Charge: Gamers Not Honest About Their Defence Of Violent Games

In our continued efforts to see both sides of the argument in Australia and elsewhere about the extreme content of some games we find this letter to the editor that says that many violent game defenders are being disingenuous.

The context is the ongoing debate in Australia about whether the country should finally allow video games to have an R18+ rating for video games. Currently, a game must be deemed suitable at least for a 15-year-old in Australia in order for the game to be classified by the nation's ratings board. Many games rated M in America have failed to meet this threshold, though the recent controversy over the very violent upcoming Aliens Vs Predator appears to have ended with the game getting Australia's MA15+ rating.

Here's letter-writer Caleb Owens writing in to today's Sydney Morning Herald:

True maturity an alien concept to video gamers

I wish video gamers were more honest about what they want (Letters, February 2). Most mention these days that the average age of gamers is quite high, but they do not mention that most of those gamers do not play ''mature'' games. It is like arguing that tennis needs more nudity and gore because the average age of those who watch is above 18.

While it is true Australia stands alone in not having an R rating for video games, gamers do not tell you that an R rating is needed only to slake their bloodlust.

No game maker has yet created what an ordinary person might consider a mature game. Video games in other countries that receive 18+ ratings, many of which are refused classification here, are ''mature'' only because they contain excessive gore, cruelty or torture. There are no great works of video game art being held back.

All we miss out on is graphic gore. It would shock most non-gamers to realise that in a current MA15+ game, players can shoot, decapitate and dismember. All games refused classification (and there are just a handful each year) are described by the classification board as containing things such as ''excessive blood spurts, excessive cruelty, the ability to kill innocents without consequence''.

When gamers discuss this issue on their internet forums, they complain that the bodies do not pile up in the Australian version of one game. But when they write polite letters to politicians or the Herald they hide this reality and instead talk about ''mature games'' and how they are being denied their right to enjoy content.

If we translate this into their ''right'' to indulge in gory simulations of murder and dismemberment, it beggars belief they would be able to state their case without causing their peer groups to react in horror.

Video gamers also make direct and crude comparisons with the movie ratings scale. However, the last time I saw an R-rated movie I do not remember being allowed to participate in the various heinous acts.

It takes a great work of art to advance a ratings scale. When the Lady Chatterley's Lover of video games arrives, all citizens will be rightly concerned if it is withheld. But that seems a long way off.

Would it change the debate if gamers who advocated for mature games described the details of the games they think should be permitted? Certainly comparing the content of some of those games to that of some movies that get rated would present a strong argument that games shouldn't be held to a different standard. But must the content be justifiably "mature" for gamers to win this argument? Would it help?

Sydney Morning Herald letters to the editor


    Of course, the argument that kills this guy's points is that games that are supposed to be adults only (Aliens versus Predator and House of the dead: overkill are good examples) are being released at MA15+, and playable by children.

    Also, saying that gamers who like gore and violence in their video games are depraved is a bad argument. Look at how those shitty gore-porn SAW movies sell out in millions each time they come out, and they are MUCH more gorey than any other video game i've played. The fact that you 'participate' in the violence doesn't change anything, as most games allow you to choose to be less gorey or violent if you want.

    I partly agree with the letter: I am still waiting for the game industry to make a game worthy of an adult rating without the gratuity. I hold the game industry somewhat responsible for the lack of R18+ rating.

    However, that doesn't mean I won't help fight for the rating as best I can. I think that now days producers are very sceptical, I don't believe you can pitch an adult themed game without a market for it. Games that won't be sold are games not made.

    I also think the letter writer is being a little unfair, there. The gamer population is made up of many people; some care about the level of gore, others not so much. Some of us are capable of writing polite letters. Communities are like that.

    Of course, with all letters like that, there is the usual hyperbole of associating whatever happens in a game with real acts, too. I guess no one is free of agenda.

      It's not possible, and it's why this letter is flawed. Games are classified regarding the following: themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity. Incidently, same guidelines are used for video games and films.

      I think a major issue is that games are getting classified MA15+ when films of similar content received an R18.

