Govt Releases R18+ Discussion Paper For Public Consultation

The Federal Government has this afternoon released a discussion paper on the merits of an R18+ classification for video games. The move is part of a round of public consultation on the issue that will continue until the end of February next year.

The paper contains a brief overview of the National Classification Scheme and outlines the arguments both for and against the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games. It also describes how the Australian public may make a submission and let their voices be heard in the debate.

Briefly, the key arguments against are:

* Computer games should be treated differently from films given the specific, negative effects of interactivity on players, particularly their participation in violent and aggressive content. * It would be difficult for parents to enforce age restrictions for computer games. * Minors would be more likely to be exposed to computer games that are unsuitable for them. * An R 18+ for computer games would exacerbate problems associated with access to high level material in Indigenous communities and by other non-English speaking people * There is no demonstrated need to change existing restrictions.

And, the key arguments for are:

* The R 18+ classification category sends a clear, unambiguous message to parents that the game material is unsuitable for minors * Consistent classification categories for films and computer games are easier to understand * A new classification will supplement technological controls on minors’ access to age inappropriate computer games * Adults should not be prevented from playing R 18+ level computer games simply because they are unsuitable for minors * Comparable international classification systems have an adult rating for computer games - international parity is desirable * Consumers access games which would be R 18+ illegally – it would be better if they were legally available with appropriate restrictions

Please download the full discussion paper at the link below, along with the instructions on how to make a submission. An R18+ Classification for Computer Games - Public Consultation [Attorney-General's Dept]


Comments

    So another push for an R18+ rating that our favourite Attorney-General will veto?

      By releasing it to the public, we can have our say and show that there is alot support in the public for this rating.

      Then that can put pressure on Atkinson if he contiues to hold the minority view and he can be painted as being on a Moral Crusade against this and denying the public what they are asking for because he doesnt share the same views.

      The ACT and VIC AG's are in favor of it, if we can get 2 or 3 more to publically voice support for it AND get positive and constructive submissions showing there is more benefit to having this rating....then hopefully enough pressure will be on him to change his view...lest he piss off the public more.

      If there is public pressure in favor of the adoption of an R18+ Rating, it would be in Gamers 4 Croyden's interest to hammer Atkinson on it in his electorate and getting the people there onside and painting him as following his own wishes, not what the public wants.

      Either way, finally some official recognition of the of the issue. Government's dones something right for once.

      I got a letter from Atkinson where he claimed a public vote wouldn't happen because it wasn't important enough ;)

      Sorry to say it but this still needs a UNANIMOUS VOTE from the same people who defeated this last time. Don't get me wrong i hope it works, but what is the point if at the end of the day, it can be de-railed by one angry old man. I really have no faith in this country anymore, the people running it are completely detached from the people who live in it.

    Christmas has come early.

      Call me paranoid but I think its released now in the hope it is lost and forgotten over the Christmas period.

    Finally! What we need now to make solid submissions is data on all the key points of our arguments.

    For example, how many titles shoe-horned into MA15+ in Australia have been classified in higher classifications in other countries? We need answers to these kinds of questions to really put forth the strongest submissions we can.

      Also would be good to find the results of studies pertaining to "Computer games should be treated differently from films given the specific, negative effects of interactivity on players, particularly their participation in violent and aggressive content."

      I know there have been studies that have shown people that play violent video games are actually more calm, and less prone to violence in real life.

      Also this point is clearly wrong: "There is no demonstrated need to change existing restrictions" and we need to show this.

        Well, the easiest argument there is that no study cited has done comparisons between different forms of media (comparisons are done within the same media). So there's nothing to demonstrate the idea that games are more impactful because of their interactivity, especially when Craig Anderson (who was cited) has done studies that show the same increases in aggression when comparing violent and non-violent films and oddly enough increases in temperature (I think it was based on discomfort, I only skimmed that one).

        Seeing as it's a key argument, the lack of evidence to back it up is kind of a big deal.

          I believe the problem here is of an intuitive nature. It seems intuitive that interaction would have a larger impact on a persons mental state. As has been shown with a number of issues, human intuition is often wrong and can't be the basis of decision making in this regard. We need facts.

          So this means we'd need to show studies that show A. Does interaction have a larger affect on a persons futuer actions (like you said).
          B. Does increased violence etc, assuming A is found to be true, lead to positive or negative results on people.

          Given that you will get bad and good eggs no matter what, cherry picking individual cases of a person losing the plot, who happened to play computer games, doesn't show a trend, nor prove computer games were at fault.

