Columnist: Australian Govt. Caving to Game Biz Pressure for R-rating

April 6, 2008 -

As GamePolitics has previously reported, elected officials in Australia are considering the addition of an R18+ rating for video games. Currently, any title that doesn't meet the content standard for Australia's MA15+ is effectively banned.

Writing in The Australian, columnist Ross Fitzgerald maintains that the move to an R18+ is being motivated by game industry lobbying:

The whisper is that... Attorney-General Robert McClelland (left) and his junior, Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus, have had a stream of lobbyists representing Nintendo and Microsoft in their ears about creating this new R-rating for violent video games.

Labor appears to be moving away from its stated policy of clamping down on violence as... members gang up on South Australia's hapless, evangelical Christian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, over his veto on a new R-rating for computer games.

 

I'm no supporter of Atkinson's deep social conservatism. I suspect that he rejects the R-rated computer game rating more for the sex in the R category than the violence... the rest of Australia's state and federal attorneys should hang their heads in shame for trying to foist a category of computer games on us that will contain mostly mind-numbing violence.

Comments

I love that quote Father Time, be it from Twain or not (considering his other quotes, this seems like something he'd say), the wisdom speaks for itself. Aside from his belief that this category is being forced on the general public, other bits from the column suggest he really doesn't have a grasp of what's going on ("computer games," and I doubt Nintendo is a major player pushing for a 18+ category, esp when others have way more to gain).

I hope the Aussies get the R18 rating they deserve.

Here's an idea how about you just abide by the rating that's in place and we won't have these problems

I'd LOVE to see Yatzhee say something about this, oy. This is an easy target.

Lobbying for guns is fine, but heaven forbid that games get a lobby of their own...

so close to japan yet so far from its quality games....

"should hang their heads in shame for trying to foist a category of computer games on us that will contain mostly mind-numbing violence."

Foist? I'm sorry, is the Australian government going to force you to buy these games? Did buyer choice fly out the window? If you don't want to play, or have your kids playing, these particular games, then don't buy them. But you shouldn't be able to tell other ADULTS what they can and cannot view. And that's what this is all about, adult intertainment. There's a reason why they have an R18 rating (or soon will have).

Odd how Nintendo is pushing for an 18+ rating in Australia when they barely have any games that would qualify in that sector

Er you know Mr. Fitzgerald, you don't have to buy these games..

I believe I speak for a vast majority of Australian ADULT gamers (and I am one) when I say: WE WANT AN R-RATING DAMMIT!!!!!

I, for one, am sick of getting "dumbed-down" games (like GTA:VC and the soon to be released GTA:4) because we dont have an adult rating for games. We can watch all the porn we want, all the violent movies we can hire, but when it comes to games... nooooo! I'm so sick of parents complaining about how their 9y.o. is playing violent video games like GTA... YOUR' CHILD SHOULDN'T BE PLAYING GTA IN THE FIRST PLACE, IT'S MA15+ FOR A REASON YOU DUMB-ASS! Yet, this is the catch-cry of the uneducated parent. I have worked at EB Games in the past and the amount of parents I saw caving in to their "under-age" children when it came to mature rated games was astounding. These are the very same parents that complain about their children playing the aforementioned "mature" games.
It sickens me to know that because of some grey-haired tool that was born in the first half of the 20th century, I cannot play games that are made for my age group. Nor am I allowed access to the original FULL content of other games because of it's "adult" nature... I'm an adult, let me make the choice if I want to play those games or not.
Australia is the ONLY "Western-world" nation NOT to have an adult rating for games... WHY?!?!?! I mean, even the Americans (known for their conservative views (in government at least) on sex and violence) have ratings designed for adult gamers.