        I agree this is the major problem. How can there be so many games that are rated 18+ over seas then over here the exact same game can be rated MA15+. It's not just about that very small amount of games that get RC and/or need to be changed to pass our classification. It is the level of mature content passing through as M15+.

    I would like to be permitted to play games to curb my bloodlust when I'm 18, yes. Would that not be better than doing so with a machete in the street?

    But that's not entirely the point of an R rating. He correctly surmises that some MA15+ games have excessive violence - I propose that that is argument FOR an R rating, as those games deserve to be rated R instead of MA.

    Finally, in video games violence is almost always in some fantastic manner, such as aliens or zombies, whereas in movies you see civilian deaths all the time. The only time you can participate in that, outside of some fantastic circumstances, in video games is one somewhat ill-concieved level in one single game, Modern Warfare 2, that was rated MA. Which is once more proof that some MA games should be for only people older than 17.

    The letter writer misses the point that there are games being released into Australia that are rated M15+ but are 18+ or R rated over seas. That the current ratings system isn't doing its job.

    The comparison between games and movies is completely relevant. To compare literature (which doesn't have a ratings system) to film and gaming is irrelevant. Lady Chatterly's Lover challenged a generation and their "english" sensibilities. It didn't challenge a ratings system.

    This issue is about giving Australian adults the ability to choose what they play. It is not about gamers gathering in their own homes and indulging in a blood lust orgie of violence.

    This letter is just indicative of an argument that has been going on from the other side of the fence without any real justifcation for actually denying the change in the ratings system.

      au contraire Sean - LCL sparked I don't know how many legal battles as publishers and even OWNERS of the book were taken to court and even jailed.

      Also, lest we forget, this is just another in a long line of culture wars between they who think the medium is a corrupting influence and well, the rest of us.

      Plato writes that Socrates thought that some forms of epic poetry were just toooo immersive, and as such had to be suppressed for the good of his ideal state. Cervantes wrote Don Quixote as a response to popular sentiment that fantasy and romance writers were damaging their readers minds, crippling their ability to differentiate fact from fiction, reality from fantasy.

      any of this sounding familiar?

      The charge of gore porn in upheld; it is however worthy of note that we shall not get past our adolescent love of the Pew-Pew until we realise that our lawmakers are more terrified of SEX than they are of violence. Violence is strangely seen as comparatively less controversial.

      We shall not achieve maturity in this medium until we build those bridge and get over them both.

    The only argument for R18+ games that wins me over is the one that says that ratings are currently inconsistent with other popular media.

    A sort of 'it's the principle' proposition, I suppose...

    I really don't care about the level of gore and 'mature' content in my games, and I find myself nodding in agreement to much of what this letter says.

    I think he is missing the point- it is not the 'gore' we want (apart from perhaps L4D2) but the game/story/work that is constructed around it.

    I disagree with this letter.

    Half the points the writer makes do not make sense, like comparing tennis to violent video games. They also states that no game maker has created a game yet that an ORDINARY person might consider mature, therefore telling us that a) he doesn't play games, and b) he think all people that do are not normal. He compares video games to movies in saying he has never been invited to join in the movie. Of course he hasn't cause thats impossible. I do see his point, that video games are different because they are interactive, however they are no different from the art of great R18+ movie. A great video game is shown by its detail, the same as any movie, and many people appreciate the graphics in games as much as others enjoy the gameplay. But how would it look if a person was shot and they just disappeared with no blood, or signs of being hurt. Like the Aus version of l4d2, disappointing. I just have so many problems with people that insult gamers this way and think that we have no intelligence. Mind you I've probably riddled this rant with spelling mistakes and am proving their point. Anyway too early in morning for more dribble.

    I'm sorry, but while this letter is written in a careful and respectful tone (with one or two snipes) it is and remains 95% bollocks.

    The R18+ rating for video games merely brings it up to speed with the rest of media as it exists in this country, there is still RC content (refused classification), and if something so vile comes out that our precious little minds cannot deal with its existance it will be placed under such a rating and not sold to the public.

