Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children? So I Don’t Have To…

Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children? So I Don’t Have To…

Early this morning the United States Supreme Court finally judged that Video Games were a form of speech, therefore deserving of protection under the First Amendment. In Australia, video games, or any form of media for that matter, are not granted the same rights. Adam Ruch, as an American living in Australia, can’t understand why and, in this compelling piece, discusses the issues with censorship in this country.

Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children? So I Don’t Have To…
The US Supreme Court has ruled that videogames are like other forms of media in that they express ideas and are therefore deserving of the same protection under the First Amendment. Specifically this ruling was made in response to a California State proposal that would ban the sale of ‘ultra-violent’ videogames to minors. This situation is almost a perfect inverse to the what we now face in Australia, and may help us to understand our own circumstances better.

First a criminally broad background discussion of the American Constitution, which is a wonderfully idealistic document that has influenced every aspect of American government for over two hundred years.

Generally, the spirit of the Founding Fathers was one of individual liberty, enshrining the rights of men to live their lives largely unencumbered by oppressive government. The government was there to provide for the society, but a society made up of individuals with their own capacity to make decisions and duty to accept responsibility for their actions. The idealism boiled down to many practical rights, such as the right to bear arms as to facilitate the raising of a powerful militia to oppose the national military, should the need arise. The right to privacy, including requiring the government’s agents to secure a warrant, through the judicial system, to prevent unreasonable searches of a man’s home. The right to free religion. And finally the right to freedom of expression, to prevent the government from silencing dissent. The earliest Americans experienced a need for all of these things, under the rule of the British monarchy, which led to the founding of the United States in the first place.

I have lived in Australia for almost 15 years, and am an Australian citizen, but I was born in the United States. I have had the American sense of individuality engrained in me right through my childhood and increasingly supported by rational decisions into my adult life. Notions of personal freedom coming at the cost of personal accountability are second-nature to me. I believe it is absolutely the right of each person to make his or her own decision, with the knowledge that decisions have consequences that one cannot shirk. From this perspective it is difficult for me to fathom the reasoning behind a government mandating what I can and cannot put in my PlayStation 3. If anything, living in a country that was not founded on this principle has caused it to become stronger within me.

In Australia, personal rights are much weaker than in the US. There is no precise equivalent to the Bill of Rights for Australian citizens, for example. There is a provision for free speech in the Australian constitution, but it only applies to political speech (perhaps explaining the idiotic performances in parliamentary question time). As a result, the government has always had the power to regulate artistic expression, legally. So, here we have a National Classification Scheme, which is a piece of legislation that brings the full weight of the punitive justice system to bear on infringements.

Historically the earliest incarnation of the Classifications Board was in a single agent known as the Chief Censor, who was part of the Customs Department. He, and his subordinates, literally checked books and reels of film as they entered the country for obscene content. Their aim was to protect the morality of Australian society from the evils of the outside world. Now, our classifications mostly revolve around the protection of children, and so the sale of many types of media to minors is an offence. Yet this notion of preserving the overall purity of Australian society remains in the legal ability of the government to expunge certain content from the country entirely.

Of course the United States has a range of classification schemes as well, but they are not legally enforceable. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) are industry sponsored bodies that work to satisfy the community’s desire to protect children from material that may be difficult for them to manage. Whether the film, for example, is very violent, sexy, full of obscene language, or even simply scary, the MPAA will weigh these factors against their standards, and make a recommendation for rating. In effect, the MPAA or ESRB work very much the same way as our own NCS, only they cannot make arrests if a person doesn’t follow the rating, as they are only guidelines. They do not attempt to control citizens, only to advise them.