            The available literature on the subject is extremely contradictory - for every paper demonstrating a causative link between violent video games and aggressive behaviour, there's a study that shows games of this nature have a positive impact on behaviour, and two more that are inconclusive. I was actually reading a literature review on the matter today, and the authors of that paper came to this conclusion. They also had some choice things to say about the way the studies they examined had been conducted.

    Hells yeah! Its about time. Gonna read through this tonight.

    Please everyone read this paper, its fine that you support this or that, but we need to actually be INFORMED and not just ranting and full of rage. Read the paper and make a reasonable submission!

    This is great news. However the arguments against seem like Atkinson has written them himself. They really don't sit well with me at all. "no demonstrated need to change" "difficult for parents to enforce" "Indigenous communities and by other non-English speaking people". Seriously these arguments against have not been thought out and are deeply flawed.

      "by other non-English speaking people" yeah i particularly felt this part was very racist and emotive. People in foreign countries have access to these games, whether they live in this country matters not.

      I can understand the point of view with regards to Indigenous communities given events over the previous few years with other R rated material and Alcohol, and thus computer games would fall into that category.

      You're probably right mate, who else is seriously arguing against this change?

      Thats a good thing, this gives us the opportunity to show that.

      We need to seperate the legitimate argument from the moral panic and argue against it accordingly, don't get bogged down trying to educate because they simply don't care.

      Atkinson claims that we are a 'vocal minority' trying to force our will on the people of australia, it falls to us to prove that we are vocal for a reason... And that he is the one forcing his will upon us.

      If you *do* write something about this and send it in try and avoid mentioning him at all. He's a grouchy old twat swelled to the brim with pride and self-importance, turning this into a shit-slinging match isn't going to get us what we want... (unfortunately).

      The trick is to simply focus on the facts, there is no proof that videogames harm people, studies that claim that are flawed. Other countries have 18+ ratings and they work fine.

      Those two points should be reason enough for Australia to move to a position of parity with those other nations so at least we can compete economically in the industry. After all, we are not the conservative moral compass of the world, there is no reason for us to be different on this point.

    At least this is progression. I feel like the issue is finally getting, at the very least, a deserved amount of attention.

    "It would be difficult for parents to enforce age restrictions for computer games."

    If there has been no demonstrated increased harm from video games compared to other media (and Anderson's research, which has been cited, shows similar results across multiple forms of media not just video games, and all studies seem to test across the same media and not comparing games to film), then surely this argument applies to all age restricted content.

    It should apply to MA15+ (and higher) content across all mediums.

    Also: "There is no demonstrated need to change existing restrictions.' "It's not broken, so why fix it" is not an argument against a clear improvement. Some soapy water and some corrugated iron will clean your clothes just fine, so why have a washing machine?

    Does anyone get the feeling that Atkinson himself wrote the arguments against section?

    Theres no solid facts in the against section. - Theres no proven link between violence and video games.
    - All current generation consoles have age restriction capabilities.
    - Opinion and debatable. Responsible parenting + parental restrictions on consoles FTW!
    - Opinion and debatable, see point 1. If there is no proven link between games and violence in the general public, why should it be any different for Indigenous communities and by other non-English speaking people. This just feels like a cop out.
    - No demonstrated need? I'm sure the current political party, numerous facebook groups and its thousands of members and 500+ residents of SA feel differently.

    Hopefully this will lead to change in the very foreseeable future.

    WOOOOOOO! Time to run some classification parties in place of tupperware parties!

    awesome, im gunna read this when i get home tonight.

    Re: arguments against...

    *There is little reliable scientific evidence of increased impact due to interactivity, and significant evidence that it in fact diminishes the impact because pressing buttons reinforces the fact that it is not real. The classification system also includes the provision that interactivity is to be taken into account, thus an R18+ film and R18+ game would be the same 'impact'.

    *It would not be more difficult than for films, and in many instances with the easy to use parental controls on modern consoles and PCs, potentially easier. Limited use of parental controls is a reason to increase education for parents, not restrict adult liberty.

    *Less adult-oriented content would be placed in the MA15+ category, making less adult content available to minors. The size of the Australian games market is not significant enough to urge developers to create higher-impact games with the introduction of an R18+ for games, something that every other western democracy has.

    *Again, education is a preferred response to poorly-understood classifications, rather than censorship.

