Clueless Aussie Politicians on R Ratings, Game Violence, Fallout 3, Rape in Games

July 25, 2008 -

A panel of Australian politicians and pundits made a sorry show of themselves on ABC's Q&A program last night.

The rampant cluelessness begins when an audience member (sporting a Fallout 3 t-shirt) raises the issue of banned video games due to Australia's lack of an R18+ rating. The announcer mentions the recent Fallout 3 ban, which was based on in-game drug use.

The panel's answers are astounding. Aside from their immediate willingness to censor games, they seem not to even be aware that Australia has a system for rating games. One member of the panel even raises the spurious "rape in games" issue - and almost seems to compare banned games to snuff films. Only Sen. Mark Arbib comes across as unbiased:

Announcer: Okay, so here's the question... Should there be censorship of these things, or should people over the age of 18 be able to buy these things with an R rating and play them, even though, as we've just heard, they're obviously extremely violent?

Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout: Look, I mean if they're over 18, they'll find one way or another to get hold of it, Tony, and they do. But, as a mother of three kids, two of whom spend an awful lot of time playing these sorts of games, I mean I just find the whole thing appalling, the minds that come up with this stuff. Now Grand Theft Auto is one of the more famous games that seemed to turn everyone into a car thief, you know?. My Jordan thankfully didn't do that. But... I mean I'm not a censorship girl... But violent games, violence breeds violence. It's not nice.

Senator Nick Xenophon: I think we need to listen to the psychologists who've looked into this. And this is different in the sense it's interactive. People get immersed in these games and I think there's a real risk. I think as a society we can live without it.

Announcer: But does the risk warrant censorship?

Sen. Xenophon: Look, I think it does, when you look at some of the concerns of what it can trigger in some minds, then I think we need to be just a bit cautious about it.

Sen Mark Arbib: To actually ban them they must be terrible games. So, personally, I'm probably thinking R rating over the age of 18 is fine because as you said, if you wanna play to game, you're going to get it somehow. But I haven't seen the games so I really can't judge whether they should be banned or not.

Announcer: ...these things are being banned because there isn't a rating system on video games... that means anyone of any age can buy them...

Sen. Arbib: As I said, I think there's a strong argument to actually have a rating system, for all games, no doubt about it. And not just an R rating, but ratings just the same as ratings for the movies... so yeah...

Sen. Barnaby Joyce: You can't just say you can see it, therefore you should be allowed to see it, otherwise you legalize snuff movies and all sorts of profane things which I don't think take our society ahead... we had the thing with avatars, is that the right term, where people can actually go out and rape people. Now, this is not acceptable. You have to draw a line... you must take into account... those who are vulnerable to influence, how they would be affected by that. And if you don't, well you suffer what comes next. I, too have four kids... I want these kids to grow up in quiet, unaffected streets. And if there's someone playing a video game where they're raping someone, I'm not feeling good about the place, so, knock it out.

Christine Jackman, Journalist: I agree, we urgently need a rating system. I'm not a pro-censorship person, either... (to the audience member in the Fallout 3 t-shirt who asked the question) Can I throw it back on you... why would you want to play it...?

Audience member: I want to play the game because it's a story-driven experience that you could experience in a movie... however the Australian government won't let me.

Christine Jackman: And how many hours do you think you or your friends would be playing those games a day?

Audience member: It differs between everyone... the average gamer is anyone nowadays. The Queen has a Wii... it's not a question of who's playing them or how long they're playing them, it's a question of whether we're allowed to as adults...

Other audience member: ...I'm not a gamer, but in terms of restricting people's right to choose... how can you make that distinction between pokies [slot machines] and games which might be socially unacceptable when gambling itself, in our society in particular, has so many social problems than what might be caused by violent games? 

GP: Thanks to reader Michael 'sod' Pearse for the heads-up!

In Wake of Fallout 3 Ban, Australian Pol Tries to Justify His Position

July 14, 2008 -

Following last week's disturbing news that the highly-anticipated Fallout 3 would be banned in Australia, website Australian Gamer has remarks attributed to the man blamed by many for the ban.