The American system rests on that assumption that people are free to make their own decisions, because they are ultimately responsible for themselves. Further, parents are responsible for raising their own children. The opponents of an R18+ rating here in Australia show surprising contempt for the ability of parents to act as such, especially considering that some of the loudest voices come from family and parenting groups such as the Australian Council for Children and the Media. In the ACCM submission to the SCAG consultation in 2010, the group claims that the “present sale and hire system prohibitions are not effective in preventing access by minors.” They also respond by rewriting one of the questions regarding the potential R18+ game rating from a suggestive to a declarative. The question read: “Is it difficult for parents to enforce age restrictions for computer games?” In the space for response the ACCM wrote: “This question should read ‘It is difficult for parents…’” (Italics in ACCM source)

This group, more than others, also claims widespread illiteracy in the NCS, and that an R18+ rating would only confuse the issue, where “the message that an R18+ category might send is unnecessary if such games were Refused Classification.” Time and again they demonstrate a preference for governmental censorship over the expectation of parental vigilance and decision-making, as well as completely ignoring the right of adults stated in the NCS code to consume what media they want.

Australian parents are, according to the R18+ opponents, so inept that it is literally inevitable that, should adults-only games be allowed to exist in this country, children will get their hands on them, they will be mentally and emotionally damaged by the content, and in sufficient numbers that the problem warrants a federal law banning them more strictly than alcohol, cigarettes or operating an automobile.

The ruling of the Supreme Court this week takes an astonishingly different position, particularly Judge Scalia’s opinion. His opinion could be used as a point-by-point counter to the arguments presented from the anti-R18+ camp over the past … aeon:

Firstly he refutes the assertion that because of interactivity, videogames should be considered specially apart from other media, which is the fundamental reason that the R18+ rating wasn’t included in the Australian NCS in the first place. Had Scalia been part of the Classifications Board in the 1990s, this may never have been a problem for us.

“Crudely violent video games, tawdry TV shows, and cheap novels and magazines are no less forms of speech than The Divine Comedy, and restrictions upon them must survive strict scrutiny-a question to which we devote our attention in Part III, infra. Even if we can see in them ‘nothing of any possible value to society… they are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature,’” says Scalia.

Second, he refutes the science that is always trotted out to demonstrate that any time a child plays a violent videogame, they are made more violent: “California relies primarily on the research of Dr Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, ‘[n] early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.’” I cannot actually explain why this point has been so difficult to make in the Australian debate. Those who use this research, time and again, to support their ideological position simply refuse to abide by the logic, rather than opinion, expressed here by Scalia.

Finally, the most basic point for me is the government’s role in all of this in the first place. Is it not the parents’ place to act as parent to our children? Scalia says: “While some of the legislation’s effect may indeed be in support of what some parents of the restricted children actually want, its entire effect is only in support of what the State thinks parents ought to want. This is not the narrow tailoring to “assisting parents” that restriction of First Amendment rights require.”

Here, he clearly states that it is not the government’s place to determine for its citizens what constitutes appropriate or inappropriate media. Some parents may indeed feel their children should not be exposed to certain videogames, as is their absolute right. But do they need a federal law to ensure this happens? In Australia, only the unsupported claim that children will access whatever media they want justifies our law. And what of the parents who do not feel their children need to be restricted from this media? This Californian proposal would restrict them from making their own choice, so effectively the pro-restriction parents are acting as guardians for all American children—as the NCS currently acts not only for Australian children, but Australian adults as well.

Surely here in Australia, we can see the sense in this decision. Surely Australians are not more primitive beings than our American counterparts that we cannot parent our own children, nor discern gameplay from reality. Surely there is some merit in a Supreme Court ruling that the science of Anderson et al. is not the last word on media effects. Surely the fact that the MPAA and ESRB have emerged in a country where this is no legislated requirement for classification demonstrates that a community can work together with industry to maintain a civilised society. Is Australia less able to do the same? Our government certainly seems to think so.


  • I don’t see any problem with stopping retailers from selling ‘Bloodfest Babes 69’ to 8 year old Jonny, the same way we stop retailers selling him booze and porn.

    • i don’t think its really about children, i think these people have some sort of moral objection to violence in video games and kind of an out of sight out of mind(/existance) sort of thing.. somewhat the same as the porn filter; im not saying porn and video games are the same 😉

      • But it is about the children. This article writer, while having some good points appears to be getting on a high horse and saying it’s against our freedom of speech or something if we can’t, by law, show R18 game to kids.

