R18+: Rationality Is Dead

A discussion is only rational when both sides can accept the possibility of change. If a point or position has been shown to be false, with evidence, you must concede. You can't reuse the same argument, you can't continue to make statements that aren't backed up with evidence. You move on. You accept defeat with humility — and change your viewpoint accordingly.

Sadly, there is no such thing as a rational debate when it come to the R18+ issue in Australia. When it comes to R18+ rationality is dead.

When someone, in the face of overwhelming evidence, refuses to adjust his or her opinions, you have to ask yourself — is this really a discussion? Or is it something else entirely — something far more insidious. A discussion involves both sides listening to one another, and responding in kind. From what I've seen, those on the other side of this 'discussion' have done a whole lot of talking, but they clearly haven't been listening to a word we've been saying. How could they be?

We've been told more public consultation is needed on the issue. How so?

We had a public consultation, with 58,437 responses. More than any other public consultation in Australia's history — overwhelmingly in favour of an R18+ rating. Apparently that wasn't enough.

Game and PALGN tabled a record breaking petition, with 89,210 signatures — more signatures than any petition ever presented in parliament. Still, that wasn't enough.

Then the Federal Government commissioned an independent survey. In said survey, over 80 per cent of Australians claimed they were in support of an R18+ rating for Australia. Nope, still not enough.

In the face of this concrete evidence — as concrete as it gets — what gives anyone the right to say that more "public debate" is required? How is this rational? How can we call this a 'discussion' or a 'debate', if you are not willing to accept the facts and figures placed in front of you?

Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby claims that 'academic research' shows that games are more harmful to children. What academic research? Where is this research? A government literature review of all relevant research has shown that games are no more harmful than any other medium in that regard. All credible research has shown this. All literature reviews on the issue have confirmed this.

There are claims that "vested commercial interests" are attempting to force an R18+ rating through with "propaganda". There is next to no commercial gain here — Australia is a tiny market, and a miniscule amount of games are refused classification. In the grand scheme of things video game publishers couldn't really care less whether an R18+ rating is passed or not — in fact, before the matter was raised again last December, publishers had informally agreed to stop pushing for one. Why? Because it doesn't affect their business in any significant way.

Today, astonishingly, Robert Clark - the Attorney-General for Victoria - claimed that an R18+ rating would "legalise games with high levels of graphic, frequent and gratuitous violence, including violence against civilians and police". Is he referring to Grand Theft Auto IV? A video game that can already be purchased in stores under an MA15+ rating? Did he not hear Brendan O'Connor when he said, repeatedly, that games already Refused Classification would not be given a new rating? Does he not understand that 99.9% of these games are already available in this country and, regardless, those that have been refused classification are easily accessible via online piracy or through importation?

Have we not already discussed this? Is this not a 'discussion'?

These are the facts, backed by irrefutable evidence. If you make a point, which is subsequently made redundant through evidence, you must abandon that argument. That is simple logic. So why do we continually have to repel the same arguments? How can you call this a discussion? This is not rational. This is something else entirely.

This is not a discussion, it's a process. A process that, in part, justifies the existence of Lobby Groups such as the ACL, a process seized upon by politicians seeking to avoid the broader issues, a process whose primary function is to sustain the position of people who do absolutely nothing of consequence.

And the problem with processes are - they tend to repeat themselves. Endlessly.

Since I've joined Kotaku, over a period of roughly six months, I've written 71 stories about this issue in Australia. 71. This will be my 72nd. In that time it seems as though nothing has changed. Round and round we go - endlessly - from point to point. The same old arguments, the same old people, the same voices. Where did it begin - when will it ever end?

This is not a discussion, this is not a debate - if it was it would have ended years ago, rationally.

But this is a process, and rationality is dead.


    Yeah, this is beginning to put a lot of people off, me for one. It's so frustrating that the government refuses to act, because god forbid they have to do anything rational that would HELP EVERYBODY involved...

    Well, I guess I need to move to Canada, eh?

      Eh indeed.

