Yesterday we reported that the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’ Connor released a literature review stating that “there is no conclusive evidence that violent computer games have a greater impact on players than other violent media, such as movies or music videos.” Given that this assertion was one of pillars of the anti-R18+ argument, we thought we'd speak directly to the Australian Christian Lobby, one of the loudest dissenters, to get their view on the new findings.
“Well look," began Lyle Shelton, Chief of Staff at the Australian Christian Lobby, "that report was a literature review, and we’re concerned that it would appear they’ve been a little bit selective with the literature. There is a vast body of evidence out there that shows a causal link between violent media and aggressive behaviour. I think they’ve been a little too hasty in coming to their conclusion, which I think is very much disputed.”
But having read through other literature reviews on the topic, such as Christopher J Ferguson's in the Review of General Psychology (published in June 2010), the government's independent study remains consistent with other findings. We asked Lyle what research he was referring to.
“Well the studies are listed in our submission for the consultation process," he began. "There’s the Anderson study, and others that I can’t remember off the top of my head. But just in the synopsis of the review, all of these researchers are dismissed as 'causationalists'. I think putting a label on someone doesn’t negate the substance of what they’re saying.
"To us, the review does seem a little bit glib," continues Lyle, "and a little bit hasty in dismissing some of the evidence that is out there. Also the literature review doesn’t deny there is a link - particularly in the short term - and it doesn’t dismiss the possibility of long term links. So I guess it comes down to the question: do we want to take risks with a violent new medium."
But wouldn't an R18+ rating help control that risk? There hasn't been a game banned in Australia for a long time - aren't parents far more likely to expose to children to violent video games without an R18+ rating to help inform them as to what content is suitable for their child?
"Well I disagree," claims Shelton. "You’re saying let’s lift the ban on violent video games and allow them into the country - legally, for the first time - and I don’t think that’s something parents would want. I think most parents feel that keeping these games out of the country is the most desirable thing for their children. It is naive to think that if the ban on these games was lifted they wouldn’t fall into the hands of children.
"There’s widespread agreement among politicians, parents and the general public that our classification system is broken. That’s been acknowledged by both Tony Abbot and Julia Gillard. The idea that we would then further liberalise our classification system and allow a new violent medium to be introduced when there’s widespread concern about lax classification standards is way out of step with where parents are on classification issues."
Now that the government commissioned literature review has stated that there is no difference between the affect of video games and other media, it would seem that the road is clear for an R18+ rating to receive the green light. But Lyle Shelton disagrees - the R18+ debate, to the Australian Christian Lobby, is part of the "liberalisation" of the classification system. We asked Lyle - should other media be restricted in a similar manner to video games?
"Absolutely," states Lyle. "We’ve just seen the classification board give the green light to a new film where adults are having sex with children, and all sorts of degrading things. We have to draw the line somewhere. The so-called artistic merit is allowing these things into the country. We need some sort of standard. That standard isn’t going to please everyone, but we need to protect innocent children wherever possible."