Tags: Gamers 4 Croydon

[EDIT]: South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson has committed to repeal these unpopular amendments.

Amendments to the South Australia Electoral Act 1985 that came into effect on the January 6 will mean that anyone wishing to post a comment about the SA state election will be legally required to include their real name and postcode. The restriction will only apply during the election which extends from after the writs have been issued until 6pm on polling day.

Many supporters for the introduction of the R18+ for games debate are hoping for SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson to lose his seat in the upcoming election as he is strongly opposed to an R18+ for games and has the power to veto the change.

The change to the act was included in a number of amendments that were made last year and was supported by the Opposition. The part of the act that has been changed is quoted below with the changes emphasized.

116—Published material to identify person responsible for political content

(1) A person must not, during an election period, publish material consisting of, or containing a commentary on, any candidate or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors, in written form, in a journal published in electronic form on the Internet or by radio or television or broadcast on the Internet, unless the material or the programme in which the material is presented contains a statement of the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material.

Maximum penalty:

(a)     if the offender is a natural person—$1 250;

(b)     if the offender is a body corporate—$5 000.

(2)     This section does not apply to—

(a)     the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form on the Internet) of a leading article;

(b)     the publication of a report of a meeting that does not contain any comment (other than comment made by a speaker at the meeting) on any candidate, or political party, or the issues being submitted to electors;

(c)     the publication in a journal (including a journal published in electronic form on the Internet) of an article, letter, report or other matter if—

(i)     the name and address (not being a post office box) of a person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material is provided to the publisher of the journal and retained by the publisher for a period of 6 months after the end of the election period; and

(ii)     the journal contains a statement of the name and postcode of the person who takes responsibility for the publication of the material;

(ca)    the publication of a letter (otherwise than as described in paragraph (c)) that contains the name and address (not being a post office box) of the author of the letter;

(d)     a news service or a current affairs programme on radio or television or broadcast on the Internet;

(e)     any other prescribed material or class of material.

(3)     In this section—

journal means a newspaper, magazine or other periodical.

Gamers 4 Croydon have announced some candidates for the South Australian election this year. The G4C website also tells us to expect further candidates to be announced at a later date.  The two candidates announced so far are Kat Nicholson and Chris Prior.

Kat Nicholson will be running directly against Michael Atkinson in the electoral district of Croydon

Some information about the candidates from the G4C website:

Candidate for Croydon: Kat Nicholson

Kat has sustained a lifelong love of both gaming and politics and is a highly intelligent, motivated and educated young woman. She completed a BA at Flinders University and is currently studying a Masters in journalism at the University of South Australia. She spent a year as an intern at one of Adelaide’s leading animation studios, and has a long history of participation in community and amateur theater.

Candidate for the Legislative Council: Chris Prior

Chris is the President of Gamers4Croydon and will be leading the G4C ticket in the upper house. He is a self-taught software engineer, and has volunteered extensively in the community, providing help for youth groups and church organisations.

More information available on the G4C website.

Gamers 4 Croydon

Gamers 4 Croydon

Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2

There has been a huge push from gamers to raise awareness about the lack of an R18+ rating for video games in Australia since Left 4 Dead 2 was Refused Classification by the Classification Board and subsequently censored to qualify for the MA15+ rating. Because of their efforts advocates for an R18+ rating for video games are currently enjoying increased media exposure for their issue.

The Censorship of Left 4 Dead 2 motivated thousands of people to write letters to their Attorneys-General to urge them to introduce the R18+ rating into the current system. A number of protests were organised and even Gamers 4 Croydon a political party was formed to run against the Honourable Michael Atkinson, the Attorny-General most vocally opposed to the R18+.

The six page letter sent by Atkinson in response to those who wrote to him sparked further outrage as he disclosed his belief that the restriction of liberty is justified.

What the present law does is keep the most extreme material off the shelves. It is true that this restricts adult liberty to a small degree, however, I am prepared to accept this infringement in the circumstances.

