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Daniel Golding
25 Jul, 2008

The ABC discusses R18 rating

PALGN News | Politicians, journalists and businesspeople discuss banned games.
Last night, the ABC's flagship current affairs discussion program, Q&A, featured a brief segment on videogame classification. The subject was broached by audience member Joab Gilroy (a staff member for Gamearena), who cited the number of recent videogames refused classification and effectively banned in Australia. Tony Jones then siphoned discussion towards the most recent example: Fallout 3. He described the game as allowing players to "inject intravenous drugs to make them kill more people," in order to give more background to the audience.

Several panel members gave opinions on the topic. First, Heather Ridout, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, stated that "as a mother of three kids, two of whom spend an awful lot of time playing these types of games, I mean I just find the whole thing appalling, the sort of minds that come up with this sort of thing. Now Grand Theft Auto was one of the more famous games, that seemed to turn everyone into a car thief." Nick Xenaphon, an incoming independent senator, argued that "I think we have to listen to the psychologists who've looked at these sorts of things, and this is different in the sense that its interactive, people get immersed in these type of games, and I think that there is a real risk, I think as a society we can live without it." He also admitted that censorship, in this case, is necessary, as "we just need to be a bit cautious about it." Xenaphon did not cite any specific studies, though it is worth noting that an Australian government-commissioned report published in 1995 found little evidence to support a claim of correlation between real-life and videogame violence.

Mark Arbib, an incoming Labor Part Senator, disagreed with many of the panel, arguing that "an R-rating, over the age of 18 is fine," because "if you are want to play the game, you are going to get it somehow." Unfortunately, there seemed to be some confusion over the specifics of the debate, with many members of the panel under the impression that there remains no classification system for videogames, despite one being in force since 1995. Host Tony Jones stated that "these things are being banned because there isn't a ratings system for videogames." Arbib, therefore, agreed that there was a "strong argument" for a ratings system. Journalist for The Australian, Christine Jackman also agreed, suggesting we "urgently need a rating system." Perhaps the most surprising comment came from Barnaby Joyce, a Senator for the National Party: "We had the thing with, I think, it was avatars, is that the right term, where people can actually go and rape people. Now, this is not acceptable." As yet, we aren't entirely certain what Joyce was referring to, though the confines of the debate may have meant his meaning was lost.

This debate, though small in scale, remains an important illustration for Australian gamers, as many of those participating hold indirect sway over videogame legislation. Though the current legislation states that the classification system may be changed by consensus of the Standing Committee of Attorney Generals, if the legislation itself were to be changed, it would have to pass through the Senate, where many of the panel members hold power. Indeed, Xenaphon in particular holds the balance of power in the Senate, along with one other independent senator, the Greens, and Steven Fielding of Family First.

To view the a video of the debate, skip forward to 44:20 here. Thanks to forum member Qbert for the tip.

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38 Comments
5 years ago
*SIGH* That was so depressing, no offence to the guy who asked the question but his responses didn't help our cause at all, it was down right painful to watch. We need people who can speak eloquently and that know how to debate to express the real problems about the rating system for video games.
5 years ago
The Family First senator is Steve Fielding, not Nick Fielding.
5 years ago
shinryu wrote
*SIGH* That was so depressing, no offence to the guy who asked the question but his responses didn't help our cause at all, it was down right painful to watch. We need people who can speak eloquently and that know how to debate to express the real problems about the rating system for video games.
Reading the comments the guy did say that his initial question was cut down considerably and he was also somewhat denied his right of reply as there does have to be a form of structure to this lest it degenerate into mob rule. So perhaps the individual merely screwed up in being succinct when asked for his question to be minimised, and the lack of reply could denote either an unwilling show to take the reply or being dumbstruck by the somewhat audacity of the panel to manipulate the subject material. In other words he didn't exactly paint himself as a confident public speaker.
5 years ago
To put it simply, we're screwed.

The only way these politicians are going to get the message is through lobbying from industry groups. They do not listen to the people and clearly have no idea about the issue themselves. Why doesn't this multi-billion dollar industry actually stand-up and make themselves heard?
5 years ago
Fuck! I feel sick reading that. I had no idea the people who are supposed to be speaking for us have no fucking clue as to what video games are and what they do.

