So today we woke on the first day of a new dawn. Yesterday the first video game with an adult rating went on sale in Australia, marking the end of a ten year campaign with its fair share of rigorous discussion, moral panic, teeth gnashing, head banging, hand wringing and a healthy dose of histrionics.
Yet today we wake, still relatively safe and secure; the world hasn’t descended into a moral vacuum. Australians were warned by those opposing the classification that the granting of an R18+ for video games would open the ‘floodgates of depraved sex and violence’. Nope, no floodgates, just a weary sigh of relief from those involved in securing the adult rating for whom it’s been a long and frustrating road.
The reality is that while R18+ as an issue has had extensive coverage across the media and fuelled the chatter on countless forums for many years, in itself it’s a pretty pedestrian argument.
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IN Monday’s Advertiser I wrote a story about an Adelaide mother whose teenage son is addicted to the online video game Runescape.
This 17-year-old plays an average of 16 hours a day, sometimes doing marathon stretches of up to 25 hours at a time, often foregoing showers, proper meals and sleep to get his fix.
When his mother took his computer away in an attempt to curb his habit he flew into a frenzy, smashing up her bedroom and her mobile phone, ripping down curtains and cutting electrical cords with scissors. He even cut the laces off her shoes, she says.
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Here we go again; video games blamed for creating a generation of murderers and rapists. It seems that whenever authorities and academics have no idea how to handle increasing violence in society they pull out the dog-eared script from their top draw, call up the media, and run the same old lines that video games are to blame for murder, robbery, assault, bad manners, climate change, Lara Bingle and the failure of our Olympic swimming team to win gold.
They said the same thing about the literary work of Emily Bronte in the 1840’s, dancing in the 1950’s and rock music in the 1960’s. Today NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione blamed the soaring knife crime on violent video games.
The simple fact is that violent people perpetrate violence. These young criminals generally commit these random violent crimes because they are predisposed to it; inflicting pain on other people provides them with whatever it is they need – pleasure; self-worth; social acceptance from their peers.
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Why train one weekend a month, two weeks a year to develop your social awareness, leadership potential and teamwork capacity when you can log onto the world of Azeroth every night after work and achieve the same goals?
Perusing the Australian Government’s Defence Jobs website I read a section that explained all the benefits of joining the Army Reserve on a part time basis, I was struck by the number of qualities recruits are told they can develop in the army that could also be honed by building a character and running with a ‘guild’ on World of Warcraft (WoW).
“Learn new skills like leadership, problem solving, communication and physical fitness…” the Defence website declares. They could easily be describing the exact skills one can glean from playing WoW…, well perhaps not physical fitness, although constantly getting up and down to grab another Diet Coke from the fridge gives your quads a good work out.
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Larry Laffer, the star of ‘80s “adult” video game Leisure Suit Larry, is on the come back trail. Pun really not intended.
It’s been 16 years since the last game was released. Game designer Al Lowe has successfully raised the money to reincarnate the sleazy protagonist thanks to online donations.
How about that. Did you ever play the game? It’s Wednesday. What’s happening in your world, Leisure Suit Puncher?
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Welcome to this week’s I Call Bullshit, a column that looks at all kinds of myths and mistruths, at falsehoods, fiction and fabrications. This week we look at whether gamers are breaching international conventions when they loot, pillage, or kill.
I’m no war criminal. Not even a virtual one. That’s because I’ve never played a violent video game – or indeed any video game since Donkey Kong. The original version.
But if the Red Cross has their way, it raises the question of whether I could be up on some kind of charge for (ahem) enjoying The Human Centipede.
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People often say that kids these days are “digital savvy”. Those people are wrong.
Kids today are definitely “digital” – some Gen Zers (see above) are even confused why printed magazines don’t interact with them like iPads – but that doesn’t mean they’re “savvy”.
They might know how to use technology. But just like drugs, alcohol, sex and relationships, that doesn’t mean kids know how to use it in a way that’s safe and appropriate.
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It’s a real shame that so many people out there still see computer games as child’s play; something that people naturally ought to grow out of in due course.
Indeed the idea that only kids, or those (mostly guys) in a state of arrested development, should care for interactive entertainment is a very common one.
It’s a mindset that has dominated a great deal of resistance to the (now almost inevitable) introduction of an R18+ ratings category for games in this country. Basically, many people just assume that games are for juveniles, and there should be no reason to expose the young-ens to any more graphic violence and nudity than they alread receive.
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Many Norwegian stores have removed violent video games from their shelves after Christian Fundamentalist terrorist Anders Breivik claimed he prepared for his attack by playing them. Yet there’s been no word from bookstores on when they’ll remove the Bible from their shelves.
What a load of bollocks. After all, Breivik claimed he played video games to prepare, but the only reason he had anything to prepare for was due to a truly twisted ideology that certainly didn’t come from game play.
Every time we suffer an atrocity like this, people immediately look for somewhere to place blame, while ignoring the fundamental causes. More often than not it’s heavy metal music or violent video games that cop the accusations, which is nothing more than lazy scapegoating.
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It’s become something of a social minefield to admit you’re a Christian.
We tiptoe around the issue at gatherings, lest our peers assume we’ve secretly been judging them, or are about to kickstart a lecture on contraception.
There’s awkwardness around that Catholic priest joke they just told, and people excuse themselves before they hear the question “So have you found Jesus?”
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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.
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I was reading Stuart McDowell’s fun-loving article about murder and I found myself feeling a strange a sense of deja-vu.
About two years ago, when I first started at studying at Art School, there were two causes that I believed in with particularly more fervour than others. One was that heavy metal was roughly equivalent in value to pure Ambrosia, and that anyone who couldn’t be converted was a dullard, a dunce and a malevolent slime. The other was that fighting against the censorship of video games, and in particular the bloodiest, most violent ones, was a cause that any sane person should feel the most passionate zeal for, and if they didn’t, then they should feel the deepest, burning shame.
I suppose that’s fairly indicative of what I was like as an 18 year old. My hair was a silky black mane of heavy metal pride, to perfectly match the sleeveless flannel shirts, camouflage shorts and combat boots in which I was permanently outfitted. And I absolutely loved video games. And looking back, I was a pretty tasteless, and for want of a better word, boring kid.
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Overnight, the Federal Government issued a review of existing research into whether people who play violent computer games are at greater risk of aggression. Their conclusion? The same as mine. There is no link.
I’m not violent at all. Though I guess I am a murderer.
I’ve ruthlessly ended roughly 500 lives this week. Tall. Short. Loud. Quiet. Hairy. Fast. Slow. I’ve knocked ’em all off. It was mostly in self defence. A few were just for kicks, though. But seriously - you should have seen them. They were asking for it.
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This Friday the Attorneys General of all our states and territories will decide whether to create an R18+ category for computer and video games.
We’re often told it is indisputable that a child watching the very occasional 30-second McDonalds’ advertisement will have their eating habits irrevocably changed. They are headed for a life of junk food. The games industry has of course lobbied hard, but if the attorneys decide in favour of R18+ games they will owe Ronald McDonald a huge apology.
Because amazingly the attorneys might decide this week that hours and hours of playing computer games with highly simulated and even interactive violence and sex won’t affect children in any way.
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