South Australia attorney general Michael Atkinson has elaborated on his stance against a R18+ rating for videogames, believing that such a rating would put 'children and vulnerable adults' at risk.
"I donâ€™t support the introduction of an R18+ rating for electronic games, chiefly because it will greatly increase the risk of children and vulnerable adults being exposed to damaging images and messages," said Atkinson in an email statement sent to GameSpot.
"The interactive nature of electronic games means that they have a much greater influence than viewing a movie does. People are participating and 'acting-out' violence and criminal behaviour when they are playing a video game. They are essentially rehearsing harmful behaviour. Children and vulnerable adults (such as those with a mental illness) can be harmed by playing video games with violence, sex, and criminal activity."
Apparently, Atkinson has witnesses the adverse effects that games can have on minors first hand.
"I have three sons who regularly play computer games at home - the eldest is now 22," noted Atkinson. "I see my children become physically and emotionally obsessed with games, and it is difficult to drag them away from the gaming console. The repeated act of killing a computer-generated person or creature desensitises children to violence."
The attorney general also pointed that that, compared to the number of games classified, only a tiny number were actually refused classification.
"Critics sometimes claim that I am ruining the game-development industry. There are very few computer games that are refused classification each year. In 2007/8 just three computer games were refused classification (Soldier of Fortune: Payback, Dark Sector, and Shellshock 2: Blood Trails). This represents a very small proportion of the 961 decisions made last financial year. In fact, only 55 were classified at the top existing rating of MA15+.
"Last year the makers of Grand Theft Auto IV altered the game before submitting it for an MA15+ classification, and Silent Hill: Homecoming is under revision by its makers after being knocked back by the Classification Board. The lack of an R18+ classification is not preventing very many adult-themed video games reaching the shop shelves - but it is ensuring that scenes that don't comply with a MA15+ rating are removed.
Atkinson admits that his stance on a R18+ rating does compromise a person's liberty - but believes it's worth it.
"[Some] may believe that the present system restricts adult liberty. It certainly does restrict choice to a small degree, but that is the price of keeping this material from children and vulnerable adults. In my view, the small sacrifice is worth it. "
You can read the full statement here.