      Agreed, I'm 28 (have been gaming since the NES era) and I'm starting to think I may never see an R18+ rating in my life time. What a horrific thought. I keep asking myself how can this be? We were naive to think that seeing the last of atchison was the end of our troubles and that another clueless politician wouldn’t pop up in his place and do exactly the same thing.

      Hence the reason why there are so many ex-patriots and we have a serious skills shortage in this country. All the smart ones keep going to more free and green pastures.

    There will be no R18+ rating for games in the foreseeable future.
    That is the only fact that we gamers need to accept.

    We have tried every possible avenue to introduce an R18+ rating but, as this article has basically pointed out, it has been a complete waste of time.

    Back in the 17th/18th century women were banned from reading fiction novels because it was believed their minds would not be able to differentiate fact from fantasy.

    Maybe there was some truth to that because Lyle Shelton sure cant comprehend overwhelming facts presented to her.

      Aside from your comment being appallingly sexist, Lyle Shelton is a man.

        My comment isnt sexist. Its fact. Go look it up.
        And sorry, I though Lyle was that chick whos rallying against the R rating recently.

          It's a fact that "maybe" women can't read fiction novels 'because ... their minds would not be able to differentiate fact from fantasy'?

          .... really? You're OK with considering that? No alarm bells ringing?

            You are misunderstanding what warcroft has tried to say. warcroft was simply stating that in history, the government believed something stupid with unsupported facts and is doing so once again.

            You owe warcroft an apology for trying to bring sexism into this and making warcroft to be a fool.

            "Back in the 17th/18th century women were banned from reading fiction novels" is the factual part.

            It's the part where you said "Maybe there was some truth to that" which makes it stupidly sexist.

        Yes, you read sexism in the comment - because sexism IS in the comment, because it IS in the history - you can't erase a part of history because it makes you feel uncomfortable now.

        In fact that's the whole point of his comment, to remind you of forms of censorship in times past.

        In some countries women aren't taught or even permitted to learn - yes this is a sexist regime however it is still fact, and the fact is some facts are uncomfortable.

        Political correctness is not the answer to dealing with uncomfortable facts. It simply covers them with lies.


          The historical bit of his statement? That's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. It's true, after all. The bit where he uses that as a basis to imply that Lyle, whom he believed to be female, can't differentiate fantasy from reality BASED ON GENDER? That's the problem.

        There's nothing sexist about it. He mentioned a historical fact, then facetiously and jokingly admitted it might be true -based on the fact that this person, who he thought was a woman, couldn't differentiate fact from fiction.-

        If you honestly believe that he's genuinely saying "Wow, maybe they were right to not allow women to read fiction!" then you need to step back and rethink your posts before you submit them.

          Historical fact has nothing to do with it, and saying it was just a joke is a poor shield. He implied something that he would not have if he had known the true sex of the author, and that my friend is sexist.

          This is not up for debate, nor the topic at hand. It is what it is. Stop twisting truth.

            That is what I meant, Furrama.

            good god, people take issue with anything these days, i read it as a joke as i know he is talking about Barbara Biggins, a joke in poor taste sure but seriously get off your bloody high horse. I didn't read the comment as sexist in the leastbut people love to take issue with everything these days (like women that take issue with "Mens only" clubs when women also have their own "Womens only" clubs which apparently are perfectly fine because they are only discriminating against Men and who gives a shit about Men?)

        Lyle is totally a women

      not every possible avenue, just the legal ones.

      Im sure after ninjas were to assasinate those against the ratings, the newcomers would soon realise how it's gonna be.

      But we are classier than the ACL we don't work our voodoo magic on the basis of scare campaign's. We use fact and knowledge. The two things no religious person group can ever truly accept as it automatically invalidates any future claim they make

    What gets me with the whole thing is that it is an insanely minor issue compared to everything else that is going on. It should be a case of "oh right, that's a bit silly. Hang on a sec, fixed. Back to business".