        • Yeah, I really think it’s the wrong direction to take. ADULTS should be free to choose for themselves what they do or do not want to watch without the government censoring their choices. However the range of what’s available to children should absolutely be restricted to a subset of what’s avaiable to adults. If mum or dad don’t mind little 8 year old Johnny playing “Bloodfest Babes 69” then they can go and buy it for him. They’d be terrible parents, but it’s their choice. But he shouldn’t be able to buy it for himself.

          Interesting the writer mentions the constitutionally-enshrined right to bear arms – but is it legal for 8 year old Johnny to buy a gun in the US? No, because they put sensible restrictions around making such things available. If little Johnny’s dad Cletus wants to give him a rifle and go deer hunting with him he can do so, but Johnny can’t buy it for himself.

          • yet over here Cletus can’t even buy “Bloodfest Babes 69” for himself, let alone for his kid, despite the fact that the NCS mandate is supposed to regulate child access to certain material rather than adult access to it (in most cases)

        • but it ISN’T about the children, because Bloodfest Babes 69 is banned for adults as well as children. they’d ban it for EVERYONE because they want to be the moral guardians.

          If you don’t think your child should play Bloodfest Babes 69, then YOU can choose not to buy it for him.

          Instead, no one has the choice to buy it for their kid, or for themselves, because big brother has said ‘no’

    • This is what happens in the US too. But it’s up to the retailers to do it, and the publishers to refuse to provide stock unless they do so. There is no government mandate to force them, unlike in Australia.

  • The Australian government must delicately balance liberal and democratic views. The majority of Australians don’t run around demanding that all forms of media be unclassified. This is the key difference. To compare the United States and the First Amendment to Australian law and politics is somewhat futile.

    We are two different nations, with different histories and different political arenas.

    As for an R18+ rating, it’s a matter of when not if. I for one have no problem with classification, as I have grown up with it. I have a problem with outright banning titles that I personally don’t care if people enjoy (such as Mortal Kombat) – these sorts of issues will be sorted out when the appropriate legislation is drawn up and passed through parliament.

    I understand Americans (and those from other nations who are in a similar boat) who cannot ‘get’ our system. The freedoms instilled on the individual are far greater (and set in stone) in the United States. They are not here.

    It’s not like we have a constant protest outside of parliament house with thousands of citizens in uproar about our civil liberties being slowly taken away. If and when that happens you can expect things to change, and until then the majority are likely to rule.

    • Having said that our government is perhaps leaning towards somewhat silly extremes, with art potentially about to be classified and cigarette packaging to be plain to seem ‘less attractive’. I predict the revolt will begin in the future if things continue down this path.

    • I don’t think Adam is demanding a zero-classification environment. Media classification is both useful and important. He’s advocating a zero *censorship* environment, where classifications are used to inform about, not enforce, the appropriateness of content. Do not conflate censorship with classification; they are two different things.

      There are deeper problems with the current Australian system that Adam touches on, primarily in the lack of our right to free speech. Getting away from the R18+ issue, I find it incredibly problematic that the government can quite easily – and has previously – criminalized some forms of otherwise legitimate speech.

      • So you honestly believe that if the government tomorrow made all classification an ‘optional’ concept that the public would hold the majority view of acceptance? Imagine the outrage that’d unfold; parents all over the country would be in uproar.

        At the end of the day this is the key part; it’s all well and good for us as responsible people who can use ratings as a guide. Apparently the parents who cannot follow this are the majority.

        My personal view is to lean towards minimal censorship (clearly child pornography and the like, similar to the US, should be kept as is) however it is not my decision to make. I’m not saying as an individual I shouldn’t have an opinion or not be entitled to express it, I’m asking people to be realistic. Australia is not about to drop mandatory censorship of Refused Classification material.

        • So you honestly believe that if the government tomorrow made all classification an ‘optional’ concept that the public would hold the majority view of acceptance? Imagine the outrage that’d unfold; parents all over the country would be in uproar.

          Another very American concept is that governments should act to avoid the tyranny of the majority. If the majority attempts to trample on the rights of the minority, they, no matter how loud they scream, should be prevented from doing so. Of course, this often works better in theory than in practice.

