Gamers battle for R18+ rating
By SANDY ROSE
The introduction of an R18+ rating for video games became more likely with the resignation of South-Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson.
Video game ratings in Australia go up to MA15+, meaning any content unsuitable for those aged 15 or over is not currently allowed into the country.
The introduction of the new rating has to be approved unanimously by all state and federal attorneys-general. Atkinson had been refusing to give his approval.
Adult gamers see this as a positive step towards the change. Tim Colwill, founder of R18games.com.au and a games developer, says that Atkinson’s resignation, “combined with a record 55,000 submissions to the recent discussion paper, should hopefully pave the way to this much needed change”.
Mr Colwill says, “The latest studies show that video games are now a widespread medium, no longer the domain of pimply-faced teenage boys playing in their mother’s basement, but a passion enjoyed by adults, seniors, and both genders alike. With the average age of a gamer now nearly 30 and the highest available rating being that for a 15-year old, it is crazy that we are even having to have a national debate about this.”
Mr Colwill’s site is just one of dozens that have appeared over the last few years, for and against the new rating. Nor18games.com.au is one site campaigning against the change. Its publishers say that once R18+ games are allowed into Australia, authorities will not be able to control who uses them. They also say that R and X rated games have been linked to violence in various studies.
Mr Colwill says that concern over whether children and teenagers will gain access to this material is missing the point.
“Teenagers are already getting their hands on them,” he says. “By banning a game, huge amounts of publicity are generated which leads to people pirating the game off the internet either just to see what all the fuss is about, or deliberately to spite the censors. It’s phenomenally easy for anybody with a small amount of computer literacy to find a pirated game on the internet, and there is no way to stop this except to remove the incentive.”
He also says that most game consoles, including PS3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, have a parental control that parents can activate to stop their children from playing games over a certain rating.
Public consultation on this issue closed in February, and the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department is now processing the thousands of submissions.
ACT Senator Garry Humphries said that he is quite prepared to entertain the concept of a R18+ rating for video games as long as, “a workable regime can be worked out …which appropriately alerts people to the risks or the offensiveness of some games”.
However, he is sceptical the change will go ahead. “I don’t trust this government to properly understand this technology because so far they have demonstrated complete ignorance as to how this technology actually works.”