Objection! Should We Just Ignore The ACL Altogether?

Welcome to Objection! This is where we take the time to go on-depth on current gaming issues, and let you guys continue the discussion in the comments section. This time, in the wake of our extensive feature on the Australian Christian Lobby, we decided to ask ourselves a question - do we, as gamers, pay too much attention to the ACL? Is this a healthy course of action? To discuss we brought in Jeremy 'Junglist' Ray, a Christian gamer, and the current host of the 5 Inch Floppy.

MARK: So Junglist, this is a suggestion you’ve mentioned to me on more than one occasion, something that’s especially relevant given Kotaku’s recent feature on the Australian Christian Lobby. At times the gaming press, including Kotaku, has been quick to jump on any comment the ACL make about video games and, in particular, the R18+ debate – writing about it, discussing it.

Am I right in saying that you think the best policy is to simply ignore the ACL altogether?

JUNGLIST: Well, let's be honest here Mark. They're easy. It's easy as a journalist to ring up the ol' "dial-a-quote" ACL, get an express soundbite from the naively conservative, and plop it into our (now) objective feature. They might as well have a 1-300 number.

I think they've had their run in the media, and they aren't contributing anything to the debate. We're past the point of ignoring them - we've basically made them the go-to people for the other side of this issue. Perhaps the mainstream media is a little more guilty of treating them as experts, but the gaming enthusiast press knows better. We've heard what they have to say. We should seek other opinions on the matter, and take the ACL more seriously when they decide to stop quoting debunked studies and sticking to a message (that the R18+ rating will result in more violent and sexual games, and therefore cause us to be more violent and sexual) we know to be false.

MARK: Mainstream media has frequently used them because, as you mentioned, they are an easy touch point in the far right, conservative view of the R18+ debate. Yet as much as that may frustrate gamers that’s just how media works – two talking heads, on either side of the spectrum, waffling on. Now – you decide.

It makes sense for the media to utilise those that exist on the fringes of the debate, those with more extreme views – presentable, but extreme. Sadly that’s precisely what the ACL provide to media outlets.

But you’re right – it’s frustrating for us, mainly because they bring nothing new to the debate and, worse, seem to be misinformed, reinforcing the same (mostly debunked) stereotypes to an audience who doesn’t have the time, or the inclination, to fact check. That, by far, is the most frustrating thing about the ACL’s participation in the R18+ debate.

That’s the mainstream media – what do you think about the ways in which more niche, tech/gaming outlets present the ACL?

JUNGLIST: We tech and gaming outlets do better when it comes to tempering what the ACL says with facts. But I disagree with giving ACL figureheads an op-ed piece, when some readers might interpret that article (by association) as having the same level of credibility as the site. When we know what they say is factually wrong, giving them the means to say it louder is false objectivity. It makes us look good, and smart, when we analyse the story. But is this the best we can do?

It comes back to what I said earlier: they're easy. Not only to contact, but to disprove.

Even if we do a good job of objectively tempering their opinions with facts, what if the ACL's view isn't actually the other side of the story? What if there are people out there opposed to the R18+ rating who feel misrepresented by not only the ACL's stance, but methods?

What if there are people out there with better arguments against an 18+ rating, but we aren't hearing them because we aren't seeking them out?

A while ago, GameArena spoke to WA MP Nick Goiran, who had a few statistics from the same studies we quote that weren't so favourable for our argument, claimed that comparing classifications countries was misleading, and stated that he had no confidence the gaming press' main motive for lobbying this issue so hard was to protect children.

Of course, protecting children is a main concern for us. But he does have a small point. Somewhere along the line, we switched our main message from "Adults should be able to play what they want" to the more sellable "Children will be better protected with this new rating." Most importantly, he was an anti-R18+ voice that had taken the time to familiarise himself with the issue, and come up with his own argument backed by facts, rather than sensationalism.

Don't get me wrong, I think the argument for an R18+ rating is as solid as a rock. But can we honestly say we've exhausted all avenues in the search for the other point of view, now that rebutting the ACL is a routine cog in our R18+ feature machine?