    Instead it has become this insane quagmire (giggity) of hand wringing, legal crap and stalling. There has to be another issue at heart with it that their not being forthwith about. I refuse to believe that there are people out there with nothing better to do than spend their whole time combatting something this minor. And get paid far mire than me to do so. That would be depressing.

      At least they shouldn't be getting paid for their intelligence...right?

      For certain groups, this really is an issue at the heart of something larger.

      Back in one of Mark's earlier posts about the ACL's role, Kotaku got a number of comments from (apparently genuine) religious conservatives hinting at what might be part of the mindset of some of the R18 opponents.

      This isn't really about video games for them, or even rights for adults - it's a symptom of the continued 'moral decline' of Western society, complete with kids running amok on the streets, drowning in violence and sex, etc. Most of it was silly nonsense, but it's deadly serious for those who genuinely believe it.

      The 'moral' element of their argument is why rational discourse just won't work.

      All the evidence in the world isn't going to convince somebody who believes violent video games are a precursor to society falling apart at the seams in a tide of depravity.

        I think 'Religious Persecution' in this case is the ACL persecuting adults for having an opinion.

        Once again, I humbly request the ACL remove the word 'Christian' from their title as it offends me - as a Christian.


        A good case in point is that, contrary to their beliefs, the statistical evidence shows that crime is and has largely been dropping, and that where there have been increases, they can largely be attributed to increased reporting and changes in what constitutes some crimes.

        Is it genuine moral outrage or is it more funding distribution outrage?

        They said the same thing about rock and roll, movies, television, pornography and even Dungeons and Dragons for crying out loud.

        Yet here we sit decades later with all those things widely available, and the sky still hasn't fallen in on us yet.

        Why should anybody believe that video games will somehow be any worse than all those things?

          Rationality isn't dead; it's just a moral panic. Any change precipitates a moral panic. For instance, Socrates thought the written word was going to destroy society. Catholics believed the printing press would destroy society.

          Books were once considered to be not unlike modern video games, and arguments were presented in the same irrational manner.

          Point is, moral panics always fade when society adjusts.

          We'll see an R18 rating, but more importantly, we'll see the day when video games aren't treated as a dangerous, second class medium.

        It's weird isn't it. An r18 rating will keep these games away from the kids. At times I think the opposition should be arguing with us.

        I'm an atheist. Are you claiming that I should tolerate having someone else's religious views forced upon me?

        I don't think so.

        This is a religious extremist group, albeit a non-violent one, who represent a tiny minority of the Australian population, yet they, and dozens like them, are being given a disproportionately large voice in the running of our country. Since when did our government become about serving the vocal minority? This is a goddamn (yes, I went there) democracy, and the government need to remember who it is they serve: The population of the Commonwealth of Australia. Well, the population has spoken. On countless occasions. Their opinion has been backed with evidence of every kind and is supported by international standards.

        Now give us our bloody R18+ already, dammit

          I'm not claiming that at all, no. On the contrary, I find the ACL both divisive and outdated. I don't have a problem with religious faith, just the application of superstitious dogma on public policy.

          But it might go some way to explaining their die-hard refusal to consider a rational response that this issue is framed, in part, in terms of a wider moral battle for the soul of society (along with the internet filter, same-sex marriage, or any of their other concerns). When something is interpreted as just one more move in the direction of depravity and moral decline, a rational response is hard to come by.

          As we've seen.

            As an athiest who's actively looked at various religions, I have yet to hear a rational explanation for ANY religion. It should come as no surprise that religion itself is used further as an irrational argument.

              If you look at the census Australia is one of the least religious countries in the world and "No Religion" is the fastest growing category on the question of religion (well that and Jedi Knight!)

              The problem is the wowsers are organised, the athiests are not, therefore they become a silent majority. The thing about silent majorities is, they are sometimes very easy to ignore.

              I too am frustrated at how long it is taking to settle what is a no brainer.

    Honestly its come to a point where i just flat dont care anymore.
    if a game gets banned ill import it.

    I know it hurts the industry but i cant help that.
    Besides its cheaper from overseas anyways.

    All the arguments against are rediculous and just plain stupid.


