Why the government backs an R18+ games rating
Over the past 20 years there’s been a revolution in how people use technology in their spare time. I grew up in a time where most people had a TV and a stereo in their house and from the 1980s, VCRs. That was pretty much it.
Fast forward to 2010, and many households have flat screen TVs, iPods, PlayStations and a plethora of other computing devices. In fact, 88% of Australian households now have a gaming console. Kids and adults alike wile away the hours pretending to play for St Kilda, playing guitar like Ray Toro or fighting guerrilla wars.
It’s our job as a society, and my job as the Minister responsible for classification in the Australian Government, to work out which games should be allowed to be played by anyone; which games should be restricted to adults; and which are so extreme and offensive, that we wouldn’t want them here at all.
While I’m not personally a fan of Jason and the Friday the 13th series, the fact is, if you’re over 18 you can watch as much of it as you like – all 12 movies if you want.
But, when it comes to games, if the game is judged not to be suitable for people under 15 - it can’t be played legally in Australia.
Like many debates in our society, this one is a question of balancing the right to individual choice against the potential harm that might be caused to society by allowing that choice.
I don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to prove that playing violent games causes violent behaviour. I released a literature review last week that found the evidence is inconclusive.
What evidence there is, is not strong enough to make me want to stop the millions of Australians who play games safely, responsibly, and actually have a lot of fun.
There is, of course, a particular concern about children being exposed to gratuitous sex, violence and mature themes. Clearly some games are not suitable for teenagers or children.
Under the existing system, I believe there may be dozens of games that are currently in the MA15+ category that might be considered for reclassification to an adult only category – consistent with how they are rated overseas.
I don’t want games available to kids in Australia that are only available to adults overseas. And I want parents to be able to make well-informed decisions about what their kids should be playing.
Australians deserve a modern classification system that recognises what’s going on in Australian households. Instead of pushing people to download games online, we should encourage responsible use, with accurate warnings and information.
There’s an economic argument here too. We shouldn’t be giving online games, based overseas, an advantage over the games developed and sold in Australia. The games industry employs thousands of Australians, many of them young people, and we need to support that industry to grow in the future.
Last December, I asked people whether they thought we needed an adult only classification for games, that is, an R18+ rating. About 60,000 people responded, and they were overwhelmingly in favour of having an R18+ category for games.
I’ve also released independent survey results from Galaxy this week that shows 80% of the more than 2200 people surveyed support the introduction of an R18+ video game classification.
The jury is in, as far as the public is concerned, and I believe there is very strong public support for the introduction of the new adult classification for video games.
The question is now one for State and Territory Classification Ministers, who will meet in Canberra on Friday.
A decision for change will mean that Australian adults can have easier access to the games they want and parents will be equipped to make sensible decisions about the games their kids play.
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