R18+: Thank You - We Did It!

There’s been overdoses of moral panic, hyperbole, petitions, research, lots of heads banging on tables and too many trips to Canberra to remember, but this week adult gamers in Australia will join other mature audiences across the western world who are able to access and enjoy ’age appropriate’ material. With the final tick off from Queensland, we now have a national scheme allowing for the release and sale of R18+ titles in Australia.

It’s been a long road to get here and there’s been many people along the way that have helped make this a reality. I know that when you start mentioning anyone specifically you will no doubt run the risk of forgetting or overlooking someone who made a valuable contribution, but I will run that risk and offer apologies in advance in doing so.

When iGEA (or IEAA as it was then) started their push for an R18+ rating, it was clear that those who needed to be influenced had no idea about the industry or what a gamer really looked like. Overcoming the stereotypical view of a gamer needed some robust and credible research which was delivered by Dr Jeffrey Brand from Bond University in the first of his studies into Australian gamers and gaming habits for IEAA, Gameplay Australia 2005 which was followed by the more comprehensive (and often cited) Interactive Australia 2007. Jeff has continued to be a voice of reason and balance in the ongoing ‘expert’ debate around video games.

In the early days the mainstream media was certainly an opposing force to any introduction of a higher classification, with almost weekly segments highlighting the ‘evils’ of gaming. Violence, obesity, addiction and a break down of the moral fabric seemed to dominate the discourse around games. In an effort to counter some of this noise, a small but focussed PR team from Espresso Communications (Corrie McLeod and Grace Gabriel) joined the extended iGEA team. Espresso are still managing and advising on the R18+ messaging for iGEA and have cemented themselves as an integral part of the R18+ lobbying effort.

As a counterbalance to mainstream media, the specialist press really jumped on board and ensured that the messaging around R18+ was clear, articulate and largely free of the heightened ‘emotion’ that was becoming more evident (and problematic) in the discussions from all quarters on the issue. Journalists such as Jason Hill and Janet Carr and the team on Good Game championed the issue in the early days. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Laura Parker (Gamespot) and Mark Serrels (Kotaku) take the reporting and analysis of the R18+ issue to an invaluable new level.

Amidst the noise of the debate a Facebook page emerged, Grow Up Australia, which gave another voice to Australian gamers. Aaron Percival reached out to the disenfranchised gamer and provided a forum where they could understand how to express themselves in a way that politicians would hear them along with keeping them connected to the issue.

How could we not thank Michael Atkinson, the former South Australian Attorney General, for his contribution? Although a continual stumbling block in the SCAG process, he did give gamers a point of focus for their angst and was a catalyst for the establishment of Gamers for Croydon, led by David Doe and Chris Prior. It has gone unsaid the amount of time, effort and resources that Aaron, David and Chris have given in order to bring around an R18+ rating. For many of us who were part of the wider push, although we did it passionately, it was largely part of what we did for a living. Not so for Aaron, David, Chris and many others.

Brendan O’Connor (former Home Minister for Home Affairs) and his team took hold of this issue and really championed the political push that was needed to get an R18+classification on the Commonwealth agenda. Through Brendan, his policy team and the Classification Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, the R18+ issue got its first real political leg up.

There are so many more individuals who contributed to this all coming together, not least of which are the 90,000 people who took part in the submission to the Commonwealth directly or through the efforts of EB Games and the subsequent petitions from Game. It was indeed a team effort. This whole process has highlighted the maturing of an industry and the maturity of Australia’s gamers. Over the last 4 years we have seen a cogent, consistent and constructive argument put together for an R18+ classification. All stakeholders have come together to make an R18+ rating a reality and collectively deserve a huge amount of recognition.

Lastly, it would be remiss of me not to thank the members and Board of iGEA who have supported the effort for at least 10 years and who have expended a considerable amount of resources on research, lobbying, communication and... well... me!

Well, that’s step one in our master plan to have an Australian classification scheme that’s fit for purpose and able to cope with the rapid change in content creation, delivery and consumption. I guess I have something to do for the next 10 years.

This blog originally appeared on iGEA's website. Republished with permission.


Comments

    RIP and Thankyou GAME for supplying the amount of signatures and petitioning to help this amazing effort.

    We didn't do shit! We just waited until some guy who shouldn't be working in a place where he can push his own agenda quit.
    and that was the scariest part of it all. That some guy was enforcing laws only he believed in.