    I am not some blood thirsty savage viciously masturbating to decapitation photos in the quite of my computer room. I don't even watch the SAW movies because after the first one explored the concept the rest offered nothing but torture porn.I do not need gore, and i do not need violence to get my gear off thank you very much.

    When i argue for an R18 rating its because of things like Alien vs Predator being given an M15 rating? an R18 rating would give parents a better and more solid understanding that the game they where buying was not suitable for little Timmy and they should go look at scibblenaughts instead.

    While at this point in time yes, a majority of the games which are RC are due to gore. This is a soild point. However this is not the only reason games have been refused classification in the past. Take fallout 3, banned when it first hit because we couldn't read the word morphine without all becoming rabid foam mouthed junkies. Or the riots of contraversy over sex in games, which in main steam games at least are normally scenes you could get away with on home and away.

    You speak of L4D2 where the corpses don't pile as they did in the first L4D. Fine, i can see why that might throw you off as an outsider. But funnily enough, most people don't play a zombie horror game for warm fuzzy feelings. They play it for the tense atmosphere and the vague sense of horror, kinda like how you watch a horror film. Remember? I removes from the atmosphere of the game the face that the zombies seem to magically fade away as soon as they touch the ground, not to mention that the banning of showing people on fire directly impacts game play.

    There is a large gap between what is acceptable and unremarkable in other media to what is allowed in video games. People need to get over this "Video games makes people go crazy" shit and realise anybody who cannot see the differance between a game and real life was crazy to begin with.

    We are not children, are you so fucking surprised that we are annoyed at being treated as such?


        This is the kind of coherent response (Minus the swearing) that needs to be widely made.

    people arent 100% honest because thats how society works.

    my house was supposed to be finished building already, but instead, it still hasnt been started because of delays from council with regards to flooding and needing plans redrawn. i was charged $3k extra by the company building because it had taken longer than the 'whatever' time period allowed. seriously pisses me off to no extent and yelling at the person who works at the company wont help it get built any faster. yelling at the council wont help either. so i have to be civil when talking to them and just ignore my rage.

    and thats how it is. if you dont approach the topic of classification in the right way, there's little chance you'll get it passed.

    that's why G4C is taking their stance against Atkinson, because death threats and hate mail won't work against him.

    so caleb shut the fuck up.

    Sure there are some gamers who want more gore in games. However I think the letter is exaggerating this in order to brand gamers in a way that would make them appear harmful to the general public.

    I am a mature gamer who wants an R rating in Austalia. Having more gore in games does nothing for me. I am more concerned about the current rating system and want it means for the story and themes of games. I feel the current system has two major faults. 1. It limits themes and subject matter of games compared to other media. 2. Content including gore ends up in MA15+ games that is not appropriate for people under the age of 18.

    I think the writer makes a few good points, and their core one is very solid.
    Violence is a crutch is games industry has been leaning on for far too long. It's not an innately bad thing, but it is overplayed.
    And while they are wrong about no developers making non-gorey mature titles, most of the examples I can think of are not mainstream or popular in any way.

    Also, many games which are tamed down for Australia also lose out on either gameplay elements or balance. L4D2, for example, lost the Riot Cop enemey from the game completely. And without the bodies or blood filling up the screen, the game actually became easier, creating an unfair advantage.

    That being said,one of the big arguments towards an R-rating for games is to keep this excessive gore away from kids, as while some of it gets banned, the rest of it gets minor tweaks and is shoehorned into an M rating. With an R Rating, a minor would NEED an adult to buy the game with them, which would be a very positive step.

    Overall, violence in video games is not innately bad, is just been done too much. Excessive Violence is, put simply, excessive, and while I hate people who whine about not being able to see enough graphic detail on the person they're dismembering, they raise a valid point that they as adults have the right to see it.

    It's not necessarily just about people wanting gore, it's about having correct classifications. Fallout 3 was almost refused classification here because of the classification's board silly objection about the name of Med-X. Perhaps, instead of having to have the game edited, it'd just be higher rated. Perhaps some games that have squeezed through by the skin of their teeth on a MA15+ rating would be more appropriately rated as R.

    The letter to the editor's a furphy, it should be treated as such.

