The movement towards an R18+ adult rating for video games in Australia is gathering momentum. Today, the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor has released a statement which details a recent research review – primarily, that there is “no conclusive evidence that violent computer games have a greater impact on players than other violent media, such as movies or music videos.”
The Literature Review document is 50 pages long, but analysis raises three interesting points:
- there is no conclusive evidence that violent computer games have a greater impact on players than other violent media, such as movies or music videos
- there is stronger evidence of short-term effects from violent computer games, than long-term effects
- some research finds that violent computer games are a small risk factor in aggressive behaviour over the short term, but these studies do not thoroughly explore other factors such as aggressive personality, family and peer influence and socio-economic status.
While it doesn’t really draw any conclusions and doesn’t seem like much at first glance, for Australians, this is a pretty significant step forward. The same minister – Brendan O’Connor – initially called for more consultation on the matter back in May. In October, he asked specifically for input from what he called ‘the silent majority’ after last year’s consultation period was overwhelmed by gamers and sympathisers calling for an R18+ rating (I contributed to a discussion paper that was submitted by Electronic Frontiers Australia and AusGamers). Last month he revealed he wanted to make progress on the issue – and now it looks even more likely that the progress will be positive.
“The review found that evidence about the effect of violent computer games on the aggression displayed by those who play them is inconclusive.
“From time to time people claim that there is a strong link between violent crime or aggressive behaviour and the popularity of violent computer games. The literature does not bear out that assertion.”
Apparently, the Australian censorship ministers requested this review in order to assist them making an “informed decision” about video games – so this literature review comes just in time. It will likely play a large part in discussions at next week’s Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting, where the topic is scheduled to be raised again. Minister O’Connor is expected to chair the upcoming meeting.
“Australia needs a consistent classification system that protects young minds from any possible adverse affect, while also ensuring that adults are free to make their own decisions about what they play, within the bounds of the law.
“Classification ministers across Australia are carefully considering the pros and cons of introducing an R18+ classification for computer games–restricting the viewing of these games to people aged 18 and above.”
…an interesting observation also is that the decisions aren’t all made just at the SCAG meetings. Departmental Offices for the Attorneys-General typically convene at least a month before the official meeting, so if this is on the table for next week, someone’s already discussing it behind closed doors.
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