Atkinson Claims “Misinformed”, Designed To Stir “Moral Panic”

That’s the view of two industry veterans in response to recent print and radio comments from South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson outlining his opposition to an R18+ classification for video games.

Writing on the Interactive Gaming & Entertainment Association’s blog, iGEA boss Ron Curry provides a lengthy response to the form letter Atkinson recently sent to many gamers around the country, rebutting many of the minister’s arguments line by line.

“To reply in some glib way wouldn’t do any justice to the debate and a superficial response would offer little constructive input,” writes Curry. “However, the debate is important and one that has been largely hijacked by Atkinson whose invective, in my view, is full of moral panic, misinformation and factual inaccuracies.”

Significantly, Curry contends that it is indeed Atkinson standing in the way of the proposed discussion paper on video game classification being released to the public. Despite the minister’s claim that he has “done nothing to impede its release,” Curry suggests the paper has stalled over Atkinson’s insistence upon the inclusion of “depictions of actual games, including the types of games that are currently above the MA15+ rating.” Such depictions, Curry argues, would present the games out of context, a move that would “be contrary to the objectives of the national classification scheme.”

He adds, somewhat cheekily: “Including the types of games “currently above the MA15+ rating” would mean including extracts from RC material for public consumption – a notion that raises some concerns. If the material is refused classification then I would guess it should not be distributed to the public by censorship ministers.”

Speaking to Kotaku, former deputy director of the then Office of Film & Literature Classification, Paul Hunt expressed his disappointment in Atkinson’s criticism of the Classification Board. In an ABC radio interview, Atkinson claimed that the Board “does everything to try to get games in under the radar,” meaning he feels content is rated MA15+ even when in the minister’s view it fails to meet the guidelines, and that he does no trust the Board “to apply the guidelines sincerely and correctly.”

“This is a very unfortunate position to take,” Hunt told me. “I was on the Classification Board for seven years. At no time did I feel that I, or my colleagues, tried to get anything “in under the radar”. We always applied the tools of the National Classification Scheme – Classification Act, Code and Guidelines – that are agreed to by all nine Censorship Ministers.

He continued: “I think everyone would agree that it is difficult, if not impossible, to create a classification system that will provide perfect outcomes for every Australian on every decision. Every year the Board makes several thousand decisions and only a small handful of those decisions are appealed. That would indicate to most reasonable people that the system is being applied properly.”

Both Hunt and Curry also nonsensed Atkinson’s prediction that an R18+ classification would result in “extremely violent, sexually depraved, drug use games” becoming widely available.

“This is a misleading claim, or perhaps an uninformed one,” says Hunt. “Extremely violent, sexually depraved and drug use games are not permitted under the Refused Classification category in the guidelines. Creating an R18+ classification will not change this.”

Curry concurs, although he notes that most recent Refused Classification decisions have been on the grounds that the game’s content only exceeds the MA15+ rating, not because it meets the RC requirements of the Code and Guidelines.

For example, Curry says that the Board’s Decision (which, he points out, was not a unanimous decision) on Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude “indicates that the sex and nudity in the game was not so detailed or offensive that it should be banned from distribution to all Australians, but that it was only suitable for adults. As there is no R18+ classification, it was banned.”

You can read Curry’s response in full at the link below.

iGEA CEO Responds to Atkinson’s Form Letter on R18+ [iGEA]

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