My submission to the Attorney General’s Department for public consultation on the the R18+ classification for computer games

Below is my submission for the public consultation on whether or not to introduce an R18+ classification for video games in Australia. I get the feeling I have taken a trip down the rabbit hole of fake democracy in action, but we will see what happens.

HOW TO MAKE A SUBMISSION

To participate in this consultation, you need to answer the question:

Should the Australian National Classification Scheme include an R 18+ classification category for computer games?

Submissions can be sent by email in Word format without embedded images.  Submissions can also be posted or faxed.  You are also encouraged to keep any commentary short and succinct.

Unless you clearly request confidentiality, submissions are public documents and may be accessed by any member of the public, may be published on a website and quoted in further review papers.  If you do not want your submission to be published, or you would like to request anonymity, you must clearly request this in your submission.

Submissions must be received by 28 February 2010.  Submissions received after this date may not be able to be considered.

Submissions should be sent to:

Email:                          classificationreview@ag.gov.au

Fax:                              02 6141 3488

Post:                             Classification Review, Attorney-General’s Department, 3 -5 National Circuit, BARTON  ACT  2600

TEMPLATE FOR MAKING SUBMISSIONS

PERSONAL INFORMATION[1]:

Name: Stewart Heys

Email address*:

Gender*: Male

Street Address*:

State/Postcode*:

Country of Residence*: Australia

Age range*: under 18/18-24/25-34/35-44/ 45-54/55-64/ 65+

Do you play computer or video games?*   yes no

How frequently do you play?

Daily Weekly     Fortnightly    Monthly      Other………………..

How long do you play in an average session?

0-15minutes   15-30 minutes     30-60mins   1-2 hours 2+ hours

(Note: fields marked * are mandatory fields)

THE QUESTION

Should the Australian National Classification Scheme include an R18+ classification category for computer games?

NO YES

ARGUMENTS

To help us understand your reasons for your answer, please indicate how much you agree or disagree with the following arguments:

  • Adults should not be prevented from playing R 18+ level computer games simply because they are unsuitable for minors

1) strongly disagree     2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • The R 18+ classification category sends a clear, unambiguous message to parents that the game material is unsuitable for minors

1) strongly disagree     2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • Consistent classification categories for films and computer games are easier to understand

1) strongly disagree     2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • A new classification will supplement technological controls on minors’ access to age-inappropriate computer games

1) strongly disagree     2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • Comparable classification systems internationally have an adult rating for computer games – international parity is desirable

1) strongly disagree     2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • Consumers access games which would be R 18+ illegally – it would be better if they were legally available with appropriate restrictions

1) strongly disagree     2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • Computer games should be treated differently from films given the specific, negative effects of interactivity on players, particularly their participation in violent and aggressive content.

1) strongly disagree 2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • It would be difficult for parents to enforce age restrictions for computer games.

1) strongly disagree 2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • Minors would be more likely to be exposed to computer games that are unsuitable for them.

1) strongly disagree 2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • An R 18+ for computer games would exacerbate problems associated with access to high level material in Indigenous communities and by other non‑English speaking people

1) strongly disagree 2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

  • There is no demonstrated need to change existing restrictions.

1) strongly disagree 2) disagree       3) do not know           4) agree           5) strongly agree

Comments (Optional – up to 250 words)

The starting point with this is education. If those with formative influence over children (i.e. parents and teachers) were to have a better understanding of the nature of a piece of media content, they would be able to make a more informed decision regarding its suitability. Current distribution models, including the internet, mean that content is widely available to anyone with a computer and a broadband connection and providing clearer guidelines is of far more valuable than the false perception of protection that is offered by censorship.

When I learned that Grand Theft Auto IV was to be censored for the Australian market, I imported it from the U.S. on principle, as I know others did. I will continue to do so for games that are refused classification under the current system. This affects the local video game industry, and has a knock-on effect for the media industry as a whole if Australia gets a reputation for putting up barriers when it comes to content.

Gaming has changed and so should the classification system surrounding it. There are games for children and there are games for adults, just as there are films, books, bands, etc. There is mature content, yes, but what seemingly gets ignored in this debate is the context. The scriptwriting, characterisation, design and creativity behind most top games is equal to, if not better than a lot of major films and should be treated as such, not overruled but what is essentially a minor, secondary issue.

Ultimately, adults should have the right to play adult games and an R18+ classification will help protect minors from adult content, rather than expose them to more.


[1] Unless you clearly request confidentiality, submissions are public documents and may be accessed by any member of the public, may be published on the website and quoted in further review papers. If you do not want your submission to be published, or you would like to request anonymity, you must clearly request this is your submission.

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