          Mind you, again, you’re misreading or perhaps even twisting the argument. Do I think media should, where possible, be classified? Yes. Do I think that media should be censored for adults? No. Two different things. Do I think that it’s appropriate to impose age restrictions on the sale, purchase and hire of some material? Yes. Do I think that those age restrictions should be extended to adults? No. You cannot frame media classification purely in terms of parents and children, particularly when around 2/3rds of Australian households are childless households.

          At the end of the day this is the key part; it’s all well and good for us as responsible people who can use ratings as a guide. Apparently the parents who cannot follow this are the majority.

          Actually, that’s a common misconception. Government and industry research has consistently shown that the vast majority of parents are actively involved in their children’s media consumption. Australian parents are responsible parents.

          My personal view is to lean towards minimal censorship (clearly child pornography and the like, similar to the US, should be kept as is) however it is not my decision to make. I’m not saying as an individual I shouldn’t have an opinion or not be entitled to express it, I’m asking people to be realistic. Australia is not about to drop mandatory censorship of Refused Classification material.

          But it may do away with the bizarre notion of Refused Classification – a category of content that, for all intents and purposes, comprises of a bit of illegal material and a whole heap of stuff that the government would like to outlaw fully but can’t (e.g. porn) – in the first place. And it *is*, in part, your decision to make. There are a raft of reviews of media classification going on at the moment. Get involved in one.

  • “what I can and cannot put in my PlayStation 3”

    Uh.. isn’t the video game law for children? To protect them from R18+ games? Parents should help, but if you make a game M15+ parents could assume it really is M15+

  • Amazingly concise and enlightened article Adam.

    Can you be out next PM? Please?

    I particularly liked this bit: There is a provision for free speech in the Australian constitution, but it only applies to political speech (perhaps explaining the idiotic performances in parliamentary question time)


  • I feel ambivalent about how my comment was removed on the basis that the problem I was commenting on was solved.

    • I wonder why, when both of your comments have just been complaints and nothing to do with an otherwise excellent article.

      Way to troll, dude.

      And for the record – the first comment would have been removed to stop people from reading it and saying to themselves “what’s this guy on about?”

      • I find it funny that you seem insulted by the fact that I was neither angry or happy about the fact that my comment was deleted.

        Also, just to answer something I did not have the privilege to know earlier, does this mean you are a moderator? Only you would have seen my “troll” post then.

  • You know what i find laughable and slightly ironic?

    Growing up, and to this day, when i’d finish watching a kung-fu movie i’d leap up off the couch and automatically want to kung-fu shit. I watched the expendables and i wanted to get up and snap the ‘neck’ of the chair in front of me, then kick the one next to that.

    Yet NEVER have i finish playing a game and felt like doing what i just did in the game.. and you know why that is? Because i DID IT IN THE GAME.

    People who say that games are more influential than movies and music are just plain stupid. Simple as that.

    as i’ve said before.. there are TONNES of kids out there that want to be gangsta like 50 cent or Ice cube, but i am still yet to meet one kid who wants to be, or acts like, a COG, the God of War or Sonic the hedgehog…

    • I remember playing Power Rangers after seeing the movie. That had an awesome sound track.

      I don’t ever remembering playing Mortal Kombat with friends. At least, not the same way where we acted it out. We kept that to the game itself.

      • Exactly – i almost broke one of my friends arms playing Gi-Joe in primary school

        And gave a kid a REALLY bad winding after a powerbomb acting out wrestling…

        But i honestly can’t remember EVER acting out a video game…

    • In rejecting the evidence of the State’s experts, Scalia referred to the fact that one of them admitted that similar behaviour can be seen in children who watch Bugs Bunny or Road Runner cartoons.

    • Did you wash your dads car after watching the Karate Kid for the first time?

      …cos that’s lame and I swear I never did it.

    • I agree… However, whenever I play Assassin’s Creed I feel like climbing stuff (and maybe assassinating some people).

