Hey, Stop Blaming The Australian Government/People For "Banning" Games

You know, every time a game is "banned" in Australia, I see people from the US and Europe saying stupid, stupid things. I'd like to try and put a stop to that.

This morning, for example, I awoke to find Rebellion - the developers behind Aliens vs Predator - saying that they wouldn't be making any changes to the game in light of its failure to secure classification in Australia. Were that simply from a business standpoint (ie, it's too small a market to go back into the code), that's fine. Whatever.

But they went and provided an official statement on the matter, which said "We will not be releasing a sanitised or cut down version for territories where adults are not considered by their governments to be able to make their own entertainment choices."

See that, right there? It's harsh. And it's 100% bullshit.

Whenever a game is refused classification in Australia - a move which effectively bans the game, since it is illegal to sell a game without a Classification Board rating attached - I hear the same old thing being said by publishers and gamers alike. That it's either the fault of the Australian government, the Classification Board, or some underlying moral flaw in the Australian people.

Let me tell you why games are continually "banned" in Australia. It is not, as you may believe, the fault of the Australian "government". Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his cabinet have never broached the subject. They have not passed any laws banning violent video games, nor will they. This is a free, liberal and democratic country.

Nor is there some movement or mass media crusade in this country, like there is in Germany, to crack down on violent content in video games. Newspapers, talk shows and TV hosts have better/more important things to talk about. It's not even on their radar. The Australian people, like people everywhere else, are free to purchase what they like, and since the biggest game of the year down here will be Modern Warfare 2, we clearly enjoy a bit of the ol' ultra-violence.

And it's not the fault of the Classification Board. They review what they're given and have to rate it within the guidelines they're given; they're not some autonomous body, some powerful government force able to lobby for changes. They do what they do within the rules, get paid, life goes on.

So whenever you see or hear a publisher, developer or writer from the US or Europe blaming any of the things above, ignore them. They don't know what they're talking about.

The actual cause of Australia's current situation can be traced back decades, to the time ratings for video games were first introduced. Because at the time games were so simple, childish and crude (they were, after all, still considered "toys"), it was decided that the maximum rating they'd need was MA15+. A mistake, then but an innocent one.

Fast forward to this decade, and suddenly games are incredibly realistic. The Xbox 360, PS3 and PC can depict scenes of shocking violence, and a maturing development scene means sex and drugs now feature prominently in video games as well. Games aren't just meeting the MA15+ rating, they're often exceeding it.

So, it's time for a law change, then! Should be simple enough. Australia has a number of international developers lobbying the government, it's a billion-dollar market, it's a free country. Except...to amend the classification laws, all six of Australia's state Attorneys-General need to unanimously agree to the change.

Five of them do, and have been for some time now. They're reasonable people, who realise that adults should be free to choose their own adult forms of entertainment. But one - South Australia's Michael Atkinson - does not.

An incredibly conservative man, Atkinson vehemently opposes the introduction of an R18+ rating in Australia, as he believes that would make it too easy for children to access the mature content in an adult game. Despite the fact it's legal to sell not only R18+ DVDs in this country, which would presumably allow the exact same thing, but in some territories (like mine) it's even legal to purchase XXX pornographic material.

Despite years of letters, phone calls and industry lobbying, Atkinson has refused to budge. He likely never will, meaning the only way Australia's classification laws are liable to change is if he dies, or loses his seat at the next election (a gaming party is seeking to do just that, but campaigning on such a limited platform, they won't likely be successful).

Well, that or change the constitution. And that's not going to happen over something so trivial (which, in the grand scheme of things, this is).

So developers, publishers, and everybody else with an opinion on why a game is "banned" in Australia or what's wrong with us if/when it is...try and keep all this in mind next time you go pointing the finger.


Comments

    I hate to say it but your probarbly right. I dont think Gamers for Croyden will win, but I will still help for the cause. How old is Michael Atkinson now? 60? Hes got to go soon! Or atleast replaced? Is there any officials trying for his position?

    don't the territories governor generals get a vote as well?

    well said.

    as a recent arrival in this fine country it is a hard thing to comprehend at first and once understood really frustrating.

    Mr. Atkinson = The Government

      At least in his own head.

