manner I so desire? The bare fact of the matter is that I am being denied the right to choose. And by a paranoid, over-conservative dinosaur who is quite clearly uneducated on the matter, no less…

    Censorship is an UGLY word people. I thought we elected government officials so we can tell THEM what to think, not the other way around.

  • I was so offended when he wrote that ‘R18+ nerds seek to inflict their gratification on the computer screen’. I honestly can’t believe he has the gaul to say something so awful as that.

  • rape a mother and her children?
    what games has michael atkinson been playing
    i dont wanna rape people, i just want to cut zombies heads off with blood and without them disappearing 2 seconds later

    i understand hes trying to protect kids
    but kids are intelligent, just like us older people (im 21)
    i dont know if michael atkinson realizes that we can all simply get the games in another country, the main thing its hurting is making money for australia.

    i saw a movie where women were raped, geez watch law and order, it shows that like twice a week, its always about women getting raped, but if it happens in a pixellated non realistic game, thats worse?

    sorry but even if that rape game came out in aus, i dont think i would play it, it sounds like shit
    i just want to make sure god of war 3, makes it to australia without any setbacks, if something happens to that game, i may just run for government to get this r18+ put through.

    i like that all gamers are 18+ nerds, wow thats how uptight christian politicians see us?

  • Go Terry!! On another note, by the logic of opposition to r18 based on the possibility of children getting hold of them, r18 films should be banned. There is no evidence that games cause any more damage, the British board of classification found that TV news is more likely to cause harm than gaming. By their logic alcohol and smoking should be banned. There is REAL evidence that they cause harm, as opposed to crap biased psychologists saying games cause violence.

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