READY: The Opposition

This week Laura Parker from Gamespot wrote a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald in support of an R18+ rating for video games, but now they've posted a retort, from Elizabeth Handley, Professor of Law at Flinders University, and the president of the Australian Council on Children and the Media.

We recommend reading the entire post here, but here's a selected quote.

She has confirmed once again the fundamental contradiction at the heart of those arguments. Excessively violent material is being incorrectly classified as MA15+ and so made available to minors, but, at the same time, adults are being denied the civil liberty of playing what they want.

That's right: material that should be reserved for adults is being made available to minors. Yet somehow this is denying adults access to the material they want and deserve, because they are adults. You can't have it both ways.

Another contradiction: we need to be concerned about minors' access to violent material … and yet there is a 'lack of conclusive scientific evidence' that violent material is harmful. Again, you can't have it both ways.

Even if you have issues with this piece and completely disagree with it, it's still worth reading the piece to get an idea of the reasons why some are in opposition to the introduction of an R18+ rating.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

R18+ Arguments For Games Don't Stack Up [SMH]


    I think I need to write a letter to SMH.

    I like this quote:
    That’s right: material that should be reserved for adults is being made available to minors. Yet somehow this is denying adults access to the material they want and deserve, because they are adults. You can’t have it both ways.

    Yes, yes we can have it both ways. If one game gets misclassified and released as MA15+ when it should be rated R18+ (or under the current system RC), then there is adult material being made available to minors. That does not stop material which is currently being assessed as RC from also existing. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    As for the second contradiction. I don't believe violent media has a negative impact on children. I've read some studies and I just don't see a causal link. That being said, the argument being put forward by our side should be that violent video games are no more impactful than other similarly violent media.

      I personally don't agree with your point about games being no more impactful. There is an element of culpability that comes with playing a game, actually interacting.

      A child (or adult, for that matter) playing a game will identify with his character's sprite, claiming the character's actions as his own, something that they would not do if watching a movie.

      Video games are active media; movies, books and TV shows are passive media. There is a huge difference in the level of impact these forms can have upon (not everyone) some people.

      This is why games are uniquely positioned to explore ideas of morality in violence, and why it is such a shame when they shy away almost every time.

        That's an assumption that has never been proven.

        I think an emotional connection with a character will have a lot more impact on whether their actions resonate with you then if you are simply directing their actions and not really caring about them.

        I'd argue that Music has a much more negative impact on children than what games ever could. I know far more kids that try to be "gangster" or "hardcore" and are more than happy to do what is suggested in songs..

        I don't know many kids that go around quoting max pain or trying to act like Duke Nukem..

        Problem is with music is that it's listened to over and over again, often memorised word for word, and there is a lot of it that is far more descriptive than any game could ever be. Plus musicians are aloud to sing about raping or killing in cold blood and the such.

        And yet music is still easily accessible and, from what i understand, unrated. Worst thing is they have a sticker saying "explicit content" or "high impact themes" - and children can buy whatever they want when it comes to music..

        So if other media can get away with it's influence, why is gaming always the scrutinised party? At least we have a rating system, and at least we're trying to make it as informative as possible to the purchaser and keep it out of the hands of those that shouldn't posses certain titles.

          Dude! It's Max Payne, not Max Pain! It's mistakes like this that these councils and groups will jump on! They chew on our contradications like ravenous wolves with raw meat instead of producing rational arguments of their own. Don't give them an inch! God, GOD! You might as well stand outside their offices protesting in a Zangief costume!


            Dude.. i'm still half asleep! lol
            Could have been much worse - i could have said "Duke Nudem"... or maybe "Sonic the Rapist"...

              Lol, Sonic the rapist.

          Good point. Something I've considered on it's own, but never in comparison with games, is that mediums involving real people (such as music, tv, film) are much more inspirational to kids (and prone to emulation) than video games - I don't need a degree or research grant to see that, having just finished public schooling a couple of years ago it's common sense to me.

          Additionally I'm disappointed at the arguments, or lack thereof, against improving our ratings system by apparent academics: it's all circular logic or a question of "these games are already available to minors, so how are adults restricted?" despite many of these people purporting to have the protection of children in mind - don't they want to fix that?

          It's really effing annoying that people with so much potential influence and clout keep pushing inane, bullshit arguments without ever attempting to educate themselves, relying on the classic "Oh no! Don't let them release prostitute and baby killing games!": I dare suggest it's just done to try and stay relevant and promote their own popularity.

          Someone, somewhere, may have a valid point against having a more closely unified ratings system, but we haven't heard it yet and I seriously doubt we will.

          /end rant

        I hold the completely opposite view. I find videogames less impactful than passive media. Its my personal experience as well as the parent of a 8 years old.