      I agree with this, even if 99% of the other members of our government disagree with Atkinson, he still holds a seat and as such represents the Australian government.

        yes but as stated in the article he holds power in a democratic country not through democratic means if everything we done had to be done through unanimous voting wed all still be playing in the mud

        We should also curse Rapelay tho since it is the only thing he ever uses to defend himself(although the game would nvr have been submitted in australia by the developers own admission it was nvr meant to leave japan and even there it changed laws )

        Fail. He is not part of the Australian government. He is Attorney-General of a state government, so saying he's part of the Australian government is like saying the mayor of NYC is part of Obama's administration.

        The current SA goverment will lose an election at some point and hopefully the next AG will have less of his head up his arse.

      I've got to agree - he's a government official which makes him part of the government... so you're argument from the first paragraph doesn't make sense.

      You also make a point about Australia being free and democratic but blame the whole "lack of R Rating" on Atkinson... so like another guy on here said, is it now a dictatorship? If all the states were voting then majority would rule wouldn't it?

      I applaud Rebellion - they shouldn't be forced to release an inferior product in a country that's not "allowed" to play mature games. But that's my opinion.

      I know what you're trying to say but your argument is weak sadly.

        I believe when it's legislation like this, it's not a majority vote, it has to be unanimous.

    I respectfully disagree. It IS the government's fault in my opinion for keeping in place a system which allows ONE man from South Australia, to dictate what the ENTIRE country can or cannot play. The system is faulty, and clearly does not speak for the country.

    Also Michael Atkinson is part of the Government, and he's the one keeping it from happening. How can this NOT be the fault of the Government?

      I half agree there - yes, it's not the government's fault as a whole but it IS their fault for not pushing atkinson. He clearly does not represent the public interest and yet here he is make decisions for us. Parliamentary members need to pressure atkinson to get the hell out of the way but they won't do it. Why? Like Luke said, maybe cuz it's a trivial matter but still, it doesn't hurt to have a chat does it?

      100% correct, man. I agree with everything.

      A fatal flaw in the way our government works provides a pseudo-dictatorship.

      And yes, Kevin Rudd has never spoken about the subject. That, however, is the point! He is ignorant to the matter, leaving it up to a group of people who cannot get anything done because of one single man.

      Also agreed with you 100%, the fact that this jackass can ignore an overwhelming majority vote against him, and screw the free choices of adults all over the country is plain stupidity.

      If we had some direct way to vote against him it would be ok, but no, thats down to the SA'ers. Now why if we have no power to vote him out, can he affect the ENTIRE country!? What kind of bullshit is that?

      I really must do a bit of research into how this works because it seems like madness if that is true.

    why is it that we have to convince Michael Atkinson to change his mind when he's part of the SA Labour party. Shouldn't we be asking the premier on why they have gone along with this stance by the AG.

    If it's their policy to oppose a R18+ rating then they should put it on the table for the next election that they don't think adults should be allowed to make decisions for themselves

    If you think about it, it really is one big joke.

    We ARE a free country and we are letting people like Atkinson choose what they think is fit for us. Well, we are against Atkinson for this matter.

    But its illegal to import a game that doesn't have classification. It's really pathetic if you think about it. One massive joke. Obviously you need laws and a parliamant to oversee a country so we don't turn into some Papa Nee Guinea or Fiji where everyone is against everyone.

    But in cases like this, its just a joke that they can choose what we can see/experience legally.

      It's not currently illegal to import games that have been refused classification. But I believe the proposed internet censorship laws may make it illegal to do so via the Internet.

        Yes it is illegal, material that is "refused" classification" is deemed to be prohibited by customs.

      No, sorry. We are not a free country.

      We have no bill of rights, we do not have freedom of speech/expression, we are not protected from out of control government/police, we have censorship in place, and the government tells us what we may or may not do with our own bodies in the privacy of our own homes.

    Sorry but it is the "Australian Government" at fault here. Australia gets called out for being a redneck backwater every once in a while and deserves the label once again in this instance.

    Do you think that Atkinson would really be able to keep his spanner in the works if this became a hot election issue? He's a scapegoat, albeit a willing one, for an issue that the rest of government either doesn't care about or secretly agrees with.