All this, in addition to the recent controversy surrounding the hugely popular game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, has helped gain the attention of the media. Last week Michael Atkinson and David Doe appeared on ABC Radio to talk about the issue with Peter Mares the host of the show National Interest. On the show both parties agreed that Modern Warfare 2 should never have qualified for an MA15+ rating in Australia and it was pointed out that the game was rated R18+ equivalent in most other countries. Atkinson repeatedly expressed a lack of faith in the Australian Classification Board and claimed that he intended to appeal their decision. If the appeal is successful then Modern Warfare 2 would be Refused Classification and further sales would be prohibited.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Besides the usual gamer news websites the issue has also been raised on the sites of The ABC, Sydney Morning Herald and Good Game. Gamers are also beginning to raise concerns that the game God of War III due to be released next year may experience the same problems as Left 4 Dead 2.

Chris Prior one of the founding members of Gamers 4 Croydon, a political party that supports the introduction of an R18+ rating for video games, has written a response to the Michael Atkinson letter that we received last week. Gamers 4 Croydon will be running a candidate against Micheal Atkinson in the next state election.

This response is unedited by Grow up Australia and is also viewable on the Gamers 4 Croydon website in its original posting.

The letter from Michael Atkinson that this response refers to is viewable here.

In response to The Hon Michael Atkinson’s form letter on R18+ for games.
By Chris Prior

Mr Atkinson’s claims that there are other Attorneys-General supporting his position cannot be verified until they announce themselves (which has not happened so far). He is a senior minister in a state and country founded on the principles of representative and accountable government. If it is indeed the case and he is shielding other AGs from public scrutiny, he is undermining one of the very basic principles of our democracy: that the people know what their representatives are doing. Oddly, elsewhere in the same letter, Mr Atkinson claims to be “the one minister and member on SCAG who has stood against” an R18+ classification for games, a statement which directly contradicts his earlier claim of support from other Attorneys-General.

He says that he is baffled and worried about why proponents of R.18+ games are putting up their hands and saying ‘Give us more cruel sex and extreme violence!'” This is a shamelessly emotive statement, and a classic straw man. While that may be what a tiny minority of people are saying, the majority of R18+ supporters merely wish to be allowed the same level of freedom as people who are allowed to watch R-rated films. Concurrently, there is a desire to prevent that same adult content from being accessed by minors.

Mr Atkinson refers to a number of games, suggesting that they would be allowed into Australia if an R18+ classification was introduced. He describes incentives for the use of illegal drugs, as well as a game concerned with the rape of a mother and daughter. In making these suggestions, he is either ignorant of, or wilfully ignoring the section of the classification guidelines which clearly states that “material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives or rewards is Refused Classification”. If this is from ignorance then perhaps he should not be making decisions on a system he does not understand, while deception suggests he is more concerned with his prejudices against games than reality. The violence he describes as being present in some games refused classification can be found in any number of MA15+ titles, accessible to minors. The introduction of an R18+ classification would not allow the sexual violence and drug abuse content he described into the country and would make it more difficult for minors to access violent content.

The discussion paper mentioned at the outset has been in the works for some time. Contrary to Mr. Atkinson’s claims, he has been a major impediment to its release(1), insisting on the inclusion of images of content he claims would be allowable under and R18+ classification.  Given his erroneous claims about allowable content within an R18+ classification, it would follow that these ‘examples’ would be equally dubious.

He raises concerns that, due to the widespread popularity of gaming, it would be difficult to prevent children from accessing R18+ games that their parents or older siblings had purchased. He claims this is not a problem faced by R18+ films, ignoring (again, either wilfully or through ignorance) that the massive popularity of DVDs means that films are equally accessible in the home. The regulation of this, however, is not the government’s responsibility, but that of parents. All three current generation consoles have parental controls that, if used properly, are significantly more difficult to bypass (if even possible) than it would be for a child to download an illegal version of an adult game. The same is true of recent home computer operating systems, where all have password protection capabilities to stop unauthorised use, and failing that, all have power cords that would easily prevent unsupervised use if removed.

