Action Alert February 2010

This is an archived edition of Action Alert.

R18+ Video Games May Be Coming to a Computer Near You

Currently under Australian law, there is an R18+ classification for movies and DVDs, but not for computer and video games. Any game with a rating that exceeds MA15+ because of excessive violence and explicit sexual content is refused classification, and is therefore illegal in Australia. The Office of Film and Literature Classification applies regulations for computer and video games more strictly than with films or DVDs because, according to their guidelines, “[Government] Ministers are concerned that games, because of their ‘interactive’ nature, may have greater impact, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment on young minds than film and videotape.” Therefore, successive Australian Governments have always refused R18+ computer games.

However in November 2009, amid pressure from video game manufacturers and retailers, the Federal Attorney-General’s Department released a discussion paper and called for public submissions on whether the Australian National Classification Scheme should include an R18+ classification category for video games. Australia’s largest video game retailer, EB Games, launched a petition in their 350 stores so that customers could urge the Government to legalise access to games that are currently banned. Apparently, EB Games also conducted a poll on this issue, attracting more than 50,000 respondents with 84% voting in favour of establishing a legal R18+ classification. A number of media outlets set up on-line opinion polls (which, by the way, have also received votes overwhelmingly in favour of legalising the R18+ games).

So, what is this all about? Isn’t it inconsistent to have a classification system for games different from the system for films and DVDs? Surely Australian adults should be allowed to buy and play games that are legal elsewhere in the world? If the average age of Australian gamers is thirty, why shouldn’t these people have access to R18+ rated games?

However, these R18+ video games contain some horrific scenes such as “running down and killing pedestrians on the pavement, raping a mother and her two daughters, blowing oneself up in a market [as a suicide bomber], cutting people in half with large calibre shells, injecting drugs to win an athletics event, or killing a prostitute to recover the fee one just paid her”. Scenes like these may be included in R rated movies, but viewers of such films are simply watching and not necessarily identifying with what is on the screen. With a video game, the player is actually ‘participating’ and may even be the character perpetrating those acts within the game. As games have become more sophisticated, graphic, and interactive, the player is even more involved in the action on the screen, and if that action is even more violent and sexually explicit, there is an increased potential for psychological harm.

It is also naïve to think that R18+ games would remain restricted to adult gamers. If such games are legalised and sold to adults in Australia, they will inevitably find their way into the hands of younger players through permissive parents, older siblings, or friends. There are legitimate concerns about exposure to such violent and sexually explicit material on children’s development, because most of these games require the player to identify with the aggressor and reward the player for immoral conduct and violent behaviour. Research conducted in 2007 and published in the journal Aggressive Behaviour 33(6) revealed that the increased playing of violent first-person shooter games significantly increases levels of aggression, especially in minors.

The closing date for submissions to the public consultation being conducted by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department is 28 February 2010. It is important, if we wish to maintain the ban against R18+ games in Australia, that we make a brief submission simply stating that we believe the introduction of such games would be detrimental. Our nation does not need greater access to portrayals of graphic violence and explicit sex! And we especially do not need access to such things in a media format that involves the viewer actually ‘participating’ in the violence or sexual activity.

To make a submission, you are required to address the question “Should the Australian National Classification Scheme include an R18+ classification category for computer games?” Surely we can all make a response to that question! Submissions are to be posted to Classification Review, Attorney-General’s Department, 3 – 5 National Circuit, Barton, ACT, 2600 [or faxed to (02) 61413488, or emailed to classificationreview@ag.gov.au] before the end of February. Alternatively, you can go to the Australian Christian Lobby’s “Make a Stand” website [www.makeastand.org.au] and follow the prompts to register your response to the “R18+ No Game” issue.

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Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?
Psalm 94:16

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This monthly release is prepared by Pastor Brian Robertson (P O Box 2367, Bundaberg, 4670) to inform Christian people about issues within our society.  “Action Alert” does not promote any one political party, but encourages its readers to be “salt and light” by speaking out on some of these matters.  The views expressed in “Action Alert” are those of the author and are not necessarily those of a local church or a denominational organisation.  To the extent permissible by law, no church or denomination accepts liability for anything contained in this publication and any use made of it.