    *There is little demonstrated need to watch films, read books or listen to music. They, like games, are choices. The impact that the lack of a R18+ for games has on the economy is significant. Anecdotally, dozens of game stores across Adelaide sold tens of thousands of dollars, each, of Modern Warfare 2. If, as Mr Atkinson wants, this game is retroactively Refused Classification, the ongoing sales of that product - a single game - will cease. Gamers in WA who purchased the game legally will become criminals for possession of RC material. Left 4 Dead 2 sold pitiful numbers in Australia due to the lack of an R18 and its subsequent censoring. That is money that instead of going to Australian retailers has gone to international stores. Aliens vs Predator, another highly anticipated game, would likely have seen millions of dollars pass through the local economy. Now, it will go oversees.

    Chris Prior
    Gamers4Croydon Councillor
    I game, I vote.

    i hope everyone is filling out a submission form

      Gamers4Croydon is currently working on a submission, and will provide a list of key points for people to address in their own submissions.

      Chris Prior
      Gamers4Croydon Councillor
      I game, I vote.

    "There is no demonstrated need to change existing restrictions... The risk of possible harm through increasing the exposure by children to unsuitable material is not theoretical and the classification system should be kept in its present form."

    How can this paper encourage discussion when it not only subjectively but explicitly states that the system should be kept in its present form? This language is jaded, compromised by weasel words and straw man BS. I worry.

    There are so many things wrong with the CONS of having a R18 but also their are some valid points.

    I agree that Video Games should be treated differently compared to films. Firstly, the film business is bigger than the video game business.

    Secondly, i think Video Games should be treated in a more lighter tone than films. Films are much more accessible to minors than games. Films are cheaper and a minor can still get into a MA15 movie and possibly a R18 if a guardian was with them.

    Films are more easily accessible through the internet compared to video games, especially retail video games that are R18 etc...
    Video games are more expensive than films and minors, especially those around 10-12 wouldn't always have the money to purchase a video game without seeking permission or $$$ from their parents.

    There is no demonstrated need for a change? seriously? They refused classification to the standard edition of Left 4 Dead 2 - a somewhat popular game. It affects retailers and not only that, i guess Australian publishers and developers could claim it effects them in making games that are most popular to the fans they cater.

    Back to the films - a game that receives a R18 rating may be because their are certain parts of the game that contain extreme violence or language etc... But that doesn't mean the whole game is violent all the way through. The point I'm making - in games you need to take control in order to view/experience the violence or whatever warrants the R rating. In a film, you witness doing nothing but sit their. Therefore, violence or sexual references in a film are much more accessible to a child than a video game.

    Not every child (or household) has a console and therefore video games don't necessarily affect those group of people. Also, i bet a lot of statistic could confirm my prediction that most families and households with children under 15 would own a Wii rather than a PS3 or Xbox 360. And going back the past few years, i would safely bet without knowing, that no games on the Wii have been refused classification and a very SMALL percentage would have M or MA rating.

    I know alot of minors have 360's and PS3s also, but more would have a Wii. A console that is marketed and viewed as a more child friendly console that caters to children and adults/older people. A more family console.

      Excellent points, but you have to remeber, the video game industry is becoming ALOT bigger. It earns alot more money than it used to, with some games having $100 Million budgets. Games are soon going to be just as big as film is when it comes to money, if not more. DVDs dont sell anywhere near as much as would be liked, and video games dont need to worry about selling in both cinema and stores. They sell straight from stores, with the average cost in australia being $90-$100. Film is $9 in cinema and then $30 on dvd. If a movie sells 10million tickets and 5million dvds, and games sell only 7.5million copies, they still make more then a film does.

    They only give you 250 words to make your point, so you must be VERY concise.

      Atkinson = sack.

    another thing to help push that we want an R18+ rating (and i say put your name on it even if you 1. already have and 2. even if you don't live in qld. we need as many signitures as we can get

    http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/view/EPetitions_qld/CurrentEPetition.aspx?PetNum=1346&lIndex=-1

      Unless they check and realise that our numbers have been artificially inflated by non-Queenslanders and duplicate signings.

      One signature per person, Queenslanders only please. We need more numbers, but for those numbers to mean anything that have to be real people.

      Just signed it. Hope it has the potential to do something.

    Just remember guys - treat this with respect. Don't go off and make spontaneous random submissions without thinking your answers through.

    We need to make our voices heard and need to make them count.

    Most of their arguments are just plain wrong. Thankfully the Australian public can now make commentary on this subject =)

    * It would be difficult for parents to enforce age restrictions for computer games.

