Atkinson: Are gamers celebrating too soon?


opinion The departure of Michael Atkinson as South Australian Attorney-General has certainly lit up Australia’s various video gaming websites with crows of jubilation.

“Goodbye to bad rubbish, now we may have our wish to get the R rating for games,” posted one commenter on Gamespot Australia. “Hell yeah! Thank you for quitting, loser,” wrote another.

On the Facebook group of R18+ lobby group Grow Up Australia similar sentiments were expressed. “WE ARE FREE,” wrote one happy soul, while another agreed it was the “BEST NEWS EVER”. And Atkinson might have smiled wryly at the twists and turns of politics to read a gamer say farewell to the politician they described as “you old bastard” — “the people have spoken,” they added.

The reason for this, of course, is the politician’s controversial and long-standing opposition to the introduction of an R18+ classification in Australia to bring video games in line with ratings on other media such as film.

The lack of such a classification has resulted in a ridiculous level of censorship slapped onto games like Left 4 Dead 2 by government reviewers who sometimes don’t quite seem to understand the video game medium in general — let alone to appreciate the need to put certain elements of certain games in context rather than just labelling them obscene.

Atkinson probably expected gamers to start dancing upon his grave as soon as his announcement was made — after all, he went out of his way to antagonise them at various points during the past several years, at one point describing them as more frightening than South Australia’s notorious bikie gangs.

But there’s two important points that need to be made about the online commentary gathering force right now.

Firstly, it’s important to look past the juvenile nature of many of the comments being posted online. Sure, they play into the teenage gamer stereotype that Atkinson, among others in Australia’s political and social arena, are fond of tarring the entire gamer community with.

However, it’s worth noting that those typing out their farewell messages in offensive capital letters to Atkinson online don’t represent the vast majority of Australian gamers. As the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association is fond of pointing out, the average Australian gamer is now about 30 years old. Most of them are probably in full-time employment — not high school.

Many, if not most, Australian gamers are older, more mature, and more educated than some sections of the media would have us believe. I’m a prime example of this demographic — I’m 28 years old with a university degree and a half under my belt as well as half a decade in full-time jobs. I’m married and now run my own business.

Not exactly your high school dropout.

The best evidence of this changing demographic can be found in the fact that Gamers 4 Croydon’s Kat Nicholson picked up almost 4 percent of Croydon’s primary vote (beating the Democrats and Family First) over the weekend.

It wasn’t high school students voting for Nicholson in South Australia’s poll on Saturday. They couldn’t vote — as they’re not old enough. It was normal adults from the general population. And there were a surprising amount of them in what is normally seen as a fairly conservative electorate.

One further point I would make. As the more juvenile commenters point out, yes — ding dong, King Atkinson is dead. But as Hamlet would also say, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy.

As Gamespot Australia has noted in its extensive feature on the R18+ issue, Atkinson is not the only attorney-general to oppose the introduction of a higher rating for games. He’s just the most vocal.

There is at least one other — we just don’t know who they are. Only the attorneys-general for Victoria (Rob Hulls) and the ACT (Simon Corbell) have publicly stated that they support an R18+ rating for video games.

This problem is represented in more serious, analytical comments online, perhaps representing this older, more mature category of gamer.

“If you’re thinking that the R18 rating is now a sure thing, think again,” wrote one commenter on PALGN. “If anything, we have even more incentive to push this campaign forward. Now that our major obstacle has been removed, now is the time to get as many people as you know onto the Everyone Plays campaign. There are still 3.5 weeks to go and while a lot of gamers have signed up, now’s the time to get your family and friends involved.”

The fight is just beginning, and if the 55,000 submissions the Federal Government has received so far don’t convince Australia’s attorneys-general to change their tune on an R18+ rating, it may take another couple of elections before those in favour of game censorship run out of credits.

Image credit: Silvio Mechow, royalty free


  1. Very well written and so very true… Fingers crossed that our next A-G will be more in touch with the SA public.

  2. You’ve noted the age of Gamers, but fail to consider that due to their maturity Gamers may already be well aware of the negligible size of any victory they have received.

    When you are dealing with people who are abusing their power and ignoring logic then you celebrate every victory, however slight it may be.

    • Maturity? It saddens me that the vast majority of responses to Atkinson’s resignation have been nothing short of puerile. Hell, I know I’ve been guilty of calling it a lot of creative names over the last year or so. But it’s that reaction that’s going to hinder any progress that has come out of this.

      If gamers want to be taken seriously, and have their hobby taken seriously as well, then they need to move beyond the stereotypes that they themselves are propagating by acting like such morons.

      While this has been a victory for (what we would consider – and remember, that’s an opinion, not a fact) common sense, the simple fact of the matter is that there’s a real chance that the next Attorney-General may be just as “old” in this thinking as Atkinson was.

      Atkinson did not abuse the power of his office – at least, not in this particular case. All he did was make a decision that we didn’t agree with. Now, perhaps his view was deliberate, but I feel that mostly it came down to him not understanding the nature of the industry he was railing against.

      Perhaps, instead of deriding those who don’t see just how important this is, we take a step back now and look to encourage those in leadership positions to learn and understand and engage with technology so that they can make informed, correct decisions.

      • +1 to this comment. Satire has its place, but for real impact things need to be more serious and more on politicians’ own turf — as Gamers 4 Croydon showed.

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