R18+ And Playing With A Full Deck

Ever played Poker with people who don’t understand the rules? It’s always, absolutely always, an unmitigated disaster. The game moves at a snail’s pace, with constant interjections.

“Does three of a kind beat a flush?”

“Oh, it’s my go! Sorry!”

And then there’s always that magic moment, when someone lays down a hand of hearts and diamonds, with an inflated sense of false glory.

“I win - all reds!”

Bizarrely, at this precise moment, the R18+ debate feels like a really slow, rubbish game of poker, a game in which half of the participants are barely aware of the rules, constantly stopping, asking if two pairs beats three of a kind - betting when they should be checking, checking when they should be betting.

And we can’t help but get the impression that some aren’t exactly playing with a full deck.

Take John Rau, for example. First he supports R18+, which is good. Then he claims he wants to abolish MA15+, which is strange - but we need context. Then he claims he is going to apply an R18+ rating even if other states don’t reach a consensus... Wow. Huge news.

Then, once he thought about it, he clarified his statement, claiming he would only go ahead with the R18+ rating if the Federal government went over the heads of State Government, and made it possible to have an R18+ rating without the full consensus of the Attorneys-General.

So, effectively, he is saying... nothing at all.

Yesterday I called the office of John Rau and I got a strange sense, the sense that even they themselves weren’t precisely sure of their own position. I had to clarify it with them, they had to clarify it with themselves. John Rau and his office meant well, obviously, but I got the distinct impression that they weren’t really sure whether they had a flush or a full house. It was almost as though, in the middle of a match, they had asked me to look over their shoulder, and take a look at their hand before asking if four cards was enough for a straight.

No guys. It isn’t.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the office of John Rau, and all of the other Attorneys-General have advisors and have spoken to the ‘right’ people about their ‘options’. I’m sure those people are far more informed than me, and have a full grip over the legality of the situation, but the fact of the matter is I want the elected representatives who make the decisions on these things to understand the game they are playing - to understand it fully. And at the moment I’m just not getting that sense.

Say John Rau is right – say the SCAG meeting doesn’t reach a consensus and the Federal government legislates to allow each state to make up their own rules as they go along. Say South Australia abolishes MA15+, and create an R18+ rating instead. Say ACT wants to keep the MA15+. Say Melbourne wants nothing to do with an adult rating for games and sticks with the current system.

That system is not viable. That situation will not occur. It’s not possible, and even if it is possible it bloody well shouldn’t be. How will the video games industry adapt to a system where each state has different ratings? How will the Classification Board classify? Ron Curry used the words “logistical nightmare” and I’m inclined to agree – we need a consensus, and if a rogue Attorney-General feels like playing silly buggers the Federal Government simply has to change the system – on a national level.

There is nothing more frustrating than participating in a game where the players have no idea what the rules are. Where you have absolutely no idea whether your opponent is bluffing or simply doesn’t know what he is doing in the first place. The attorneys-general need to go into the SCAG meeting and play the hand they’ve been dealt. Point blank. At the very least they need to learn how to play.

Because, ultimately, this whole debate is nothing more than a game - a game that’s taking far too long to play.

And I want that game to be over.


Comments

    I can see how it wouldn't work with different states having different ratings, but at the same time, didn't a ban on the Underbelly DVD in Victoria due to an on-going trial more or less work? Sure people went out of state to buy it, but it was still mostly kept out

      There's a difference between one product not being sold in a particular state and having different ratings systems.

        They have different ratings on adult material and what is and isn't allowed in each state (ie: Canberra).

          But that's just an additional rating over and above.

          What if what was R18+ is one state, was MA15+ in another?

          Or what was MA15+ in one was M in the other?

            Which came first, the M15+ or the egg?

          Hmmm. When most people talk bout the Canberra laws it's usually in relation to x-rated porn. You know, the x-rated porn that is BANNED in other states. The x-rated porn that i can buy at any adult store Australia wide.... Or so i'm told ;)

            Yeah I've wondered about that, is there really porn that isn't sold here that is sold over there? Or is this a rule that noone really abides by.