Honestly I would expect more from the ABC. The GoodGame guys should have been there as (at least one of them) panellists...
5 years ago
It's a stupid theory that got blown out of proportion by an old man who got disbarred for life. Every study has proven it doesn't effect gamers in permanent ways. Of course you're going to be more hyper and frustrated after dying in a game, I think you have a problem if you believe it's almost breaking the barrier of reality.
One theory of mine is get a race car driver to do 20 laps at full speed then tell him you want him to do it at 10kph, he's not going to want to and will be tempted to speed, but give it awhile and they'll be over it.
5 years ago
You know the R18+ games rating is pretty obsolete, like there are some MA15+ games that get pretty graphic at times too, the only difference in most cases is that R18+ games have MORE of the "darker" content whereas MA15+ might not contain bad scenes as frequently. What Im saying is that we are being exposed to everything in R18+ games already, drugs in Haze, speeding in thousands of games, gta4, innuendo and in some cases nudity/sex.

This lack of the R18+ label is becoming more obsolete as more and more games that should be R18+ games somehow manage to pull of MA15+ ranks.
5 years ago
how dissapointing, you'd think a television station would've actually gotten people who knew about the industry and it's games, not grab people who have children and actually know 'nothing' of the industry and it's contents.

oh well, too much to ask for.
5 years ago
Here's the relevant segment on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4KR3nmDpz0

Just in case anyone wants to watch it without skipping through the whole program.
5 years ago
To be fair to the panellists, it wasn't a "let's discuss video game classification" show. The topic was brought up by a member of the audience.

Not to totally excuse them though, they did sound like complete idiots at times.
5 years ago
"We had the thing with, I think, it was avatars, is that the right term, where people can actually go and **** people. Now, this is not acceptable."

I lol'd.Not one part of the above made any sense.An avatar raping?The thing was raping?Who or what is raping ........who or what?Is a thing raping an avatar?

And, if so, what game is this?But more importantly, where can i preorder it?
5 years ago
I wish that this was the first time that we have been down the whole R18+ path with video games in Aus. I used to work for video games retailer and I can safely say that if there was an R18+ rating then the parents who bought GTA or Manhunt or any other game that has been refused classification would have taken a second look and most of them would have told little Johnny there was no way they would buy it.

It's sad that people still see games as a "kids thing" rather than a valid form of entertainment for all age groups. And like every other form of entertainment that falls into this area it needs to have regulation across ALL areas, and not leave one out.

Spacebreak wrote
This lack of the R18+ label is becoming more obsolete as more and more games that should be R18+ games somehow manage to pull of MA15+ ranks.
Call it pushing the envelope by the publishers Spacebreak, trying to see how much they can get in before they have to reign it in.
5 years ago
Notice how none of the panel members had any connections to the game industry whatsoever.
5 years ago
The thing to do now is -not- bitch about it on internet forums.

Call on the Australian game industry to respond to the panelists, write a letter to the ABC, heck, even drop the GoodGame guys an email; http://www.abc.net.au/tv/goodgame/contact/
5 years ago
I could have easily owned every single one of them, including the host in a fair debate.
5 years ago
Shorty wrote
Notice how none of the panel members had any connections to the game industry whatsoever.
They're not supposed to really. It's a general political discussion show where they cover any and all political questions. If they had to have experts and whatnot from every industry of every topic they covered it'd become ridiculous, not to mention completely unworkable given it's live and the questions can cover areas not anticipated.

However, that's not to say that panel wasn't embarrassingly ignorant of what they were discussing.
5 years ago
This topic would be far better suited on Insight, I think that would really open everyone's eyes as to where the current rating situation is and how it could be improved, then every aspect would be looked at, from the sale of games to minors, to the ludicrousness of having to rate titles such as GTA or Carmageddon MA (I personally think they're R material) to the fact that we simply don't have the choice on some fronts as to whether, as adults, we are allowed to play a game that includes morphine, or sexually explicit scenes.

So yeah, write in to the Insight team, I'm sure if they received enough letters they'd do the show due to popular demand.
5 years ago
Pfft, what was the guy who asked the question expecting? They were a group of non-gamer politicians, every cliche about violent video games came out and even Tony Jones had a dig at it; "so let me get this straight, its a game about killing people and then you can inject yourself with drugs so you can kill more people".

If anything, I was impressed two of them actually avoided hopping on the bandwagon (videogames, the easy target) and admitted to being uninformed on the topic and therefore being unable to form an opinion "without seeing the game". The others had such little idea that they didn't even realise the OFLC rates games.

