In the lead up to the SCAG meeting we're taking a retrospective look at some of the more interesting submissions made during the public consultation on the R18+ issue, mainly to highlight some unique points of view but also to draw attention to fresh arguments in support of an R18+ rating for video games.
This week we're taking a look at the submission from the Media Classifiers' Association Of Australia, who focus on what I think is the strongest argument for an R18+ rating: adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want.
The Media Classifiers' Association is a group whose membership contains all classifiers working in free-to-air television, alongside representatives from subscription television. In other words, the MCAA is a group that represents those with decades of experience in rating all different types of media for Australian consumption.
The MCAA leads their submission by drawing attention to the four main pillars that classifiers must abide to when rating content.
"The principles underlying each classification decision are set out in the Code are: (a) adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want; (b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them; (c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive; (d) the need to take account of community concerns about: depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner."
Clearly, not enough attention is being paid to point (a) on that list.
The argument that video games should be treated differently to other forms of media on account of their 'interactivity' is one that the MCAA are quick to dispel, but they do so in a way that might surprise you.
"The interactivity of films, mobile telephone content, and websites are synonymous with the interactivity in computer games," claims the submission. "In the National Classification Scheme computer games are being treated differently from non-interactive films, but also, computer games are being treated differently from interactive films. This inconsistency weakens the National Classification Scheme."
Basically, modern media is constantly evolving – converging and borrowing from one another. Some movies are becoming more interactive, certain mobile content in particular and in this constantly changing landscape, it's pointless to discretely separate and hold one form of media hostage over another.
"The discrete nature of media platforms such as films, publications, and computer games is changing rapidly. As the distinctions between these platforms become less clear, it is also inconsistent to accept that parents can enforce age restrictions for some R18+ content that may be accessed on one platform, but not other R18+ content that may be accessed from the same platform."
Another strong argument made by the MCAA, which hadn't occurred to us until now, is that the introduction of an R18+ rating, instead of reducing the impact of a game being refused classification, will actually strengthen it.
"It is known widely that games that exceed the MA15+ level are classified RC," begins the submission. "This dilutes the strength of the RC classification category. Under the current scheme minors may expose themselves unwittingly to material that would be offensive to any reasonable adult. The inclusion of an R18+ classification category would clarify for all Australian gamers that RC games are extreme and not suitable for game play. This would protect minors more effectively from the most offensive material."
The MCAA submission ends by reinforcing the point of parity.
"It is a genuine strength in the Code that equal weighting is given to the principle that “adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want.
"It is unclear then why this form of entertainment should be treated so differently in the Scheme. Including an R18+ classification category will address this inconsistency and strengthen the integrity of the National Classification Scheme."
You can read the entire MCAA submission here. It's probably one of the most significant and well written submissions available – the fact that those that do the classifying in this country are in support of an R18+ rating for video games is as strong an argument as any.