The R18+ classification is not about children
Last week the Australia Christian Lobby issued a media release suggesting that the video games industry was akin to the tobacco industry questioning the link between smoking and lung cancer, because we have questioned the validity of research conducted by Professor Craig Anderson.
Today, Anderson will present at a conference in Sydney that has been organised by lobby group Young Media Australia and the timing of the event in light of the public consultation for an R18+ classification for games and the internet filtering discussion is not lost. This seemed to be as good a time as any to question the core thesis of those opposing an R18+ classification for computer and video games.
The Australian Christian Lobby has clearly got the knack of creating good spin. It doesn’t get more controversial than accusing our industry of being akin to the tobacco industry; it also doesn’t get more counterproductive. It’s worth recapping the basic arguments of the ACL and the other organisations such as Young Media Australia.
The main argument is that children should be protected from content that is inappropriate and potentially damaging. No dispute from us on this point. Consistent classification across all forms of media will, we believe, better protect young people.
There is no doubt that there is a huge amount of education needed about media classification for parents, retailers, their staff, and throughout the community in general, and this is where we believe energy would be better directed.
I understand that the ACL and YMA want the world to be a better place - so do I. I’m also a parent and want my children to grow up in a country that has less violence, and where children are less burdened by themes and content that should only ever be heard or seen by adults.
The front page of the local tabloid press during the Haiti disaster was content wholly unsuitable for most of the young people in my family, so too were the ABC radio reports of the unspeakable things done to a young girl recently in Bundaberg, Queensland. But I’m a conscious parent, and my wife and I manage the consumption of media in our home.
Media content exists across a long continuum. It starts at one end with the reporting of the awful natural and manmade events that happen in our world, and ends in created content that would be not suitable for any classification and contains themes that would very rightly never be admitted legally into Australia.
It’s the middle area where there is greatest contention and it’s here where we believe the ACL is misguided in their campaign to discredit our industry.
The fact is that the R18+ classification discussion is not about children, it’s about adults and their right to access material that has been developed for them. Australia exists within a global social and economic economy and there is now a substantial amount of content available that carries mature themes, with some of this content containing substantial sexual themes and/or violence.
These themes are also included in film, television (has anyone watched Law and Order or Underbelly recently?), magazines and books, and also in video games. The fact is, to try and tackle the availability of high level content across all these mediums is a big, hairy dragon and one that the ACL and YMA probably recognise they can’t slay.
So the focus for the moment stays on maligning our industry. This brings us back to Professor Anderson and his argument that video games are different from these other forms of media because the interactive nature of video games creates a heightened response from the player.
In a blog post on our website last year, I queried Anderson’s research and highlighted that his General Affective Aggression Model has been criticised by some academics because they believe that he has not demonstrated the model with his empirical research (that is, the evidence from his research does not support the basic foundations of his model).
It’s also worth noting that Professors Christopher J. Ferguson and John Kilburn from Texas A&M International University also refuted and criticised Anderson’s research and this was published ironically in the same academic journal.
We’re not picking on Professor Anderson and welcomed his comments on this week’s 7.30 report on the ABC where he recommended better labeling for high level content.
The problem is that Young Media Australia, and in turn the now infamous South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, have clung to this one piece of research to argue that video games should be treated differently when it comes to classification. We disagree.
Finally, Jim Wallace Managing Director of the ACL has inevitably made a grab for the high moral ground suggesting in the media release that “commercial interests obviously have a stake in presenting the view that the link between video games and aggression does not exist”. It’s a simplistic view. Christian groups equal ‘community-minded and good’. Industry groups equal ‘self-interested and bad’.
Ironically classification is far from simplistic, it’s a complex issue made even more challenging in an ever shifting technology environment and our industry works very hard with a wide range of Government departments, community groups, academics and retailers to best ensure that our classification system works.
The debate is also made unnecessarily confusing because of accusations such as the tobacco industry one. If the ACL are genuinely interested in achieving a better outcome in terms of classification, they would see that our objectives –in regards to protecting young people at least, aren’t so different.
The Interactive Games and Entertainment Industry is always interested in meeting and better understanding the position of a wide range of stakeholders and community organisations, and as such, our door is always open. We’ll even promise not to smoke.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…