blog Australian Council on Children and the Media chief executive Barbara Biggins has published an interesting comment piece on ABC Unleashed arguing that those advocating for a R18+ rating for video games are publishing “propaganda” by arguing that establishing such a rating would protect children, as it would restrict extremely violent games to adults 18 years and above. She writes:
It’s propaganda because the real outcome of having an R18+ classification would not protect children. It would legalise games with higher level impact than are presently available in the sale and hire system. Using the classification criteria for films, as the system required, R18+ games would have no restrictions on themes, could have high-impact levels of violence, of implied sexual violence, of realistically-simulated sexual activity (and perhaps the real thing), of drug use and of nudity.
Now leaving aside the question of whether Biggins has ever played any of the video games she discusses in her article — because her photo suggests she is probably too old to get into Gears of War — it has to be pointed out that her argument based on the same old assumptions which have been trotted out against an R18+ rating now for … probably decades. And they’ve been gradually proven wrong over that time.
Let’s take a little walk through those arguments.
Biggins’ argument: The ‘interactive’ nature of video games means they should be considered differently to other media, as they reward you for being violent.
The reality: A study by the Federal Government itself has found any link between video games and aggressive tendencies to be “contested and inconclusive”.
Biggins’ argument: Games would be legalised which are not presently available in the market.
The reality: There are already plenty of alternative options for obtaining these games — importing them, BitTorrenting them, etc. History shows that a black market will exist for all banned products.
Biggins’ argument: Other countries don’t care what Australia does regarding video game classification.
The reality: The video gaming community is global. The lack of an R18+ rating for video games in Australia has a twofold effect — firstly, it creates artificial barriers to exporting products to Australia, as publishers often need to modify their games to sell them locally. Secondly, in 2011 many video games are played in multiplayer fashion over the internet. Locking off Australia from many popular games such as Mortal Kombat creates an artificial geographical barrier between Australians contributing to global video game communities.
Biggins’ argument: We should wait for a wider review of the classification system for films and games to be conducted later this year.
The reality: Most of the key political support for a R18+ rating has been in place for quite some time — likely years, and the Federal Government is starkly in favour of the idea. Popular support is also overwhelmingly in favour of an R18+ rating. There is simply no longer any reason to wait — the debate has been over for some time.
Do I need to go on? Oh, wait, others have also debunked Biggins’ argument as well. So I don’t need to. Let’s just get this R18+ thing over with, shall we?
Image credit: Screenshot from Epic’s Gears of War game