      Also, I once walked outside and couldn’t figure out why everything was dry, since it had been raining only minutes ago…

      … In Red Dead Redemption. (Derp)

  • Drive a car at 16, buy cigarettes and alcohol at 18, vote in federal elections at 18, BUT DAMNED IF YOU CAN PLAY A VIOLENT VIDEO GAME!

    • Actually you can.

      Most games requiring an R18 rating wind up in the MA15+ bracket. And in the majority of cases, unmodified.

      Here’s a few examples: God of War (the series), Splatter House, Duke Nukem Forever, and House of the Dead: Overkill.

      As far as I am aware, all the listed games here are unmodified, are rated MA 15+ here, but rated 18 in the US. Some I think are even rated 17+ in Europe.

  • I don’t see anything wrong with restricting inappropriate material to kids. I think MA and R material should be restricted. I support an R rating for games and it’s about time we had one. And It should be legally restricted. I don’t see the problem. How would a parent stop their kid from going to see an MA or R movie if they could legally go see it? If a parent decides that their kid can buy and play an MA/R game, then they can buy it for them. So should a child be able to legally buy a Porno because not allowing them to takes away choice? No.

  • I hate the level of government control in this country.
    I honestly believe what people do is their own business. If they’re not harming anybody else, we have no right to stop them doing anything. I don’t think you can have a crime without having a victim, and I don’t think you can in any way call anyone playing a game or whatching an adult movie a victim.

    I’m a proud member of the Australian Sex Party, and until each individual gets to choose how to live their own lives, that fact will never change.

  • We’re talking about material that should be legally restricted from kids, not adults. As adults we can and should be able to decide what we watch and play. Kids should not. Theyre restricted from doing many things. I don’t think any responsible adult would think it should be allowed and ok for a 12 year old to walk into a game or movie store and buy any MA or R game/movie they want without their parents knowing. Restiction helps stop that. That’s all.

    • Agreed. I think the people arguing against in these comments are so wrapped up in freedom of speech they don’t realize the restriction not for them – it’s for people under 18. They sound more like anarchists. Their “absolute freedom to do whatever” dream led to the financial crisis so I don’t really trust their judgement. People need at least SOME regulation or it’ll be worse then it is now.

      • You’re drawing a long bow there.

        The US Supreme Court found that there is no reason to legally restrict minors accessing this material. In Australia, we’re dealing with people saying that nobody should have access to this same material because it is harmful to minors.

        No harm has been shown, so why should it be disallowed? Hell, I don’t think it should even be restricted.

        • I think you’re missing what I’m saying. I’m not saying ALL video games with some form of fighting, I’m saying the super gorey, blood and guts, you know, R18 ones. Not the “shoot blue balls at them and they turn into gold coins” ones.

          I think the court was looking at violent games as a whole. I’m looking at the most extreme of them and saying the selling of them should be RESTRICTED to people 18 and above. Why you’d WANT to play mortal kombat or whatever, who knows, but it’s your choice.

          • Why should minors not have access that material whilst adults should have access to it?

            I’m serious.

            No harm has been demonstrated, so why restrict it?

            People don’t give children enough credit in what they can handle and how well they can differentiate reality and fiction.

          • I agree, adults when they think of children they think of “cute and cuddly magical creative unicorns” when we are humans too and if i showed a minor an r 18 movie, i bet they would cry and want it turned off, they don’t need this to be told by the government. We know what we want and don’t want.

  • Preaching to the converted. I’m of the opinion that any form of mandatory classification is simply censorship by another name and we don’t need it. Look at America (again) and see how they treat NC17 movies, getting that rating is pretty much a death certificate for any film, yet there is no legal reasons it can’t be shown, it’s simply the choice of cinemas not to show them. This is what we need in this country (although using America as a model probably isn’t the best idea), a system where content creators who wish for their material to be shown to children can get them rated by an independent body so parents can make informed choices about what their children can consume.

    • Black Swan had to fight to be given R rating so it wouldn’t be screwed over by the NC17 rating. The King’s Speech had to release an edited version that removed the profanity after it had won the Best Picture Oscar in order to get a wider release.

