Atkinson Addresses R18+ Rating; Kotaku Reader Responds

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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?

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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!

    Brilliant letter Terry, well thought out, well put. Bravo.

    If i could applaude over the internet, I would.

    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.

    Couldn't agree more Terry. Nice work! :)

    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*

    Terry my man, you deserve a medal

    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.

    deleted

    Last edited 18/06/15 12:33 pm

    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.

    Amen Terry. Wonderfully written.
    I can only hope that Mr Atkinson reads your letter.

    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.

    Terry O'Shanassy for new SA A.G?

    Those in Favor...

    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.

        Hahahhaha i love a good counter argument :) Also good on ya terry!!!

        Slight fact fix: gamers *are* a majority 85% of Australian are "regular gamers". That's 17 out of 20.

    *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.

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