By Paul Gray
Advocacy groups have come out strongly in criticism of a decision by Australia’s state and federal Attorneys-General to defer a decision on introducing R18+ as a new classification category for computer and video games.
The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General have decided to involve public consultation on whether an R18+ category should be introduced.
The Attorneys-General should have agreed to reject the R18+ proposal outright, according to the Australian Family Association and the Australian Christian Lobby.
“There are a lot of warning signs about where this computer games technology is heading,” said Angela Conway of the Australian Family Association.
“I hope the Attorneys-General come to their senses and hold the line against a new category that would allow high-level violence and suffering to be depicted in games.
ACL managing director Jim Wallace said that if an R18+ classification is introduced, it will inevitably lead to some children playing R18+ games. This would be to the detriment of their development and the wider society.
“We are aware that the interactive entertainment industry has been lobbying hard on this issue, but the Attorneys-General need to be careful not to bow to their demands at the expense of the public good,” he said.
Victoria’s Attorney-General Rob Hulls issued a media release after the meeting of attorneys-general in Adelaide saying that public consultation on the issue of R18+ computer games had been agreed to.
Mr Hulls said there has been community interest in reviewing the current classification scheme and said there were “persuasive arguments” to support the introduction of an ‘adult only’ category of computer games.
Mr Hulls argued it was inconsistent that in Australia adults could view ‘adults only’ films but not computer games with an equivalent high level content.
Clearly indicating that the Victorian Government favours R18+, Mr Hulls added: “With the increasing convergence between films and games, the different approach to classification principles is difficult to sustain.
Mrs Conway was scathing in her criticism of Mr Hulls’ statement. She said the current ‘adults only’ film rating allows for sickening degrees of violence.
In the film Irreversible, for example, she said there was an extended horrific violent anal rape scene.
A character is also shown being bashed within an inch of his life, while in another scene, a character is beaten to death with a fire extinguisher. The viewers see and hear the victim’s brain being smashed.
In the adults only film Hostel 2, she said, a character is shown being hung from a meat hook and tortured to death. The film indicates sexual arousal in the torturer.
Both Irreversible and Hostel 2 have an R18+ film rating in Australia.
Mrs Conway says Mr Hulls and many supporters of increased liberalisation appear not to understand how extreme is the violence which is already allowed in film under an adults only classification.
Mrs Conway said she was pleased that South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson had indicated opposition to the R18+ category proposal.
She said she believes Mr Atkinson intends to try to “hold the line” against it.
Mrs Conway says there is a great deal of misunderstanding and misinformation concerning the R18+ proposal for computer games.
She told The Record that many gamers and industry insiders seem to believe, mistakenly, that teenagers will somehow miss out on games to which they currently have access, unless a new R18+ category is introduced.
But teenagers will not miss out, she said.
“The only thing that would be delivered by R18+ is high level violence, agony and torture.”
She said what gamers want from computer games is high quality strategy, storylines, rendering (such as landscapes,) interesting characters and naturalistic movements. These qualities are not affected by the R18+ proposal, she said.
Mrs Conway said it should be regarded as an open question as to whether it was the computer gaming industry itself or a small group of advocates within the industry – what she called “activists with other agendas” – who are behind the move.
Responding to Mr Hulls’ call for public consultation on the question, Mr Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby said he urged anyone who cares about the issue to get involved in the consultation, “even if they are not normally active in the political domain.”
Mr Wallace said if an R18+ category is introduced it could lead to the worst interactive games going on sale in Australia.
“Given what happens with R-rated films we could have no confidence that the classification guidelines would be properly applied. For example, due to loopholes in the guidelines, real sex is sometimes being shown in R-rated films.
“What will happen if we have R18+ computer games which have even greater impact because of their interactive nature?”
Mrs Conway says the computer games technology is used by the defence forces in Australia and the United States.
“The US military spends big money on this,” she says. “They use it for skills development to develop lethal and efficient reflex responses.
“Basically, they use it to train soldiers to have an increased capacity to kill efficiently.”
She said one of the perennial problems facing military trainers is that they need to deal with a perfectly normal and healthy reluctance in human beings to kill other people.