As part of the Classification Review, the Australian Law Reform Commission, with the help of Ubris, put together a survey on attitudes to high level content in the MA15+ to RC classification categories. According to the survey, participants were largely unoffended by video game content that had been refused classification.
Those involved in the survey were shown footage from F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, The Ballad of Gay Tony, Mortal Kombat, and Modern Warfare 2. Bizarrely, the game participants found most offensive was one of the games that actually passed classification at MA15+: Modern Warfare 2.
"Most of the screened violent material from computer games was not considered to be offensive," claimed the study. "In three of the four pieces of violent and/or sexual computer game material screened, a majority... found the material not to be offensive.
"[P]articipants generally found the airport scene in Call of Duty to be more impactful than the others, due to the random nature of the shooting of innocent people."
The vast majority of those involved it watching the content also stated the content should not be banned.
"[P]articipants would generally not ban the material, although some felt that "killing people" in games should be banned. Participants would age restrict it – suggested age ranges from 15 to 18 - but at the same time there was acceptance by some participants that ‘the more you restrict things the more people watch it’.
"There was a view that the most vulnerable to such material may be children aged between 10 and 13, and as such a restriction 15+ was probably appropriate."
The issue of interactivity, however, reared its ugly head.
"[R]respondents who were clearly offended by the material pointed to issues such as the fact that the player is actually carrying out the actions, which possibly made it more disturbing than an acted out scene in a film."
As did the issue of context...
"There was strong debate amongst... participants on the importance of the context of the games (including what the purpose was, the understanding of the characters, and the overall objective for the player), ranging from the view that the context of the game makes the violence more acceptable..."
In comparison to other media, the airport scene in Modern Warfare 2 ranked highly as one of the most offensive, alongside scenes from A Serbian Film and Hostel, but other scenes from Mortal Kombat, F.E.A.R. 2 and The Ballad of Gay Tony ranked among the least offensive.
If Classification is supposed to be a way of reflecting community attitudes towards explicit material, perhaps it's time we had a think about precisely what is seen as being offensive in Australia today?
You can read the full report here.