The unprecedented comments over the past few days on the R18+ rating debate from South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has prompted a response from the wider games industry. Unsurprisingly, it appears there's little common ground to be found on the issue.
Writing on behalf of the industry in his role as CEO of the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia, Ron Curry followed up his pro-R18+ stance on the ABC yesterday with the below reply to Atkinson's recent remarks on Kotaku:
IEAA respects the fact that Attorney-General Atkinson has taken the time to address the comments made by Kotaku readers - kudos to him for that. While we may not always agree with his position we do respect his right to voice it and his candour in doing so.
We agree on a number of issues; adults play computer games, children should be protected and that simulated violence has widespread acceptance. We agree that readers should be able to see what we are arguing for or against (though the caveat we add is that it should be done so in a clear, logical and open manner).
However, there are (obviously) a number of fundamental issues on which the Attorney and the IEAA disagree. I think it's obvious to Kotaku readers what those issues are as they have been discussed, debated and blogged ad nauseam. Saying that though, it would be remiss if a few of the Attorney's comments were left unaddressed.
An R18+ classification for video games does not mean we will have this sudden exposure to extreme violence, sexual defilement and rape. This style of content is currently prohibited under the National Classification Scheme and extending an R18+ to video games (the classification itself is nothing new) does not broaden the parameters. To suggest so is disingenuous.
The debate on the impact of violent media on behaviour is an ongoing one, with equal academic arguments supporting views which are diametrically opposed. Proponents on both sides of the debate offer 'evidence' selectively and often in an hysterical manner to support their argument. To lower this important and needed debate, irrespective of view, to one of hysterical rhetoric or moral panic, serves no one well.
Lastly, we agree that the present law keeps the most extreme material off the shelves which, paradoxically, makes it even more attractive to children. Bit torrent sites are an easy option for the not overly PC literate to access these games which are then made available in home without any classification markings at all.
Simulated violence, wrongly or rightly, has always existed in society with widespread acceptance. Comic books, slap stick comedy, film, movies, Tom and Jerry and alike have always been part of media consumption. The content doesn't change, but the delivery model does. As technology accelerates to convergence of delivery methods, we need to focus on content, as to do otherwise is short sighted. We need to future proof the protection of children and ensuring a classification scheme which deals with content equally allows everyone to understand what is suitable only for adults.
We look forward to Attorney-General Atkinson's final approval of the discussion paper so that the issue may be debated in a wider forum.
PS. We are pleased the Attorney loves his Wii - we now consider him a gamer, just like the rest of us!