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]


Comments

    More like this, please.

    Atkinson's claim of the board trying to get stuff 'under the radar' is one of the more baffling statements he has made recently. They try to abide by his personal viewpoints, and then he accuses them of deception even when they acheive this end. It's as if Atkinson actually wants to be hated by people.

    As I have said before, put Atkinson in a public live debate with someone in full possession of the facts of this issue, and his arguments would instantly become 100% null and void no matter what outlandish and incorrect statements fall from his mouth. Since he never has any evidence or facts to back up his false rhetoric, it would all come crashing down quicker than you can say 'democracy'.

      Its because Atkinson doesn't have a logical set of reasons why he wants no R18+. His stance is he doesn't want one regardless of any reason at all. This is why his arguement is put simply: R18 will destroy our kids and any measure you take to stop this happening will fail so lets just not allow it to exist in the first place.

      This is why he attacks the classification board, or parents, etc. He wants to create a fear of its very existance. This, to be honest, is typical of faith based thinking. He has a position and he won't let something as petty as fact or evidence to sway his moral conviction.

        I can't...I can't bring myself to think that someone who is basing an Australian law on personal beliefs, rather than actual facts and public opinion is in such a postion of power. You're absolutely correct but...damn, its depressing to think about.

          Oh i know! this is why i'm so glad we have a division between church and state, which not all countries have.

          This doesn't of course mean some people aren't religiously driven, which in my opinion Atkinson seems to be. Not so much "Believe my god" but "live my religious moral code". He's clearly not deciding objectively to what the country wants/needs but what he personally wants/needs.

          Its a tricky thing for sure, how do you split up personal conviction versus blind stupidity? Moral convictions versus selfish eurocentrism?

            Church and state may be separate, but the elected officials seem to be favoring God's word over that of their electorate.
            Atkinson's primary justification for his standpoint is a purely moral one based in his Christian values. The same can be said for Tony Abbott's reasoning for blocking RU-486. So the question remains, who are they really representing?

              Just remember that the seperation of church and state is theoretical. We have a church going prime minister, a society based on christian values (more or less), and in the end, religion affects it one way or another...

        The irony is that if kids are able to obtain R18+ games through stores(they can import easily) inside of australia then the problem doesnt lie with the laws relating to videogame ratings but with the way punishment is enforced onto the seller

        its like saying oh we should ban all alcohol because even tho its an 18+ product kids can still get it, of course they can and they can still get every game thats banned most will achieve this through illegal terms, which will also have a cause and effect since once they realise how easy it is to get the banned game do you really think theyll waste there precious money on the unbanned ones when they could spend it on said booze

    Nice piece Mr Goose – and it's great to see people like Ron Curry weighing in.

    Atkinsons issues are all psychological. He thinks games are the end of the world, yet other activities or sports can lead to actual violence/rape/whatever, yet their never an issue.

    Video games are new to him, and he fears this new unknown thing that's all the rage these days.

    This public radio broadcast is great for showing how much of an idiot Atkinson is. More and more people are starting to realize that R18 doesn't exist, and more pressure is being placed to get it in.

    If R18+ gets added in QLD, then that will hopefully have all other states follow suit, leaving SA the only censored continent of Australia. Eventually people will get tired of his crap, and vote him out.

      As far as i'm aware its an all or nothing situation. Classifications are a national standard here from what i understand and as long as SA says 'No to R18+' we all miss out.

        Atkinson mentioned once about other states adopting the rating. I emailed Nick McKim, Green MP for my electorate, asking if he would be willing to sponsor a bill, which would introduce a statewide R18+ rating for videogames in Tasmania.

        Rather than say "no", he actually replied, said that he agrees with my position, and that I have to wait until after the state election to seek an MP to have the notion tabled.

        Potential?

        The ACT has lower restrictions on the purchase of pornographic material (eg. X rated) than all the other states and territories. So the censorship of various types of media must be able to be reconsidered at state level.

          While thats a good point. Thus we just need an R18+ classification to exist first and whether all states adopt it would be the 2nd battle.

          I'd much rather import from another state, then another country. (although i'm QLD so hopefully we'd get it ok)

        That’s how I understand it too but maybe there is a precedent with the X18+ classification only available in the NT and ACT but not in the other states.
        These areas have an additional classification group for movies out of line with the rest of the country so why not a similar thing for games?

          I think it's because Territories, as creatures of statute and who existence depends entirely on legislation of the Federal Government as opposed to the constitution, may have different legal standings etc. and their classification system might depend on Federal guidelines- however this is a mere hunch.
          I just assumed as people have mentioned the two Territories as having different classifications that this is a possible case.

      Too true. Compare how many people have been PROVEN to be injured or killed as a direct result of violent video games as opposed to soccer.

      I can honestly say I've never seen a GTA riot.

    I met Paul Hunt afew years ago during other games-banning controversies with the OFLC; he's actually a top bloke (like most of the others on the board), and it's good to see him come out and take the stand against Atkinson's misinformed claims.

    Finally, people in the video game iindustry are speaking out. We need the aussie based game studios to lend their weight as well.

