A Letter From Michael Atkinson

Kotaku reader Robert wrote to South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson earlier this year on the topic of video game classification in Australia. Robert has just received a reply. Would you like to read it?

Below are several key excerpts from the letter Robert received from the minister. You can also download a scan of the entire letter via this link.

You may be aware that there was talk of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General releasing a discussion paper on [the introduction of an R18+ classification for games] . I have been awaiting the release of this paper... Alas, the paper has not yet been released and, despite my inquiring, I do not know when it will be available. I want the discussion paper released as soon as possible and have done nothing to impede its release.

Although some members are advocates of this classification, I believe other Attorneys-General, like me, reject it. Other Attorneys-General who are opposed to introducing an R18+ classification for computer games are content to let me be the lightening (sic) rod for the gamers.

I am well aware that many game players are adults... However, it is important you do not confuse the classification rating of a game with the game's sophistication, or the challenge or interest to the player... It does not follow that a game is more interesting to an adult simply because it contains extreme violence, explicit sexual material or highly offensive language. Indeed, with all the effort and money that goes into game development, coupled with the effects and graphics now available, there is no need to introduce these extreme elements. I am bafffled and worried about why proponents of R18+ games are putting up their hands and saying 'Give us more cruel sex and extreme violence!'

'Interactive Australia 2007', a report prepared by Bond University for the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia, surveyed 1,606 Australian households randomly. The report found "79% of Australian households have a device for computer and video games". Further, 62% of Australians in these gaming households "say the classification of a game has no influence on their buying decision".

Given this data, I cannot fathom what State-enforced safeguards could exist to prevent R18+ games being bought by households with children and how children can be stopped from using these games once the games are in the home. If adult gamers are so keen to have R18+ games, I expect children would be just as keen.

Classification of electronic games is very different from the classification of film. In cinemas, the age of movie-goers can be regulated... Rising game and console sales make it clear that this is a growing area that needs careful regulation, even more so than cinemas and private D.V.D. hire and purchase. Access to electronic games, once in the home, cannot be policed and therefore the games are easily accesible to children.

What the present law does is keep the most extreme material off the shelves. It is true that this restricts adult liberty to a small degree, however, I am prepared to accept this infringement in the circumstances.

I am concerned about the level of violence in society and the widespread acceptance of simulated violence as a form of entertainment. I am particularly concerned about the impact of this extreme content on children and vulnerable adults.

I believe the repeated act of killing a computer-generated person or creature desensitises them to violence. To my mind, a child being able to watch depraved sex and extreme violence in a movie is damaging to the child, but the child's participating (sic) in depraved sex and extreme violence in a computer game is worse.

Game-houses are always free to adapt games that would otherwise be R.C. [Refused Classification]and modify the game content to be in line with the M.A.15+ classification... I do not accept that this destroys the artistic integrity of the game - excusing gore and depraved sex as art is an immature argument.

Contrarily, it has been suggested that games that would otherwise be classified R18+ are instead slipping through as M.A.15+ and becoming accessible to children. This argument does not support an R18+ classification for games. There may be games that some people consider too violent for the M.A.15+ classification but the solution is not to create a classification that would permit even more violent games in Australia. M.A.15+ games are restricted to children over 15 and if younger children access these games it further justifies complete protection from R18+ games. It is up to parents and responsible adults to ensure a game is appropriate for a minor whatever age he or she is. It is up to members of the Classification Board to apply the Guidelines correctly and not to try to defeat the Guidelines because they disagree with the outcome of the actions of elected officials in a democratic rule-of-law society.

Please read the full letter now. I'd like to hear how you would respond to Mr Atkinson. Where are the weaknesses in his reply? Has he contradicted himself? What is the best way for the pro-R18+ movement to counter Mr Atkinson's argument? Or perhaps you feel he actually makes some very valid points and, if so, which ones?

Sensible comments only, please.


    I don't understand how the good senator can on one hand say parents should restrict the MA15+ rating games from falling into the hands of children, but then on the other hand dismiss a parent's ability to regulate the R18+ games as something which would be impossible to do...

      The biggest hole in Atkinson's argument is that logically he should also oppose an R18+ rating for DVDs (and videos, if anyone still sells videos), which are as much or more available to be watched by kids in the home. Moreso, since it's easier to lock down adult material in a secure account on a computer than it is to lock down the parental security controls on a DVD player.

      I'm happy for there to be strict controls on what is R18+ (and stricter controls on what is MA15+)and what's too bad even for R18+. Stuff like Fallout 3 should be able to get in uncut. Stuff like Manhunt can stay banned as far as I'm concerned. There must be some kind of limit, as there is with films, beyond which society says it just doesn't want anyone to be subjected to even voluntarily (possibly especially voluntarily). Arguing no limits is a slippery slope, you quickly realise that "anything goes" is only a good philosophy if you're the guy with the gun.

