Tags: OFLC

Merry Xmas

In less than 24 hours children and adults alike will be unwrapping their Christmas gifts. Many will receive socks and strange knick-knacks. Some however will receive computer games and gaming consoles.

A couple of things have been revealed to us lately that will be relevant to parents whose children will be receiving gifts of the gaming variety.

1. A recent study commissioned by the iGEA revealed that many parents are unaware that the current generation of consoles has parental controls.

We recommend parents take the time to explore this function when helping set up their child’s new Xbox, PS3 or Wii. Parental Controls include the ability to limit the amount of time that can be spent playing and the ability to lock out games rated above a certain classification.

2. The lack of an R18+ rating in Australian means that a number of games have been shoehorned in to our highest available rating for computer games. The MA15+ rating.

Grow up Australia has created a table displaying all the games rated MA15+ this year with their PEGI (Europe) and ESRB (USA) classifications. You may find the ratings supplied by these organisations helpful in guiding you when making decisions on what your child should be allowed to play. The Australian Classification Board, PEGI and the ESRB all provide search facilities  on their websites that allow you to find a specific games rating. The ESRB also has an App for your iPhone that serves the same purpose.

Thank you to all the Facebook Group members, Steam Community Group members, Twitter followers and all the other people who have helped make us a success and helped spread the word about Australia’s lack of an R18+ rating for video games. All of us here at Grow up Australia wish you a safe and happy holiday season.

SEGA’s appeal has been successful and The Classification Review Board has now given Aliens Vs Predator an MA15+ rating.

When the game was Refused Classification earlier this year AVP’s developer Rebellion publicly announced that they would not edit the game in an attempt to achieve our highest rating for computer games, MA15+.

We will not be releasing a sanitised or cut down version for territories where adults are not considered by their governments to be able to make their own entertainment choices.

The games publisher SEGA decided however to appeal the classification and now that it has been successful Australia will see the release of the unaltered game in February 2010.

Aliens Vs Predator is expected to be rated Mature (17+) in the US. Rebellion has also declared the game is not appropriate for children.

…we agree strongly that our game is not suitable for game players who are not adults.

Only days after Crimecraft was refused classification Alien vs Predator has received the same treatment.

Games.on.net has posted this statement from SEGA.

SEGA Australia can today confirm that the initial submission of Aliens vs Predator has been Refused Classification by the Classification Operations Board of Australia. We will continue to investigate all options available to us, including the possibility of appeal.

With Alien vs Predator bringing this year’s total to six, 2009 has now become the year that the most video games were Refused Classification in Australia. 2008 and 2004 previously held the record with five each.

Crimecraft joins Necrovision, Sexy Poker, Risen and Left 4 Dead 2 to become the 5th game refused classification in Australia this year. Crimecraft is a massively multiplayer online game set in an alternate reality where civilisation has collapsed and gangs rule the streets.

Crimecraft is rated Mature in the USA.

The ESRB’s Rating Summary:

This is a third-person shooter in which players can select a character and gain experience points through completion of various missions/quests. Players can roam around the fictional setting of Sunrise City and engage in several types of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games: team deathmatch, capture the flag, robbery, and free-for-all. Players are able to shoot and kill other characters by using a wide variety of guns (handguns, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers) and thrown weapons (grenades, Molotov cocktails, etc.). Small splashes of red blood indicate successful hits, and bloodstains are depicted on the ground under some defeated characters. Achievements and mission titles sometimes contain profanity (e.g., achievement called “F**king Ridiculous”; missions called “I Ain’t Movin’ B*tch,” and “Poppin’ a Cap in Yo A*s”). Players can customize female avatars so that they only wear a bra and thong-style panties or outfits that expose deep cleavage; players can also trigger a brief dance in which an avatar caresses her body.

The Most Extreme Material

The Most Extreme Material

Grow up Australia has been monitoring the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General website for the release of the Censorship Ministers’ Decisions. We’re interested in any update on the much anticipated R18+ Discussion Paper that was expected to be released July this year.

Once released a process of “public consultation” will take place.  In a recent interview with Gamespot 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.

We would recommend people wanting to see the eventual introduction of an R18+ rating for video games write a polite letter to The Hon. Brendan O’Connor to enquire about the discussion paper.

Brendan O’Connor 
Minister for Home Affairs
Parliament House
Phone: (02) 6277 7290
Fax: (02) 6277 7098
Email: Brendan.O’Connor.MP@aph.gov.au

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


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>

We have just been informed via a Facebook message that Nick ‘Enigma’ Gipson who is organizing a nationwide R18+ for games rally has received a reply to an email he sent to Margaret Pomeranz.

Dear Nick,

I would very much like to have supported you in the protest but unfortunately I am committed elsewhere on that day.  Can I ask why you’re doing it on a Saturday?  AG’s are unlikely to be in their offices.  I imagine it’s because you are all working but surely a lunch-time protest would mean more people around, including AG’s. I have the Annual General Meeting of Watch on Censorship coming up this weekend and I’ll bring the matter up with them, see if there’s anything we can do.  The hard head on this is the South Australian AG Michael Atkinson.  I believe all the other states voted in favour of an R-rating for video games, based on the report recommendations of the OFLC.  Bob Debus was the AG of NSW then.  He’s now in Federal Parliament and I believe retiring at the next election.  He may be worthwhile contacting before he goes, he knows the system and may be able to give you advice.  But while one AG has the power of veto it’s going to be a long hard road to achieve anything.  The frustrating thing is being in a position where one state – South Australia – has the power to determine the situation for all of Australia.  Not democratic at all.

I wish you luck.  I think you have right on your side.

I’ll be in touch if WoC can do anything to help.  Just sorry I can’t on the day.


Margaret Pomeranz


Margaret Pomeranz was also recently interviewed by Byteside.

For information about Nick’s rally visit:  http://left4r18.xtremenetworkonline.com/

A big thank you to Peta for having Aaron on SkidRow radio to talk about an R18 rating for video games.

Be sure to visit the reddit page (mentioned by Peta) to post your comments for next weeks show.