Australian Gamer has posted a scan of what appears to be a letter from Michael Atkinson (left), Attorney General of South Australia, to an unnamed constituent. Atkinson's continued opposition to the introduction of an R18+ rating for the Australian games market has meant that games judged unsuitable for 15-year-olds are routinely refused classification. The country's highest rating is currently MA15+.

From the Atkinson letter:

I am aware that statistics show many game players are adults. Indeed, a whole generation has now grown up with computer games. It is not surprising that those who enjoyed gaming as children... play electronic games with their own children... 62% of Australians in these gaming households say the classification of a game has no influence on their buying decision...

 

Given this data, I cannot fathom what State-enforced safeguards could exist to prevent R18+ games being bought by households with children and how children can be stopped from using these games, once the games are in the home. If adult gamers are so keen to have R18+ games, I expect children would be just as keen. I have publically argued that because electronic games are interactive, the violence and other adult content in games have a strong impact. I am particularly concerned about the impact these games have on children, who can spend a lot of their unsupervised leisure time gaming.

 

68 comments

Report: Australia's Fallout 3 Ban Prompted by In-game Drug Use

July 10, 2008 -

As most GamePolitics readers know, Bethesda's highly-anticipated RPG Fallout 3 became the latest victim of Australian censors when it was refused classification (i.e., a rating) this week.

news.com.au now has more info on the Fallout 3 situation. The site is reporting that in-game drug use led to the game's ban Down Under and quotes from a report by Australia's Office of Film & Literature Classification:

In the Board's view these realistic visual representations of drugs and their delivery method bring the 'science-fiction' drugs in line with 'real-world' drugs... The player can also select and use 'Morphine' (a proscribed drug) which has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain when the character's extremities are targeted by the enemy.

news.com.au notes that disappounted Aussies have reacted badly to the news about Fallout 3. In an online posting, one gamer asked, "What are the syringes in Bioshock filled with – magic fairy dust?"

Australia's lack of a rating that scales beyond the 15-year-old level is apparently at fault. As GamePolitics has previously reported, South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson has been a major force opposing the addition of an R18+ rating.

36 comments

TV News Report on CT Attorney General vs. Beer Pong

July 10, 2008 -

Earlier this week GamePolitics reported on Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's concerns over upcoming Wii-ware title Beer Pong.

Blumenthal criticized the game for encouraging underage drinking and slammed the ESRB for not assigning Beer Pong (since renamed to Pong Toss) an Adults Only rating.

Shelly Sindland of Connecticut Fox News affiliate WTIC-61 has a video report, including additional comments from the A.G.

 

20 comments

Fallout 3 Banned in Australia

July 9, 2008 -

According to GameSpot and other sources, the long-awaited Fallout 3 has been refused classification by Australia's Office of Film & Literature Classification.

The decision effectively bans Fallout 3 from being sold by retailers Down Under. From the GameSpot report:

While the OFLC website has no details on why Fallout 3 was banned, a user in GameSpot's PC forum last week suggested it could be due to the use of the drug morphine within the game.

 

Australia's game classification rules state that titles that "depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults" will be refused classification.

Fallout 3 thus joins Shellshock 2 and Dark Sector as games which have run afoul of Austrialian censors in 2008. Fallout 3, however, is surely one of the most high-profile games ever to face such action.

 

44 comments

Connecticut Attorney General: ESRB Under the Influence Regarding Alcohol Use in Games

July 7, 2008 -

 Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) charged today that the ESRB is "under the influence" when it comes to depictions of alcohol use in video games.

His comments were prompted by Beer Pong, from JV Games. As reported by GamePolitics, the title has previously come under fire from education and substance abuse organizations. In response to those concerns, the game has recently been renamed as Pong Toss (although JV's website still lists it under the original title).

Blumenthal, mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate, issued a press release calling on the ESRB to change the rating of Beer Pong from T (13+) to what the AG refers to as "adult" (presumably the ESRB's Adults Only rating). The A.G. is quoted in the press release: 

The rating T 13+ -- suitable for teens 13 and older -- is absolutely inappropriate. The video game rating board is under the influence -- rating frat party video drinking games suitable for minors. Even as JV Games agrees to alter its Beer Pong video game, both it and the rating board stubbornly deny the damaging influence of alcohol depiction in video games.