MARK: I completely agree – there are people out there who oppose an R18+ rating for games, people I completely respect. Nick Goiran is one of them, and I rate Elizabeth Handsley as a pretty tough opponent. The ACL however have not changed or evolved in the face of overwhelming evidence.

I’d be perfectly happy to allow the ACL to talk themselves to death, but the issue is this: there are people who believe what they’re saying, who rate the ACL as a trusted source on this issue. That’s the problem.

I’ve struggled with the ACL, I’ve struggled with how to report their contributions to the R18+ debate. At times I ask myself if we should bother to discuss them at all. Would it be best to ignore their arguments, or is it better to engage with them?

My belief is that dealing with their arguments, and placing them in a public forum, allows people to get a feel for the other end of the spectrum in this debate, and become more aware of how people will attempt to debunk pro-R18+ rhetoric.

I think the afore-mentioned “children will be better protected” argument has sprung from that awareness, and regardless of what Goiron claims – that argument is correct, and it’s a strong one. Anti-R18+ campaigners can get sour grapes about the change in direction, but those sour grapes are the direct result of having their own leaky argument countered intelligently. And that comes from engaging and hearing what the opposition has to say.

JUNGLIST: We definitely haven't shied away from taking their position on, and I think we've won on that point. A big problem, as I see it, is their willingness to act as if that rebuttal never happened. I think you hit on the real question: in our search for objectivity, are we doing damage by quoting the ACL? Are we exposing more people to their way of thinking? Are we in any way legitimising their point of view by publishing it on our sites, for which we strive to maintain credibility?

It has a lot to do with how it's presented. If they must be given space, they shouldn't be allowed to ignore the progress the debate has made.

There've been many studies on the effects of interactivity, with a massive range in credibility. But any study that concludes there may be a correlation between violent children and violent game playing, cannot equate correlation to causation. The term "Violent game playing" could be replaced with "violent habits" and still make sense. Who is to say that violent children don't seek out these games? Who is to say these games don't act as an outlet for aggression, similar to violent music?

The real truth is, despite our assumptions, we don't know. We'll never know. We can't scientifically test it because such a study involves subjecting children to something that could possibly be harmful, and is therefore unethical. Any soundbites on the matter are just opinions.

What isn't a matter of opinion is the false notion of more violent and sexual games coming into Australia. Working in this field, we know what games are refused classification, and we know what games are already here as MA15+. We know that any assertion that more violent & sexual games will be allowed into this country because of an R18+ rating is provably false.

I'm not worried about the gaming faithful being turned, by this point we're preaching to the choir on our own sites. But these are important points that the ACL ignores when they address the media. We've countered their argument yet they stay on message. For the section of the population they reach that aren't so educated on this issue, is the ACL actually regressing this debate? Similar to the climate change naysayers?

Some people I respect quite a bit in this industry disagree with me on this, some calling it censorship, but I still keep coming back to the feeling that the ACL not only misrepresents Christians, but possibly the anti-R18+ opinion as well.

Everyone deserves a voice. Not everyone deserves a microphone. Let's remember they're a Lobby, and as some interviewees pointed out in your last ACL feature, it's their job to be heard, and answer to those who fund them. Regardless of what I feel about how their very media tactics misrepresent Christianity, any group that ignores facts and relies on scare tactics when trying to influence people should be made to sit at the kiddie table.


Comments

    I've been ignoring religion for years... Life is pretty sweet!

      * Lord Bob Joins your party*

      Acheivement unlocked: +1 tick of approval.

      Amen to that brother.

    +1 for 'ignore'

    If we look back in history, there's a giant gap in advances in human society when the Christians and the pope were in charge.

    So just like back then the ACL is keeping with the trend of not furthering society by making no advances in ratings for video games, and thus we progress no further until they are no longer relevant!

      No offence but thats a rather bad comparison to make.

      In the past those things occured because the religous held the seat of power. And scare tactics worked alot better.