    And they will have trouble with R18 & X18 movies too, so make them RC aswell.

    * Minors would be more likely to be exposed to computer games that are unsuitable for them.

    Hardly, they currently are already being exposed to levels well beyond what a MA15 should allow.

    * An R 18+ for computer games would exacerbate problems associated with access to high level material in Indigenous communities and by other non-English speaking people

    WTF Racism?!?

    * There is no demonstrated need to change existing restrictions.

    A large number of games rated MA15 are rated as an adult classification overseas e.g. R18

      You should send this to the discussion paper,

      It completely disproves there points and is exactly what most people are thinking when they read though those ludicrous reasons against having the ratings.

    I don't usually get involved in this sort of thing, but I would like to have my say. I have been playing games since I played the first Super Mario Bros on the Nintendo in 1990 or so. My parents were extremely careful in the content that I was exposed to, and the reason that they were able to make a informed decision was that there was a ratings system in place. If people can remember a game called Carmageddon that was released some years back, the idea was that you would drive around and run down pedestrians. If I remember correctly this was the first Game rated MA15+ released in Australia (correct me if I'm wrong) however judging on the content of the game, it perhaps should have been rated R18+. This brings the point up that, games that have been getting through as an MA rated game shouldn't be. This is the prime reason that we need a R18 rating. Think of the major titles that have caused problems when being released in Australia. Left 4 Dead 2, Grand Theft Auto 4, Modern Warfare 2. All of these titles have content within them, that really should classify them for an R18 rating. If we have a mature and fully functioning ratings system here in Australia, then the content that we should be able to make our minds up about, will be handled in a correct and mature way. We won't have to edit or modify games in a way to allow them to be released in a version that should be classified as R18, but is being allowed as MA15. When I played the 'No Russian' level in MW2, I didn't feel the need to fire at anyone, however (and I believe this is what Infinity Ward intended) I felt repulsed in the stomach. Now the rating on the box says 'strong violence' but it does not go into anymore detail than this. Perhaps if we are to get a R18 rating for games, then more detail, like some of the movie ratings show now, would also be advisable. I'm 27, and I feel I have the right to make an informed decision BUT lets make sure these decisions are being made with the correct and best system in place to do this. One question I do have is, if we receive an R18 rating, would this allow Left 4 Dead 2, to then be patched to allow the unedited version of the game for existing copies, or allow Valve or Sega/Rebellion to then go back and resubmit a game for classification if it was refused on initial submission?

    Why dont the government make some legislation where MA15+ and R18+ has to come with a pamphlet with details and instructions on how to use the parental controls on all consoles, or at least give them to the a responsible adult at the point of sale.

      This brings to light that games in fact have even better access-prevention methods than movies - console parental controls.

      * It would be difficult for parents to enforce age restrictions for computer games.

      Because all parents will obviously forget where they hide / lock away their R18+/X18+ movies and just put their games in their children's MOUTH. At least, that's what Atkinson would do.

      I long for the day when we get an online shooter that's R rated, then I won't have to spend so much time muting the squeaky-voices.

    Admittedly, I may have missed this, but did they not make any mention in the paper of how games that are restricted elsewhere getting shoved into our MA15+ rating? Games like Modern Warfare 2 and Fallout 3 were 17+ in the USA, and 15+ here.
    That's one of the more important reasons for getting an R18+ rating here, so why wasn't it brought up?

    The entire paper is written by Atkinson himself and is completely biased. I am sickened to the stomach.

    Although obvious, I will point out that you don't have to print out the submission template in order to complete it, you can just delete the unnecessary answers in word and email it off. Cheers.

    Knowing Atkinson, that email address is set up to delete everything it receives anyway.

    Good luck! I hope we get somewhere in all this!

    Quite frankly, the points against are very easy to refute. I think it's time for us to show these polly's just how misinformed they are.

    If videogames are that much more potent at eliciting emotional responses from people than films are, why have developers been struggling so hard to try and make us cry when we play?

    Every new console generation that comes out you hear devs going on and on about how much more emotion they're hoping to deliver.

    I know there are extremely beloved characters and moments in games, don't get me wrong, I'm just making the point that it's a tough medium to generate emotions in.

    Thank god this is finally open to public debate. Can I be a pillock and remind everyone to spell and grammar check their submissions? Nothing destroys credibility of an author faster than poor spelling and we need every submission to count.

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