news NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith has unexpectedly called for the popular Grand Theft Auto video game series and other violent games to be banned — not just classified R18+ as suitable for adult use.
“I think they should be banned,” the Liberal MP said in a Seven News broadcast aired last night and available online (see above). Smith pointed out one of the GTA games “invoves a prostitute giving sexual favours for money to a man in a car, and then when she gets out, he comes out with a semi-automatic rifle, and shoots her dead. Now what good does that do anybody?” Smith asked.
The comments represent something of an unexpected departure for the NSW Government from the common stance on adult-oriented video games that attorneys-general around the nation appear to have taken to support the establishment of an R18+ classification for video games.
In July this year, Smith brought the NSW Government to the arrangement noting at the time that he was “delighted” that a new R18+ classification could be introduced. Broadly, the politician said he saw the agreement as a positive step, as some video games which were currently under the MA15+ classification rating which he saw as undesirable would be shifted upwards into the new R18+ rating. “I think it’s positive that they should be in the adult category,” he said.
The establishment of an R18+ rating is expected to shortly see a number of games reclassified from the MA15+ class into the new R18+ system. However, Seven News reported yesterday that Smith wanted a “complete ban” on games like GTA.
Smith is known to have a conservative background. The politician attended a Catholic Boys school in the Sydney suburb of Randwick for his high school education, and is a former president of the Right to Life Association, a group which lobbies against allowing activities such as abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research.
Smith has also expressed his dissatisfaction with the establishment of a relationships register by the NSW Parliament in 2010, which recognises gay couples. At the time, the politician stated that the register would undermine traditional families and traditional heterosexual marriages.
Smith’s comments, and the Seven News report in general, have already drawn fire from video gamers. “Aside from the fact that the report on Seven was a strangely one-sided piece of reporting, the fact that Greg Smith, an Attorney General has clearly had some impact on the updated guidelines, is appealing for games that are currently classified under MA15+ to be banned, despite agreeing to some form of R18+ rating is a little worrying,” wrote gaming publication Kotaku today.
“The problem is, the people in charge of this sort of thing (such as the Attorney General in the story) still see video games as children’s toys, and believe’ they should all be in the vein of ‘Pong’, ‘Pac Man’ and ‘Frogger’,” wrote gamer and media industry worker Mick Attard in a blog post criticising Smith’s comments.
“What they fail to understand (and what the above story completely fails to mention) is that the average age of a gamer is over 30, and that over 88% of Australian household have a gaming console, yet the medium is still treated as though it is a niche market with no artistic integrity (thanks in no small part to media attention like the story above).”
It’s clear from Smith’s background that he’s a conservative type; the sort of politician that Fox News (and, apparently, Seven News) loves to do interviews with to source quotes about the evils of video games. It is a little worrying that he has only just come out with these views, despite having publicly supported the R18+ agreement previously, but I don’t expect his latest statements to have any real impact on the R18+ classification as a whole. The process is too advanced by this point, and the weight of the other attorneys-general should help moderate Smith’s views.
The Federal Government has today released the final guidelines for the R18+ classification of video games. They’re pretty much as expected — you can find them here.