A new six page form-letter from the South Australian Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, on the topic of the lack of an R18+ rating for games has begun circulating. An EFA member has sent us the response he received; it seems almost identical to the ones available at both Kotaku and Reddit. [ ed: see also discussion at ausgamers. ]

The letter reiterate that this is not going to be an easy fight to win. For Atkinson, the lack of an R18+ rating is clearly something that helps keep violent media away from children, and he sees no real harm in not making the same material available to adults. This letter shows both his conviction and his arrogance on the issue. He ends by stating that his constituents "are more concerned with real-life issues than home entertainment in imaginary worlds" and notes that he is "grateful for the support [he has] had [...] from the Liberal Party".

I want to put together a response to the discussion paper that analyses and addresses all of the points that Atkinson makes, as well as systematically covering the research in the field. If you are able to help, please contact me, join our R18+ games discussion list, or take a look at our (quite bare at the moment) wiki space.

[ edit: you can get the PDF of an identical letter from the reddit post ]

22 comments

  1. He's taunting us with that last paragraph.

    Comment by doughnut on 17 November 2009 at 19:13
  2. A response to this letter was written by one of the founding members of Gamers 4 Croydon: http://www.growupaustralia.com/gamers4croydon-vs-...

    Comment by Aaron on 17 November 2009 at 22:20
  3. With games like COD: Modern Warfare 2 grossing more then box office films I find it interesting that he says:
    --
    "I think you will find this issue has little traction with my constituents who are more concerned with real-life issues than home entertainment in imaginary worlds."
    --

    Maybe the best direction for a pro-gamer argument is to look into the sales figures and employment that the game industry encompasses.. This is real-life.. It's people's livelihoods.

    It could prove useful to gather the sales-figures for COD:MW2 and compare that to the loss of income refusing classification would have caused to that particular title, as big-game sales like this seem to be on the incline.

    Figures on the growth of game retailers and console sales could also indicate that gaming is a grow industry and that stifling it now could prove more harmful then good.

    It might be counterintuitive, but I wonder how many jobs would be lost today if you banned the import of R18 movies or even adult entertainment.

    Figures like that could indicate the extent at which games could become an important part of our economy.

    We need to think like politicians not gamers.. Unemployment and recession makes politicians squirm.

    Comment by Treb on 18 November 2009 at 03:27
  4. that's a really good point Treb.

    Comment by Nic on 18 November 2009 at 03:33
  5. Since the discussion paper is going to consult the public and let everyone know what kind of games would be allowed in, I think it would be of benefit to let people know ourselves. No doubt if he has a say in it it'll be skewed.

    Comparing RC games to film equivalents and what ratings they've been given would be good, and it MUST be made known what content still would not be allowed in an R18+ game. As far as I'm aware, as much as Mr SA-AG likes to talk about "Rapelay" (or whatever it was), it would still be RC even with R18+ (I think). We don't want him knocking down strawmen.

    Another would be the inconsistent reasoning the classification board makes and its subjective determination of "art" and context which allows R18+ games into MA15+. Modern Warfare 2 and MadWorld, anyone? Compared to Fallout 3 where the only thing wrong was the name of Morphine (yet you could still take the drug).

    Those are just some thoughts I've had... speaking of thinking like politicians, letting people know what will and will not be allowed with an R18+ rating would be of great importance.

    Comment by Dane on 18 November 2009 at 04:12
  6. is he stupid there are programs that allow blocks so a kid cant buy it and what gives him the right to tell whats good for us is he are Dad? i mean if your a kid and you want a game your mum will say if your alowed or not

    Comment by Jake on 19 November 2009 at 01:18
  7. There are some really good comments on this here:
    http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?...

    Comment by Simon Shaw on 19 November 2009 at 02:16
  8. "In cinemas the age of movie goers can be regulated"

    "Access to electronic games, once in the home, cannot be policed and therefore the games are easily accessible to children. If adults think they can devise a lock-out system to defeat children, tell 'em they're dreaming."

    Firstly, "tell 'em" ? I would prefer correct grammar from our politicians rather than some out of date popular catch phrase.

    I do notice how he fails to mention the fact that the movies in the cinemas that can be regulated are also available on DVD and before that on the NET (although don't tell him this or he will try and ban download speeds of over 1kbps) within months/weeks? How are these devices controlled or regulated once they enter our homes to keep them out of reach of children?