      I will happily send my money to overseas game retailers.
      Sure, its no blow to the economy, but it will help me sleep better at night knowing that even a tiny portion of my cash is not going back into a government system that cant even listen to is general population.

    think you need to send this article to brendan o'connor and the acl, see how they each respond.


      Can we get the email/snail mail addresses of these moronic politicians and all send them this well thought out and completely correct article? This needs to be distributed to as many of these people as possible because I'm guessing a lot of them don't frequent Kotaku.com.au on a daily basis like the rest of us.

    The "Facepalm" pic probably would have been more appropriate here.

    I would have given up on the politics of the issue if it weren't for the support of Brendan O'Connor. At least there is SOMEONE who understands.

    This is just making me depressed. I mean what more can we do?

      In light of the overwhelming evidence showing that there is more than a strong support for the introduction of an R18+ rating for games, aren't the few people blocking the progress of the issue going against the very definition of democracy and the democratic process?

      We all feel angry and upset at what most of us see as near criminal behavior, but what else can we do? I'm not very knowledgeable in political or legal matters, but short of having to wait a full political term and then campaigning to have them removed, is there anything in the Australian Constitution that can be used to either bring them into line or remove them altogether from their high and mighty pedestal? Is there any kind of legal action we can instigate against them to reprimand or remove or reduce their power?

        this is exactly the reason why politics and religion should never mix.

        The only thing we can do is to ignore the law and make alot of noise when we are caught. Its how all the stupid laws are changed, like the ones against witchcraft that were only removed a few years ago or the ones where a licensed electrician is the only one legally allowed to change a light bulb. If a law makes no sense and the idiots in power don't change it than it is up to us to simply move on and leave the law in the past.

        and this is exactly why i think no politician should be able to sit in the same seat for more than 2 term's. they should be forced to move around(kinda akin to what the states have)

        Being able to swing the vote because the WA guy sits in a largely christian seat, and the like stymies any real action from the politicians.

        the person who has held my regions state level seat for 12 years now, haven't heard or seen him do anything for the last 6 other than the re-election campaign. It doesn't help that the libs don't want to put an actual opponent against him and use it as a testing ground.

        To the point where in the last election we actually swung away from him, to the liberal candidate who was 21 and had been on the front cover(from memory) because his facebook showed him at drinking/promoting 24 hour bottle-O's and abusing simon overland

    The only logical thing to do in this situation is to call for the removal of those who are not acting in a rational manner. Naturally, when this involved private organisations, such as the Australian Christian League, this is not possible, but when it involves an Attourney General, a democratically elected AND specifically appointed station, it's definitely within our right to call for the removal of such people.

    Write to them. Write to your local Attourney General, and write to the your premier. DEMAND, as is your right as a citizen of Australia, accountability for this irrationality.

      So true. Like, when I become irrational I am removed from society by QLD Mental Health! No joke (but it is actually funny)...

    Well said Mark. I think you have summed up perfectly how the majority of us folks feel regarding this issue.

    It is beyond the joke now. What else needs to happen before this issue is taken seriously?

    I think we should discuss the public consultation process on how much we can discuss before we decide if we should have a meeting on bringing about the plans to proceed with the discussion for an R18 consultation paper which will yield results which can be put forward to the committee responsible for deciding on if the department can meet and discuss the probability of possibly determining if an R 18 Rating should be put on the agenda for future discussion at the next 12 thousand meetings of the standing committee of attorney generals.

    Your tax dollars at work!

    So depressing. I had a really bad feeling about Victoria's AG and now my fears have been confirmed.

    It's not entirely suprising though. The ACL is an entirely powerful lobby group that has a lot of influence over politics/politicians. And considering so many people live under the false belief religious groups are morally superior and know what is best for everyone it's not surprising they can spew nonsense and convince others they are right.

    I hold out a tiny morsel of hope for an R18+ but it is being quickly overwhelmed by the pessimist in me.

