Even with the news last week that an Australian Government study found no conclusive link between video games and violence, it’s still a little surprising that the federal government has announced today that they support the move for an adult R18+ rating for video games in that country.
The deal still needs to be approved by each state and territory’s Attorney-General, which may happen as soon as this week when the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meets again.
The government has backflipped on the issue, announcing they’re “thinking of the children”. They feel the change will provide better protection for kids and teenagers. Australia is the only western country without an adult rating for video games, meaning that if a game exceeds the criteria for an MA15+ rating (suitable for persons over 15 years), it will be effectively banned.
This situation has resulted in various violent and otherwise offensive video games “sneaking in” under the MA15+ banner.
Home Affairs and Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor has also explained that a classification crackdown will also provide parents with tools and information to make the right decisions on what games their children are playing.
“Children and teenagers shouldn’t be exposed to the gratuitous sex, violence and adult themes that are contained in some computer games.
But it’s not all sunshine and roses, as O’Connor suggests that some already-classified games may be re-examined under the new regime
“If the new category is introduced it could result in computer games that are currently classified as MA 15+ being reclassified R 18 +, providing a new level of protection.”
(It’s worth noting that re-submissions and re-classifications of these already-approved games would take a significant chunk of the Classification Board’s valuable time, so it’s not necessarily likely to happen, but it’s still a possibility.)
South Australia’s former Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson was seen as “gaming’s arch nemesis” due to his highly-publicised stance against an adult rating. He resigned following the March election, and many gamers pinned their hopes on his successor John Rau. However, in recent times, Rau has publicly stated his state’s opposition to changing the classification legislation, and it’s not known if he’s alone in his opinions.
A survey of the Australian public held this time last year came back with a resounding 98% in favour of an adult classification. The Attorneys-General felt the survey had been overwhelmed by gamers (who had a vested interest in the outcome), and asked for the “silent majority” to reply. It’s interesting to note that of that 98%, a group of Australian Catholic Bishops supported the ratings change.
The Committee also called for research into the effects of violent video games, and for another survey of the general population to be held.
Results of the research review were published this week, showing no conclusive link between violent video games and violence in the real world.
Similarly, the telephone survey showed 80% of 2,226 people around Australia to support the R18+ rating – and these people were dotted across the entire country. Particularly telling is the detail that 91% said adults – even those who don’t know much about gaming – knew that something marked “R18+” was clearly unsuitable for children.
So. That’s where we’re at today. Australia still does not have an R18+ adult rating for video games, but we’re obviously taking pretty significant steps forward. Bring on Friday’s meeting, and we’ll see where we stand.
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