Manhunt: BANNED
Manhunt 2: BANNED & NEVER RELEASED
Mark Ecko's Getting Up: BANNED
NARC: BANNED & NEVER RELEASED
Leisure Suit Larry (the latest one): BANNED & NEVER RELEASED
GTA3: TAKEN OFF SHELVES, EDITED, RE-RELEASED
GTAVC: EDITED BEFORE RELEASE
GTASA: TAKEN OFF SHELVES, EDITED, RE-RELEASED
Reservoir Dogs: BANNED & NEVER RELEASED

and now they're going to take away the ONE THING I have been waiting for (in gaming) since it was announced: GTA4. When I read (here @ GP) about how our Classification Board was only releasing an "edited" version of GTA4, I almost cried (and I'm a 28y.o. male). So many Aussie Gamers have already said that they will just import a copy. I think I'll do that as well. Unfortunately this will put a dent of unknown proportions into the economy of the games industry here in Oz.

Enough of my rant, it's 3:45am here and I'm off to bed, G'nite GP readers!

Labor appears to be moving away from its stated policy of clamping down on violence


Maybe Labor's policy applies to actual violence rather then the imaginary kind?

Evangelical Christian? Wow - and I found Oz to be notably secular in the European mould when I visited five years ago. Has so much changed since then?

Monkeythumbs i have noticed quite a significant move for politicians and others to show off that they are good christians and it seems that this is playing more and more of a part in politics here :\

Uh, foist? Exactly when did the game biz take over the world?

@ Christian Astrup

- Did you not get the memo?

I think Grizz really said it. If you're a legal adult and you want to play violent games the government shouldn't stop you. These legislators are just ensuring that they'll be ousted in the next 10 years when more tech-savvy people can vote and possibly make up the majority.

From what I understand the ratings in Austraila are legally binding, so therefore no kid can buy a game that's not rated for him.

Really if you do this people won't have to pirate or import games and the Austrailian government can gain a little bit more money on taxes.

Although really the argument that we shouldn't have adult games because kids MIGHT get ahold of them is so dumb. Under that logic we should ban alcohol, porn, guns, certain medicines, rat poison, toxic cleaners etc.

I said it before and I'll say it again.

"Censorship is like saying a man can't have steak because a baby can't chew it" -Mark Twain (although unsourced).

I've said it before and I'll say it again;

Our politicians ain't shit.

Good luck Australia!!!

OK, I just read the article. Apparently the guy is against allowing adults access to violent entertainment, but he's totally behind establishing a rating for sexy, sexy entertainment. He's a douchebag, but an interesting one. (Or maybe he just wears his particular interests on his sleeve.)

It can't possibly be because Australian adults are sick of being treated like brain-damaged idiots who can't tell fantasy from reality. Clearly it's a conspiracy.

Oh for the love of fuck STOP THUMPING YOUR BIBLES YOU TITS!

@ Altair

Yo, have you ever encountered a bible basher (i.e. someone that bashes people with bibles)? Now those guys are scary.

@ Grizz

After looking at your list I must ask; what about Postal? Not even NZL can get that (or Manhunt for that matter).

No, but some of the shit that comes out of their mouths just..... argh, it pisses me off so much.

@Grizz

you're not missing much about reservoir dogs. it's a god awful game.

but manhunt was a fine game to me.

Why not have an 18+ rating? Tear down the double standard.

Actually this guy had some interseting points. If you read the article, it really felt like it was less about 'violet games are destroying our children!' and more about 'the current government is going back on it's platform and sex is still being considered worse then violence'


The latter bit has some real meat to it. There is all this debate about violence in games and such but sex is almost always sidelined as an 'of COURSE it is bad!',... which as the commenter pointed out this is kinda strange.

I watched Saw IV last night which had a a big MA15+ stamped on the box by the OFLC. But today I'm going to have to get online and order Dark Sector and Grand Theft Auto IV standard edition (as opposed to Super Happy Fun Australian Government Approved Edition) from New Zealand.

Ridiculous.

OF COURSE the Games industry is lobbying for an R18+ rating. How else does anyone expect the medium to gain acceptance?

Perhaps older folk should be barred from becoming politicians- they seem to be too out of touch. There is an age minimum for good reason, why not an age maximum?