    If the dead zombies were removed on impact with the ground would cinema goers have complained about *insert any zombie film ever*.

    I can see where he's coming from; I even almost agree with him. The problem is, though, that if a games company tried to make the equivalent of Lady Chatterly's Lover, they'd be demonised by every media outlet on the face of the Earth. Remember the controversy over the "sex scene" in Mass Effect? The fact is, games still aren't seen as a medium that can handle mature themes. Hopefully something like Heavy Rain will challenge that soon, but I do agree that we need to see more games that deal with these things in a mature matter sans killing.

    That said, here's hoping someone can make a seriously confronting game about an adult theme with little to no violence, and still get it banned. That'd prove our point.

    Jesus christ would they please stop attacking gamers already. You know what's disingenuous? ANY and ALL defences for NOT bringing in the R18+ rating, by definition because it's simply not logical.

    So now, as they not surprisingly receive an avalanche of support for the logical answer they are attempting to support their illogical position by attempting to discredit gamers. (Also see Mr Atkinson's claims that gamers are all criminals).

    I'm just sick of it. WHO *ARE* THESE PEOPLE?!?

    Same can be said for movies if they didn't have an R18+. When was a movie rated R18+ solely because of the "maturity" of its content and themes? If there was no violence in it, it would be rated anywhere from PG13 to M. And on the rare case we get games that do just that with low violence, it gets the same ratings.

    Its a weak argument if you ask me...

    It seems that is only covering one part of the argument. The other which was not addresses is that games that SHOULD be R18+ are being shoe-horned into an MA15+ rating, thus allowing 15 yr olds to get games that should be R18+.

    Besides i dont see the harm in letting people of legal adult age consume adult content (regardless of what it contains). Its like saying you cant view The Statue of David because you can see his dong, and you dont need to see his dong to apprecaite it.

    The whole debate is about letting people make a decision for themselves. I could care less if a game has torture or whatever else in it. If its a good game, ill play it. I dont want to miss out of fun because some person out there doesnt think im mature enough to view it.

    While not 100% accurate, it's certainly raises very valid point. A lot of games with mature content are far from mature thematically. What is justifiably mature content though? Is there any game where it's genuinely necessary to have extremely realistic violence? I guess you have the likes of Risen with its extremely mild drug and sexual references.

    He's right. It is quite a difficult argument to rebutt. Especially before a morning coffee.

      So a game has to carry a truckload of pretentious "themes" before it is considered mature?


      It's not to define what is art, but ultimately to allow them into the country and define the rating they get! Video games will NEVER compare artistically to movies or novels, but their content will always be similar and it's the ONLY thing that we should be talking about.

      I'm ironing a cat and therefore, declare this letter INVALID.

    "There are no great works of video game art being held back."

    Depends who you talk to buddy!

    Video games are such a young form of media, yet he expects the standard of art to be as high as say, the novel? A quick Google says he's a psych lecturer at UNSW. Figures...

    You know what I’m not going to deny any of this guys points and just straight to my own.

    The purpose of an R18 category is to place these gory, inappropriate "murder simulators" into the hands of responsible ADULTS over the age of 18 rather than try and shoehorn them into an M15 category or ban them altogether.

    I am a voting Australian who believes I have the right to spend my free time as I see fit. I am an adult and will not have some backwards rating system from the 80's defended by a single conservative politician define how I choose to spend my free time.

    i should be allowed to play whatever gory, innaproriate and violent game i like just as i enjoy the same rights in movies. this guy talks about "participating" in the acts versus watching them on a tv screen.

    i dont see the differance, i can distinguish between a video game and real life(its a skill most adults have by the way). so both movies and video games to me are just images on a tv screen. if this guy is concered about "participating" in the acts it sounds like he is the one that has issues seperating fantasy from reality.

    I guess the example everyone is going to quote is Left 4 Dead 2. The censorship they applied to the game to be sure it would get through with an M rating was excessive, but they have said in interviews that they just followed the guidelines. This means that Left 4 Dead should probably have been refused classification as well.