    "publishers could really care less whether an R18+ rating is passed or not"


    the phrase is "couldn't care less". The amount of people who mis-pronounce this saying and don't understand that it doesn't make sense when said incorrectly boggles my mind.

      Fixed - I hate it as well! Don't know how that got in there!

      GAWD! Thank You!
      I hate hearing people say "I could care less."

        Yeah me too! When I respond with "If you could care less.. then do it!", I just get funny looks directed toward me.


    The system is broken. These are elected representatives actively refusing to do what the majority of the public are asking them to do, and they have no credible reason to continue to stifle the process. Rationality isn't dead in this debate - it never entered into it in the first place. You cannot argue against someone who makes up their own rules and refuses to play by everyone else's.

    The system is broken, and the only way forward is a federal intervention. If the states are incapable of coming to a decision, the decision will have to be made for them. And that will mean the issue will become politicised, wrapped up in the petty, childish name-calling and one-upmanship that plagues both sides of this country's administration.

    Why does the ACL hold so much sway over our politicians? What happened to separation of Church & State? I seriously want to know the answer here. They have enormous pull for a fringe element of a single religion. What percentage of the population do they actually represent?

      What separation of church and state?


    Excellent article. At this point it really does feel like a grind doesn't it. Feels like Mrs Lovejoy on their side screaming random BS and we're trying to fight sensationalism with logic...

      Then maybe its time to fight sensationalism with sensationalism... :P We need a big nationwide advertising campaign showing all the super-awesome-ultra-violent games that 'YOUR' kids can buy without restriction and how its only going going to get worse unless there's an 18+ rating...

      Yo, Kotaku - how about a competition to come up with the best anti-anti-R18 ad? :D

    Great article.

      Summed it up for all of us Mark.

    Very well written piece Mark. Unlike the ACL and ACCM articles that are littered with rhetoric and inflammatory remarks.

    But, as usual, the vocal minority will always strive for the last say. To which I say it's time the majority were as vocal. Instead we try something new. Facts.


    Why are these people even allowed to be present at such events?

      I don't understand in this day and age a religious faction can have sway over laws. Go push their beliefs elsewhere, because I don't want my life ruled by something I don't believe.

        That's why there is supposed to be a separation of church and state.

        The ACL clearly didn't get that memo.

          So much for "seperation of powers" considering a religous group should have no power over state or federal decisions.

          Wonder what my law lecturer would think on this matter.

            They'd probably be upset that you misused the term "separation of powers" =p

            That's the executive/judiciary/legislature split, with the different powers of the state shared between them. The whole point of separation of church and state is that the church is supposed to have *no* power in the state.

              you mean separation of state and common sense?

          Probably don't believe in faxes.

          Seperation of church and state...hahahah that is a good one.

          When NSW has a Police Commisioner who sanctions bibles printed with the police crest on the front, seperation of church and state has long been a joke in this country.

          I think you'll find that Australia actually doesn't have a formal separation of church and state:

          This is something that distresses me as a Christian because we are met with hatred from people (a number from Kotaku itself) who see those of our faith as oppressing, or forcing our beliefs upon others.

          Laws should be made from common sense and the general concensus of what adults consider fair and reasonable, not because of ANY one large organised group that holds power in government.

          Stop stalling SCAG - deal with this issue or hold a public vote - then you'll get your public consultation!

    it's mind boggling to think that the people elected to represent US the people are so out of touch with real issues in our community. If i was presented with an issue that was breaking parliamentary records in regards to overwhelming positive response to change i very much doubt i would need further debate to clarify the issue for me. I think a better title would be Politics is dead because if they can't do there Job which is to represent us the people then how do we justify there existence?

      Good article.

      Peter, the R18+ classification is hardly one of the 'real issues in our community'. There's hardly any comparison between this and such issues as drug and substance abuse, cost of living pressures which governments of late seem to care little about. They aren't even doing the basics.

      There's so much time wasted on this issue. If a kid wants to play an age-inappropriate game, a classification system won't stop him. If a parent wants to monitor their child's gaming habits, at least stuff that could be 18+ will not get through on a lower rating. Kids will get their hands on whatever material they want regardless of classification systems if parents are not concerned with them playing age inappropriate materials. People holding this up should just get over it.