      Classification in America is a mindboggling business and watching This Film Is Not Yet Rated will probably only make you angrier about it. More informed, but angrier.

      • The classification in America isn’t the problem, it’s the cinemas and video stores that are the problem. Again, there is no legal requirement for cinemas NOT to show NC17 films, they choose to do so, in fact there is no requirement for a film to be rated at all, but again the cinemas won’t show films that aren’t rated. That’s where America’s problem is, the companies that run the cinemas and video stores don’t respect free speech, but legally there is no problems. Basically the opposite of what’s happening here, cinemas in Australia don’t really have any issues with showing R rated films, but EVERY film shown in commercial cinemas needs to be rated.

      • I was going to bring that up when Adam mentioned the MPAA – I sincerely hope the ESRB doesn’t operate in the same manner.

  • How on earth would you be able to stop your kid from buying inappropriate material if it wasn’t restricted? Again we are talking about restricting things from kids, NOT ADULTS. How does stopping a 12 year old from buying inappropriate things affect any adult? Seriously.

  • I thought about how I was going to write this but after many rereads I’m just going to wing it

    The moment you allow the government to decide how to police your family, you’re basically saying you are ill equipped to make the decision for yourself. That you as a parent, cannot handle the task of setting down boundaries and expectations of what your child of what ever age has the privilege of doing and what consequences may come from not following reasonable guidelines. That should you find out that your child has gone against what they knew was expected of them that you’re not going to be sensible enough of taking it away and returning it/some other reasonable punishment.

    Those things are as far as I see it are life lessons to prep kids to understand if they don’t follow the rules in society you’re going to have to deal with the consequences.

    However, if the government suddenly now has to pick up the slack that just opens the flood gates to other examples of “I don’t want to be responsible for: myself, my kids, the community, so do it for me.”

    I believe that *most* people are capable of raising their kids and can honestly without some government mandated restriction actively be involved enough in their kids lives to make sure they know why they cant own ________ till they are older.

    Is it perfect? no, rarely is anything ever
    Here in the states you rarely can go into a game store without a flyer stating that if a minor is not of the correct age OR with a guardian that says they can have the M rated game, they reserve the right not to sell it. Heck even I’ve had a few times where I’ve been asked to show some ID to ensure I’m old enough for the game I want. I know for a fact that plenty of parents here just don’t even bother to find out about the game their kid wants and just buys it out right or if the kid is clever enough, just finds a friend or relative that will. Which is why, even if you did pass a law saying that a kid can’t buy an M rated game, they still will find a way to get it. Plus with digital retailing where all you need is a bank/ credit account and a mouse to tick the “yes I’m over the age of ____” the need to be scrutinized by an actual person is avoided.

    • But having age restrictions on games isn’t allowing the government to police your family, it’s allowing you to police your own family without being undermined by retailers whose first and only priority is to turn a profit. If you want your family to play the most explicitly violent game you can find then you can buy it for them and away you go. But you should be entitled to make that decision for your family, not have it made for you by some random stranger behind the counter of a retail store.

      Retailers in the US may well reserve the right to not sell a violent game to a minor. But they also reserve the right to sell it to them if they’re having a slow week and need to boost their sales numbers because there’s no legal penalty imposed for doing so.

  • Because we have at least one example of a big film studio putting ernormous pressure (and possibly bribing) the MPAA into rating a movie well below it’s intended audience (In an effort to increase cinema profits), I would prefer a “neutral” governing body doing the classification.

    Also, “the idealism boiled down to many practical rights, such as the right to bear arms as to facilitate the raising of a powerful militia to oppose the national military, should the need arise.”

    I’m can’t decide whether I find this frightening or funny.

  • well the big thing here is that we do not have free speech at all. we have precived free speech. its one of the reasons we dont the KKK or other racist movements having rallies in our cities because hate speech is a crime.

    Also another thing that have me going wtf on this law in in califonia is that i dont understand whats so bad about it, If its means that kids arent allowed to have CoD, why is that so bad. It isnt the same as over here where the game is rated MA15 only because we dont have an R rating.