        Ask yourself this, if you're presented with a violent video (say, soldiers fighting), out of context, can you, as an adult, tell if it's a movie or a news piece? The answer is you can't. These realistic images can be equally disturbing whether they're fact or fiction.

        A videogame, on the other hand, by its interactive nature is constantly reminding you its not real. You cannot control the actions of real people through your TV. Even if the game is photorealistic, that "being" on screen cannot be real, beause you are controlling it. And it goes beyond this, all games are constrained by a set of preset rules. You cannot do whatever you want. This again, keeps the game firmly outside reality. Our children, who have grown with these technologies, know this instictively. Did you even play with action figures as a child? Maybe they fought each other? Did you ever got confused over fantasy and reality on this scenario? That, in my opinion is the key that most people miss, usually people that don't play. Video games are virtual toys, just like physical toys, only that they solely exist inside the TV.

        I wont deny that it is possible, for a person with mental problems not to be unable to tell the difference, but in that case the game is not the problem, and this person would have issues with some other media. That is not how we should apply restritions.

        I've always been fond of the question "can a videogame make you cry"? Because the answer is no, and I see no evidence of that changing. Movies, on the other hand do get you to invest emotionally on the fictional characters, they can do that because they come across as real. Videogames cannot do this.

          + about a million in my opinion.
          Out of all mediums I find video games to be the most removed from reality.
          Maybe in the future with virtual reality where games are super realistic sure but pressing a button and watching an animated character do something is a very disconnected experience.
          I don't think that anyone who plays video games equates it with reality; I'm shooting a target, not a person. It looks like a person because a story about people is also being told.

          Movies have more impact because it is real people you are watching and the whole experience is designed to evoke your emotions.
          And I think what Choops said about music is spot on.

          Perhaps it is a generation gap thing: older gens and those who did not grow up with it see video games as something new but they are really just a evolution of games that have always been played.
          Shooters are the evolution of shooting galleries at the fair, RPGs are a new way of telling a story and strategy games are high tech board and tabletop games when you get right down to it.
          Multiplayer too is basically a new sport, and a healthier and less violent one than actually going out and thumping each other in a game of footy.

          I like this, until you claim that video games can't make you cry. While I don't recall actually *crying* about it, Final Fantasy 7 engaged me on a deep emotional level. That said, I was about 12 at the time.

          Looking back, I guess I've stopped being so emotionally connected to fictional characters as I grew up. I think kids probably are more exposed to such connections than adults.

          That said I agree that they are unlikely to mix fantasy and reality. You can feel an emotional connection without wanting to reproduce stuff in real life. I would even argue that that is the *point* of fantasy.

            @David. Man up and admit it dude.. you cried.

            I have to admit I did not play FF7, so I missed that experience. I've heard a lot about it though. Perhaps we can call it the exception that confirms the rule?

        Shane, that's the common layman assumption. That because a game is interactive it has a greater impact on the player than passively watching a violent event happen.

        But this has been disproven by plenty of studies in the past. The studies that have linked violent neurological reactions to violent games have shown an equal violent neurological reactions to watching football games.

      I don't think that argument should be made. The classification guidelines already state that interactivity can increase the impact of an action.

      Introducing an R18+ rating won't change that: it will just mean that the same level of impact will be allowed in games as other media (even if that means there are actions that can be shown in film but not games).

      You might have arguments that interactivity does not increase impact, but I don't think it helps to conflate that with the R18+ debate.

    "Another contradiction: we need to be concerned about minors’ access to violent material … and yet there is a ‘lack of conclusive scientific evidence’ that violent material is harmful. Again, you can’t have it both ways."

    I've noticed recently the groups opposed to an R rating are starting to do this. Trying to find inconsistencies in our arguments rather than make any of their own.

    The above statement from Handley is so empty and meaningless it boggles the mind.

    1. Yes, we need to be concerned about children's access to violent material.

    2. No, is there is no conclusive scientific evidence that violent material is harmful to children.


    I have the right to kill people with baseball bats and glass shards in Manhunt but on the other hand I don't want my child doing the same. Not because is will turn them into monsters (because it won't) but because they are children and games like Manhunt aren't for children. Just like the Saw movies, the book American Psycho or the television show Dexter. And that's why an R rating is necessary.

    See, both ways Handley. Simple. Next time, produce an actual reason as to why the R rating isn't needed.

    Also, you and your council have exactly zero authority over the children of this country. Being funded by religious groups and then in turn, funding Michael Atkinson and on top of that, spouting off on subjects you know very little about demonstrates this fact so very clearly.

