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Tuesday, 07 December 2010 16:55

R18+ for games means more sex and gore?

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The Christian Lobby believes the argument for the introduction of an R18+ Classification for video games is being spun into a pro-child protection requirement.  The fear is that once Australia has a new R18+ Classification for interactive entertainment that the market will be flooded with all manner of smut and extreme material.  Do they have a point?

It has been a debate for some time now.  On one side, the moral crusaders; believing that continued censorship of certain consumables is the only way to go, there is no need to alter too much a system that has been in place for decades.

Smut is after all smut, and we all know what should and shouldn't be viewed by our children, right ?  

Well yes that is true, and really that is what the introduction of an R18+ classification will do.  But here I go doing the typical spin of R18+ Classification supporters, twisting the argument around to say how bringing the classification of video games in line with the well known and understood film classifications will help parents, retailers and the censorship board get the information they need to properly class each game release.

According to the Australian Christian Lobby, giving ratification to an R18+ Classification will not have the desired informative effect proponents argue; instead the market will see a new brand of content hitting Australian store shelves.

'How does introducing new violent media into Australia benefit children especially when we know that these games will inevitably find their way into the hands of children?' says the ACL's Lyle Shelton in his ABC.Net blog post.

'And if this is so good for children, 'continues Shelton 'why have the Children's Commissioners and Guardians from every State and Territory in Australia opposed the move and stated in their submission that the introduction of an R18+ classification would 'adversely impact on the safety and wellbeing of children and young people'?'

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All this in response to a recent outpouring of federal government support for the introduction of an R18+ Classification, surprisingly initiated by South Australian Attorney-General John Rau.  Only surprising because of the origin state, not the person involved; John Rau having replaced former SA AG Michael Atkinson, a staunch opponent to such a move.

We will find out this Friday when the issue is discussed at an Attorneys-General meeting.  Without the support of all State and Territory Attorneys-General, a classification revamp cannot proceed.  Though interestingly, each State government, if it so wished, could introduce its own legislation in this regard.

On top of clarification, freedom to choose, the fact all gaming consoles already include parental controls and alignment with other global regions, there is another pro introduction of an R18+ Classification reason that doesn't get too much press, and it flies in the face of the statements put forward by the ACL.

That is, for economic reasons, there will not be a sudden influx of outrageous material, perceived to flood in to fill the 'new' R18+ category.  Like movie makers, creators of interactive entertainment understand the kiss-of-death to their sales if a product falls outside of its largest target demographic.

It just doesn't make sense in a world where Rock Band/Guitar Hero or anything stamped with Mario or Pokémon ride highest in the sales charts, to introduce a game based around a horror, sex-killer TV game-show, and expect to get a return on your 100 million dollar development investment.

The fact remains, only 12 games have been banned in Australia in the past five years, and of those ten are now on sale via the appeals process or with minor to heavy editing shoe-horning them into the current top classification MA15+.

Pssst, it is this shoe-horning that is another good reason to introduce an R18+ Classification.  I didn't tell you this, because it sounds like so much pro-R18+ propaganda, but games such as the past two biggest entertainment launches the world has ever seen, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Call Of Duty: Black Ops really should not be played by fifteen year-olds.  They should however, be available for thirty year-olds to play.  Perhaps that is why the rest of the world gives these games an R18+ classification.

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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