            I find this information vitally important.

              Unsure as to actual law.
              I think because it is sold "behind closed doors".
              It's not like it is displayed or advertised..

                You would think on a blog devoted to gaming and computers there would be more "porn aficionado's" amongst us with a rock hard answer.

                In regards to being immature, I had to do it.

                Also, "that's what she said".

                Where's Blahgman... we need him to do some exploritory shopping.

                  I heard a rumour that xrated porn is free over the internet. Saving the trip into the store to purchase it.

                  When it comes to porn, we have the same exact rules, the difference between canberra and the states though is that canberra openly allows for porn to be sold, where as in states, its not legal, but then not illegal at the same time.

                  Porn stores get raided every now and then, its because someone thinks the store is selling something not within the classification guidelines. 90% of the time its a completel failure as the stock gets sent back to the store because its not in violation of the classification guidelines.

                  Its exaclt like prosistution, its not legal but not illegal and different states have different rules.. ie victoria and state funded brothels.

      Certain things are legal in ACT and no other states because it's federally ruled.
      Australia itself has no problem with X-rated porn, just the states do. So that's why you can buy X-rated porn in ACT and no other places.

      I'm fairly sure weed was legal in ACT at some stage, although I could be wrong.

    Is it possible to get an update from Brendan O'Connor or someone on his 'page' about what the hell is going on?

    Can the Federal Government override the AGs? Can they not?

    Can each state legislate themselves independantly? And if so, then why the hell didn't they all ignore Michael Atkinson back in the day and all push forward without him and his stupid opinions?

      South Australia, at least, has its own legislation that allows for different ratings to the Federal classification system: (from the Act)

      "17 Relationship with classification under Commonwealth Act

      (1) The Council or the Minister may classify a publication, film or computer game despite the fact that it is classified under the Commonwealth Act.
      (2) A classification decided by the Council or the Minister has effect to the exclusion of any classification of the same publication, film or computer game under the Commonwealth Act."

      I believe the ACT and NT would have their own similar systems in place.

      I agree with Mark/Ron Curry though, separate state-based legislation or classification would be a recipe for disaster. It would be almost unworkable.

        I liked Ron Curry in Rocky Horror....pardon, oh sorry that was Tim Curry. Nice bloke Tim Curry. He was also in Congo.

          You're forgetting Tim Curry's most important role- Gabriel Knight!

    As a South Australian, there are many... many... many things we need to review around classification, but it is truly not the biggest problem we have over here.

    I actually read Rau's statement as more: if the federal government says we must have an R18 rating... then we'll introduce one, but not before.

    Hey Mark

    Mark my words this very day.

    This whole 'different ratings for different states' will be the new reason this will drag on for another ten years.

    BANK ON IT.

    I'm pretty happy with Rau tbh and think you mgiht have been a bit tough on him there.

      I think he means well.

        The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    It's more like a game of Cripple Mister Onion.

      Haha I wonder, am I the only who get this reference?

        Nope. I was thinking it the whole time. Got beaten to the punch though.

    You sunk my battleship

    i think you've over-complicated the issue, mark. all the federal government can do is introduce an R18 rating and give each state the choice whether to implement it or not. if gta was rated r, it would be available in states that allow an r rating, and banned in states that don't. the whole 'abolish the ma15 rating and set your own guidelines if you want' would simply not happen.

      also, i don't think rau's 'abolish the ma15' thoughts would be just at a state level, but more on a national level, so all states would still be lined up.

      although i dont know why we need to abolish the ma15, it makes more sense to get rid of the standard m rating instead.

    Flaw in the metaphor: The ability to play *strip* poker would clearly mean the game should be refused classification and thus not available for play in Australia, unless modified to ensure that no players can remove clothing whilst playing.

    One of the planks in our argument is the whole 'international parity' issue isn't it? The idea that we should have an R18 rating because it makes sense to have similar laws as other countries (where games often come from, can be purchases from etc). So yeah. Instead of going for a streamlined system, let's make an even worse, more complex system!!