      When they start viewing the gaming industry as an entertainment cashcow, perhaps they'll change their minds. Maybe someone should point out how GTA IV and MW2 fared against whatever movies they're happily accumulating GST from.

        well here's the thing. there is an actual economic benefit to having these games editted and released as MA15 because they sell more copies to the massive under 18 audience, whether it be the kids themselves or the retarded parents.

          Perhaps, but really if anyone under the age of 18 really wants these games they will get their hands on them regardless, the same goes with porn and r-rated movies

    Surely someone out there with enough political clout can launch an investigation against Mr Atkinson for continued abuse of his power based on personal motives. Seriously if nothing gets done to remove him from the decision process then when the discussion paper/review process finally goes public then he will just sit there, smugly, and say no at the end of the process. Complete waste of time and money.

    How can a man who has stated on many, many occasions that he will never support an R18+ rating be allowed to have the power of veto over any classification changes.

      It's not game related but he is under investigation for corruption. Maybe this will take care of it for us???

      http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,1,26435966-5006301,00.html

      I think the better solution would be to get other politians on board and seek to publicly shed light on the issue in that direction. As public as this issue is right now, its still not very well known or in the public mind.

      The one thing any politian hates is being publicly shamed and this is a good way to expell a problem such as this. Its very clear Atkinson has no real defendable position and it would be quickly overrun in the public eye.

      There was a public rally in Brisbane about this on the weekend and I don't recall seeing any real news broadcast highlighting it. Our best bet is to keep this debate alive and get it into the national media. Hopefully this will prompt notable politians to weigh in on the issue and it might cause Atkinson to re-evaulate his position.

      Making a decision then claiming you'll never budge is indicative of personal motive/dislike.
      When making a decision especially one that affects many other people he, especially as a politician must be willing to change when evidence or support is brought up in the contrary. It's the freakin' definition of close mindedness.

      I've made up my mind and there is nothing you can do to change it, evidence, emails, industry support and numerous articles be damned.

      It sounds like he's just to proud to back down now!

      To be honest I don't think this is an abuse of power...he is entitled to hold this stance just as much as we are to say an R18 rating should be allowed.

      I don't think the problem is him so much as it is:
      a) His electorate for keeping him in a position of power. They could have voted him out had they wanted
      b) The law itself which grants people the power to block progress. Again this isn't his fault if he honestly believes that an R18 is wrong, but the law should be set up so that it doesn't require an unanimous decision for things to pass either. There needs to be some give, some leeway otherwise major decisions get stalemated as it has here.

      I really think it's the law that needs to change. It's easy to blame Atkinson solely but everyone has their own moral beliefs and he was elected into his position with those values known to all that voted him in just as we had a PM that didn't want to apologize for the Stolen Generation previously amongst other things. Theres nothing wrong governing in how you perceive the best interst to be IMHO as long as the majority can still overrule it.

        While I agree with that the law itself needs to be changed (to a majority vote rather than a unanimous one), Atkinson is happy to exploit and abuse this law. His personal opinions are the only thing upholding it and if he had to present facts and evidence to a governing body to have the R rating blocked in the first place, he wouldn't last a second.

        If he honestly believes an R Rating is wrong, as you said, that shouldn't be the sole basis for this classifcation being blocked. He should be forced to present factual evidence to support his personal views, which he never does. Instead, he justs sits back and throws out buzzwords like 'cruel sex' and 'gore' and never presents anything to back it up. And when he tries to support his claims (Rapelay etc.), these statements are quickly refuted by common sense and reality - to which he then never responds further and returns to his 'cruel sex' rhetoric and the frustrating cycle begins again.

        And on top of that, he claims on one hand it's important to him to protect children from mature content and then on the other, proclaims nobody cares about 'imaginary worlds' when people rightly protest.

        Not only is he abusing his position and this law, he is rubbing our noses in it. That is not someone who I characterise as a responsible politician and certainly not someone who should be making decisions for 20+ million Australians.

          But isn't this again him running things as the law allows him? Unfortunately him having a skewed opinion seems to be adequate here which is why the laws need to be changed.

          DW, I dislike the guy and find it hypercritical of him not to go after other forms of media too but I think people are focusing on him too much and not the wider issue here which is that the governing system itself is broken, not just the classification system.

    Nice to see we're taking a step in the right direction.

    Sadly it would be very convenient if he is found to be corrupt. It would certainly put a vast taint on his position, on any issue.

    I wish I could ever be as patient anymore as the writer of the above article matter - I doubt I could refer to Atkinson's "misleading" statements without calling them the lies of a lying liar.

    Atkinson probably wants anything past a PG rating banned to protect the children

    Just as much pressure should be put on SA's Shadow Attorney General, Vicki Chapman, in this matter.

    The best way to get rid of Atkinson is to get rid of the Labor Government. There's a State election next year remember people. South Australians need to vote out the ALP if there's a chance of this going forward.

    patition to get a r18+ rating
    http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/EPetitions_qld/CurrentEPetition.aspx?PetNum=1346&lIndex=-1

      ...for Queenslanders.

