Lack Of R18+ Rating Is “Turning People Into Criminals”

So says The Movie Show’s Margaret Pomeranz in this interview with Byteside concerning the issue of video game classification in Australia.

While Pomeranz admits she isn’t a gamer – but she will “fight for your right to play them!” – it’s clear her experience in the film industry and all of its classification issues over the years have provided her with plenty of insight into the topic.

She tells Byteside’s Ben Mansill:

“I think it’s dangerous… it’s the start of danger when you have a government effectively saying, this is what we will allow you to see, and this is what we will not allow you to see. Fortunately they have very little power these days because we can see anything we want… as long as we’re prepared to break the law. And what you’re doing is turning people into criminals.”

Byteside held a lively debate on video game classification on Tuesday night. The full discussion will be up on the site soon. Check it out.

Comments

  • I never really payed much attention to this lady aside from the odd movie review, but after watching this, she’s my new hero!

    I would love her to take a more public role in this debate, it would help us immensely.

  • When I read the headline I was thinking ‘HUH?’ and ready to pounce, but upon considering it, and before reading it, I understood where she was about to go. And she’s right. I’ve imported because of banning. I imported GTA 3 and VC from England, uncut. That’s illegal, because by australian standards theyre unrated, therefore, I’m a criminal. Did it harm me? No. I’m better for the experience to be honest, I didn’t have to be subjected to a watered down, mollycoddled version which was just plain ridiculous.

    Hopefully with the debate really gaining ground now, we’ll get our R rating and Atkinson will step down off his damned high horse…

    • There is nothing illegal about importing GTA3 or VC, nor is it illegal for you to play them in Australia. The actual content of these games is in no way illegal, but the selling of games with such content is against the law here. Go figure

      • Actually, it is illegal to import anything which is RC as well as sell it in Australia. (I had thought otherwise too, but this was clarified by Customs.)

        The likelihood, however, of actually being caught importing RC games is very slim and customs don’t seem to police it too strictly (I assume it’s since there’s far more important things to stop).

  • Normally I’d say I can’t stand this woman but kudos where they are due…

    She has a valid opinion based on real world experience.

    You go girl!

  • if she was more into games… she should be our r 18 spokes person lol. she put it pretty well.

    it WILL change eventually. Its just being delayed.

  • I’m a seasoned criminal according to the government… and i’m liking it.. a lot. With all these pissweak sentences handed down in the courts, a life of crime is looking more and more enticing every day.

  • Excellent, more publically known people stirring up drama and brigning publicity to this crap. This will get more and more people onto the issue, and increase pressure on the government State of Affairs/whoever he was and lift this ban.

    Atkinson isn’t going to do it. “People can still have fun with games that arn’t violent” This is 100% proves that he doesn’t understand gaming at all. He lacks the proper leadership and skills needed for his position as state attorney of SA.

  • She once held a ‘protest’ screening of a banned film at Sydney Townhall (I think) which the police tried to shut down – got news coverage and everything.

    Perhaps a similar sought of protest is in order for the R18+ debate – set up a LAN party for L4D2 (I’m sure someone can work out how to get it running without steam), tell the media, advertise it, and hold it in a public meeting place as a ‘protest’ then see the authorities reaction and get some headlines…

      • Actually they can.
        There really is no form of political action one can take that is A- effective and B- legal. Peaceful protesting has never accomplished anything (ever), and an ‘active’ one would get shut down pretty quickly by the police.
        Sure you might grab the public’s attention there, but keep in mind that almost no one cares about violent video games and you’ll then suffer under the stigma of being a violent manchild.

        And on the ‘protest’ note Reducto, I hope you and everyone else at that LAN enjoy getting fined by Valve for software piracy and fined by the Government for possession of illegal materials.

        • @Paul’s first comment

          It is true the government would shut it down rather quickly, as we don’t have any Bill of Rights or similar. It’s legal for cops to detain anyone for lengthy periods of time without giving a real reason. Don’t believe me? Do you research.

          However Valve wouldn’t be doing any fining. Buy 8 copies of the game, and just fix them. Run it on lan with steam in the background but not through steam and whammo you have a working legal l4d2 lan party. The fix to get around the censorship was found by a guy on the Valve forums, they would have instantly cut it off and banned everyone involved. But why would they? They want people to enjoy their games, and if the only thing stopping them at that point is a few characters in a text file then who are valve to do the authorities job.

      • @Paul: How ironic you make such an ignorant and defeatist remark on Ghandi’s birthday. In this day in age, the technologists are always one step ahead of the censors.