 

The ESRB astonishingly downplays and dismisses alcohol depiction in rating the suitability of video games for minors. Parents have the first and last say over their children’s games -- but they deserve to know all of the facts. The ESRB, claiming to consider age suitability in its ratings, has a moral and ethical responsibility to consider all potentially damaging material in the products it rates.

 

This issue is urgent because the 'Frat Party Ganes' promoted by JV Games may soon offer others in this planned series.

ESRB spokesman Eliot Mizrachi responded to Blumenthal's criticism of the video game industry rating board in a statement:

Although we respect Attorney General Blumenthal’s right to disagree, the fact is that ESRB’s role is not that of censor.  Our job is to impartially and consistently label content about which there may be a diversity of views so consumers can make informed choices for themselves and their families. 

 

‘Pong Toss’ involves nothing more than players tossing virtual ping-pong balls into plastic cups, which hardly qualifies it for our most restrictive rating of AO (Adults Only 18+)... 

In addition, GamePolitics has obtained a copy of a June 12th letter from ESRB President Patricia Vance to Attorney General Blumenthal on the Beer Pong issue. It reads in part:

While the assignment of ratings does require that judgments be made about the age-appropriateness of different types of content, it would be improper to assign ratings solely based on the depiction of behavior which may be understandably discouraged by society at large. To illustrate, many car racing games require players to barrel down city streets at high speeds – illegal behavior that certainly should not be encouraged... Still, none of this changes the fact that racing games... tend to be rated E... That actions in a game might, in the real world, be associated with minimum age requirements or be generally discouraged does not, in and of itself, relegate that game to the most restrictive ESRB rating category, Adults Only. Such contextual elements are weighed in the ratings process, however...

 

This title is being made available solely as WiiWare, which means it will not be available at retail, but may be downloaded, for a fee, directly through the Wii console. WiiWare games, available by the hundreds, rarely have marketing or advertising associated with them, and typically draw scant attention. Given this, our concern is that a greater number of consumers (including the age group about which you are most concerned) will be made aware of this game and resolve to play it as a result of publicized statements of advocacy groups and others. Ironically, this is likely to result in more rather than less consumers being drawn to this game, particularly those very minors all of us seek to protect.

 

88 comments

Beer Pong Wii Ware Game Prompts Protests From Virginia School & Community Groups

June 12, 2008 -

The Fairfax County Times reports that Beer Pong, a soon-to-be-released Wii Ware title, is sparking protests by local advocacy groups.

The game's T (13+) rating has been called into question by Lisa Lombardozzi, chairman of the Greater Herndon Community Coalition. Lombardozzi, who has circulated a petition demanding a re-rating by the ESRB, told the Times:

The game encourages younger kids to emulate the patterns of college-age kids.

Gen. Arthur T. Dean, who heads the Washington, D.C.-based Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, was also critical of Beer Pong. Of the game, Dean said:

Beer pong is an activity that normalizes and encourages heavy binge drinking, shows blatant disregard for the dangers of alcohol poisoning, and can cost lives and result in injury.

 

Furthermore, promoting the video game Beer Pong in the Frat Party Games series under a Teen rating ignores the fact that many youth involved in fraternities on college campuses are not of legal drinking age and that youth as young as 13 can purchase the game under this rating.

The Northern Virginia Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving are also said to be looking into the sitiuation. Readers may recall that MADD came out strongly against the simulated drunk driving in Grand Theft Auto IV.

(GP: although, in my mind the performance hit Nico Bellic takes when drunk is a strong motivator NOT to drink & drive).

JV Games spokesman Vince Valenti responded to the criticism:

I think it's kind of funny. The game promotes the sport of beer pong. We are not advocating drinking any more than watching cartoons or watching the TV show 'Cheers,' or even going bowling or to a baseball game... if anything, you're going to be drinking less. Because you are too busy playing the game, trying to beat your opponent, to be constantly picking up a beer and drinking it.