        Not keeping games inline with DVD's isn't a hole in his argument. He says himself that he believes games are much worse than movies and their effect on people. That's the way he chooses to distinguish the difference between the two.

      I think the fundamental flaw is that his argument for "protecting the children" doesn't actually work in real life...
      I can't say for sure because I'm not an parent, or someone uneducated about these things, as most people who his argument is aimed at are.
      The fact of the situation is that, most parents would see a game rated MA15+ and think "oh billy(who's 12) really wanted this game and it's only MA15+... I guess it's ok to get it for him".
      But when this is happening, that game may very well be a game that is R18+ in other territories, but has been squeezed under MA15+ or just edited very slightly, like Fallout 3 simply had a drug in it changed from morphine to Med-X.
      Now I know these parents would scoff and never let Billy play the game if it had a black R18+ sticker on it, but very well may let him play it if it's only a red MA15+.

      Oh yeah, and there's that whole thing where you can apply parental locks on consoles now, so kids can't play games they shouldn't, but as said, this can't (at least not easily) be done with DVD's. So Billy might be able to sneak into daddy's DVD collection and watch something he shouldn't, much easier than a game he shouldn't.

      Don't you see Atkinson!?
      You're an idiot.
      Please reply to this comment, I'd enjoy it.

      I don't believe he is a Senator. Not a bad one, and certainly not a good one.

    "I do not accept that this destroys the artistic integrity of the game – excusing gore and depraved sex as art is an immature argument."

    Ignoring the reality and harshness of the world is immature as well.

    "In cinemas, the age of movie-goers can be regulated…"

    We trust retailers to not sell restricted substances to minors, as well as 18+ movies, why not games? Are the clerks in game stores somehow different to other clerks?

    "I believe the repeated act of killing a computer-generated person or creature desensitises them to violence."

    Your beliefs and those of your constituent mean exactly nothing to the people of Australia, parent your own children.

    "It is up to parents and responsible adults to ensure a game is appropriate for a minor whatever age he or she is."

    Really? This is your argument? Sounds a lot like ours.

      Ribs hit it right on the nail.

      "“It is up to parents and responsible adults to ensure a game is appropriate for a minor whatever age he or she is.”

      Really? This is your argument? Sounds a lot like ours."

      The fact that the letter highlights multiple times the dangers of children getting their hands on an explicit video game, then says that the responsiblity falls down to parents is an EXTREME contradiction. It seems the real issue is being dodged; slack parents. The portion of happily 20+ year olds living with a partner with no children are being restricted too.

      Also, "...is appropriate for a minor whatever age he or she is"

      thats ridiculous, i wouldn't show FEAR (currently out) to a 5 year old anymore than i would show hot coffee.

    I guess the main point for me is, why can films, tv shows etc haev R rating sn games can't? Any argument around this should fall back to that. One medium is allowed it, and another isn't. How exactly is that fair?

    Also, he says that it restricts adult liberty, yet he is prepared to take that. Maybe HE is, but that doesn't mean the majority of the population is. I could say I'm prepared to have sports banned from airing on TV. It doesn't actually affect me so there's no loss from my end.

      The argument for censorship is always a complete non starter. It rests entirely on the idea that some content is so objectionable that the general public must not be allowed to view it. And to ensure this, an elite council must be elected with the express purpose of viewing all this degrading, vile content.

      Don't get me wrong, I believe strongly in classification. But I do not want some government bureaucracy deciding what is and is not suitable for my consideration.

    "What the present law does is keep the most extreme material off the shelves. It is true that this restricts adult liberty to a small degree, however, I am prepared to accept this infringement in the circumstances."

    oh sweet monkey jesus im guessing a man his age does not play games in the way we do so id be easy enough for him to infinge upon this right because hes not the one who has to sacrifice.

    also i know the xbox 360 has parental controlls (im not sure about the PS3) if having the game in the same house as a child is such a big deal you can set up the xbox to not play an MA or R rated game without first entering a parental password now what if thier was some form of mandate requireing games producers to print this information on the first page of the instruction booklet or perhaps a promt when you insert the game for the first time that will lead you to set up this service if that were law would that perhaps sway this class A dickbag to our train of thought

    now on PC you can set up a password lock on the computer as a whole (which inveribly is why i find the whole internet censor shit thing rediculous why should everyone suffer because some lazy parent doesnt want to password lock thier computer to prevent small children unrestricted access) this lock will keep r rated games on a PC secure.

    now i would go into PS# however i do not own one or have mauch experience with one so i cannot comment if anyone would like to fill in my blanks or correct me please (for the recoerd the last time i looked over parental controlls om my 360 was before the new xbox experience)


      Greg, Just in reply to the Parental Controls. Both the Wii and the PS3 have parental controls similar to the 360. I believe that with Windows 7 (and other iterations of Windows) the same thing is possible.