Note the use of the qualification "the whisper is that...". This sort of thing usually precedes a Murdoch hack's attempt at deriving a newsworthy conflict from spurious allegations to fill the column inches they're otherwise not allowed to use for more credible events.
The real enemy here is lazy journalism.

The only thing mind-numbing is this guys comments.

Jeez, I'd hate to live Australia. Even if I was next door to Ben Croshaw, I'd pass.

Wow, that's impressive stupidity. How did he miss the fact that most 18-rated games aren't even as "bad" as R-rated films, and that this ratings adjustment doesn't permit anything near an X-rating.

Oh, that's right. Reality and research can't be permitted to get in the way of a good old vigilante media-burning rant. Some things never change.

...too bad he highlights his own mindlessness by presuming these games have no value outside of a mindless violence they seldom stoop too.

No, wait, actually, that's how I amuse myself. He should keep spouting his ignorance, just, you know, with less coverage. Or a counterargument from people who know what they're talking about. Or an admission that he's just rabble-rousing and is actually clueless.

The other thing to remember about this, is that in Australia (state) laws exist that provide for the enforcement of ratings, which is what makes the lack of an R18+ rating even harder for me to understand. Unlike the US, we have no first amendment, and each state in Australia can prosecute a retailer if they sell adult rated material (film, book or game) to a minor.

Basically the equivalent of the HB1423 (that is currently before the Massachusetts state legislature) has already passed in all the states and territories. So why is having an adult classification such a big deal to the fundamentalist lobby? As Fitzgerald states I suspect it has more to do with concerns about sexual content, a fact that I think is true here in the US as well. The anti-game lobby are just good at camouflaging their real agenda.

And as an aside, the main reason lobbyists are visiting the new Federal government is to lobby for a tax concession similar to the Australian film industry's, not to change the rating scheme.

Nintendo lobbying for 18+ eh? I might just have to buy a wii when they release Wii Axe Murder & Wii Porn Star

Hurray :D

Im all behind Austrailan gamers getting the 18. Thats awesome and should have been done years ago!

This is why, for all the issues we have in the us, there are some things we have gotten right. Now if the ESRB would just dump the worthless AO and use a rating that actually is a rating and not a BAN hammer, it'd be awesome.

Hang on...
How can one have an X-rated erotica rating for games here, when it a) it isn't real, b) there isn't a large market outside japan?

GP: "Currently, any title that doesn’t meet the content standard for Australia’s MA15+ is effectively banned."
Not strictly true. If the same yardstick was applied to movies as they are to games then many, many more games WOULD be banned than actually are. As it happens they are shoehorned into the M15+ classification.

Australia is VERY different to the US. An R18+ (or AO) is NOT the death knell for a game over here. I realise that given an AO in the US, stores like Walmart will not carry the game, but it's not the case over here at all. Stores will continue to stock them, but just have to restrict who they sell games to; it already happens for M15+ .... you'd just need extra ID to buy an R18+ game.

@ Michael

Of course that might change in the R18 classification goes ahead ie big retail companies like Woolworths limited (owns Big W and Dick Smith Electronics) or Coles (owns Target) might decide not to stock those games owing to pressure from the christian lobby and other groups.

Here is one thing that really got me annoyed about this reporter

"But there are powerful forces behind this push. In 2006, sales of computer and video game hardware and software in Australia exceeded $1billion and Australians purchase 12.5 million computer and video games each year. A survey of popular Sega and Nintendo games taken a few years ago found that 80 per cent of them primarily featured violence or aggression."

SEGA and Nintendo games a few years ago?????
80% of SEGA and Nintendo games promarily featured violence???

Where does this guy get his information from????

Come on, SEGA went out of the hardware industry about 7 years ago in 2001, also the majority of SEGA and Nintendo developed and published games are no more violent than Mario or Sonic.

Does this guy ever really PLAY any Videogames????

Of course not if he is so stupid to come to these sort of conclusions, and I have played many videogames to know that this reporter is just making stuff up for news worthy sensationalism.