    I also notice how he deliberatly says "adults" and not "parents." It is the parents job to ensure they're children aren't viewing inappropriate material whilst IN THEIR HOME, not the governments.

    "What the present law does is to keep the most extreme material off the shelves. It is true that this restricts adult liberty to a small degree, however, I am prepared to accept this infringement in the circumstances."

    How presumptuous of you to accept AND ensure this infringement of liberty on behalf of the ENTIRE Australian people.

    Comment by Reidy on 19 November 2009 at 03:40
  9. How many mainstream games are developed in Australia? He seems to imply that introducing an R rating would mean there will be more "evil" games produced. These games are already out there and will continue to be produced regardless of the Australian rating system. So we are talking 5 extra games on the shelf last year? 4 the year before? Hardly a solid argument to justify denying adults the freedom to choose. It is entirely possible some of these RC games would remain RC even with the introduction of an R rating.

    I also noted, like others here, his comment about games being harder to regulate than theatre films, deliberatly ignoring the more apt comparison with DVDs.

    His arrogance really shows in his ending comments about running a candidate to oppose him. He knows this issue isn't big enough to have a large affect on the voting one way or another, that doesn't validate his stance at all.

    Comment by Scott on 19 November 2009 at 08:30
  10. Question for EFA:
    As representatives of their electorate don’t the Attorney Generals have to be transparent in their polices on any given topic? I would like to see a list of who is supporting the rating and who is blocking it..

    It might be nice to get an Attorney General on our side, the-against have Mr Atkinson as a spokesman. I think there must be some intelligent forward thinking AG who would be interested in this growth industry.

    Activision Boasts Modern Warfare 2 Sales Figures, Broken Records
    http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/61298

    Comment by Treb on 19 November 2009 at 17:32
  11. @treb: Answering your question, in order to change the law as would be required to bring in an adult rating for games all of the attorney generals must agree. As it stands Atkinson says that he is not the only one who opposes a rating, but no other attorney generals have made their opposition known. Because it's all or nothing, the other attorney generals are not so much showing a lack of transparency, they are just aware that it's a moot point. As long as Atkinson or any other AG is against the idea, it doesn't matter what they think, it's a non-starter.

    Comment by Geordie Guy on 19 November 2009 at 18:01
  12. I understand that on the surface it appears he is individually ‘vetoing’ the decision, but he says other AG’s are on his side.. Shouldn’t the voting public be aware of their stance so we can make the decision to not vote for them? If others can hide behind him then it’s possible they will be re-elected only to block the rating themselves.

    I don’t want to vote in my AG in the next election if he is against the R18 rating but it seems they can get away with being vague. It’s a democratic travesty.

    Comment by Treb on 19 November 2009 at 18:25
  13. Atkinson claims that desensitising people to violence will lead to an increase in violent crimes, the actual figures of crimes committed Australia wide over an extensive period would prove otherwise. I have been looking around and have found some results indicating violent crime has decreased overall between 1995-2005, but I would like to find some later results, as well as figures from much earlier periods (ie: pre-gaming).
    I think that the number of people enlisting in the army (which has certainly decreased rapidly) is also a fair indicator that gamers are not causing people to become more violent or more interested in weapons and warfare etc.
    These two points would clearly and factually display that gamers are not going to act out any of the fantasy elements they interact with on screen.
    A history of censorship is also worth a look, at one time the waltz was banned in many areas, as many books that are now considered to be classics.
    Overall I agree with Treb, that any letter needs to be in "polispeak' it is all they seem to understand.

    Comment by ilandrah on 20 November 2009 at 04:28
  14. this is infuriating, proponents of r18 aren't saying

    Comment by dirk on 22 November 2009 at 17:27
  15. this is infuriating, proponents of r18 aren't saying 'give me more cruel sex and extreme violence' they're saying 'we're over 18, we're adults, you have no place to tell us what we deem moral, get off our backs'

    and in reference to the game where you take drugs?! 'These activities are illegal in real life why ask governments to give people the right to do them virtually?' am i reading this correctly? does this moron think that you can overdose on virtual ecstacy? does he even understand why drugs are illegal?

    the government is responsible for protecting individuals from other individuals and things out of our control
    parents are responsible for protecting their children
    once you hit 18 you're responsible for your own damn self, i don't need to be sheltered from the real world by the government, i'm just as much a part of the real world as anyone in government

    Comment by dirk on 22 November 2009 at 17:29
  16. In regards to the response you are preparing, one thing to consider and perhaps investigate is the impact that the lack of an R18+ rating will ultimately have on Australian retailers. The fact is as consumers most Australian gamers will refuse to purchase a heavily censored product. A perfect example can be made of Left 4 Dead 2 and the large amount of Australians who decided to import the "full" product from online retailers. Essentially Atkinson is forcing Australians to spend overseas.