      While we wait though we need to stop acting like our lives will be somehow irrevocably deprived because a few games are banned.

    Good article Mark, I hope you don't have to make it to 100 but I'm glad you are still fighting the good fight.

    (No, video games did not induce me to use a violence analogy)

    heres an idea. take whoever is not wanting to accept a R18 rating, and show them a R18 rated (elsewhere) game, like GTAIV, etc. show them the nitty gritty, bloody violence they are so phobic of.
    then tell them that a 15 year old kid bought the game.
    then, ask them, what should this be rated? surely not MA15..

    but hey, R18 games in MA15 rating doesnt hurt, just lets more people play !...

    If anyone is in Victoria, please write to Robert Clark at the below address. Tell him that failure to legally realise R18+ for videogames will allow the continued sale of precisely what he described: "games with high levels of graphic, frequent and gratuitous violence, including violence against civilians and police" to children. It's happening every single day all across his state, his electorate, and he's failing to protect the interests of his constituency.


    In the advent that he fails to change his stance, write to the premier and demand his termination as Attourney General.

    That is literally the only option we have, as citizens.

      I think this is probably the most useful avenue. I don't know what the chances are that we will be taken notice of, but something has to be done and this is the best idea I've seen on here yet. I say we all give it a go.

      I have just sent through an email to Mr. Clarke, let's hope he is a rational man and not too brainwashed alreay.

      *crosses fingers*

    Ah, I remember how optimistic we were for a return to rationality when we heard Michael Atkison was stepping down. That was great...

    I wish anonymous would turn their attention to ACL.


      There should be some sort of anonymous branded bat-signal.

      I wish the ACL would just go back to where they belong: In the pulpit of their own church, preaching to those who choose to listen and follow them, and stop trying to push their beliefs on me, which in itself is steeped in violence and hate and genocide.

        As a Christian, I agree, the ACL shouldn't push its beliefs on people and there should absolutely be a complete separation of church and state... but saying that Christianity is "full of hate" is ridiculous and offensive to be honest, and is a view based only on a few misquoted, taken-out-of-context Bible verses and the fools in power.

          Does that free the people that could only follow those leaders, and not themselves, from guilt? The idea seems to have spawned a lot of violent activity "in its name".

          Sorry Mattroe, I'm Gay and I have experienced quite a bit of "hatred" inspired and sponsored by the Christian and Catholic Church. Any student of history has ample evidence of the attrocities committed through the centuries sponsored by the "Church". Jesus apparently cast out the money changers, but they have been back in for a very long time now. I suspect he would refuse to have anything to do with it today.
          I have no problem with Spirituality in it's many forms, however organised religion is only about power and wealth, and maintaining that power and wealth for those that benefit from it at the expense of others.

      That's exactly what we don't need.
      Anonymous just tend to f*** things up for everyone.

      So ask nicely, it's what /r/ is for.

      Stop that! That's how groups like the ACL work.

      They spin fiction and attempt to make them fact by trying to coerce a desired reaction from others.

      Thus, if we wish harm on them, they can turn around and say "See! We were right! There's living proof we do not need this rating right here!"

    After having just moved back here after 18 months in the UK, it's disturbing to see that gamers are still nowhere near having an R18 certificate for their games. What the detractors probably fail to realise is that games that have received an 18 certificate elsewhere (GTA IV for one - albeit slightly toned down for the Australian audience), are being given an MA15 certificate here. If they are really trying to restrict content to appropriate age-groups, they should be all for an R18 certificate.

    Maybe we should form an Australian Gamers Lobby and lobby against things that the ACL support...

      That is an excellent idea.
      Australian Gamers Lobby FTW

        Maybe the AGL will get voted in when the mouth-breathing voters mistake AGL for ACL?

    Kinda had the feeling the last 6 months that the plan of those opposing this proposition, are just going to run this in circles until we become to frustrated and exhausted to repond/care...

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