      At the end of the day, All Michael Atkinson is essentially telling us is that he doesn't trust Parents of Australian Kids to police what games they play. I have a few Nephews which come over to my place every now and again to play games.

      I have hard and fast rules about games which they are allowed to play, They have never played a game without asking me if they can play it first. Its not a hard thing to do... Perhaps all we need is more trust. If a parent lets their kids play those games then it's their fault, not society as a whole.

      I believe Windows Vista and 7 also offer parental controls which allow you to block access to games and other content.

    Interesting points. But not really anything we didn't know. Yes of course there is the risk of younger audiences playing games but they are no more difficult to regulate than movies. That's rubbish. Once a film is out of the cinemas a child has many options to see it. The other issue is consistency. Why do some ultra violent games get through? eg. gears of war, fallout 3. These games have dismemberment, gore and high amounts of violence. I cannot see any difference to an example like left4dead 2.I played MW2 on the weekend and walked through an airport while numerous innocents were gunned down in front of me. I may have gunned a few down myself! Pools of blood everywhere! Yet that was passed. Like most things to me it must boil down to money. I theorize that there is a way to get your game passed classification and it probably involves filling government pockets.I am over the hypocracy and lies. The fact of the matter is I will be ordering Left4Dead2 from an overseas site and playing it full gore!!!!

      i think it boils down to common sence on the part of the OFLC if they banned modern warfare 2 (the biggest game of the decade so far) a few governement reviews could expect violent retaliation

      There is also rumors that MW2 will be recalled from Australian Shelves because of that level.

      I find this weird considering that isn't the Classification Board refusing to 'review' is banning of the original Left4Dead 2?

        Utter nonsense on both counts.

        The Classification Board saw "that level" when MW2 was submitted for classification and awarded an MA15+ rating, accordingly. It's possible that complaints regarding a game's content may trigger a review of the Board's decision, but that can happen to any game.

        The decision to refuse classification to Left 4 Dead 2 was reviewed by the Review Board (a separate, independent body to the Classification Board, and the original decision was upheld.

          Hot Coffee anyone?

            The problem with Hot Coffee was that is was hidden from the classification board and they therefore didn't see it while reviewing it. The MW2 level on the other hand they did see and decided that it was appropriate for a MA15+ rating, its a totally different situation.

    I find it amazing that an attorney general whose seat is decided upon by a grand total of 20,207 voters can affect the greater Australian population so dramatically.
    Sure the issue isn't of the upmost importance, but is vetoing a national policy change on the personal opinion of one man true democracy? I cringe to think one man could stop important policy.

    When people moan about not having an R18+, probably reading what Atkinson says at the end probably rings the most truth as to the unnecessity of the rating. Many games actually get M15+ here but are rated 18+ overseas and are essentially slipping through. Take L4D1 that was 18+ in the UK but M15 here.

    The problem here isn't the absence of the R18, its the lack of consistancy that we see on the OFCL, take the L4D2 paradox where L4D was fine but the sequel not. An R18 doesn't solve it because it can only be granted upon reivew and not the first round.

      "An R18 doesn’t solve it because it can only be granted upon reivew and not the first round."

      An R18+ rating does not exist in the classification guidelines for video games; thus it cannot ever be granted. Not sure what you're getting at with that comment.

        I think he's trying to say that if the R18+ classification gets introduced, L4D2 has already been RC'd, reviewed and awarded a rating so wouldn't be re reviewed. Not sure if that's how it works, but knowing bureaucracy, could very well be.

    Its not that hard for a game store to start asking for ID when purchasing a 18+ game.

      Stores that sell games already ask for ID upon purchase of M, MA classified games and/or other products (seeing as some do carry UMD, Blu-Rays).

      Of course, it doesn't particularly help that a fair amount of customers disagree with this now standard form of procedure because "it's a violation of my privacy, you can clearly see I'm older than that."

      And Ribs, you've pretty much said what I've wanted to.

      Simply because some parents will allow their children to play games that are R18 but MA15 here, simply because it's popular among the child's friends - doesn't mean that every, single parent will allow their child to view such content.

      And if the idea that "video games increase violence among youth" is brought up in this debate, it doesn't really - experiments have shown that in the majority of such cases, instead of taking it out on others, it's much safer for them to go and destroy things within a virtual world as long as the boundaries between what is real and what is virtual is kept the same.

      As I've said before, if someone is going to do something violent then they generally have the means to do so before-hand. Additionally, the majority of content seen within these games that Atkinson is blocking by dodging the R18 rating can easily be seen on free-to-air television on a simple flick through across really any time of the day. You can't block the news, the actual reality of the world that such cruelty happens and with some games - developers are purposely projecting that cruelty in order to make the player think about such things which could help continue bringing awareness to many issues.