    So foreigners keep laughing at the Australian government, I'm laughing at them with you.

      Last time the issue was raised and voted on by each states Attorney General, Atkinson was the only one opposed. Since the vote must be unanimous it didn't pass.

      It's not a government issue, it's an Atkinson issue.

        I'm well aware of the history, but I don't accept the rest of the government sitting back and pointing the finger saying "we tried our best."

        As I have no democratic recourse to deal with Atkinson, I have no alternative but to hold my own representative AG accountable. This policy goes against the wishes of a large amount of voters, I want it fixed and if my representatives aren't working on fixing it then I want someone who will.

        I would advise all voters to do the same thing; stop pointing the finger keep shaking the tree.

          Damn right. And your state AG *could* bring in an R18 rating; he's just using Atkinson as a handy foil to escape responsibility for not doing so.

          And what do you expect your AG to do? Apply pressure to Atkinson to change his position? At the least, they'll say the issue is pissing off their voters and Atkinson will tell them to hold it out since preventing the rating is the right thing to do.

          At the most, they'll say they agree with our stance and Atkinson will probably just say they're morally compromised and as such their opinion means little to him.

          You fail to realise that Atkinson is unshakable, and it has NOTHING to do with protecting people as he says it does. Surely he would realise by now that he's causing more harm than good, especially since it's a null issue that probably won't affect his electorate's opinion of him.

          The problem is he personally hates violent and sexual media because of his conservative beliefs. He uses children and 'sensitive adults' (whatever the hell that means) to force his own personal beliefs on us. And we KNOW it's what he believes. The way he's spoken about graphic games in the past, you can tell there's a clear personal contempt towards them and this isn't just him speaking for the voters, if he's speaking for any at all.

          So no, there's nothing our AG can do, and frankly the only person using anything as a scapegoat here is Atkinson.

            That's a totally deafeatist attitude. From my perspective, Atkinson, my state and federal reps are all in the Labor party. Part of Labor party tenet is that you have to vote down the party line.

            If it was clear to the ALP, especially the federal branch, that Atkinson is costing votes, then you'd probably find that the ALP would take that as a policy.

            If it came to that, Atkinson would either have to vote the party line or be ejected from the ALP. He would be free to be an independent member but he would no longer have portfolio. PROBLEM SOLVED.

              But does him losing his seat mean he loses his position as Attorney-General? I don't think it works that way...

                Of course if he loses his seat he loses his ability to be a government minister.

                And what the other AGs could do is agree to rate R18 games and permit their sale within their own states.

                Ofcourse if he looses his seat he looses the A/G position. However, Attkinson is quite likely to keep his seat, however if Labour loose balance of power and we get a Liberal premier next election Attkinson will also be removed from his A/G position, whether he retains Croydon or not, to be replaced by a Liberal nominated A/G. Hence I think ppl campaigning for R18+ in AU should be writing to the shadow A/G first!

              You seem to forget that the Labour party are the ones who came up with the brilliant idea of trying to censor the internet... they are probably all backing Atkinson on this one.

              It's not like people haven't tried to put pressure on the issue through their AGs. There was a 'Write to your AG' day a few weeks back in realtion to the R18+ debate, and before and beyond that I'm sure there have been heaps of other letters written to other state's AGs. If it was honestly that important to them, they would have done something by now.

              The problem is we're blowing up how important an issue this is. Sure, in the gaming media circles like Kotaku they make note of it all the time because it's related to their writing. But to the greater Australian public, they're not gonna vote for or against a candidate because someone from that party, in another state, is pushing an issue about VIDEO GAMES. Which is why it baffels me that Aktinson is willing to attract such ire from people not even in his electorate when he could just drop the issue and leave us in peace.

              Frankly, I should be offended to fact you're labeling me defeatest. This issue means a lot to me, and I want Atkinson's stance to be nulled as much as anyone else here. But I don't think blaming the greater ALP and our state AGs is the way to go about it. This is Atkinson's issue, no-one in the ALP is going to force him out of his position over an issue on video games, and anyone who thinks there'll be enough swayed votes to make a dent in the greater ALP is talking out of their ass.

                No need to get personal. What's been done isn't enough, time to do something else. If it can be made an issue in swing seats, at least it will be on the greater ALP's radar. Progressive parties could use preferences to possibly sway opinion.