    This is why governmental classification (censorship) is a BAD IDEA. Everyone has a different idea about what's good, what's bad etc. Legislating someone's morality to this fine a degree is a waste of goddamn time.

    South Australia, ACT, Melbourne? WTF. That'd be a logistical nightmare for sure if Melbourne had a different classification system to the rest of Victoria.

    I have grand plans for this country when I become the first President of Australia. My plans include an R18+ rating for all of Australia, breaking Australia off the Indo-Australian plate and moving it into strategic orbit around Hawaii and annexing NZ to turn it into a penal colony.

      It would be an honour to be your vice.

    The situation you describe does indeed sound ludicrous. The best option of all would be for governments - federal and state - to just get the hell out of the way and let the industry self-regulate. Give games whatever rating advice they think is the most appropriate, and gov't can threaten to whack them with huge massive fines if there is a serious breach. It's the cleanest and most efficient way to wrap up this absolute farce of a situation.

    Never happen, though. The Christian lobby would never allow government to do such a thing, and they're the ones really holding the cards here.

      I don't think the ACL cards are as powerful as you make them to be. If they were, there would be no discussion, I'd be just as if Atkinson had never left.

      They do hold some power, and I agree that is enough to block self-regulation. But I like to believe they cannot stop the R18 classification forever.

        Forever? No, probably not... time and demographics are against them.

        But they can certainly exploit a risk-averse and cautious government with a rather conservative opposition waiting to pounce.

        A government simultaneously fighting tobacco retailers, mining corporations, the gambling lobby, businesses councils and faced with plummeting popular opinion is likely to be much less confident in taking a stand, especially on what is considered a niche issue.

    Well Mark, I see good news and bad news.

    Clearly, if the key actors are clueless, that's not a good thing as you have pointed out.

    But this situation is clearly different from the ironclad NO R18 FOR YOU we used to get. Back then there was no game at all. It appears we have dragged them, kicking and screaming, into the game. So, it's not surprising they don't actually know what the game is.

    Ideal? No. But progress nonetheless.

    You know whats better then signing a petition to get r18+. marching through the streets of the city holding up signs and blocking a road for a while to make a point, it seems to work for other things, like those taxi drivers a while back or those students in uk. I guess as gamers though we are kinda less prone to leave the house and instead spam emails...

    "You're supposed to take the Jokers out of the deck!"
    "Oh, here have another."
    "...These are the instructions!"

    Also the last three paragraphs perfectly described my experiences playing multiplayer NSMBWii with non-gamers.

    Then you have people like the ACL who think we're playing Blackjack with their "Why won't anyone think of the children!?!?!" approach.

    Rating games could be an easy enough process, If the game is violent it could get a R18+ in states with the rating implemented and if it passes with an MA15+ rating then it could be labled that, it doesnt take much effort and only needs to be rated once.

    I do feel that this article is an unfair attack on John Rau, At least he acknowledges that the system is broken and and it trying to fix it, its not much but its really a positive step.

    John Rau,
    yoooooou say it best, -when you say nnnothing at allllll

    To continue with your poker metaphor:

    Looks like the Jokers are wild.

    Seriously what is thier problem, the answers to the legislation is the so darn simple, it's content, if the game has adult content and concepts, R18, if it is implied MA15+ the same as TV/Cinema/DVD etc,
    I do not understand why the Government is acting so stupid over this.

    I have to dissagree with Luke about emulating the Rating of another country, we are not them, we have our own blend of cultures and ways of seeing the world, the Ratings should suit our Social Culture and not someone elses, on that note though, if we were to monitor the ratings of upcoming games in, oh say a dozen countries of similar culture, then we could make a more informed opinion without having to rate the game properly, which is what I think the Government would want to do since the only reason the Governments seem so slack on this is that they might have to give the Classification Board more money to hire more staff to cover all the extra work..

    according to the Canberra Times Simon Corbell has akready said the ACT will press on with R 18 regardless.

    I'm shocked at the level of mess the AG's are willing to go through and make rather than just agree to a new rating that would be the most simple and make the most sense and be done with it.

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