He won an award for erotic literature ya'know,
Easy to see he's in bed with the porn lobbyists, and Australian Christian lobby groups... no doubt using crucifixes for something other than praying, and warding off vampires ;)

I really hope the Australian government wises up and approves this new rating. Censorship because of ignorance doesn't help anybody.

Also on the OFLC box of one of my games rated MA 15+, it clearly says...

"MA (inside a pentagon shape) 15+ (RED color label), Restricted (little black line under the MA15+ sign)"

Now turn over to the back of the box

"NOT suitable for people under 15. Under 15s MUST be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian"

Now this is the reason WHY parents have the FINAL say in what their kid buys. If the parent is not there, then the retailer has every reason NOT to sell an MA15+ game to a kid UNLESS if they have a parent who says it is ok.

And THAT is the recomendation set out by the OFLC.

It is NOT because of kids wanting a MA15+ game in the first place, it is because many parents simply just let their kids BUY games that the OFLC says it may not be suitable for them.


As for the M rating in Australia (which is more like a T rating in the US) it says...

M (blue color label with the M in the circle) also it has NOT got any label that says "Restricted" that the MA15+ has got. (THAT'S the difference between M and MA15+, it used to be M15+ but it was so confusing so the OFLC decided in 2005 that they have color labels and they took off the 15+ on the M rating)

On the back it says "Recommended for mature audiences"

Clearly a M rated game is different from an MA15+ game.

Now let me get an R18+ rated Hentai DVD so I can give you what it says....

R18+ (the R is inside a Dimond and it is in BLACK color label) it also says "RESTRICTED"

On the back it says "Restricted to 18 and over"

Did you notice that it NEVER said anything about parent's permission????

That because an R18+ rating IS Restricted, that would mean that retailers CAN'T sell it to children or teenagers under the age of 18 years of age.
But I am sure that their parents would just buy the game anyway.

The only way that Australia would get an R18+ rating in my view is for EVERYONE to LOOK at the OFLC rating and understand that an R18+ rating means that it is NOT FOR KIDS!!!!!!

Sadly politicians don't know that...or they seem to think that most people ignore it. But it is there for a reason, to INFORM parents, and NOT for just simply saying it is BANNED....

Hope my information helps you guys to tell the difference between what the ratings says...

@ Tbone

My information could be wrong--I got it from people from Australia who were visiting Korea for pirated games--but I thought the sought-after Australian 18+ rating was necessary because videogames were actually judged more harshly than movies.

As in, movies with similar content got by with a lower-aged rating, while videogames that would have been less than an American R rating for movies were sometimes kept from stores at all because the 15+ wasn't deemed prohibitive enough in an interactive medium. I mean, they were picing up some racy stuff too, but some of the games they said weren't available in Australia because of the lack of 18+ rating were quite tame.

I'm an Aussie 30 year old gamer.
I'd love an R rating.
Currently I just buy my games from Canadia if they're banned and I really want them. I have no interest in Manhunt/Manhunt 2 and I really have no interest in an edited version of GTA4.

I can't find a logical reason why there shouldn't be an 18 or older than 15 rating in Australia. Apply pressure, video game lobbies! Pressure!

@ Coravin

Yeah, you are right.

Videogames are treated differently than movies because of their interactive nature. You even see Strippers and Prostitutes in MA15+ movies, but never in MA15+ videogames because of their "interactive nature".

It is a shame for people like myself because I have to put up with this most of the time.

The australians deserve to play this just as much as everyone else. I hope you guys get that rating.

Excuse me, Ross! No one can force me to buy something that I don't want to. I'm not going to see an R rating, have a little orgasm and squeal "Oh my gots! GOTTA GET GOTTA GET!"
I'll do what I do already.. Look at the cover. If it looks awesome and within my price range, I might buy it. If it looks "good" I'll write the name down and go home to look at it on Wikipedia and GameFAQs. If I like what I see, I'll go back and buy it.
The majority of gamers are smart, mature people. Saying that they'll simply go and buy every single R rated game simple because they're rated R is stupid beyond reason.
 
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