The common misconception that everyone seems to believe even though it is unproven, "games are interactive and therefore alter your behaviour", must be addressed. The medium must also be presented as an art form alongside movies, books etc, otherwise you'll keep getting stuff like what one of the panellists said something along the lines of condemning video games "violent games breed violence", then went on to say she thought the Bill Henson photographs of naked children were "beautiful".

Interesting that they all simply talked non-stop about 'violent' video games when actually the OFLC found the violence in Fallout 3 to be totally acceptable, and banned it on the basis of drug use.

EDIT: Wow, I take some of this back. ABC went to Australian Gamer before the show was filmed to find someone who would bring up the R18 games debate. Yet even the announcer had no idea there is even a ratings system. Ignorance to the max.

http://www.australiangamer.com/news/1177_a_swing_and_a_miss_for_the_abc.html
5 years ago
Well, I thought it was hilarious. Horrible and proving the point that Australia thinks 'games are for 12-year-olds', but hilarious all the same. icon_lol_old.gif

Seriously, the ABC screwed up big time here. They couldn't even get proper people that knew about the laws around it. From the sounds of it, even the host didn't know what he was going on about.

Shame on you, ABC. You're better then that. icon_naughty.gif
5 years ago
Spanca wrote
They're not supposed to really. It's a general political discussion show where they cover any and all political questions. If they had to have experts and whatnot from every industry of every topic they covered it'd become ridiculous, not to mention completely unworkable given it's live and the questions can cover areas not anticipated.

However, that's not to say that panel wasn't embarrassingly ignorant of what they were discussing.
But it's obvious they did know the question would be asked because they asked Australian Gamer to get someone on the show to ask the question. And if they're obviously going to some effort to accomodate the topic on the show, then they could also take the effort to have someone knowledgeable on hand. They don't even need to have them on the panel. They can just have them in the audience and go "well, we have someone in the audience from the industry, what do they think".

Bringing up the topic on the show without having anyone who knows the topic on hand is worse than half-arsed - it's actively detrimental to the quality of discussion.
5 years ago
It's called ratings, ratings, ratings, I guess.
5 years ago
the majority of the audience is probably an older audience, and a large percentage of them frown upon gaming. This show is probably to make them agree that gaming is bad, which would in turn, increase ratings as drinniol said. We need more gamers on the panels, people who have had the much valued 'experience' icon_wink.gif instead of 'experts' who have hardly any knowledge of how to play games.
5 years ago
I'd expect that of the commerical free-to-air networks, but I wouldn't have thought that ratings would have been crucial to the ABC's survival.
5 years ago
What really should have been said is this:

What is your position on introducing an adults only
classification for video games? video games are no longer exclusively a child's medium for they have advanced far beyond the days of Space Invaders and Pacman. The gaming industry, a multi-billion dollar industry in 2008, is now on par with the film industry and boasts the maturity to be treated as such. The vast majority of games currently prohibited for sale in Australia contain content no worse than what can be seen in any given R18+ or even MA15+ film. We aren't talking about games
containing **** scenes lacking context or child pornography. We are merely speaking of games with mature driven story lines and other overly mature elements which would not even draw near the banned category. Why would I want to play such games? The same reason I want to watch such films; to be entertained. One may bring forth the notion that games should be 'treated differently' due to their interactive nature, however such a notion can be counted by highlighting the fact that there as many studies concluding the opposite of such an assumption as there are supporting such an assumption. Therefore how does one proclaim either point to be factual? In my opinion, which side of the debate you take depends largely upon
bias. Therefore I am of the opinion that we should treat games the same as we do films, books and music until further notice; implement a classification which restricts such products to adults to enable the people themselves to make a choice - either
use the product or don't. Arbitrary censorship has no place in a liberal democracy such as Australia.

Don't you feel it's extremely hypocritical to allow the sale of movies containing non bona-fide real world violence, ****, drug usage and other gratuitous subjects, as well as supporting the legalization of gambling and prostitution, yet outright banning the sale of mature video games aimed at an adult audience? Furthermore, why does the government constantly perpetuate the "SAVE THE CHILDREN" idea and use it as reason to keep 18+ video games banned, whilst totally ignoring the fact that strip clubs, the sale of alcohol and cigarettes remains legal in Australia? Is the government truely telling it's citizens that such things are potentially more harmful to minors and society a like than a video game? Australia now remains the only Western nation on Earth without an 18+ classification for video games.

By disallowing such a prospect you are restricting the growth of
the local video game industry and enforcing a nanny state ideology.
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