      Sorry Atkinson, but children can't forever stay in a world of Play School and other children's "safe environments" when such events to desensitize them to things are a possibility every day.

      Sure, people can get around games being refused classification but why should people have to import such products that should be available as long as ID is shown on purchase? (Considering that a lot of games refused classifications are popular targets for piracy, due to people not wanting to spend more to import them).

      I could go on for a while, overall it seems ridiculous to continue on blocking a singular sector for a single rating.

        Easy way to fix the whole "privacy"

        Make R18+ Games like Liquor or Tobacco, require customers by law to be over 18 and to produce ID when requested to do so. Slap massive fines on people who buy for underage people etc...Hell the amount of times I saw underage kids picking and choosing liquor, or giving money to parents in the store, right in front of us...then when we tried to tell them we cant sell it to them they try to saw "Im buying it, you have to sell it to me" etc...why isnt Alcohol banned since its such a menace?

        I laugh that supermarkets are allowed to sell tobacco to people, even though it's proven to cause Cancer and kill people...sell alcohol despite the massive amounts of real violence that causes...

        Yet somehow, Violent Video Games are infinately worse than Tobacco and Alcohol, because if they are let through then every child will become a Desensitised Psychopath who will rampage through the streets murdering and raping people.

        Society is already screwed up beyond belief, I dont see how restricting games is going to somehow lead to this Lefty's Utopian Government Controlled Fantasy World coming into existence.

          Cigarettes and Alcohol are very bad examples. People use these when arguing about the legalisation of weed. Just because Cigarettes are legal, if weed is safer, it should be legal.

          The problem with banning addictive goods that have already been publicly available is that the effects of an instant ban can often be more detrimental than a gradual weening off. Take cigarettes for example, if they were made illegal tomorrow, a huge black market for them would exist. Prices would rise, and addicts would have to commit crime to be able to afford it. You can say the same about illegal things, but there isn't that initial legal addiction that occurs.

          There already are fines in place, however off the top of my memory the fines generally go to the offending seller for sale of the product to an underage person with or without checking for ID.

          As for the alcohol bit, it can also cause a fair bit of damage itself outside of violence.

          An interesting comparison, but not really the best. When we look at the past and we can see fiction and non-fictional literature and other mediums being banned because of a general ideal of a person and/or persons' at a time and seeing as how this same view is being applied to video games - only to have these past mediums unbanned in the future. If such things in the past have been banned for the same idea now, it really isn't going to change anything in society or how children are raised.

          War happens, crimes still happen and so-on. Simply refusing a more mature classification is absolutely ridiculous even when taking into consideration that R18 games here are often put into the MA15+ category, combined with that each country does have differences with their ratings that still would be preferable to be put into the R18 group instead of MA due to their content, and would also solve the censorship issues.

          There's a fair few things to go along with this, but really. The game clerks aren't any different to the movie store clerks, however this constant debate has come to the issue that many could take it that gamers and game-selling employees are being discriminated nationally because of this constant "think of the children" sort, considering that Australia has an aging population (more older than more children being born) theoretically that ideal is invalid.

      I was asked for ID when I was buying Borderlands at EB last week and that's MA 15+. The same as when I rented Wolf Creek (R 18+) the week before. I'm 24 and I look it, but it's the law and the franchisees don't want to be fined if the government comes and seizes a week's worth of CCTV tapes.

      The biggest hole in his argument is that he thinks an EB clerk isn't as trustworthy as a Blockbuster clerk.

      I'd really like to know why.

    as much as i disagree with the man

    he sure knows how to put together a compelling arguement.
    i know how I feel about this
    and i still after reading this think we need an r18 classification
    but it is hard to put together good reasons why.

      Its simple, first as adults we should have the right to decide what we want to watch or play and it is the parents decision what there kids play not the governments.l I hate the use of statistics. They are always false or used incorrectly. First as Australia is an aging population that means that most people who answered that survay are probably over, lets say, 25. Also, that first question is worded strange. You can also take it to mean that if a game is MA would i buy it over a game that is G? The answer, no iIbuy games that are good so i so ratings dont effect how i choose. Now if they added for your children, would people have changed there answer. Is that why is was worded like that so the statistics can be used for arguments either way.


      Ok i am done. I feel much better.

      It's not that hard to come up with four great reasons...

      First that under eighteens need to be restricted from accessing unsuitable content in the same way that they're restricted access to pornography, alcohol and cigarettes - three things that, I might add, are quite well restricted at current.

      Secondly that it encourages developers to seriously consider the availability of their content to their target audiences - forcing them to be more responsible for the content they put in games. Under the same logic it also brings existing content under new scrutiny - more scrutiny.