 

94 comments

Journalist Calls Out PTC on GTA IV Drunk Driving Claims

May 9, 2008 -

Taking  the Parents Television Council up on an interview offer, Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star spoke with Dan Isett (left), PTC Director of Public Policy about Grand Theft Auto IV.

Along with a number of other watchdog groups, the PTC has been highly critical of GTA IV in recent days. Villarreal, however, reports that Isett's knowledge of what is actually in the game is a bit lacking:

Isett: I’ve actually played ‘Grand Theft Auto IV,’ and it’s right in keeping with previous versions. The series continues to lower the bar and this is the first game that has an alcohol content warning. You get points for driving drunk in this game.

Villarreal: You know that’s not true, right? The game doesn’t have points.

Isett: If nothing else, it’s a rewarded activity. Necessary for advancement.

Villarreal: I don’t think so.

Isett: But there’s an alcohol content warning and a scene of drunk driving, correct?

Villarreal: Yes. Did you play that part?

Isett: No, no. I didn’t get that far...

66 comments

 
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Is King right? Should all games adopt the free-to-play model?:

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Andrew EisenAs it happens, Chinatown Wars is the only GTA game I've played.04/19/2014 - 10:43am
Papa MidnightWith GTA5 (to date) failing to even provide indication of a PC release, I'm realising that this might be the first GTA game that I have not played (outside of Chinatown Wars) since the series inception.04/19/2014 - 8:14am
IanCSo im guessing a bunch of edutainment games, which a lot of people elsewhere are going gaga over, dot count as classics? Okay. If you don't mind me, i have a sudden urge to play Putt Putt....04/19/2014 - 6:15am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/04/18/playstation-99-cent-sale-discounts-tokyo-jungle-super-stardust/ Weekend long PSN flash sale. So much stuff is 99 cents for the rest of the weekend.04/18/2014 - 5:59pm
Adam802http://www.polygon.com/2014/4/18/5627928/newtown-video-game-addiction-forum04/18/2014 - 4:14pm
Matthew Wilsonit is a video talking about why certain games/products/consoles do well, and others do not. he back it up with solid research.04/18/2014 - 3:56pm
Andrew EisenI'm not keen on blind links. What is it?04/18/2014 - 3:45pm
Matthew Wilsonthis is worth a whatch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyXcr6sDRtw&list=PL35FE5C4B157509C904/18/2014 - 3:43pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 3: Night Dive was brought to the attention of the public by a massive game recovery, and yet most of their released catalogue consists of games that other people did the hard work of getting re-released.04/17/2014 - 8:46pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 2: If Humongous Entertainment wanted their stuff on Steam, why didn't they talk to their parent company, which does have a number of games published on Steam?04/17/2014 - 8:45pm
MaskedPixelanteNumber 1: When Night Dive spent the better part of a year teasing the return of true classics, having their big content dump be edutainment is kind of a kick in the stomach.04/17/2014 - 8:44pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.giantbomb.com/articles/jeff-gerstmann-heads-to-new-york-takes-questions/1100-4900/ He talks about the future games press and the games industry. It is worth your time even though it is a bit long, and stay for the QA. There are some good QA04/17/2014 - 5:28pm
IanCErm so they shouldn't sell edutainment at all? Why?04/17/2014 - 4:42pm
MaskedPixelanteNot that linkable, go onto Steam and there's stuff like Pajama Sam on the front-page, courtesy of Night Dive.04/17/2014 - 4:13pm
Andrew EisenOkay, again, please, please, PLEASE get in a habit of linking to whatever you're talking about.04/17/2014 - 4:05pm
MaskedPixelanteAnother round of Night Dive teasing and promising turns out to be stupid edutainment games. Thanks for wasting all our time, guys. See you never.04/17/2014 - 3:44pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the consequences were not only foreseeable, but very likely. anyone who understood supply demand curvs knew that was going to happen. SF has been a econ/trade hub for the last hundred years.04/17/2014 - 2:45pm
Andrew EisenMixedPixelante - Would you like to expand on that?04/17/2014 - 2:43pm
MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
 

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