The One Panel You Absolutely Cannot Miss At PAX Australia

Image: Kotaku

PAX Australia is back in a big way this year, and with a new console generation and games like Cyberpunk 2077, Final Fantasy 7 and Hollow Knight: Silksong, there's plenty of big drawcards vying for your attention. But if you're around PAX tomorrow, there's one panel that should be mandatory viewing — so much so that it's worth skipping a public presentation for Cyberpunk 2077.

The panel's not a completely family friendly affair, and it's running at the same possible time as CD Projekt Red's first public Cyberpunk 2077 walkthrough and a fun battle royale take on Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

And initially, if you saw the words "Games and Moral Panic: Why Are We Here Again?", you'd probably wonder why such a panel might be so important. But the answer is because of the panellists, specifically one person who the gaming community has never had the chance to interact with face-to-face.

That person is Margaret Anderson, and if the name rings a bell, then it's because you're pretty across the problem we have with banning games in this country. Anderson is the current director of the Classification Board, and the panel will be the first opportunity the general gaming public will get a face-to-face opportunity to get the perspective of the person behind the releases and classification ratings.

Image: PAX Australia

Just having the Classification Board explain how Australia's system got to where it was, however, isn't what makes the panel so important. What's critical is the fact that we're facing a review of the classification guidelines, the fine print around ratings like MA15, R18 and the clauses that are the reason why games like DayZ can't have weed as an incentive, or why nudity can still get your game banned in the country.

The Classification Board has gone on the record a lot more over the last few years, but their biggest role is yet to come. Their overarching bureaucratic leaders, the Department of Communications and the Arts, have kicked off a process to review the guidelines around the classification around video games. As Anderson explained to me in a brief meeting at the launch of PwC's Australian entertainment and media outlook, this is a once in a decade opportunity. Once the new guidelines are locked in, the powers that be will let them stay in place.

Like the lead-up to the introduction of the R18 rating, the review process has a public consultation period. That's the opportunity for gamers from all across the country to tell the government and the Department of Communications precisely what games means to them, what kind of content they want to see, and how they feel about the current regime.

But as is the case with any government, there's a way to put forward your feedback and there's a way to cock it up completely. Luckily, tomorrow everyone will have the chance to hear from the person who knows it best: the director of the Classification Board.

We've been in this spot before. Everyone had to band together — and I mean everyone, from gamers to content creators to media personalities and media brands like Kotaku Australia, Gamespot and IGN — to help make the R18 classification a reality. That was a long, arduous fight, and it could have been lost at many points.

Now it's time to band together again.

If you're at PAX tomorrow, and you're only at PAX for the Friday, I'm sorry. There's a ton of good panels all at 1.30pm, although if you really love Cyberpunk you can take some solace in the fact that the gameplay footage will be shown off at the Microsoft booth on a giant 98-inch 8K TV the whole time.

But if you're sick of the ridiculous hoops games and game creators have had to jump through in the past, and you're worried about genuine mature content for mature Australians being compromised or banned — like Cyberpunk 2077 — then you owe it to yourself and everyone else to contribute to the public process once it begins. And even if you don't want to take part in that public debate, it's still worth listening to the chief censor to understand how this situation came about, and what it'll take to change it.

And that's the real honest truth, and why tomorrow's panel should be mandatory viewing. It's not just that the guidelines need changing. It's that the people enforcing the guidelines want change too. One of the biggest advocates in this country for video games ironically receives the most hate over this country's archaic classification system — and tomorrow everyone else will get the chance to realise just what a strong supporter we have in the wheels of government.

If you can, get your arse to the Kookaburra Theatre before 1.30pm tomorrow.


The author's accommodation throughout Melbourne International Games Week and PAX Australia was provided courtesy of Airbnb for Work.


Comments

    Aww that would've been good to attend, a shame I don't land in Melbourne until 1:30!

    Will it be livestreamed? I'm only able to attend PAX on Saturday this year.

      There is a PAX Aus Livestream but I believe it only streams the two main stages, might be worth checking tomorrow just in case though.

    I believe everyone should have a say in the process of classification gamers and non-gamers alike, but I do believe there needs to be more sense from people who make the decisions.

    Think of it this way I have friend that smokes and thinks plain packaging and the graphic warning labels should be removed yet me being a non-smoker I don't.

    Regardless of which games get refused classification if I want to play it I will find a way, either import it or change my region on the Xbox it's easy as and if I can do it than the poor children that we all should think about sure as shit know how as well.

    False. The one panel that can't be skipped any year is the "present your game idea panel", because it's hilarious, and sometimes absolutely wierd as hell.

      Present your game idea made me give up on mine. Mainly because one of the judges ridiculed me. It's a great way to crush someone's enthusiasm. (the other two judges though it was a decent idea, but ...yeah. I don't have much self esteem and that broke it completely)

        I mean, they literally say at the start every time it's not for serious ideas, so if you went in with some actual serious project, yeah, you're absolutely going to get shot down.

          Yeah, I didn't realise until I got there but it's still pretty shattering

            Honestly it's much easier to mock an idea than it is to give any real credence to it. The fact you had two of three there say something positive might be worth focusing on.

            Mind if I ask you to recount the pitch? I'd hate to see someone toss out a creative gem because the initial idea was a little rough and got mocked before it's time.

              It was supposed to be something similar to what remains of Edith Finch and other Walking simulators. The intro was that a youtuber ends up trapped in a mental asylum. Nothing actually supernatural, but rather that part of the building collapses because of age.
              The character trapped inside must find a way out, but could pick up items and explore the stories of people who were once there. I wanted to make it semi-educational, similar to how you could pick up items in Valiant heroes and learn about them.
              Players were supposed to empathise with the mentally ill, rather than make make enemies and demonise them. How much the player want to explore was up to them.
              Oh and i wanted the stories in the game to be based on actual events.

                Oh man I don't even see how you make fun of that without coming off as a huge dick.

                Representation of the mentally ill and tropes on asylums in games are horrendous, a deconstruction of that examining the real issues there seems like really fertile creative ground and from an artistic standpoint is a great subject.

                I'm not sure how well an "arthouse" game like that would do commercially, especially since the walking simulator boom seems to have passed but it's a really interesting idea.

                The game will be make or break based mostly on it's writing, so you could pretty easily toss together a mock up in something like those old RPGMaker programs and get some hands on feedback.

                The biggest thing you need to remember about people giving you criticism on creative stuff is simple, usually they don't know shit. You know what you're making and need to be committed to making it the best you possibly can. If someone criticises something it's usually better to look at why they're saying that than to take their actual recommendation 90% of the time.

                Seriously good luck with it though, don't get discouraged because you pitched in the wrong place. If you're still down try googling famous authors who were rejected by publishers sometime.

                  He was a comedian and he was trying to be funny, is what I think it was.
                  I got hung up on a lot of decisions too. UT or Unity? Story through notes or story through reenactments a la the evil within? The ability to speed run the game, or force people into trying to escape?

                For what it's worth, I'm a big fan of good walking simulators, and that sounds like a game I'd be interested to spend time with.

                  I guess I should start making some art assets then =P Thank you

    They've had members of the classification board in a panel at PAX a few years back. Very interesting watch.

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