      Thirdly, Australia, its consumers and its games industry, should be brought into line with the rest of the world.

      Lastly that adults deserve access to view whatever content they wish to - especially considering they can on any other medium.

      There is one way. Read it again. There is no "compelling argument" here. It's a mish-mash of half-truths, conjecture and contradicting babble.

      Compelling argument? I'd like Mr Atkinson to watch Ichi the Killer then play MadWorld (a Wii exclusive incidentally). After that, maybe an hour of Cannibal Holocaust before smashing through a few levels of the uncut L4D2. Then, I'd like him to tell me that a child is at a greater risk of harm from a computer game than a movie.

      When I saw a pirated version of Silence of the Lamb as an 11-year old I was traumatised for days. I wept like a stuck pig watching Life is Beautiful. Games, for all their "simulation" of life don't come close to movies for their realism or emotional impact.

      Has Mr Atkinson ever actually played any of the games he's denouncing? It doesn't sound like it.

      Does he understand the difference between the words "participate" and "interact"? It doesn't seem like it.

      That letter is full of ignorant, ill-informed palp and it offends my delicate sensibilities.

        The whole insinuation of 'depraved/cruel sex' that he throws around is indicative of his inexperience with games.

        Maybe he's referring to Rapelay? Fine. But no-one fucking buys that, it's not on shelves in stores and it shouldn't inhibit the classification legitimate titles in their intended state.

        Of course when I walk into JB/GAME/whatever and see a wall filled with rape-sims I'll eat my words.

    what he doesnt seem to get is that this is completly policable. my friend is a manager of EBGames he refused the sale of an MA15+ to a child under that age. it's up to the retailers and parents to police this, not someone with no idea what the content is. hes not seeing what is going on. he is only forming an opinion on what other people are telling him. Retailers know the content. they can stop minors getting it by simply refusing sale, and parents can police it by simply taking the game from the child and returning it or trading it in

      Yes, when I was in EB last Friday buying Dragon Age, I saw an EB employee refusing to sell something to someone without proof of age.

        I work at ebgames and refuse to sell all MA15+ games to people underage or without ID.. unless their parents are with them.. in which i detail what the games does/is about and why I needed to see an ID.

    This is just another classic "We need to protect you from yourselves." aurgument, that's typical in this right of center political atmosphere we have here in Australia since the neo conservative Howard years.

      Except for the fact that Atkinson has been in his position since before Howard took government.

      Funny thing that you blame it on Howard though, as Rudd's government is the one wanting to blacklist our internet. Now that's what I call conservative.

        There are idiots on both sides of the fence. Phillip Ruddock held similar views to Atkinson on this matter and he is responsible for the Attorney-General's department having control over the OFLC. This isn't an issue of left-wing vs right-wing or Labor vs the Coalition, it's about censorship, inconsistency across different forms of media and arguing with idiots over the internet.

          Exactly. If you take a look at Atkinson’s letter, you’ll see that he notes on the post script that the Liberal Party are also supportive on his stance that there should be no R.18+ classification.

          This is an issue of public perception. It is not made any easier when Atkinson paints this picture that the games that do fit in to the R.18+ category are mindless, sex-depraved games that are so abhorrent that no good can come out of them, hence there being no loss for their banning. The gamers are demonized for disagreeing, and the R.18+ movement is brought to a halt as their voices are vastly overwhelmed by the strength and numbers of both major political parties.

          Yet nobody wins. We all know that with basic regulations and observant parents, it is very unlikely that a child will get their hands on a game classified under the R.18+ classification if it had existed. Most parents are not idiots, and even if they don’t play video games can differentiate what is suitable for their children simply by its cover. Not only that, even if children did get their hands on such ‘excessive’ games and became criminals, they would not have been the causation to their actions; merely the correlation.

          Which leads me to my next point. It seems that Atkinson uses video games as a simple scapegoat, the easy excuse to the real causes of criminality; social and economic inequality. By appearing under the guise of preventing children from becoming violent by banning games that would suit an R.18+ classification, Atkinson is able to hide away from tackling those issues, leaving Australians for the worse so that he can remain popular.

          And now for a real contradiction to his letter:

          “62% of Australians in these gaming households ’say the classification of a game has no influence on their buying decision’.”


          In his letter, Atkinson refers to a survey by Bond University that suggests that the public aren’t influenced by the classification scheme when purchasing video games. While that may be the case, Atkinson clearly ignores one other significant fact, that the same 93% of people believed that there should be the implementation of an R.18+ classification!

          This just goes to show what a manipulative bastard Atkinson is. Through political trickery and spin, he will do anything to infect his point of view on to others; integrity intact or not. It’s disgusting how one can claim that a survey is ‘absolutely bogus polling’; discounting it when such evidence threatens the whole foundation their argument to merely use it later for your own advantage. It is hypocritical and downright deceitful.

