BlogI've had enough. I live in Australia, part of a modern country that like many others has free speech and all that jazz. Yet when it comes to video games we have no adults only rating; any game that is deemed too extreme for a 15+ restriction is banned or re-submitted edited to appease the rating board.
Can we blame the Classification Board? No of course not. They are bound by law; in 2006 Attorney-General Philip Ruddock that the Office of Film and Literature Classification would become part of his department. The law they are bound by comes under federal law which despite having an R18+ rating (restricting content for legal viewing only to those ages 18 or older) for films, there is no equivalent for games.
This has always been a cause for debate to some degree, yet in recent times this issue was finally addressed by politicians and in order to allow us to have an 18+ rating all state as well as the federal Attorney-General had to agree. After some research and thoughtful discussion all agreed, except one: Michael Atkinson. One man somehow has the power to vote against this decision and can legally block this change from ever occuring. He is dead serious on his opposition and will not budge so the only realistic way for us Aussies to ever have an 18+ rating is for him to lose his seat in parliament, and for the next South Australian Attorney-General to vote yes.
In no other area of politics in Australia that I know of is one person able to decide the fate of law relevant to the entire country. Michael was voted in by one area of one state, yet is able to make decisions for all of us. We have two houses in Australia in federal parliament, the lower house and the senate. The lower house is generally controlled by the party in power and the senate is usually not controlled, hence law changes often getting lengthy debate in the senate before being passed or rejected. No one person can turn around and block a law change, it requires a majority vote.
To get away from the politics a bit, a quick wikipedia search confirms what I've read about elsewhere; the board often makes what seem like stupid decisions on the rating of games:
- Halo 3 which got an M (BBFC:15, ESRB: M(17),New Zealand (R16))
- The Witcher which got an MA15+ (18 from PEGI, BBFC, cut for ESRB for a M(17))
- Dead Rising a MA15+ (18 from BBFC and PEGI, Z from CERO)
- Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2 getting a PG (17 from ESRB and CERO)
- Zone of the Enders and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner getting a G(8+), (R16 in New Zealand, M(17+) from ESRB, 15 from BBFC and 16+ from PEGI)
- Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened getting a PG (16+ from PEGI and M(17) from ESRB.)1
Games that were banned in Australia and were then re-released censored include:
- Dark Sector
- Duke Nukem 3D
- Fallout 3
- F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin
- God of War
- Grand Theft Auto 1, 2, 3, Vice City, San Andreas and 4,
- Hitman: Contracts
- Left 4 Dead & Left 4 Dead 2
- Silent Hill
- Silent Hill: Homecoming
- Sexy Poker (more info)
I could drown on and on, the main problem I have with this whole situation is Michael Atkinson is censoring video games for adults based on the fact that he does not want children to obtain the titles. An R18+ rating is restricted, that is according to law, no one under the age of 18 is allowed to see a given film with this rating. Period. No cinema outings, no DVD purchase, no DVD watching. Technically even with parental consent it's illegal, though no one would probably find out of course.
Fortunately the great Margaret Pomeranz from The Movie Show (film critic show in Australia) seems to agree that this entire situation is fairly silly with the following quote:
I think it’s dangerous… it’s the start of danger when you have a government effectively saying, this is what we will allow you to see, and this is what we will not allow you to see. Fortunately they have very little power these days because we can see anything we want… as long as we’re prepared to break the law. And what you’re doing is turning people into criminals.3
Even a conservative columnist has agreed. Miranda Devine from Fairfax said the conservative groups had
good intentions have [that] backfired spectacularly. Instead of protecting children, they have exposed them to unsuitable games shoehorned into the MA15+ category because the alternative is an outright ban, and the ire of anti-censorship activists.4
Despite a line in the National Classification Code stating that "adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want", the adult R18+ classification does not currently exist for video games.5
Oh the irony.
I'll finish this rant with some recent quotes from Michael Atkinson:
I think you will find this issue has little traction with my constituents who are more concerned with real-life issues than home entertainment in imaginary worlds.6
I understand the Wii console has been phenomenally successful for Nintendo and that system provides many games to challenge and develop skill, physically and intellectually, without depraved sex, gore and cruelty.7
- Games Censorship Database
- Classification Board (of Australia)
- Michael Atkinson - Wikipedia
- Parliament of Australia - Wikipedia