A Letter From Michael Atkinson

About a month ago we sent South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson an E-mail and yesterday we received a 6 page reply:

You can view the letter by clicking the thumbnails of the pages above (left to right), or by downloading all the pages as a PDF.

Unfortunately, it only answers some of the questions in my E-mail:

South Australian Attorney-General, Hon. Michael Atkinson MP
GPO Box 464

Dear Minister,

I would like to thank you for continuing to engage the public on the matter of a R18+ rating for computer games. While I do not agree with you on occasion I believe your intentions are good and I respect your point of view.

Since recently becoming interested in this topic I have done some research and find myself with some questions that you may be able to answer.

On the 27th of March 2008 The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General agreed to undertake a process of community consultation in relation to whether an R18+ classification for computer games should be introduced into the National Classification Scheme.

It is my understanding that a Discussion Paper had been drafted but a disagreement on the proposed content had delayed its release. In particular the disagreement over the inclusion of illustrations to demonstrate the type of content an R18+ game would contain.

On the 17th of April 2009 The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General noted that the commonwealth intends to release a discussion paper on an r 18+ classification for computer games.

In a recent interview The Hon Brendan O’Connor was quoted as saying: “The content of the discussion paper and the timing of its release are under consideration by the Australian Government.”

My questions are as follows:

* Would it be possible to obtain copies of the images that had caused the initial disagreement?

* What process needs to be undertaken by the Commonwealth in order to have this Discussion paper released to the public? In particular who needs to agree on it’s content?

Kind regards,

Aaron John.

<My address>

  1. ninjamoeba at 09:57 2009.11.14

    That ending—that constituents are more interested in ‘real life’ issues than imaginarily worlds—was the most insulting thing I’ve ever read. That logic could be used to support censorship of films, books and yes, even speech.

    He seems like a remarkable narrowed minded and foolish man. The whole letter could be the subject of a 20000 word refutation, however I imagine I’d be only preaching the choir.

    Good luck trying to get through to this silly man and the reactionary antiquated politics and ideas he represents.

  2. RK at 21:07 2009.11.14

    Not a real world issue? tell that to the parents who are unintentionally exposing their kids to violent material, stemming from the lack of an effective classification system.

    NOT A REAL WORLD ISSUE? I’m sorry Mr. Atkinson, I have to disagree!i think the defense of our civil liberties from a self-righteous prude hellbent on imposing outdated o-p-i-n-i-o-n-s against the wishes of an entire nation is very much a real world issue.

  3. Coffey at 01:26 2009.11.15

    He said the Wii was a non-violent and gore free consol that still entertained everyone. I would like to point out this game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MadWorld … Care to explain Mr. Atkinson.

    He also said that Fallout 3 was an RC game when I have a copy that I got LAST YEAR (the year it was given supposed rating). Ninja Gaiden and Left 4 Dead are just as bad yet they’re quite easily accesed, granted the gore in L4D is not as intence as the unsencored L4D2 but the censored version is taken even beyond that. But in all 3 games one can dismember enemies (a lot if not all of them Humanisc) with an excesive amount of blood splatter which only earned them MA15+ ratings. WTF!?

    And why the Hell was a fight started just to record data!? That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever read. If those who play the violent games got into a fight and don’t take it seriously than they should, by that logic, not sustain or issue major injury while those who take a fight seriously, which, let’s face it, is not what you want, will sustain and issue greater injury.

    Honestly I found A LOT of major errors with that letter.

  4. Pulviriza at 23:03 2009.11.17

    I think that last paragraph was very terrible. Not only is gaming a real world issue as said, but his constituents are more affected by “real world issues” while the rest of the country is affected by his staunch denial of R18 in video games. Overall I think it was a very well written letter. Maybe it’s just my agreeing personality, but I can’t really refute a lot of the things he said, except as a general rebuttal it is the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children don’t play violent games and he should be pushing that, not restricting things they shouldn’t play.

  5. CaiNine at 22:34 2009.11.18

    I invite Mr. Atkinson to play the first 5 levels of COD: MW2 and then write a letter trying to justify why this content is only MA15+. “Real world issue”? The realism of this game is frightening… Running through an airport as a terroist killing 100+ innocent civalians NOT a ‘Real world issue’??

    We’re in the 21st century and need to embrace all the new technology / media that is coming into mainstream society, especially in the rapidly growing gaming industry.

  6. Pygmy at 10:32 2009.11.19

    How ridiculous the violent vs non-violent game studay was on page 5.

    The students knew it was a mock fight and they were probably happy to talk amongst themselves instead of watching the fight/providing assistance as it got them out of class time.

  7. Christian Unger at 19:26 2009.11.19

    The thing that gets me is the notion that we are asking for “more cruel sex and extreme violence”. I don’t think that is accurate … at all. I believe that an R18+ ratings category will REDUCE the amount of sex and violence children will be exposed to. Simple facts are these: IF the game is available uncensored somewhere, anyone can get it. The people harmed by censorship are not the people that want sexual or violent games, it is the people that want to do the right thing which is either “not steal” (ie pirate) or support local businesses (ie not import). Playing violent games and doing the right thing are not mutually exclusive.

