R18+: Let’s Just Get This Thing Done

“And so it goes,” read the article in New Matilda, “conservatives flailing in moral panic as gamers parade their seemingly indefatigable and adolescent sense of entitlement.”

One of the most frustrating situations I had to deal with this week was an article, discussing the R18+ debate, in which I was quoted. To be perfectly fair, I found a lot of common ground with some of the arguments and sympathised on some level, but one thing bothered me in particular.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t the fact that I was quoted out of context – which I was – but they apologised and even added a note to the piece after I clarified my point. It wasn’t even the fact that they framed a strange Straw Man argument, and then conveniently avoided bringing anything valuable to the table in return.

It was this part:

“By focusing on the frankly trivial issue of R18+ games, we are missing out on much more relevant debates about the classification of entertainment.”

And then later – a suggestion that larger issues of classification were being derailed by a “mediocre, vapid bun fight over video games.”

I felt like screaming from the rooftops. Do people actually think gamers enjoy this charade? That this is our time to bask in the glorious rays of mainstream media attention – that we’re happy to see this issue being dragged out, beaten to death with the same old arguments, the same old pointless bickering.

Of course not.

Just to clarify – the article in question claimed that the endless squabble between gamers, politicians and lobby groups over the “trivial” R18+ issue was distracting politicians from what was really important – a long overdue discussion on broader classification and the attitudes of decision makers towards sexuality as a whole.

Let’s be clear here – I completely agree. In fact, I couldn’t agree more. The R18+ issue, in the grand scheme of things, is absolutely trivial. Completely.

That’s precisely why we just need to get this “trivial” thing over and done with.

Yesterday Brendan O’Connor released the draft guidelines, presented to the Attorneys-General in anticipation of the SCAG meeting in July. After the release there seemed to be more squabbling. Almost on cue the ACL claimed the guidelines “failed families”, but they haven’t brought anything new to the debate in a decade so we can completely ignore anything they have to say. Of more interest was the squabbling over specifics – is the wording too vague? Why does it say this instead that.

Questions to which I say – let’s just get this thing done.

Because, despite our differences, this is the one area where the New Matilda piece gets it absolutely right – R18+ is distracting politicians from doing their job (ironic since most politicians do a decent job of distracting the public from the fact that they can’t do their job).

This is precisely why Brendan O’Connor is attempting to push R18+ through this July, in order to free up the Australian Law Reform Commission to tackle the larger issue of classification in this country. This is precisely why the iGEA were completely happy to let the issue slide until R18+ was put back on the SCAG agenda.

And personally, do I want to spend the rest of my life writing the precise same article over and over again until oblivion? No thanks. I got into this gig to write about video games, not politics. The only people who enjoy this political equivalent of Groundhog Day are those who gain political mileage from the situation – and I’ll let you take a wild guess who that is.

Let’s just get this thing done.

In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter anyway. The ALRC will no doubt present findings that will revolutionise the way we classify content in this country. Hopefully the decision makers will listen and change things accordingly. We may even have a system in place that allows the games industry to responsibly self-regulate. We may have more consistency; we may have less – who knows?

Regardless, the ALRC will no doubt do a better job once the R18+ issue is done and dusted and they no longer have to engage in this hoopla for the remaining six months of their investigations.

Again, I’ll be clear – R18+ is trivial. It’s trivial because the correct answer has been staring us in the face for the past decade and, quite frankly, I’m getting a little bit bored.

Let’s just get this thing done.

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