      The thing i agree with is that the ACL is acting like they are in the dark ages, where instead of acknowledging someone who had an intelligent rebuttal to your argument you declared them a witch and chopped off their head/drowned them/hung them.

      without the ability to remove their opposition from the playing field, and their inability to evolve in their strategies(hehe) they remain in a bad corner.

      *cough* renaissance *cough*

        *cough*readabook*cough*

        The Renaissance was about power moving away from religion...

      This is a rather insane simplification.

      Most technological advances occur during times of war (nuclear power, medicine etc), which is usually justified by religion. Most people don't want war, but it's easy to accuse those against it as unpatriotic or heretical.

      Religion has been a very powerful motivator, but it's foolish to say advances occur simply because 'hey, religion!' Hell, until very recently it was political suicide to NOT be identified as Christian.

    I'm with Jung on the false objectivity bit. Just because there are two opposing sides to a debate doesn't mean that both sides are equally valid.

    Unless the statements of both sides are under scrutiny and not just accepted as being one side's opinion, there is no reason to give them the air time.

    There's too much reporting of opinion. Telling me someone's opinion isn't very good journalism. Telling me someone's opinion and then determining if it is valid or not based on currently known facts is much better journalism.

    The problem is government. Without it there's no need for paternalistic groups like the ACL and no need to beg for R18+. Parents would actually have to get informed in what they're buying for their kids and make their own reasoned judgements. Everyone wins.

      fat chance. the reason we have classification results directly from the fact that people refuse to understand what they are buying, and then complain that they have bought something wrong.

        Maybe then in that scenario they'll have to start?

    Regardless of how consistently wrong and hateful they are, we should engage them as much as possible because the federal government and the attorney generals engage and are influenced by them. To ignore them is foolish and probably a little dangerous.

    But think of the children - we can't make the ACL sit at the kiddie table as that would corrupt and ruin the children.

    On a serious note - the fact they ignore progress and fact in this debate says they have no part being involved in it. They have a biased and uneven opinion and as such should not be involved (mind you the same could be said for most politicians too).

    We can't afford to ignore them because it's not like ignoring them is going to cause them to go away. They'll just keep spreading their lies and if we're ignoring them we can't possibly hope to fight back at the misinformation they're putting out there.

    As tiresome as it can be we have to listen to what they say and be ready to provide counter arguments.
    Otherwise more and more people are going to start paying attention to what they say.

    We can't forget that while they may not represent Christians as a whole or those against an R18 rating they are the ones the media will keep going to when the matter of R18 arises.

    Most organised religion should be ignored if we are to progress as a society.

      *headdesk*

      How far did Marxism get culturally?

      I'm not saying religion is a societal necessity, but some of the worlds greatest art, architecture, medicine and teaching have been done under the auspices of religion.

        This is foolish. Until the 20th century, the vast majority of the world was religious, whether you'd chalk this up to primitive, vestigial beliefs is irrelevant. But atheism as an identity did NOT exist, and people were often vilified for not being Christian enough. Thus it's completely pointless to attribute progress with religious figures, simply because it occurred in a time before separation of church and state.

        9 times out of 10, the religious and social conservatives have been the luddites and actively opposed progress.

        Just think about where we'd be in terms of modern medicine if the religious doctrine of forbidding the dissection cadavers was followed? Where would we be in terms of biology if Darwin allowed himself to be laughed out of audience chambers by the church? Hell, where would we be going 20-30 years down the track if we allowed the 'Intelligent Design' movement to surreptitiously insert Creation into our textbooks?

        There's no denying it. Religion in and of itself (a practice of following ancient texts regardless of logical or scientific scrutiny), is fundamentally opposed to the concept of progress, especially when it renders such material irrelevant.

    The problem is the same for all rationalist positions, we need to know both sides of the argument to be able to effectively counter it whereas the (invariably religious) nutbag side only need to know what they've already decided are 'facts', stick their fingers in their ears and shout the same buzzwords over and over again without fear of ever being wrong because anything that doesn't agree with them gets filtered out.