      ;)

    You all do realise that its highly likely that he personally does not care about video game classification one way or another, however he has realised that this is a topic that will keep getting his name in the papers.

    People ranting and raving will only add more fuel to the fire, ensuring that he remains the topic of discussion.

    After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity. All he cares about is exposure and people are giving it to him in spades.

    I think unless this issue gets a decent run and recognition in the mainstream media not much will change. Yes, all the gamere know about this issue and it gets a huge run on 'gamer' focused sites. But when it comes to the mainstream medis, the focus is more about the game that is RC rather than the real issue of an antiquated ratings system.

    All adult Australians should enroll in kindergarten as obviously that is where you belong if you let that one old man can block legislation about something that is considered a basic human right (adults can make their choices) in majority of other world countries.

      Because obviously we "let" him do this. Thanks for that helpful wake-up call, European. Now I see the light. Jeez, we're just idiot children. Goo-goo ga-ga.

      There's an article here (http://www.kotaku.com.au/2009/12/hey-stop-blaming-the-australian-governmentpeople-for-banning-games/) which you obviously need to read European. Sheesh.

    "it is difficult, if not impossible, to create a classification system that will provide perfect outcomes for every Australian"

    It doesn't have to be the perfect outcome for every Australian just for the majority of Australians. Which right now it doesn't.

    It barely pleases the vocal minority who are fighting to keep it the way it is. Which, lets remind ourselves, are people who aren't even interested in this type of media.

    THis is obviously a topic that isn't mainstream and not a lot of the public know about. It really only affects a small percentage and of the those who are avic video gamers, it doesn't piss all of them off very much.

    I saw this guy on the news and said out loud, you're a wank*r. My parents asked why and i explained to them. They understood the situation but at the same time, it wasn't something that affected THEM generally.

    The problem with Games 4 Croydon is persuading the public that aren't effected by this problem to see it from OUR point of view among other things. Their were protestors out front of Atkinsons's office around a month ago. I don't know what over but i don't think it was over the gaming situation. He clearly isn't that well liked. Who knows if his own area is too and if its happened since the last State Election.

    Point is - we need this topic to go a bit more mainstream before anything really happens. I did read in the paper when L4D2 was refused but their point was more an effect on retailers rather than gamers.

    If retailers helped make this matter more important, perhaps this topic would be more available to the public. Atkinson is clearly being selfish with his vision of this. He is so narrow minded and just thinking of flash games and games that aren't even available in other countries that have R Rating for his examples.

    He only needs to have ONE look at the R Rating for movies. His main problem with having a R-Rating is young children being vulnerable to very violent games. 'HELLO! Look at half the MA rated games'. Its not like there are HEAPS of R Rated films anyway compared to M and MA. And video stores etc... do have strict policy with people underage hiring or purchasing them. Films are easier to obtain than video games and video game stores like EB, JB and Game ask MORE OFTEN for ID when people try purchasing a MA rated game than what video store clerks do for R and MA rated films.

    Perhaps Atkinson should concentrate on THOSE things and even Parental Advisory stickers on CDs than video games. Children are more vulnerable to films and music than video games.

      Retailers really have no vested interest in making this an issue. The number of games that are RC'ed or subsequently edited to pass as MA15+ is small in the scheme of things. An R18+ may provide a few more dollars in revenue for those titles that either aren't stocked or currently have people buying from overseas to receive unedited versions, however there is the risk that some MA15+ games may end up in an R18+ if there was one. Just look at the number of MA15+ games in Australia now which are R18 overseas. Some retailers may be hesitant to stock R18+ games (for brand / image reasons) or could be concerned over possible rules that would go with them in regards to display and advertisement. This could have a net effect of reducing revenues for retailers of some titles currently MA15+. Ultimately I suspect there's little reward to be gained by retailers but a much larger risk to their revenues from pushing for an R18+.

    I think that it would be interesting to contact the other Attorneys General to find out what their views are on a R18+ rating.

    We all know that there is no arguing with Mr. Atkinson, so it would be good if the views of the other people involved in the decision would make their views known.

    Atkinson is too much of an arrogant old much who is out of touch with reality to ever accept an R18+ rating. He is just way too narrow minded and senile to change, just another religious bigot.

    The more games get banned, the more obvious it will become that the R classification is a necessity. We will have it someday, Australia can't remain that behind for that long.

    Found myself watching Horton Hears a Who last night on foxtel and found the ending enlightening. The Kangaroo character, who is afraid she’ll loose her power by Horton’s insistence on breaking out of their communities social norms, brings up the whole “Think of the Children” argument to scare the parents into supporting her. It’s the use of fear to try and control society by refusing to allow for change that makes Mr Atkinson the Kangaroo.

    Mind you, Conroy is trying the exact same thing with the internet filter but that’s a different topic.

    As much as I like the sentiments expressed here, what else did you expect the iGEA head and a former OFLC member to say in regards to those two respective points?
    Sure, we might agree with what they say, but I for one would actually be more interested in reading the thoughts of someone who's less obviously going to sway one way or the other? Someone who can bring a slightly less unbiased, less pre-formulated perspective to the discussion?

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