          So, to end my rant:

          “I think you will find this issue has little traction with my constituents who are more concerned with real-life issues than home entertainment in imaginary worlds.”

          Again an immature attitude towards gamers has been rudely expressed by Atkinson. But sadly, he is right. It’s simple really; people are hardly ever in power to do what is right, but to gain power for power’s sake. Atkinson is clearly one of these people.. So long as such games are viewed with disdain, Atkinson will take that same stance against an R.18+ classification as it is not worth the political risk for one that going in to an election year. If that Bond University survey holds true however, that 93% of the Australian public do want an R.18+ classification, then with just the right amount of nudging and media attention, public consensus may just sway our way. Only then could I fathom to see Atkinson agreeing to an R.18+ classification, purely out of political pragmatism.

    Maybe we should email each attorny general asking if they oppose it? I dont think any of the others do, and if we ask them directly they should tell us one way or the other.

      Thats a really good idea. Get him off side with his peers.

      "Contrarily, it has been suggested that games that would otherwise be classified R18+ are instead slipping through as M.A.15+ and becoming accessible to children. This argument does not support an R18+ classification for games. There may be games that some people consider too violent for the M.A.15+ classification but the solution is not to create a classification that would permit even more violent games in Australia."

      This dosen't even address the issue of the games that are already available that should bet 18+. That is what will protect children. The reason 62% of gaming households don't consider classification is because many don't understand the difference between M15+ and MA15+. Even some people that post comments here don't realise the difference. But everyone knows what R18+ means. That is why it is powerful enough to protect children.

    My main question is to do with the reasoning behind his 'games in the home' defence. Sure, a child in the home could use the game disc to play the game, but isn't it the responsibility of the parent/legal adult who purchased the game to prevent it being used by the child? Most consoles, at least, have a parental lock to prevent games of a certain rating being used without entering a password, but still.

    How is having an R18+ game in the house different to having an R18+ DVD on the shelf, or a music CD with explicit language? A child could access those as well, but they are still sold in Australia. I don't believe the "games mean you're the one doing it" defense is really that strong.


    It looks like the same form letter I was sent. Check it out at http://www.pcpowerplay.com.au/forums/showpost.php?p=2895219&postcount=466

      Actually it IS the same form letter .... right down to the same handwritten smartarse remark at the end.

        Unfortunately it's highly unlikely that Michael Atkinson will ever read your letters, and instead that they have been answered by a public servant working in the department of the AG.

        It's the nature of the system now that these ministers get more mail than they could handle by themselves, and so handle none of it. That's not to say they go unread, because a DotAG employee will read each and every one of your letters, but Michael Atkinson is stuck in his ways and will have instructed his department to respond to all mail about the R+18 rating in the same manner.

        Plus they must be getting these letters daily, so do you really expect a level 2 public servant not to do a copy and paste reply to them?

    The fallacy of this whole argument is that its a lot easier for a kid to buy an MA15 game then R rated movie

    R rated (generally) if you like youngish you cop an ID check, MA they take your word for it (generally) because the penalties are a lot less harsh for an MA breach then an R breach.

    If a parent fronts up to a R rated film with a kid, the cinema does not let the kid in. Its against hte law

    just do the same with games. Parent tries to buy little johnny r rated game with little johnny in toe, shop says nup can't have that (i mean yes the loophole would be the parent says its for themself but then they are the disgraceful parent for lying)

    We have MA15+ games that realy should be rated R on the shelves today which kids can rock up and buy easily

    I saw 15 MW2's sold to 15ish old kids last week. This is the fallacy of Atkinson. R rated games or those that should be are being sold to school kids without their parents knowing...

    I would like Atkinson to explain and proove, how policing of movies in both cinemas and retailers differs to policing the sale and playing of a video game? saying they differ just contradicts itself in so many ways.
    Cinema staff can refuse a child into a movie without proper identification or a parent to accompany them. the retailer can refuse the sale of a movie to an underage person without ID or a parent.
    same goes for Video Games. Retailer simply refuses the sale without ID or parent. and if the child purchases the game with a parent or ID the parent can easily police this. take the game away. parental lock requires a password. enable this and the console will not play the game above the rating you set. and as far as i know Xbox live prevents the game being loaded if the player accociated with the gamertag is under the game rating.

    The other problem with Atkinsons argument (and something that gamers 4 croydon HAS to point out) is that the examples he mentions WOULD STILL BE BANNED

    they are banned in films they are banned in games..... we don't want X, want fair and equitable treatment


    'democratic rule-of-law society.'

    sorry if 6 out of seven attorney generals agree to have R18 and we still don't have it

    we live in a dictatorship not a democracy

    how can he say we have a democracy when he is ruling the world (in this instance)

      i agree this is'nt democracy this is some dickbag abusing a stupid legal loophole one that should never existed.