    The real danger in giving these people airtime is that their naked scaremongering might sway people who aren't familiar with the issue at all and lead to decisions based on fear rather than fact.

    What we really need is for a nationally televised debate to occur, have the ACL and someone capable of an eloquent, informed and vitriolic debate (in fact I'd put my hand up for doing that) and have Team Sanity rip shreds off Team OMGKneejerkFearTeenagersWithTheirMusicAndGamesAndDrugs and ravage every tissue thin argument they have. Do it with passion, knowledge and humour and we can brand them with shame and let them slink back to the darkness like the sad little club of sociophobic old fogeys that they are

      I agree it needs some sort of public airing. In some ways gaming need to "come out of the parents basement" (you see what i did there).

      So far I've only seen a few scaremongering four corners reports refering to starcrafts zerg as "some sort of alien space maggots" and one of Sunrise's famously short cut under-researched, 'discussing things seriously makes our sponsors angry' bite size segments.

      Really, to associate that show with journalism and reporting is to assiciate what my cat coughed up under my computer chair this morning with a three course meal at a five star restaurant. And sadly that seems to be the way a lot of things go, in the name of public accessibility (read - lowest common denominator appeal)

    They serve no purpose other than to increase global warming with a lot of hot air.

    Whilst I strongly support ignoring them, I'm concerned it's taken this long for the media to catch on. Why does religion (of any pedigree) keep insisting on butting in on secular policies?

    If they had no influence I would say it would be stupid to do anything but ignore them, but they do have influence so ignoring them would be unwise.

    Why are we only now deciding to ignore the ACL?
    I'm Christian and I've never listened to them seeing as they're not the boss of me.
    The ACL is like a rambling old man who claims everything you like is the way of the devil.
    You just keep your head up, pretend to listen and wonder where the future will take you next.

    Some people in this debate could give a more rational argument than their rampant Christian/Religious bashing. If you took the time out to actually listen to the Christian voices instead of jumping down our throats with knee-jerk reactions. Then you might notice that we all don't agree with the ACL perspective.

    Christianity is the largest religion in the world. We have over 1 Billion adherents. Yet reading the comments here you could think that we are all right wing conservative anti-science nut bags. Maybe just maybe not all 1 Billion of us are identical clones with group thinking.

      @Richard I think you missed the point. The idea is why should we even listen to them when they are a very small minority. I fear you are the one jumping to conclusions.

      In terms of ignoring them, I would not do it completely. Perhaps instead feature more intelligent opposition and leave the ACL as a one sentence 'crazy group' mention. The same you would do for a group rallying for rape games.

        I was talking about the blatant Christian bashing that certain gamers are doing in this argument. As is it is some form of us versus them battle. It isn't and that sort of thing degrades the conversation.

        It forces Christians out of the argument even when they don't agree with the ACL. Why marginalize potential allies?

        If you want to ignore the ACL you need to listen to other Christians as well. Alternate voices are what is needed.

      I'm pretty sure Islam is now more common than Christianity.

        Not yet. Some claim that it is faster-growing, however.

    I'm a christian and tech lawyer. I'm a great fan of ACL for bringing ethical and religious issues out into the public forum for debate, and if nothing else, playing devil's advocate when no-one else was.

    But you are right - ACL is too easy to approach, and far too easy to rebut on tech issues. ACL have become a position of ridicule by association (what is their view - opposite must be true), when strong arguments by other groups with the same conclusion are dismissed by association.

    Don't give them less space - confront and rebut on the merits of any given argument. More importantly, share the opposing space with other groups, even other christian ones.

    Take the R18+ issue. I don't support it because game developers have forgotten how to make fun games. Just try buying a good, fun non-violent game, especially one your kids can play/watch without supervision - down right difficult.

    Or the Internet Filter. One reason I opposed that was the threat to religious freedom (same reason ACL opposed the bill of rights).