  • I can understand what you’re saying. Alot of parents needto be more involved in their kids lives and better monitor what they do. But the reality is they don’t.
    But even the best parent can’t watch over everything their kid does and buys. Kids today are very smart and can find many ways to get what the want. But why make so easy for them to where they can just walk into a store and buy whatever they like and just hide it from their parents? If I were a parent I’d be very uncomfortable knowing that my young child could have such easy access to such things.
    Also if you’re going to argue that movies/games should be unrestricted. Shouldn’t you also argue that other things should be unrestricted. Like porn, alcohol, cigarettes, ect? I don’t think anyone would say so.

    All the best parenting in the world wouldn’t stop a kid from buying inappropriate material if they could do so. At least it being restricted helps stop that.
    I really don’t see the big deal. It’s not like we live in an oppressed society.

  • One thing that grabbed me in the list of arguments that Tolito posted was the ones about the impact of future games that actually are realistic to play.

    No-one who actually plays games will say that pressing buttons and watching a screen can be at all confused with reality.
    I would personally say that the interactive nature of games as they are now actually detracts from the immersion, impact and realism, instead of increasing it as people claim.
    I believe those who support the opposite view are likely people who don’t play games and are jumping to conclusions.

    That said, what about when Kinect style technology and 3D brings virtual reality games where you DO act out the gameplay?
    Where instead of buttons and thumbsticks you walk forward with your own feet, hold the virtual gun in your own hand and shoot an enemy in a surrounding environment that gives semi realistic sensory feedback?
    That would have a big impact and I think that is the kind of experience people are worried about and even believe current games can provide.

    Perhaps in the near future the label of “Video Games” will be too broad to adequately describe all the forms of interactive entertainment and new sub-classifications will be needed.
    Even now the difference between Farmville and Mass Effect is huge but they are still basically considered the same thing.

  • Holding responsibility for your own action is one thing, having to bear the results of another’s irresponsibility is another.

    So I raise my children as a responsible father will do, teach them the morals and ethics, let them enjoy gaming, while teaching them the differences between reality and games. They grow up as good young adults. And then one day, some random idiot kid with ignorant and irresponsible parents decides to try some “game tricks” on my children, injuring them, or worse.

    Who’s fault is this? While some of us may become responsible parents, there are still many out there who don’t understand how media affects young people.

    It’s not about the government restricting how we raise our children, it’s protecting them from idiots who don’t.

  • What we have here is a comparison of two sides of the censorship issue. The American System is far more geared towards personal responsibility, and is going to an extreme position to protect the system from Government Regulation. Australia is the polar opposite, whereby Government Regulation has gone to an extreme position to protect the system from (lack of) Personal Responsibility.

    Like all things in the politics, the middle ground between the two positions is the most palatable for everyone, but this is both difficult to legislate/regulate and also difficult to maintain.

  • The correct answer is ALWAYS “the Australian government are a bunch of loonies (and that’s still too nice a description)”

  • This country is so conservative in a lot of ways and I’m not just talking about video game classifications and restrictions. The problem, in my opinion, is that our Government acts ignorantly and believes it knows what is best for the entire nation. For the most part, that’s exactly what the Government is supposed to do – be the reasoning voice that helps ensure the “right and best choice” is being made… but not out of ignorance.

    We’re so “behind” the rest of the developed world in some respects that it makes me ashamed. We love to boast about how culturally diverse and accepting we are as a country, yet we’ll turn around and insult and discriminate against anyone who isn’t “pure” Australian. We’ll even get upset about a small number (relative to those who arrive through ‘approved’ channels) of people who escape HORRIBLE situations in search of a better life.

    Technologically speaking, we’re still living in the land of outdated technology and we’re doing pretty poorly even in the simple part of providing decent rate plans for technology products. While we’re not still living in the land of dial-up Internet, we’re still lagging behind in having decent speed connections; even in newly developed areas, we’re still seeing situations where homes can only be provided ADSL 1 at BEST. When your mobile phone can use the Internet faster than your fixed home connection… that’s depressing! And why are we still tolerating capped data connections – as though there’s a finite amount available in the world that must be conserved or we will run out.