    ...or maybe he did it for the attention. Knowing people would be calling him out if he does something stupid, but legal.

      Wrong. Every single voice did something to some degree. If people went with your ideal, noone would ever get anything done.

      If he was doing things only he believed in... he wouldn't have been voted into parliament as many times as he was.
      Atkinson was a member of a state government, and he represented a conservative electorate.
      The way things are set up means a state representative had control of a national issue... that's more a design fault than anything else.
      He may not have been popular with us, but within his electorate he was well liked... and within South Australia he is still seen as an AG who was tough on crime.

      The man stood up publicly for what he believed in, whether you agree with him or not, that takes guts... and demands respect.

        Wow, you just made me admire Atkinson... well just a little bit.

        It's not so much what he "believed in" as you say, but its the way he went about it that made him an enemy to the entire campaign -- it might be easy to forget because he's not been involved since stepping down as our Attorney-General, but his actions were nothing short of desperate.

        The continuous slander of gamers in the general sense, constant reiteration that R18+ games would open the floodgates for rapelay, and lets not forget the "attack" on his home that was done by gamers, when in actuality local outlaw bikey gangs had more reason to do such things.

      I wrote to the SA Attorney General, I signed petitions, I wrote about it on my blog and submitted tips to other news outlets. Hell, I voted for the sex party because they believe R18. I did everything in my power as an individual.

      Actually, we put pressure on Atkinson and the Labor Party until it was politically untenable for them to continue to support him as AG. After the election we had contact with MPs from the Greens, Labor and the Libs, all of whom confirmed that Atkinson was told to resign by the party.

      He had one of the largest swings against him on record, and servely undermined the party's tough on crime platform by saying gamers were more of a threat than bikies. Even in the few weeks before the election he was given a fairly wide-ranging gag order by the party because he was just making too big a fool of himself - and them.

      - Chris Prior (yes, that one)

    So ninja gaiden is the first R18+ we get? Hm? kinda disappointing...*sadface*

    on a lighter note.. were all the SeX games they said we would get???
    oh yeah thats right... no one makes them. *sadface*
    back top google for all the free sex i would like.

    also kudos to Neo Kaiser. your right.

      Have you not played Bone Town? That is a pretty pornographic game...

    Although it no longer exists, GAME and the 85,000 or so people who signed their petition played a role in this becoming a reality. Sure, it was a few politicians who decided the fate of the R18+ rating, but if it weren't for gamers and the general public voicing their opinion(s) and lending their support, it would not of happened sooner.

    Speaking of good news in terms of video games in Australia, The Walking Dead is available on Xbox LIVE. Pretty sure I read that it is also available on the PSN. =D

      You're right, Walking Dead is now on the PSN. I worked around the issue some time ago by buying from my US account... such a fantastic game. I'm so glad it made it hear... though it was funny that it got an MA15+ certification after all!

      Can't believe I wrote 'hear' as opposed to 'here'. Apologies!

    Was anything really achieved, though? We get a sticker, yes, but have the guidelines changed? Not rhetorical. I was of the impression that the win here is for more appropriate classification, but not for more sophisticated or adult material.

    I would hate to think we're patting ourselves on the back while we're being sold the same old system, but with a shiny new sticker by our government.

    Thank you, Mick Atkinson, for your ignorant input that set us back. Enjoy your role as speaker, helping your girlfriend minister. Thanks also for being that "lightning rod" for gamers ire when you claimed that other Attorneys General also opposed the R18 rating. Who were they again? Or did you mislead the public?

    Has Valve patched L4D2 yet?

      The uncensored version of L4D2 is still refused classification. Legally, the uncensored game would need to be resubmitted to the classification board, given an R, and THEN Valve could patch it.

    Dear Christians: U Mad Bro?

      I can't speak for Christians, but I can assure you the ACL does not represent a majority of Christians. They're just some bellends who want to ruin the country for the rest of us.

    Great! Now for phase two... make sure the actual panels doing the ratings aren't run by complete numpties... I'm looking at you Mr "Atelier Totori has High Violence Impact and should be R18+" from the panel *glares*

      Not only that, it supposedly has references to sexual violence. Man, how much did they change the game between Atelier Totori and Atlier Totori Plus? Is it like Bulletstorm now?

      I'm wondering if they've just decided that since they now have an r18+ hammer, they need to use it on all the nails.

    It shouldn't even be governments business what I enjoy in the privacy of 'my' home, they have no place regulating games.

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