        For a truly freedom loving people, the only option is to defy until a competent group of representatives can be found. You can go ahead and do as you’re told, but I won’t have my kids growing up to heel at the orders of prudes, sycophants, and zealots.

      • @Paul. Parents should care about this. what this IDIOT in SA is achieving is just letting kids play most games that they would be unable to buy if there was a R18 rating. only the odd one gets banned, the rest come through as MA15+ when they would be R in other countries.

        the banning issue is completely the wrong problem here. it is the ones that actually don’t get banned but should be R18.

        i really hate the complete lack of common sense in this world these days. this douche in SA is completely wrong and out of touch, no matter how you look at it.

      • @glennc
        You’re right.
        But that doesn’t change the fact that no one in any position of power cares. I challenge you to find a single member of parliament who’s played a game system other than the Wii.

        @Arglebarf
        Try double checking your dates before you start spouting trash.
        And really, come on… Your stance is an admirable one, but everyone is just too afraid of the government for anything to ever happen. Sure, if we were like France where masses of people will picket for any little thing, but no.
        The only way to turn the tables on this predicament would be with a huge public outcry on the issue, and we both know that is just not going to happen.

        Pontificate all you want, but I’d like to see that change anything.

    • Sounds like an idea but I’m sure in the eyes of the media what worked for films as “sophisticated critics view film and protest censorship for the sake of art” will for games become “no-life criminal underground gamers ignore law and play ultra-violent game”. I’m sure many uninformed people will see left 4 dead 2 on the news and say “yep they should ban all them violent video games from kids” Mabye instead we should set up a big LAN of the most objectionable (and obviously unsuitable even for teenagers) MA15+ games that are R18 in other countries and allow anyone over 15 to attend, preferably some sickly and innocent looking ones.

    • Remember that it’s supposed to be an R18+ game so it’s not like it will be allowed to be shown in public. You could hire a private venue and put security on the door checking id’s for people 18 and over.
      Apparently some guys from Valve are coming to Australia soon (for some other reason) it would be cool to hear what they have to say and even if they would condone a stunt like that.

  • Outstanding interview!
    I’ve been following this topic ever since I read about the reasons behind Fallout 3’s refusal for classification and Margaret’s comments are spot on and what I’ve been thinking all along. Some of the reasons for refusal and banning a title have been completely subjective, this is unacceptable for me.
    Also, we are not the only country with these problems. From what I’ve read, Germany has it worse than we do.
    It is scary to think that this kind of censorship is allowed because of one man’s views (which I’ve read elsewhere is generally the views of his church).
    I think all Australians should watch this interview if they are gamers, movie goers or not. People in this country should be made aware of this travesty.
    It feels just as bad to me as the recent rubbish in Victoria which allows church based organizations to refuse employment to people who are gay or single parents. What the hell is wrong with this country!
    There is something missing in this interview and every other article I’ve read on the topic. What can we do about it? There must be something we can do besides writing a letter to Atkinson (which I’ve done already). Surely there is a way to fix this problem.

  • It’s not the classification board’s role to ban materials, only to classify them. There are laws pertaining to illegal material which should be enforced, anything outside of that is definitely beyond the classification board’s mandate.

  • lol at the stupid pricks in our government who think they can control data (conroy and atkinson) to quote serenity “you cant stop the signal” and by signal i mean the internet

  • My radical protest views got me banned on a few other sites about this issue, but this is exactly the truth that I was trying to show.

  • I’ve loved Margaret ever since she did the whole public screening of Ken Park thing.

    She is an awesome awesome lady.

  • Atkinson isn’t going to listen.
    If he didn’t listen to all the other Attorney Generals and the general Australian public, what makes anyone think he is going to listen to Magaret Pomeranz?

    Governments have power, and can choose to abuse it and ignore the public, which is what ours does.

  • Sweet, bout time we got some support on this absurdity by someone who is relatively well known and respected among more than just gamers in Aus.

  • A worthwhile interview. Some important points were made which was pleasing to see with an exceptional performance by Pomeranz. I’ll give it 4 out of 5 stars.

  • I’ve no idea why any of you would ‘normally hate’ Margaret… Aside from it just generally seeming immature, she’s done a number of significant things for our benefit in Australia, and seems to be a genuine person willing to share her opinion in the public arena.

    Beyond that, I am grateful to see someone (especially a public figure) who isn’t the least bit interested in games stand up for the rights of people in our country. To be frank, this debate really has little to do with being ‘allowed’ to play the latest version of ‘Hack an Engorged Prostitute Penis off with a Chainsaw 3’ for Xbox, and much more to do with basic rights and legislation. I personally don’t much care for the games that have thus far been banned in Australia, but very much care that out government think they have the right to impose that restriction!

