In Ron Curry's office at the iGEA there's an awkward space on the wall. He's never been sure what to put there. A piece of art, a photograph of some kind? Maybe, he thought to himself, he could frame Australia's first R18+ game and put it there.
Nah, that'll never happen.
Yet today Australian distributor Mindscape presented Ron with a framed edition of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2+, Australia's first R18+ game, alongside a copy of its Classification Certificate. Finally Ron has something to put on his wall.
But there was a time when Ron Curry believed that wall would remain bare.
That was back when Michael Atkinson refused to engage, stating that, as long as he was the Attorney-General of South Australia, he would use his powers to veto any move to bring adult video games into Australia. The debate was non-existent, progress was impossible. According to Ron, it was perhaps the most frustrating and difficult part of his tenure as CEO of the iGEA.
"Atkinson said he was more afraid of gamers than motorcycle gangs," said Ron. "He said he had more death threats from gamers.
"When Atkinson was really ensconced as Attorney General he said he would never vote for R18+. That was a veto and there was no going around it. He wouldn't even meet us. Absolutely no dialogue on the issue."
But Atkinson resigned his post, which opened up the dialogue. That was the beginning of a new set of problems. Other Attorneys-General were happy to let Atkinson bear the brunt of the R18+ issue — there was no need to engage. Now that he was gone, the others had to formulate a position on the issue.
"That's when the hard work began," said Ron.
Late last week, Ron opened his emails. He looked at the kind of emails he was receiving five years ago, compared to two years ago, compared to today.
He was struck by the discord, how the conversation had changed.
"It's been a long painful process," he said. "But the interesting thing is how the dialogue changed over the past five years.
"That was the turning point of the whole debate, when gamers started to talk maturely and as a group. That's when it was easier for me, talking to government, to say here's a constructive dialogue."
Conversations with Brendan O'Connor's policy advisors and, eventually, O'Connor himself got the political ball rolling. The then Minister for Home Affairs became a powerful advocate for R18+ in Australia. Without his involvement we might still be arguing these issues.
"He was the first politician to say you know what, I'm going to grab this and make it happen. He deserves a lot of credit for what he did."
The framed copy of Ninja Gaiden is exchanged, hands are shook. It's a PR moment, photographs flash in the background, but it's impossible not to reflect on these last ten years and what it means to have finally made a difference in policy at the highest level. Collectively gamers made a difference, and that's important. This video game, which Ron will now hang on his office wall, represents that.
It represents a job well done but, for Ron, this is just the beginning.
"I'm really glad that we have R18+, so we can stop talking about it and focus on other classification issues," says Ron. "Like how do we classify content online, how do we classify online games and mobile games and indie games? Stuff that's really important.
"For us it always got in the way of any conversation about anything. It was always in the way. I'll be happy to not have it dominate.
"It'll be nice when it's normal to have an R18+ rating."