      Question does anyone know what government office can close this loophole as in change the legislature so that a unanimous decision is not required im thinking that would be the easer option what with atkinson being a zealot on this subject perhaps the best option is to take the desicion from his hands

    What worries me is that he seems to equate movie violence with video game violence. What is worse, a child seeing a real person being beaten to death. Which happens quite a lot in even MA 15+ rated movies or a roughly simulated person being killed in a way that doesn't really emulate reality. How many zombies do you see running down the street.

    One thing that he frequently states always seems to stick out to me.

    "Classification of electronic games is very different from the classification of film. In cinemas, the age of movie-goers can be regulated… Rising game and console sales make it clear that this is a growing area that needs careful regulation, even more so than cinemas and private D.V.D. hire and purchase. Access to electronic games, once in the home, cannot be policed and therefore the games are easily accessible to children"

    One could make and identical argument for any adult restricted item. Be it cigarettes, alcohol or adult films and magazines. All of these items can be readily purchased by an adult and then kept at home in an un-regulated environment.

    If one of his driving issues is that adults only material can be accessed in the home by children if not properly secured, then why does he not speak out against or attempt to enforce bans or restrictions on the take home nature of these items?

    Heck, even the restricted movies can be purchased on DVD\Blu-ray 6 months down the track and brought home. Why is one form of age restriction good enough for all other (and in many ways more harmful) items and not good enough for others? I would have no problem with the introduction of a fine based system for the sale of restricted titles to minor's.

    Also he seems to be under the impression that every gamer on the planet is some sick deranged pervert lusting for nothing more than violence and sex. The want to play something as the designer intended is a little different to being a closet sociopath.

    I've played many violent games in my time and I'm no more de-sensitised to real life violence than I have ever been (i.e. not at all).

    We've been going about the pro-R18+ argument the wrong way.

    What we should be doing is not buying games which have been censored (no matter how minor the censorship is) from Australian retail stores.

    By telling the stores that we're not buying X game because it's been censored to comply with our rating guidelines, the retailers can cherry-pick the numbers and complain that this censorship due to the lack of an R18+ rating is costing them sales and that if it continues, jobs will be lost.

    This would then put business pressure on the SA government to get Atikinson to change his mind as in the current economic climate, state and federal governments are trying to keep people in jobs.

    This economic angle could even be used as the main point of a national advertising campaign on this issue (with a major focus on SA) if the major game retailers pool their resources together. Press releases, TV ads, newspaper ads, radio ads, billboards, Internet ads.....all these things can be used to push this argument forward.

    I just hope this idea catches on with Joe Public. It'll be very tricky to get this idea to catch on but it's more about sensationalising the figures that are there (as 99% of advertising does so well).

      I made a forum post at australian gamer when L4D2was still under review by the classification review board, in it I stated a plan for boycotting the game (from australian retailers) if we ended getting the censored version, I stated that we ought to take down the numbers of people participating in the boycott to asses the actual economic impact and then present this in the media and also to the government. I also included a poll asking people whether they would be willing to play a censored version of L4D2. Surprisingly everyone was pretty much against my idea they said that it would be unfair to punish retailers and that they would buy the censored version anyway.

      I thought that it wouldn't be punishing retailers anymore than normal as it was simply formalizing a boycott I assumed many people would make anyway due to the censoring of the game. Also it is really the fault of the classification system not us for any lost profits as they are forcing retailers to sell an inferior product, and retailers really should be forced to stand up for themselves on this issue.

      However when the details of the censored version were released on this site, the comments were in very stark contrast to those in my thread, people seemed most adamant that they would not be purchasing a censored version. So perhaps there is still some hope for my plan, anyone wanting to help me bring to fruition my plan of boycotting censored games and forcing retailers to pressure the government and also being able to collect some solid economic evidence to contribute to our arguments please send me an email at: "[email protected]".

    bloody politicians can talk some crap about stuff they know nothing about i've been playing games like gta since i was 10 and i dont think i plan going around killing people and having sex with prostitutes

    He contradicts himself in saying it is up to parents to to ensure a game is appropriate for minors but then by quoting the Bond university study he seems to indicate a lack of faith in parents being able to do this very thing. In addition he explains that once games are in the home they cannot be policed at all, which further contradicts his latter statement about parents. Also he get's frustratingly close to mentioning DVD's in the context of this argument which would totally destroy itself if he actually recognized that there is virtually no difference in preventing access to DVD's to than in preventing access videogames within the home. His statements imply a view that videogames are to children like a jar of candy on a shelf whereas DVD's hold as much interest as book. Given the difficulty of many adult themed videogames I would think it is even harder for a child to access inappropriate content in them then to simply play a DVD and fast forward to the interesting sections.