    I know I’m miandering a bit from Adam’s original commentary and the initial debate surrounding game classifications… but I feel that this issue stems from the same fundamental problems and flaws that I just highlighted. To an extent, it’s not ENTIRELY the Governments fault but at some point it becomes entirely their responsibility to make the right choice and act with the interests of its people in mind.

    The very fact that we don’t recognise or have something such as freedom of speech (officially – some of us as individuals do!) in this country says a lot about the type of mentality we project to the rest of the world. If I had to sum it up simply, I would go as far as suggesting we are the “bogans” of the developed world.

  • Great article, too bad our Government has too many thick skulls to get it through their heads that R18 is the best solution. Seriously, there is nothing bad about it. Plus I want Mortal Kombat so badly!

  • Bang on. It is not a governments role to deem what is and isn’t appropriate for it’s citizens to read, view and interact with, save for interactions that directly harm someone else. As for kids, the real issue is the relationship kids have with their parents. Banning games will not fix that, addressing the social issues that affect the parent/child relationship will.

  • The way I look at it, what California is asking is that parents make the decision as to which video games are purchase and not the child. So in other words, a 12 or 15 year old wouldn’t be able to walk in with $50 and buy whatever video game they feel like buying without parental knowledge. California is asking the parent to be involved in that decison, California is NOT making the decision for the parent. It is not that complicated folks. Sometimes we make it more complicated than it has to be.

  • @MsMojito: Agreed, but I think most people discussing this here do understand that fact; it’s just that a few of them apparently think even that is a ridiculous intervention on behalf of Government.

    I think most Australians, judging from comments so far, do think that that takes personal freedom too far at the cost of protecting children. Maybe one needs to grow up in America to have those kinds of libertarian ideals almost ALWAYS trump consequentialist ethics, I don’t know. I mean how far does it go? Everyone draws the line somewhere, we just draw it different places. Personally, one place I draw the line is at protecting the autonomy of ADULTS, but not of children – if consequentialist concerns should ever trump libertarian ideals, then surely it is with regard to our most vulnerable; children. I loathe the increasingly nanny-state, social engineering government we seem to have, but that’s because their policies impinge on the rights of adults. Children are and should be, IMO, in another category altogether. I find it hard to fault Justice Clarence Thomas’ argument that the Founding Fathers clearly did not intend the right of free speech to extend to children. Come on, obviously they didn’t. Furthermore, why should they have? We all know that children are incapable of making informed consent about many things – the media they consume is one of them. And, as people have pointed out, if the right to bear arms doesn’t extend to actually letting children go into a store and buy their own guns, then why should it be any different for the freedom of speech? People have said “well, most stores in the US restrict selling these games to children anyway” – well then isn’t THAT illegal and unconstitutional? if this has just been upheld by the supreme court, shouldn’t it be against the law for a game store to refuse sale of a game to a minor? if not, why not?

    Back to how any of this relates to our R18+ issue…I don’t think it helps anything to get the two tangled up together. Hell, those against having an R18+ rating here in Aus can point to this and go “see what happens? first we’ll allow an R18+ rating, then they’ll want to make it legal for any child to go in and buy those games anyway, without adult consent.” Our argument that games that should be restricted to adults 18+ are falling into the hands of younger gamers because they’re squeezed into the lower MA15 classification suddenly holds little weight if we’re now gonna say anyone of any age oughta be able to legally buy, him or herself, any of those games anyway.

    A people have already pointed out, even good parenting can’t stop kids from sneaking out and buying a game, hiding it and only playing it when adults are not around – of course they may still be able to obtain the game even if not from a local store, I think it makes the situation worse if we just allow it to be as easy as possible. As for it not being proven or demonstrated that games (or other media) are harmful for kids – that may be true, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily aren’t. They may be. Surely it’d be wise to err on the side of caution, when the only people whose ‘rights’ are being ‘imposed upon’ are minors, who we every day assume do not – must not – have the same rights as we adults should.

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