                  Sorry if I got too personal. Honestly I just hate hearing the word 'blame' being used to describe the government on this issue when Atkinson is clearly the main instigator.

                  Regardless how we feel about the R18 debate, there are bigger things going on in the world right now. The global financial crisis, emissions trading, terrorism and wars...compared to those, video games take an easy second, third or one-hundredth. We can't expect our state governments, let alone the federal government to respond so immediately.

                  Despite the way I'm sounding, I'm not against rallying government support to the issue. Certainly over time the issue will become more prevelant and awareness will be raised to both them and the public. I just think it's unrealistic for the government to make too big a deal over this.

                  If we can get the ALP or even other parties on our side, I'm all for it. I just don't expect that to happen overnight and take priority over other more important matters, and I don't think we should be using the word 'blame' to describe their inaction.

    Well said. It is nice to get a well thought out examination of the classification issue in Australia out there on the interwebs.

    It is Atkinson's fault we don't have an R18 rating. He needs to go so that law can be passed

    If we're in a democracy, why don't the other 5 Attorney-Generals votes for the R18 rating out-vote Atkinson's one vote against it?

    Isn't that how a democracy works? majority vote wins?

    Maybe this is just the beginning!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_oligarchy

    As a founding member and organiser of Gamers4Croydon, I'd like to point out that we're not campaigning on 'a limited platform'. From the very beginning, the party has had broader policy concerns than just R18+ for games, and there is still much more to come than what is already on the website's policy page. For starters, we're looking to address political corruption, misuse of power, water security and sustainable infrastructure and manufacturing.

    We also plan to run at least one candidate in the Legislative Council, for which we only require roughly 8.3% of the vote. While not directly forcing a change on Mr Atkinson, such a victory - one that is well within our grasp - would bring a huge amount of publicity to the problem with the classification system. Even if we don't get someone into the LC, we'll have made a lot of noise along the way. Given the overwhelming majority of non-gamers David Doe and I have spoken to over the last few weeks are shocked at the state of the current system, simply raising awareness will have a massive impact. Already, Mr Atkinson is showing signs of stress regarding this issue, and it will only increase once our campaign actually gets started. The Labor government is exceptional at playing politics. When it becomes politically expedient to support an R18+ for games, it will happen.

    By no means do we have an easy task ahead of us, but it is one made no easier by people dismissing us seemingly before they know much at all about the party.

      the name you have chosen in itself will hurt your campaign it suggests your only interest is the gaming department and the name itself suggests immaturity, id suggest a rethink of the name and even you logos with deplications of eatting someone etc. It is childish and will not stand with the general public they will attack the foundation you build your party on maybe change it before its to late. gamers4croydon is to childish isnt the purpose to make them aware adults take their right of free choice serious?

        Naming a party is an incredibly abstract thing. Let's not forget that the Liberal party is this country's major conservative party. We could have chosen a fancy, buzz-word name, and maybe that would poll better. Maybe not. But for a party that's aiming to bring a bit of honesty to politics, choosing a focus-group name over an honest one would be hypocritical. It also brings more attention to gamers as a demographic, and we hope by setting a good example in our campaign fight some of the anti-gamer prejudices.

        We might get attacked for it, but that is not always a bad thing.

        As for 'our' logo, it's not. It is a piece of fan art that has been disavowed. It was put up for a few laughs, and has unfortunately been picked up by Kotaku and others and presented as though it were an official logo. It has never been that, and that has always been clear.

      First of all Chris, I'd like to make clear that what you are doing for gamers should be respected and that you are collectively doing much more for our cause than anybody else.

      However, a political party is defined by it's policies, and your policies so far are little more than good ideas. I know your website says they will be expanded upon, but until such a time any gamer who also takes politics seriously (which is obviously many) cannot take your party as seriously as you would like us to.

      Also, your policies seem to mostly revolve around green issues, while I see nothing about fiscal policy. This strong-left approach could easily put off quite a few voters.

      The brief mention of your party in this article reflects my own view, at least. You cannot be taken seriously as a political contender with the policies you have put forth. Welcome to politics.