    Also his comments about games not necessarily holding to more interest to adults because of certain content and that calling them art because of certain content is immature are debatable, after all imagine if the art in galleries and theaters was only allowed to contain content below an MA15 classification. Indeed increasingly these days we are seeing art in galleries that is an audio-visual interactive experience, when does this cross the line into becoming a computer game that has to be classified Ma15+ or are these things exempt from classification as virtual training programs are?

    Lastly his contestant references to violent or "cruel sex" are starting to become irritating, if you look at the guidelines for classification, it clearly states that even in regards to content classified with an adult rating sexual violence and promoting drug use are still prohibited. I thin we really ought to be calling Micheal Atkinson to account for either his absolute ignorance or complete misrepresentation of the classification guidelines, although I think to some extent he believes that gamers are trying to get some "anything goes" adult rating becuase they are simply sick and twisted. Either that or he is trying to represent us in this way, however the fact that this is a single correspondence rather than a media release indicates the first theory is true.

      Spot on Ayrton, and nicely expressed. The suggestion, no, the statement that video games are more difficult to regulate than movies, art, music, etc, is simply ludicrous. Console makers have made a very deliberate decision to allow parents the ability to restrict access to games based on classification. I don't have children, but if I did, chances are I would still have a copy of Zombie Strippers (c'mon, it has zomies AND strippers!!!) in my possession. There are two points to note in this example:

      1) If I had children, this film would be stored somewhere my children could not access.

      2) However, if they did find it, there is absoluteley no way my DVD player could stop them from viewing it.

      I find it isanely hard to fathom that Atkinson honestly believes video games within a family household are harder to regulate than films. As previously stated, he openly contradicts himself with regards to his faith in parents to restrict access to certain content. Beyond that, the implication is that Atkinson does not have any faith in the avergae Australian's ability to responsibly raise a child. He will therefor remove that responsibility entirely, and not only mind our children for us, but treat us like children as well. Its insulting.

      To finish off the example above, on the flipside, if my hypothetical child was to find an R18 game that I had stored somewhere, and proceeded to pop it in the console, he would be prompted to enter a password. He would then have to make do with staring at the box for a while. End of story.

      Honestly, while Atkinson does compose a nice letter (or his advisors do), closer observation makes my head hurt, and I have neither the time nor the space to completely rip that piece of writing apart.

        Actually I think that some DVD and set top boxes players have parental controls although I couldn't say whether or not yours does but if we can trust the parental controls on DVD players (which if I recall are similar in design) why can't we trust those on consoles? the PC itself is a console yet Atkinson appears to be happy (although he may support the net filter) for parents to make sure their children do not access extremely more inappropriate content via the internet (something which is much harder to do) but not use parental controls to control video games. In fact without an R18 rating it is even HARDER for parents to use these controls as they operate on the basis of classification levels and because Adult games currently are placed in the MA15+ category parents who let their children play MA 15 games now are not able to use these parental controls to prevent them playing the games that really should be R18 and have to rely on other methods, the same methods which Micheal Atkinson doubts could prevent children from accessing these games. He should either trust parents and give them everything they need to do their job or if he does not (which he seems to imply) he should live up to his words and take upon himself the sole responsibility of monitoring the media exposure of every child under 18 in Australia, rather than talking these half-methods which help no one.

    Of the entire letter, it is this line that I find the most frustrating:

    Access to electronic games, once in the home, cannot be policed and therefore the games are easily accessible to children.

    This is pretty much the single point his entire argument boils down to.
    Something that should not be any thing to do with the government, and purely to do with good parenting.
    I don't see movies, alcohol, smoking, or hell, even driving a vehicle banned outright. I mean, all of these things have age associated restrictions, yet are every bit as accessible to a child at home.
    And at least two of those things pose a far far greater risk to a child's development, yet I don't see anyone banning cigarettes or alcohol outright screaming 'THINK OF THE CHILDREN!'. No they just regulate the sales of them. Just as they do for R18+ movies, so why do they refuse to do the same for games.

      Actually smoking around children under 16 in houses and cars is now a legally enforceable ban in NSW

      its fun to watch the cops sit outside public schools booking all the soccer mums who smoke in the car with their kids

        True, but my point was more that because the parents smoke, they must have smokes sitting unnattended at home and therefore accessible to THE CHILDREN!

    Atkinson's Letter: "It is up to parents and responsible adults to ensure a game is appropriate for a minor whatever age he or she is."

    Exactly. I wholly agree. The Classification board should assist in making this decision with as much accuracy as they can. As such, they have no place deciding -for- us; ie: choosing which games are unacceptable in place of the adults in society.

    How is it possible that he does not see the contradiction here?

    I see Matt Gosper just above has the same opinion.

    This is just ridiculous - that he's claiming that he should make the decision for us.

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