Claiming that the infringement on adult freedom of choice is acceptable if it keeps the most extreme content off the shelves is problematic on a number of levels, the first of which being that ‘the most extreme content’ would still be kept off shelves with R18+ for games. The slightly less extreme content would be harder for children to access. As for the infringement being ‘acceptable’, that really isn’t his call. His job is to represent the people his decisions affect. A newer version of the Bond University study quoted by Mr Atkinson in his letter stated that roughly 90% of people were in favour of an R18+ classification for games, and to ignore that is anything but representative.

Talking further on the “trifling” impact on consumer choice of the lack of an R rating, he says that only a handful of games are RC, which must mean there is very little impact. What he doesn’t mention is that the overwhelming majority of games rated suitable for 15 year olds in Australia are rated higher elsewhere in the world. Over 90% of games classified MA15+ between June and November ’09 were rated 17+ in the US. All but one was rated either 16+ or 18+ in Europe. The “trifling” impact is that games intended for adults – recognised as such internationally – are available to Australian children. This is a failing of a classification system that says – first and foremost – that “adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want”, while not providing an appropriate classification for that content.

The claim that exposure to violent media is harmful, and more-so when that media is interactive is not by any means accepted as fact amongst the scientific community. For every study that finds video games cause violence, others find that there is no such link. The studies that have found causal links have received significant peer criticism of their methods, which have gone so far as ignoring the evidence gathered to come to a seemingly predetermined conclusion(2). Similarly, there is no reliable evidence that interactivity increases the impact of media. Regardless, given that interactivity is explicitly taken into account in the classification guidelines, an R18+ game and R18+ film should have the same ‘impact’.

It is true that edits can be made to prevent a game from being refused classification. But this usually means games are slightly edited and made available to teenagers. When Fallout 3 was edited to be allowed an MA rating, the edited version was distributed worldwide. Still, it was rated 17+ or 18+ in the US, Europe and New Zealand. Contrary to Mr Atkinson’s claims, the solution to this problem is to introduce an R18+ classification for games. It would provide an appropriate rating for adult-oriented games, while providing a clearer warning about the nature of the game to parents who might otherwise buy an unsuitable game for their child. While he is correct in saying the Classification Board must follow the guidelines provided by law, it is not something that can be done: the current system contradicts itself, and so the board must decide which directive to follow. The only solution to this is to amend the guidelines and remove the contradiction.

Mr Atkinson suggests that if you ask “an adult” how they feel about playing video games, they will “give you … opinion only.” Putting aside that the asked question was in fact about opinion, the implied meaning is that gamers are incapable of examining how games affect them. I, as “an adult” have a range of experiences with games of varied genres. The violent games Mr Atkinson so reviles help me reduce stress and express frustration, just as some people hit a boxing bag or go for a run. While this has not been empirically studied in me personally, studies have discovered such a response among those who play video games(3).

On the surface, the desensitizing effect seen in the Comfortably Numb study seems worrying. However the study fails to address the difference between immediate and lasting impact. It shows only a short-term acclimatisation to violence, and any claims of long-term desensitisation based on the results of this study are unfounded speculation.

What Mr Atkinson’s letter demonstrates is little more than that he has a prejudice against violent video games. Much of the ‘evidence’ he provides to support his claim is dubious or patently false, and it shows a much greater interest in distracting people with emotive arguments than thoughtful consideration of available information. While he is of course entitled to dislike violence in video games (and any other media for that matter), his personal distaste is not sufficient reason to curtail the rights of responsible adults, expose minors to adult content, and ignore the opinions of an overwhelming majority of Australians.

He is, after all, supposed to be a representative.


http://www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/Winter07ContextsFeature.pdf , Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the ScientificEvidence