    Not that you’re likely to ever read this, but thanks Margaret for taking the time to discuss the issue from an impartial and sensible point of view.

  • We may all secretly call her “elf women” behind her back, but deep down we all respect Margaret Pomeranz, and this is why.

    • Heres something for you guys to all think about:

      Why is porn and pot illegal everywhere in australia…

      EXCEPT CANBERRA, HOME OF THE POLITICIANS?

  • She’s very well informed and what she says is so true. Too bad what she said isn’t going to get through the heads of the OFLC and a certain senator who I’d like to call a mother!@#$%^& overly conservative !@#$wit.

  • The only problem is, dev’s will think they can make these really violent games with real violent storylines or scenes. Some may include stuff like rape & extreme measures thinking they will get an R18 cause of new laws.

    The Aust Gov. be bringing it in sooner than we think. I mean i read about R18 in my paper last week cause of Left 4 Dead 2 and how retailers are upset etc… It’s suddenly becoming an issue within the public as of late. Altho yes we need Atkinson to say YES which is highly unlikely or for him to be replaced. I mean politcians scrtach each others backs and all he needs is for one other general to say, hey you vote yes for me and then in future i’ll keep supporting you. I dunno…

    However the Aust Gov. need to bring in measures for R18. I know there aren’t a lot of horrific games that do get passed in America etc… but there are a lot of horrific games out there that shouldn’t even be played by someone over the age of 18. And imports that have a R18 classification and all that need to have a good system otherwise the R18 could just become an issue of itself. I know it takes a freak to want to play a game that involved extreme shit like rape & effed up crap like that – and im HIGHLY unlikely it would receive an R18 (not only that Aussie isnt the leading gaming market so not all devs are gonna cheer and can now release/dev all these games coz Aus will allow them) but its just precaution so that there aren’t TOO violent games.

    I mean you can still have fun playing GTA without the need for something like Hot Coffee Mod etc… and those sorts of things.

    • Sorry Jay but I think that, in part, you’re making the same incorrect assumption that Mr Atkinson has. I don’t think there’s a single developer, either here or overseas, that will suddenly produce games that they wouldn’t otherwise if we get an R18+ rating. As others have pointed out before, our market just isn’t big enough to warrant it.

      Other than that, you’re right, our classification system does need improving and the single best improvement it can get is the addition of an R18+ rating so that games can be put under the classification that they belong to rather than shoe-horned into something else because our system isn’t mature enough to handle them.

    • “..there are a lot of horrific games out there that shouldn’t even be played by someone over the age of 18”

      So you have a personal view that others shouldn’t play games that you consider too violent?
      You’re just as bad as our government.

    • Jay,
      yeh ummmmm…..No. your post is full of so much fail and you are rather uninformed on this issue.

  • I was going to refute some peoples’ comments that importing RC games is not illegal, thinking that they were getting confused with grey importing but it appears that I’m the one that is wrong.

    Apparently, except in WA and NT and for a certain subset of RC software (child porn, etc), it is intentional that it *not* be illegal to acquire or possess material with an RC classification as the classification system only affects the dissemination of material. In short, it can’t be sold or distributed here but there’s nothing wrong with you buying a copy from overseas and having it here.

    For L4D2 this means that it can’t be sold via Steam to Australians, however if it’s available on disc overseas, you could buy it and still register it via Steam, assuming Valve allows it. However, I’m not certain that we’d want them to. This is a high profile game and if it brought attentionto the fact that we can still buy and play RC games due to what might be seen as a loophole (although, as I said, it was a deliberate decision) then Mr Atkinson, Mr Conroy etc might then make attempts to correct the situation. And then we could really start screaming about our rights but we all know how far that’s gotten us so far.

  • Importing RC games into Australia *is* illegal. I contacted the OFLC about it and this is the answer I got:

    “I refer to your email inquiry 7 May 2009 regarding the importation of RC (refused classification) computer games. Any computer game which has been refused classification in Australia would be considered ‘objectionable goods’ ie. a prohibited import, and this applies to importation by either an individual or organisation. The intended use of the goods is not specified in the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 as being relevant or taken into consideration except, for example, in cases where an application is made for permission to import the goods, or where such goods have been illegally imported and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service seek to prosecute the importer (where penalties may vary depending on the quantity of goods being considered ‘commercial’). Any person or organisation that distributes RC computer games within Australia is subject to relevant State and Territory classification enforcement legislation.”