      I agree with you that in lack of actually having an argument to make they are just trying to find ways to discredit the arguments 'we' have made. Unfortunately I believe that this will work. Anyone with knowledge of the issue will easily see that her thoughts don't make any sense, that none of these things are mutually exclusive. But for people with little knowledge of the subject I think they may miss this and actually believe we are being contradictory.

    I don't trust (or listen to) anyone who is part of an organisation which can be summed up by "won't anybody think of the children??".

    Self righteous moralisers who hide behind kids as though they are the second coming of Christ.

      I'll give you my blanket argument against those guys: "Then we need to ban all churches in Australia. To protect kids from peadophiles. It may not be a perfect solution, but we MUST do something... for the children"

        That is such a good point.
        We MUST do something
        It has been proven and accepted that pedophiles use churches to further their sick interests.
        QED We MUST ban all churches.
        Simple and concise.

    It really boggles my mind that this is still an issue. The main opposition to an R18+ rating is that kids will end up playing them anyway. Denying the introduction of a law due only to the potential that people will break it is not good legal logic.

      Store owners have the right and should refuse minors from purchasing R18+ games. In fact when i was 13, they wouldnt let me purchase an MA15+ game without my parents there with me. If a child gets his or her parents to buy an R18+ game for them, then who's fault is it? The classification system? The retailers? Or the parents?

      Likewise, if a child gets an older friend to purchase the game for them and then goes and plays it at home and the parents LET him play it, then its still the parents fault.

      Parents nowadays think that the media and the public should do all the parenting for them.

      There was an article about a complaint about the Glee stars appearing on the front cover of an adults magazine dressed promiscuisly and said that they were dressed inappropriately because their kids watched glee. Honestly, what the heck was that magazine doing in their kids' hand in the first place?

        "Parents nowadays think that the media and the public should do all the parenting for them."

        No, politicians think they need to do the parenting for the parents. And we parents get not say on the matter.

      Quite possibly the most succinct and intelligent response I've heard in the two years that I've been following this issue.

    I completely dont understand why there is a debate about it.

    simple answer.

    if there is an R18+, more games will not "slip in" to the MA15+ raiting, they will be put as R18+.

    minors will NOT get hold of R18+ as they will be ID'd.

    if it is allowed for movies, why not games?

    you cant deny an adult their rights because of some bad parents letting their kid watch R18+ movies and likening the risk to games.

    Geez, just get everyone who is opposed to R18+ to look at alien vs predator and see how bad our classification system is.

    Someone should film their 10 year old boy pulling spinal cords out of human soldiers and post it on the internet.

    If do have the time, have a full read of the article and then read all the response comments. There are some great responses in there, basically tearing her arguement to pieces.

    I think her worst move was to try and say that the 98% support vote was biased and that basically 96% of those votes should be disreguarded so she can pretend that the debate is actually split 50/50. You idiot.

    Ah lawyers, they are a funny bunch of people. Have you ever tried arguing with one before? Many of them refuse to lose even they're backed into a corner. The smart ones do what lady has done - point out inconsistencies in your argument no matter how borderline they may be.

    This is the same woman whose argument in favour of the internet filter was "we need it to protect children from (things which the filter won't have any impact on)".

    She does not care about reality, or practicality. She has an axe to grind about video games, and just like the cited Craig Anderson, she'll pick and choose arguments to back up her prejudice, while using her position (in an *entirely unrelated* field) to give herself legitimacy.

    I was going to say that the article doesn't give a sense of why opponents are opposed to the R18, because it makes no sense. But, when it comes down to it, I don't think I've seen an argument against the R18 that does. Like pretty much every other culture war issue, this is rationality versus ideology.

    If we approach the opposition as though they too are coming from a rational position, we're going to lose, because that lends credibility to their ideology. We need to make sure that as many people as possible know just how far from reality people like Prof Handley are.

    "3. Adults missing out. It does appear that Australian gamers miss out on some things, such as the choice of which sex their character commits with a prostitute, which was removed from Grand Theft Auto so it could fit the MA15+."

    Aside from the confusing 'which sex their character commits' (are there multiple sexes that the character can commit?), this is really a non-issue that the R18+ haters jump on to make gamers look perverted.

    If we had an R18+ rating, and the game was appropriately classified without content being removed, the act of choosing 'which sex their character commits' would be one of the few legal* activities that players can undertake in the GTA series (*under Australian state and territory law).

    By removing prostitution to fit it into an MA15+ rating, they've kept all the illegal and socially reprehensible activities (car jacking, beating people to a pulp, etc etc), and made them available to minors, at the same time as removing activities that are legal for adults (paying a sex worker money for sex).

    I was surprised at her claim that if we ignore the responses from the petition that the results would be a near even split.