      Having said that I do wish you the best of luck, and I hope you smash Atkinson.

        Being a gamer who takes politics seriously, I can assure you that I am taking the party seriously. As is the founder, David Doe. And the non-gamers we have as members.

        So-called 'green' issues are in fact about fiscal policy. The use of recycled stormwater is significantly cheaper than a desalination plant, which not only costs billions to construct, but much more to run, all of which gets tacked onto people's water bills. EVs may be environmentally friendly, but they are increasingly economically viable, and are already much cheaper to run than an equivalent petrol car. The local car industry has been hit hard, and there are a lot of experienced workers who could be put to good use in a way that brings money to the economy.

        As for them being little more than good ideas, I think you will find that is standard for minor parties who do not have millions of dollars of public funds to spend on committees and feasibility studies.

        The simple fact of the matter is that 'green' initiatives don't have to hurt the economy, and we have deliberately chosen policies that will help the local economy. When it comes down to it, burning stuff just isn't sustainable, and is becoming increasing cost-prohibitive. Green makes good business sense.

      With Labor ander the hammer in NSW and SA, and with the federal government possibly looking to an early or DD election, making it clear that this fellow is costing votes is the only way to go.

      Considering that the game mainstream is 18-40, that's a very large group of voters and surely a concern for the ALP. I doubt that there could be a comparable dissenting group.

      The ALP has much to gain and little to lose by moving forward on this issue, everyone has to make it known to their local ALP candidate/member.

    "to amend the classification laws, all six of Australia’s state Attorneys-General need to unanimously agree to the change"
    "This is a free, liberal and democratic country."
    Something doesn't add up here...

    I don't see a problem with publishers using lines like the one from Rebellion. We need this issue to become big enough, such that the government realizes they need to step in. Use some loopholes, change some laws, and get us what we want. You know... real democracy at work. Just because its the fault of one politician, doesn't change the fact that our countries laws (As you know... dictated by the lawmakers... in power) deny the rights of adults to certain types of entertainment.

    Don't pretend that if this was a subject that mattered to our politicians that something wouldn't be done immediately.

    "This is a free, liberal and democratic country."

    "...to amend the classification laws, all six of Australia’s state Attorneys-General need to unanimously agree to the change."

    Lol.

    "Well, that or change the constitution. And that’s not going to happen over something so trivial (which, in the grand scheme of things, this is)."

    No, you're wrong. The NCC is an AGREEMENT between the states and the commonwealth, nothing more. The constitution doesn't need changing at all.

    The legislation enforcing the ratings is state-based.

    There is NOTHING stopping each state from implementing its own R18, other than political cowardice and a weird loyalty to the sense of "consistency" across the country. Consistency might be a fine goal, to be sure, but it doesn't outweigh the interests of adults around the country to be treated differently from children.

    There's even a petition in Queensland's parliament calling on them to do just that.

    The South Australians have the power to kick out Atkinson (or the Government of which he's a part). The rest of us only have the power to vote against our OWN state governments. The - erroneous - idea that they're powerless, that they're beholden to Atkinson, that it's "not their fault"... that's the real reason why nothing is changing.

    I think polls in South Australia have Labor behind. The way to get rid of Atkinson is to get rid of the ALP in SA. Who's the shadow attorney general? What's his stance on this?

      I doubt the conservative Liberals are any more progressive on this issue than the ALP.

    “We will not be releasing a sanitised or cut down version for territories where adults are not considered by Michael Atkinson to be able to make their own entertainment choices.”

    -fixed.

    This is such a farce.

    Rebellion are here for our(AUS) business, and blaming them for such technicalities is childish. They don't need to know EVERYTHING about why the ratings board is as antiquated as it is, they just know that it is the responsibility of the government(more or less) that puts them in place.

    When there is a glitch in a game made by Infinity Ward, do you say, "No! It's not ALL Infinity Wards fault! It's just the programmers fault!" They are part of Infinity Ward nevertheless.

    Business people speak, and are only concerned about business. Don't treat these things so seriously.

    Kaiden has the right idea.

    All because of one man...since when has Australia become a dictatorship???

    Two party democracy isn't democracy anyway.

      You could vote for the Greens; they support R18.