    Ok, now lets look at a movie like Zombieland. Its a great movie, with lots of adult themes like loss and love. It also has lots of gore. You dont need the gore, sure, but it provides an interesting context to the world the characters find themselves in. It makes it obvious that this is a harsh and cruel world.

    Now look at a game like Left 4 Dead. Its basically the same deal. The gore is there to terrify you, not to revel in. Without it you are just sitting in a shooting gallery, taking pot shots at rubber duckies.

    All this basically boiled down too is because we don't need something, then it's ok not to have it. Which is philosophically wonderful but is otherwise a pile of bs.

    The argument of game censorship is greater than the sum of its parts. Much like the mandatory internet filtering being implemented here, no we don't need to view the sites on the blacklist but you're still not happy about it, for many reasons, such as corruption and exploitation for one or wrongly blocked, lose of business etc.

    With game censorship the issue is more than just losing a bit of blood and that post is merely shoe-horning this one issue aggressively with a negative spin, making it seem that if you want the violence you're mentally ill.

    This is no more valid than anything else ever raised against the topic, it fits right in with the "think of the children" train of thought.

    He lost me when he made the comparison that in movies it's ok because you're not actively controlling many times do studies need to disprove this statement?

    Having gamers describe the details of the games they enjoy wouldn't work, because non-gamers assume the worst. When you say you can cut people's heads off, non-gamers will assume you must do this and it is the whole aim of the game, and anyone who wants to spend their time doing that must be insane (indeed I agree). They don't realise that its a (small) choice the player makes within the context of the game's world and story, and (in most games) you dont need to do that. So many times I have heard interviewers mention "in Fallout 3, you roam the wasteland shooting the heads and arms off of other humans". Technically, yes that is true. But what gamer would describe the game that way? Basically the gore doesnt register as an important part of the gamer's experience, but it does set the mood of the game. It helps you become immersed in the game's world and atmosphere.

    I believe that the so called "Caleb Owens" is a fictitious individual created by Michael Atkinson and his Labour party cronies. Caleb does not exist. He is a made up character invented solely to dissuade the Australian public from the truth.
    When we talk of "Mature" content, yes we are talking about zombies and other creatures piling up. I very much consider this "mature" content. The same as I consider content from MANY other games rated MA15+ in Australia, "mature" content.
    Caleb (Michael Atkinson) how about you get your facts right before spouting off and looking like a senile old FOOL!


      As pointed out a few comments above, the front page of a Google search shows there actually is a Caleb Owens who is a Psychology lecturer at the University of Sydney and who assisted police in convicting his brother of their mother's murder. One wonders whether his perspective in regards to violent behaviour and influences is as objective as he charges gamers apparently should be?

    Reasonable letter.

    What the letter fails to recognise is that most of the 'gory' MA15 games are shoehorned into that rating. Introducing a higher rating would allow these titles to be properly categorised.

    Even if it means having them sectioned separately, as what SA is doing now. But perhaps with a little more dignity then sticking 'em in the OMG BOOBIES section...

    If you will allow a quote: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win"

    What the writer might not realise is this: It's going to happen, legally or not.

    Let's imagine that most people are going to abide by what the Government decrees. However, if the decrees are *never* a reflection of the desires of the people then the people are going to start _ignoring_ the laws and do it anyway. Attempts at this point to catch the 'criminals' (Breakers of the law created by people not looking out for my best interests) will only push the smarter, more able ones further underground. And what will that have achieved? A waste of tax-payer money.

    It would be better to let the Government have a say in the matter, to have a say in acceptable levels of questionable material, to have a say in what gets in and what gets opposed to the current system where the OFLC ratings people _know_ the system is broken, and have to shoehorn games in, in order to sell them.

    And eventually, if these religious nutjobs stay in and these ultra conservative ratings and laws are kept in place and - dare I say it - increased, companies are not going to want to even bother selling in this country.

    This whole Labor movement that rode in on the backs of young voters demanding change are going to realise very quickly that THIS change was not the one wanted, and that the very people that voted them in, can also vote them OUT. You can't just depend on apathy like you can in the US because here you HAVE to vote.

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