    The report from the AG department says that 52% of responses were from the EB Games without comments, 7% from EB Games with comments, and 27% based on the GrowUp template. If we assume that all these were in favour of an R18+ rating, then we'd still require 86% of the remaining submissions to be in favour to reach the 98% total.

    Is there some other piece of information I'm missing?

    I was unimpressed with the Gamespot editor's piece. It actually was the type of inconsistent rambling that plays right into the hands of the opposition.

    For me the R18+ thing boils down to this: why is it the Government's job to think about my children? Isn't that my job?
    I sit with my daughter while she plays games to make sure I know what she's playing, just like when she's on the internet.

    I am "thinking of the children" when I see that the guidelines for classification are not uniform across all forms of media, therefore confusing parents who may not have the time to sit with their children every time they're playing, or who may not have the inside gaming knowledge about what each game entails.
    If they see that some games on the shelves are rated R18+, parents who are not gamers may realise that not all games are for children or even teenagers anymore. The lack of this rating is just perpetuating the illusion that "games are just for kids".

    I had expected an article from a Professor to exhibit a higher degree of research, as well as better interpretation and clearer communication skills.

    However I do recommend looking at some of the comments her article has received as there are some really well thought out ones being discussed.

    "Even if you have issues with this piece and completely disagree with it, it’s still worth reading the piece to get an idea of the reasons why some are in opposition to the introduction of an R18+ rating."

    They are silly people?

    "For me the R18+ thing boils down to this: why is it the Government’s job to think about my children? Isn’t that my job?"

    The problem with that is, our current rating system. Games that should have a R18 rating don't meaning parents think a game is more acceptable than it is.
    One thing some gamers ignore is that a lot of people don't know that much about games.When I was 13, my mum bought me San Andreas for Christmas. She didn't know how bad it was, and promptly confiscated it when she first saw me playing it. The point is, she would never have bought it for me if she knew how bad it was, something and R rating would have told her.

    I could care less what some shyster writes. What happens when a retarded person gets raped? Do they get laughed out of a courtroom due to their inability to construct an eloquent, syntactically/semantically correct recollection of what happened? It's pretty clear to your average person what the original author was trying to say. But Gina Hardface makes a living out of nitpicking the insignificant when her argument is an opinion without substance.

    What does a pig-headed person do when they see they've lost an argument? They sabotage it however they can. They stop playing by the rules and attack things outside of the matter at hand. Talking over the other person works. Repeating the same words works. Diverting the argument also works. Politicians are experts at this. It's like an armwrestler who's down to his last inch. He knows he can't win, but that last inch is the hardest for the victor and the loser can still make it difficult.

    Everyone knows that the ratings board consists of more than one person. I'm fairly certain that there are a number of titles out there that not everyone on the board agrees should be available to 15 year olds. It's obvious that a number of titles have been shoe-horned into the MA classification. Others have been unfairly refused classification. Of course we need an R rating.

    How many of these experts are fans of Martin Scorcese or Quentin Tarantino? More than a few I'd say. Wouldn't they be shitty as hell if none of their movies about an MA rating were allowed into the country? What's the difference? Are we going to harp on about the interactive nature of games? That is the weakest fall-back argument I've ever run across. Because the findings are inconclusive, those against it always have it as a fall-back option.

    Interactive violence to a healthy individual is cathartic. If it inspires a person to commit atrocities, then that fault is in the individual. An individual who is not fit to live amongst the rest of us. It's not as if the difference between a murderer and all upstanding citizens is 3 years of adolescence. A 15 year old probably shouldn't see some things that adults can see. Doesn't mean that if the kid sees it, they'll mimic it. Give people some credit. Most of us saw R-rated movies as kids and many of us have turned out alright.

    Movies and books have inspired nutjobs to commit some heinous acts. But they get classed as art. Games are not yet considered art because the gatekeepers are dinosaurs and we'll have to wait for some gamers to replace them when they die out. Why the fuck should we child-proof society for the minority? That's the equivalent of giving up our way of life because of terrorists. There's books in school libraries with R-rated film adaptations. Think about that geniuses.

    While we're suggesting that the ratings system needs an overhaul, what bout the legal system? I still see douchebags in wigs and gowns getting about and people carting stacks of books between courthouses. For some reason it keeps letting the crooks out to reoffend multiple times. That's cool if you're a criminal lawyer. How do criminal lawyers explain their jobs to their kids? How do they spin that? That scares the hell out of me.

    she's a professor of law, and the only way to fight law when you know you have no evidence too back you up is through loopholes, and this article seems to be her trying to find loopholes in our logic, yet the loopholes she has found doesn't prove anything, and she is sort of saying "you are right therefore you are wrong"

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