    • Interesting reply. They’re implying that it’s illegal but if you read between the lines, and with the benefit of other knowledge, that quote actually supports my point.

      An RC game may well be classified as “objectionable” but that’s *not* the same as illegal.

      That statement says that the intended use of the goods is not relevant or taken into consideration except, (amongst others) where such goods have been illegally imported *and* Customs seek to prosecute the importer “where penalties may vary depending on the quantity of goods being considered ‘commercial’”.

      Firstly, I don’t believe that buying an RC game and having it shipped here constitutes an illegal import. Again, objectionable is not the same as illegal, at least as far as I know but I’m not a lawyer. Most of these games are not banned, simply refused classification for the purposes of dissemination. There is a major difference.

      Secondly, if Customs do decide to attempt to charge you, then by that statement the intended purpose of the import does become relevant. And in any case, any penalty takes into account how much of the goods are considered ‘commercial’. Customs is going to have a really hard time proving that the single game you purchased and want to install on your one computer/console is for commercial &/or dissemination purposes.

      Thirdly, “Any person or organisation that distributes RC computer games within Australia is subject to relevant State and Territory classification enforcement legislation.” Guess what? In ’91 the Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that it should not “be an offence to have possession of RC films or RC publications, regardless of their intended use, merely because they are classified RC.” In 95/96 the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments made the decision to accept the ALRC’s recommendations. Apparently WA and certain areas of NT don’t follow this, I’m not sure of the details of why or how that works.

      If it were me (although there’s no RC games I’m interested in), I’d go right ahead and import what you want (after looking into the exact reasons for the RC and making sure it’s not something that really is illegal like child porn) and if it gets stopped by Customs, write to them immediately to advise that you are contacting a lawyer and why your are doing so. I bet they give you your game (but be prepared to talk to a lawyer just in case – I still think you’d win even if it came to that).

      Actually, given that most of us can’t afford to pay a lawyer to look into this for us, I think one of the gaming bodies here should do so. Or can we set up a fund for people to donate to? Or is there a lawyer somewhere who would be willing to donate the time to do the research?

      But even if we can import RC games, this doesn’t solve the problem of games getting MA15+ because we don’t have R18+. We still need an R18+ rating.

      • Are you merely referencing the statement or the actual legislation, becuase from what I remember reading, RC material is explicitly listed as a prohibited item and is illegal to import. As for possession state and territories have differing laws. I have heard that it is legal in NSW but from what I’ve read of the ACT laws it is illegal here. You should read the classification enforcement Act relevant to your state top clarify this if you want to make a legal defense of owning any RC material (here’s the NSW one):

        http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/cfacgea1995596/index.html#s46

        Although I’m not sure weather you could be charged with importing prohibited items once the item already got through customs and you were then found in possession of it. As far as steam goes, downloads do not count as imports and steam is not based in Australia and hence if they are found to be selling prohibited content they can only be added to a list to be filtered out by the voluntary (for you to use) filters that ISPs provide. Although valve will probably not risk selling it anyway. (check the broadcasting services Act for this one).

  • One last comment:

    I agree with Ayrton.. The protest is a good idea, but demonstrating the ultra-violent games that we’d be able to buy locally if we had R18+ isn’t going to win us any fans.

    How about instead promoting the fact that a number of games, that are perfectly acceptable to adults, are being crammed into a category that allows 15 year olds to play the same games.

    Have a mass session of GTA with banners saying something like “Do you want your 15 year old playing this? If we had an R18+ rating, they wouldn’t be allowed to!” It’s not illegal in any way (playing L4D2 would probably require having cracked/pirate copies in order to play them) and highlights the real problem for the public rather than showing them a bunch of gamers who just want to play violent or potentially objectionable games.

  • Hey if i paint a left4dead2 scene where i hack at a zombie babies face really really hard and split its skull into two, thats interactive right? Would that be illegal?

    Assuming videogames are art forms its rather strange that it is one of the few art mediums that are actually censored by the government…

  • hmm, perhaps at the “protest” you could have L4D and L4D2 game running side by side, just one is in the R18+ side of things where you check for ID, and the other is in a 15+ side. Then raise awareness and invite parents teachers and co-workers to view what occurs on each side. What they’ll notice is that the games are of relatively similar levels of violence. Put up a notice for clean play too, so that viewers can actually see LANs running at their friendly community best. Send a letter to Margaret and invite her along, then get some media attention and Bobs your uncle.

    Keep one of the news stations on speed dial, and if police do rock up let them know, they’ll scramble someone there asap. it would be amusing to see footage of police breaking up a friendly well organised and community supported LAN.

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