Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) today expressed concern over the banning of a computer game dealing with graffiti and called for reform of the Australian censorship regime to bring it into line with community expectations. Under current censorship laws, the highest level rating that a computer game may receive is MA15+ (Mature Accompanied), whereas films may be classified R18+ (Restricted). This means that films deemed suitable only for adults can be legally sold in Australia, whilst computer games of a similar nature will be banned.
"The decision to ban the Marc Ecko's Getting Up computer game highlights the need for censorship reform," said EFA's Executive Director Irene Graham. "It seems ironic that a computer game that portrays a fictional tyrannical government that oppresses freedom of expression has itself been banned in what is said to be a free country."
A media release by the Classification Review Board said that the game "promotes the crime of graffiti". The Board said that one of the factors contributing to the game's promotion of graffiti was the "interactive biographies of 56 real graffiti artists". EFA has grave concerns about the presentation of real people's biographies being used as a factor to justify censorship. "This gets right into issues of free speech," said Graham. "We're awaiting publication of the Board's full reasons, but these comments are a worrying sign."
EFA's Chair, Matt Black, said that fears about links between computer games and graffiti may be misplaced. "Research suggests that young people who graffiti experience underlying issues such as parental, family, behavioural and psychological problems," said Mr Black, who is doing postgraduate criminology research at Queensland University of Technology. "If this is accurate, justifying censorship because of a fear of graffiti not only trivialises the issue, but it is ineffective. Banning this game will not reduce graffiti, nor will it address the underlying issues."
Recent media reports have suggested that the game is still freely available on the Internet and the Classification Review Board's Maureen Shelley has been quoted as suggesting that parents must take responsibility for what their children buy online. "That's undoubtedly true," said Graham. "But I think it misses the point. Adults in this country are being treated like children, partly because computer games are subject a differential classification scheme."
EFA believes that the lack of an "R" rating for computer games demonstrates a disregard for the rights of adult consumers. A report commissioned by the Office of Film and Literature Classification in 2002 found strong community support for an "R" classification for computer games and recommended its introduction. However, Australian governments have failed to implement the recommendation reportedly because the South Australian Government blocked a national proposal to introduce an R rating for computer games.
EFA again calls upon the Commonwealth and State/Territory governments to introduce restricted 18+ classifications for computer games in order to give effect to the principle enshrined in Australian classification law that 'adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want'.
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- Background information
- Contact details for media
1. The Classification Review Board's media release announcing the ban of Marc Ecko's Getting Up:
2. Ecko Unlimited, makers of the Marc Ecko's Getting Up computer game:
3. Report prepared for the Office of Film and Literature Classification 'A Review of the Classification Guidelines for Films and Computer Games: Assessment of Public Submissions on the Discussion Paper and Draft Revised Guidelines' prepared by Dr Jeffrey E Brand, Co-director, Bond University Centre for New Media Research and Education, 11 February 2002:
4. Push for 18+ game rating fails, Caitlin Fitzsimmons, Australian IT, 12 November 2002
"COMPUTER games rated higher than MA15+ will remain banned after the South Australian Government blocked a national proposal to introduce an R18+ rating. ..."
5. Research and policy papers from the conference "Graffiti and disorder: local government, law enforcement and community responses", hosted by the Australian Institute of Criminology in conjunction with the Australian Local Government Association, 18-19 August 2003:
Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc. ("EFA") is a non-profit national organisation representing Internet users concerned with on-line rights and freedoms. EFA was established in 1994, is independent of government and commerce, and is funded by membership subscriptions and donations from individuals and organisations with an altruistic interest in promoting on-line civil liberties.
Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc -- http://www.efa.org.au/