    Comment by Aaron on 26 November 2009 at 02:52
  17. funny thing. Look up the Good Game site (yup the show), and download the last episode for last year with an interview with said AG, interesting viewing that kind of makes him look like a 6 year old basically stating 'I don't want it so there' he states that independant studies into this are funded by developers and publishers of games when in reality (you know, where WE live) the studies where actually independently funded and they could back that up, and Mr.Atkinson (I'm from SA and I refuse to accept this man as our AG) couldn't back up a single fact he stated. Hmmmm I know politician's are dodgy but flat out lying? who does he think he is? Mike Rann? might have to vote liberal next year I think.

    Comment by Nevan Ford on 27 November 2009 at 07:51
  18. Nevan, there are far more important things than games on which to base your vote, think about it.

    Comment by Russell on 31 December 2009 at 23:40
  19. Let's face the actual facts Mr. Atkinson, most of the games you claim are destroying childrens lives are on xbox 360 and ps3 both of which have a parental lock system incorporated so a password can be implemented by parents to prevent children from accessing content.

    Shouldn't someone who actually understands the technology be in charge of these things.

    Atkinson is not a reasonable man, he will rely on his church going constituate to get reelected and pose as the "god fearing local man protecting your childrens future".

    Something must be done about this problem.

    People like Atkinson within the government are pushing to censor ALL forms of media.

    Videogames are just the first target because it's easy to call out "PLEASE SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN" and thousands of conservative parents will jump.

    He's just banned r rated movies in his local state of SA, and the federal government is pushing to censor the internet.

    HOW LONG UNTILL ALL MEDIA IS RESTRICTED AND ALL YOU HAVE ACCESS TO IS CAREBEARS?

    Parents DO have the ability to protect their own children.

    He can claim he is more concerned with "more important issues" all he wants.

    But, why then is censorship constantly the main agenda of politicians these days?

    And you'll also note, he doesn't specify what these "more important issues" are.

    He's a clasic example of the blind leading the blind using a guise of religion and good family values.

    No doubt Mr Atkinson has skeletons burried deep down within his closet.

    [ad hominem attacks removed -ed]

    Comment by Xee on 21 January 2010 at 01:42
  20. Imposing your general beliefs on a society that doesn't want them ... Isn't that Faschism?

    Comment by Johno on 21 January 2010 at 21:17
  21. The part that infuriated me was that gamers wanted "more cruel sex and extreme violence". That isnt what we want at all and its extremely poor debate etiqueete to strawman us like that.

    Comment by Bleh on 26 January 2010 at 07:55
  22. As a gamer i can easily say that just because a game has been classified as R18+ hence a ban in Australia isnt goin to stop a dedicated gamer. If it isnt sold here, we will go to where it is available. If anything, why not aim your sights at Piracy Mr Atkinson, the more you restrict people the more likely piracy will increase overall.

    As for being a religious man, i believe you have picked up the wrong plate to eat off. You cannot have a vegetarian run a meat market, they lack the taste for produce. One that has to suit the needs of many must have a broader aspect and i think its safe to say that Mickeal does not play games....only with OUR games.

    Mr Atkinson's new law brought to Sth or West Aus in which shops now must cover videos with the R18+ rating so that only the title can be shown is just a bag of laughs, though the industry isnt laughing because he is basically altering the finished product which no Movie production company would have agreed to. To me, that is a copyright infringment right there.

    "More cruel sex and extreme violence"? You must be joking. Did you come up with that yourself Mickeal? Yes, i think you did. How dare he make such an assumtion let alone place it in writing for others to see without even polling the general community. Such a statement implicates gamers as sick children.

    If its all coming down to what we dont want our children to see than dont buy it for them, implement the child protection software that is already available in consoles, thats what they are there for.

    As for your position (Micheal A), however you got there, we feel less burdened with the knowledge that you can not be there forever. Enjoy your reign of terror while it lasts

    Comment by Nato on 26 January 2010 at 22:01