      "Take the R18+ issue. I don’t support it because game developers have forgotten how to make fun games. Just try buying a good, fun non-violent game, especially one your kids can play/watch without supervision – down right difficult."

      Do you mean you don't support the introduction of an R18 because developers don't make enough G rated games? Isn't that a bit on the selfish & shortsighted side though? Kind of like saying that because pizza hut can't make an edible pizza to save their lives that noone should ever be allowed to open another pizza restaurant of any kind? (damnit, now I want pizza).

      There's less movies suitable for kids than movies that aren't, I imagine that holds true for everything since you spend a minimum of 80% of your life as an adult.

      If you extend your objection into other arenas it becomes a tad silly

      de Blob 2

      any of the Lego games

      any games on Kinect

      Katamari Demacy series

      about 1000 games on the Wii

      Massive number of games on mobile platforms

      You're really not looking at all if you want non violent games that kids can play.

    please stop posting things ACL says.

    Its like news.com.au posting about come bad parenting or kid being hurt, its just there to increase the click count. makes me a sad panda every time you give them a voice here.

    And yep its bias.

    The point of objectivity raised on this matter is quite similar to the climate change debate. When looking to balance a story reporters will toalk to a climate scientist, and then to a climate denier. Often the denier may not be a scientist themselves and are simply a vocal opponent. It's only superficially balanced.
    If the overwhelming majority of accredited scientists and what-not say climate change is real, why shold an equal weight be given to a vocal minority who aren't basing their findings on the same scientific process? Now I'm not here to argue climate change here at all, but the situation with the ACL is quite similar.
    They do have an opposing view to R18+, but they represent a minority view. They represent a political view and a lobbyist's view. More weight should be given to the "others" like academics, policy makers and social groups (perhaps not that many others care - a point that gets lost in the extreme talking heads situation).
    Here's something to ponder on - does the gaming press and industry sit on the equal-opposite side of this debate?

    Question - how much attention do people actually pay to ratings these days. When was the last time you looked at the little sign on the box?

    Dear ACL,
    Get off my lawn!
    And stop acting like you represent me, or my faith.
    Thanks,
    Me.

      This, thank you, sir or madam, I'll say it another ten times over,

      This, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, THIS!

    Similar to the climate change neysayers? Jung, the ACL ARE the climate change neysayers. Seriously isn't it about that that we stopped letting religion have any influence on out day-to-day lives? Isn't that the definition of a SECULAR SOCIETY, which, last time I checked, we ARE.

    "But any study that concludes there may be a correlation between violent children and violent game playing, cannot equate correlation to causation. The term “Violent game playing” could be replaced with “violent habits” and still make sense. Who is to say that violent children don’t seek out these games? Who is to say these games don’t act as an outlet for aggression, similar to violent music?"

    THIS. Thank you, Junglist.

    Any credible social science research would preface its findings by saying that causation simply can't be proved for something as complex as the influence of video games on adolescent behaviour. The presence of a huge number of mitigating factors - like you say, games could be an outlet for already marginalised individuals - means that any relationship is correlational at best. Without further ethically dubious research, we can probably only ever guess at the exact relationship, assuming a universal one even exists.

    It's a gross generalisation to assume that in all - or even the majority - cases where violent or sexualised adolescents are found to have played video games, the video games directly influenced this behaviour.

    This can't be emphasised enough.

    Great interview again.

    There is an ACL?

    just like santa there is a list of things I refuse to believe in, Right at the top of that list is the rantings and ravings of people who claim to commune with an Imaginary being that created everything. The law should give us our R18+ rating and punish those who sell 12 year olds COD 27 (lets face it they'll milk it till the wheels fall off and drag it a few blocks. )

    The ACL have too much of an influence on politicians and the media to just simply ignore - what needs to be done is to make them look and sound so ridiculous that no-one would willingly listen to them, not even if bribed or known personally.

    People in religion shouldn't have any positions in authority or government whatsoever.

    The Human Race would be much better off.

      Exactly, you can't have people who use their faith/religion to determine their decision when they represent people who arent of the same faith/religion.

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