Just about two weeks ago, it was announced that Australia will be finally getting its first video game with an actual “adult” rating. This has been a faux-controversial imbroglio for years and now that the R18+ rating is applicable to video games I got this one thing to say: It took bloody long enough!
A brief history about this topic. The majority – major majority – of citizens were in favour of having this rating for video games, less than 2% were otherwise; the rating applied to movies (and has been for about 40 years), TV shows and certain stores. So why does another legitimate form of media not apply?
Well, because of this man
former South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. Every other Attorney-General was in favour of the implementation but the agreement needed to be unanimous to pass.
In his words:
“I don’t support the introduction of an R18+ rating for electronic games, chiefly because it will greatly increase the risk of children and vulnerable adults being exposed to damaging images and messages.”
He stepped down eventually and his successor helped pass the agreement. What Atkinson said is a common argument against an adult rating; but if you look closely it actually makes no sense and allows the games of topic be more accessible to minors. Which are actually more of a minority as research showsÂ the average age of gamers is 30 and rising
Until recently, the highest rating applicable to video games was MA15+.
Just read what the logo says. Exactly! If you are under the age for an R-rated video game or movie, that is it – you are not allowed to purchase it or go and see it. By taking these video games (what is actually modified and made available for sale for an Australian audience) down all the kid needs to do is get that “cool” older person that they know to accompany them to buy that game. Teenagers are smarter than you think when it can apply to them.
The list of video games that have been banned in Australia because they could not get under the rating is ludicrous and very extensive. I will not bore you with details of each one. One such infamous example is GTA3:
I played the hell out of this when I was 13 years old; 10 years later and I am all fine. I have not done any of the activities depicted in these games, I am not a violent psychopath and have been aware since before playing this game to not imitate anything in this game. I digress though.
The version available in Australia removed what is known as “Hot Coffee Mod” where you can pick up prostitutes; the rest I think can be figured out. You can do other sorts of criminal behaviour still, stuff much worse than simply ……. what was removed. Most of us probably agree that killing people at point blank then taking their money and belongings is much worse, carjacking is a more offensive behaviour and assaulting a police officer – why that would be a death sentence on its own. All that and more is intact and “okay”, but paying someone for consensual sex somehow is not?
From what I have heard, you do not see anything anyway. It is another discussion that is too lengthy to talk about here, but there is the whole topic of “influence” on children’s psychology. That is, they might do what they see in video games. Many of these issues that people talk about have existed before video games were big, and even existed before video games even existed.
This is really no different to when parents were concerned with rock music and Satanism or even – believe or not – children reading books. Who here would believe they think Catcher in the Rye lead to the murder of John Lennon? Shall we ban that book now? Does the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan being influenced from Taxi Driver mean banning that movie?It is really no different, just another scapegoat.
Often when such events occur, the issue is a lot deeper and chronic than ‘the person played a violent video game or watched a violent movie’. It is nothing more than a damp band-aid addressing a wrong issue. Also, it can be helped by simply telling the kids, “no”! Parental responsibility should not be overlooked.
People, even kids, are able to distinguish fantasy and reality and video games are most certainly fantasy. Most ardent gamers know this, and they use it for entertainment – not for education. Now that the adult rating is intact, children will now not be able to see the “damaging images” so readily as it has been made less easily accessible for them.
It was always just trying to benefit a minority when that minority had a whole slew of other options available to play. This was always a non-issue, and there are some games that should not be available for other reasons. For the most part though, if you are mature enough and have responsibility then there is no less danger in playing these games than watching Kill Bill or some other hyper-violent movie (which was probably worse than anything depicted here).
Enough serious talk though, I am off to play a game.
Who wants to join me?
Edit: When this post originally appeared on the former Manic Expression site, I made a mistake. A commenter noted that the Hot Coffee mod is on GTA: San Andreas, not GTA 3.
Edit: Beforehand, there was a link to an episode of Pen & Teller:BS on video games on YouTube but that link has been deleted and I could not find the part of it I wanted.