    I'm sorry Luke but you have really raised my hackles on this one. I really don't care just how 'trivial' you think this matter is in the grand scheme of things, ANY loss of liberties in a democratic society is by far a trivial matter (in this case, having Atkinson refuse to allow Australian adults the freedom to choose their entertainment because of his own conservative views). The fact that this is all caused by a single man or that it is happening in an entertainment genre does not excuse either the state or federal level of governments of ignoring and failing to remedy an obviously undemocratic system. The fact that Atkinson can hold this much power over our censorship laws goes completely against what I personally believe it is to be Australian and that his overtly conservative views (views in which myself nor the majority of my community do not share) can have a direct affect on the decisions I make is bordering on insulting. Luke, stop making excuses for our government's ignorance and failure to act on what is their democratic duty to resolve, trivial or not.

    Hmm if the Queensland Goverment (my state) pass a law tht allows the sale of R18+ Games in Queensland will we really see the stores ordering games for one state?

    Sounds unlikely but I will point out Blues and Maroons gear is kinda limited to 2 states. And it is sold, so all we need to do is point out that Video Games are as popular as State of Origin.

    Also all the mail order game warehouses will move to Queensland.

    Of course it's the governments fault. The govt. has the power to change the system, yet they don't. Now I know the AG's have to agree, but the fedral government ~could~, if they chose to, ammend the law to make it a majority vote, or make it a state by state basis (if the SA AG says no, then no R games for SA, but the rest of the country gets them).
    RC is effectively banned as it means (from my understanding) that the game cannot be bought or sold in Australia (and is illegal to own in WA), so importing is technically illegal. There is something wrong when the least illegal way to get something is through bittorrent (as it is only copyright infringement, and no the importation of restricted goods).
    The government is allowing the "banning" (RC is effectively the same as banning) of works, and is responcible as they are not trying to stop it.
    Pointing a finger at Atkinson is foolish, as every-one from Rudd down could speak, could try to make a change, could tell Atkinson to pull his head in. They don't, so they are just as responsible.

    I'm all for Atkinson bashing, but I still feel that the Australian Government is at least partly to blame... to quote your own words "Kevin Rudd and his cabinet have never broached the subject" and that is sad. I'm not saying it's an important issue compared to the environment, or the farcical state of NSW, but it's still the case that the government is misrepresenting the people.

    As for the sad sad little man Atkinson, unfortunately there's probably nothing that can be done other than wait for him to retire but I'll still be sending donations to Gamers 4 Croydon to show my support.

    Two things of note:

    Firstly, if QLD gets R18, Atkinson said he'd change his vote to support R18. This is because, in his own words, that if a neighbouring state were to start selling adult rated games, they could not prevent the flow of them into South Australia or any other states in the commonwealth, so introducing R18 makes it easier for them to regulate the game distribution to minors (Funny, that's what we've been saying all along).

    Secondly, the reason the system is borked, (ie: 6 AGs approval to get things changed), is because of Phillip Ruddock. he's the federal AG for the liberal party before Labor won.

    Basically, he got sick of doing the work of managing a federal level organization like the OFLC, and said "Hey, it's the states problem now" and transferred control to them. The reason all states have to agree on a change is because it's still a federal (ie: nationwide) level organization, so if all state governments approve, it's no different then a federal level government action.

      Have you got a link to Atkinson saying that he'd support an R18 rating if Qld legislated one?

      I'd like to see this source as well. As everyone knows already, Michael Atkinson tends to be self contradictory. For example, he barred the discussion paper and yet claims he does not understand why it is out yet and even claims that he has given his recommnedation.

      However, even if an R18+ gets introduced, he will still try to restrict it. In fact, it would not surprise me if that if the rating is allowed, he will do everything to have the action reversed.

      Unfortunately, and R18 for Qld wouldn't do anything concrete. It would be powerfully symbolic, but nothing more. The Classification Board would still not be able to classify games as R18+, which would mean there would be no R18+ games to sell. The reason there is a power-sharing agreement between the states and Commonwealth is that import, classification and sale of games straddles a number of constitutional powers, some of which belong to the states, others the feds. The states can't import games without Commonwealth approval, and the Commonwealth can't regulate sale of video games, relying on the states to do it for themselves.

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