    The other argument about the Wii being successful and lacking violent games (umm … i don’t have kids but if i did, they wouldn’t be playing House of the Dead – Overkill or MadWorld … even if they are wholesome family entertainment 🙂 ). But the argument is a fallacy – Holden Commodores are selling great, lets ban Ford Falcons (or vice versa). The argument is wrong on several levels – 1) the Wii is made by Nintendo and primarily Nintendo titles are what sell, so there is an issue of competition which means the logic is flawed. 2) there are different markets… video games have come along enough that they can sustain not just kids but also adults, and as of late “casual gamers”, which personally i don’t think have a voice in this as yet, but we will see. Wii’s sell because they are a) a gimmick and b) socially acceptable – people play party games. It is a market neither the PS3 or Xbox360 has been addressing. Also, YES there are less violent games out for the Wii, so parents are probably more comfortable buying them (for their children OR their family), but that does not negate that others don’t want to play heavier games.

    Ah yes and Rapelay. There is no reason to not refuse classification to games that deal with rape. That doesn’t mean games that involve sex (consentual OR otherwise) as part of their game should be. Rapelay is about arranging a rape, not about finding the rapist. It is a question of subject matter. I even buy the argument that dates back to the American Congress hearings into video game violence that the interactive nature heightens the impact, but we are not saying allow the market to be flooded with rape simulators but allow games to depict adult issues to adult gamers. I’d probably add that giving rapelay free publicity isn’t the best strategy.

    Most excessively violent games, or which are just shameful to play are … poor. I personally can not think of a single game that was (to myself) cringeworthy that i would enjoy playing. Postal 2 (i don’t recall if it was released, censored or just not officially available in Australia) was utter crap, just like Postal before it. It was amusing in a sick way, but it isn’t something i would have spent money on after having played it, and deleted it fairly quickly after. Fallout3 though was very violent (and personally i think MA 15+ is too generous a rating, R18+ is probably more sensible, but hey, maybe a 21+ would be in order?) but the nature of the game is not that it is about killing, it is about survival. Postal on the other hand is about killing. I am not an expert but the way it is dressed up does make a difference. Fallout3 was refused classification NOT for the violence, but the names of drugs. Ok, i don’t disagree that fictitious names are preferable, but the message of “take drugs to be stronger, faster, whatever(er)” is still there and available to 15+ minors. Shooting people in the face for the sake of survival is fine, but the name on the drug’s label – that’s where we draw the line. Seriously?

    I’m not an expert, and not a particularly conservative person (in fact I think i’m rather progressive) but in my book Fallout3 should have been rejected for violence. Mass Effect having intercourse in it, with a less bloody outlook was probably sensible for 15 year olds (ignoring the racist layer where killing aliens is ok). Grand Theft Auto, although less violent (than Fallout3 though heavier than Mass Effect) probably should not have been censored but instead released as R18+. BUT none of this matters anyway: PARENTS are letting their kids play games, because games are for kids, so what could that rating possibly mean. Oh and then the outrage – “i didn’t read the label, but the government shouldn’t have let them release this game in Australia”. Erm yes, it sure does suck how you have to do parenting yourself.

    I want to see an adult rating system, possibly going higher than just 18+ to 21+ (which is in line with current discussions about alcohol), and in fact we need it. I know Doom was extremely realistic, but what we have today … yeah… we need our rating system to grow up. But Mr Atkinson: you are not protecting the children, you are angering adults. If anything we need to make MA 15+ stricter, but with the Australian demographic of gamers, that means we need an adult level AND that doesn’t mean we allow purely sexual, in particularly unconsensual, games.

  8. DupedCitizen at 15:19 2009.12.06

    Atkinson states he is a scapegoat (he uses the term “lightning rod”) and then later admits he is in fact the one member that continues to block a R18+ classification.
    Continuing along the same line of NOT being entirely honest, Atkinson states he does not take his current position for political effect, then provides a plethora of carefully chosen articles and statistics backing his position.

    I could be easily led to believe that an entire PR or “political spin” department could have been put to work to produce Atkinson’s letter. It’s not often that a journalist would provide such a large amount of unneeded material to try and backup their argument, but perhaps our politicians are still coming to grips with concepts such as “subtlety” or “killing the pig”, or perhaps Atkinson believes most of his constituents are intellectually handicapped or easily lead.

  9. Jonathan "Jono" Dittmar at 16:32 2009.12.13

    i got the same letter last thursday after i wrote to him on “write to your atteorny-general” day.

    You Know, reading it i was thinking wow, he’s actually written something well thought out and some of his arguments are almost valid. but then he goes and ends it like that! he just owns himself by doing so. he’s spent 6 pages arguing his case, and then he pretty much says, well it doesn;t matter in the big scheme of things – THEN WHY OPPOSE IT?!?!?!?! – I hope gamers4croydon” get in, i really, really do.