Escape Theory Gaming For Life… views are mine, and not representative of the white agency

4Dec/0930

Open Letter to South Australia Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson

Dear Mr Atkinson,
I take this opportunity to express my disappointment in your position against implementing an R18+ video game classification in Australia, and the fact that you are appealing the classification of Modern Warfare 2. As a media practitioner and video game enthusiast, I believe that the addition of an R18+ classification will in fact be an informative and practical safeguard for our children as opposed to an excuse to let more violent and/or sexually explicit material be placed on our store shelves. More importantly, I speak as a mature gamer (who accounts for the majority of the gaming population) who would prefer the choice whether or not to play adult games the same way as adults decide whether or not to watch violent or sexually explicit movies.

Foremost, I find it personally and professionally insulting that you have suggested that the banning of high-impact games is the same as banning child pornography in an interview you had with GameSpot. Child pornography is a grotesque crime in which children are victimised in its production, video games however have no such victims involved in their production or distribution. It is clear from this point alone that you are not in touch with the gravity of these issues, and to use it to form part of your argument is in the very least  inappropriate.

I understand that there is still ongoing but inconclusive research both for and against your argument that high-impact media have direct effect on children and vulnerable adults, so I prefer not to bring this into my argument except to communicate to you that Craig Anderson's research does not represent that of the wider scientific community.

Examples such as Halo 3, The Witcher, Dead Rising and now Modern Warfare 2 have seen many un-edited games rated 18+ in foreign countries being given M15+ classifications in Australia. This proves that you (and your associates') stance on stubbornly refusing R18+ classification has potentially exposed our minors to content considered adult by the international community as you predicted would happen.

I do not deny that your veto has produced your desired result of forcing several games to be edited before being allowed classification in Australia, but the previous examples show how your policy has also resulted in undesirable results, the last of which is Modern Warfare 2: a best-seller that is already being played by thousands of Australians under 18 years old. If an R18+ classification had existed, Modern Warfare 2 would easily have been pushed into this restricted rating, forcing parents to rethink purchasing this game for their children.

Hopefully my words contribute to the Australian introduction of an R18+ video classification in the near future for the benefit of the wider community, not just the gamers.

Yours Sincerely,

Garry Law

Comments (30) Trackbacks (4)
  1. done that, will post it off tomorrow….. not that it will make any difference

  2. Fellow gamers, I have just found that the government is inviting opinions on the R18+ Classification for Computer games here:

    http://www.ag.gov.au/gamesclassification

    Please, do some research, form your argument and voice your opinions there. Every effort counts!
    On a side note, I’ve contacted Michael Atkinson’s office last week and his staff confirmed receiving the open letter above. They say they will try to reply me when they can.

  3. Nice work Gary. I have his email address too if u need

  4. i hate that atkinson guy …. im going to just have to get all the good games from the UK

  5. I believe this letter is well presented and will cut down Atkinson
    Good Job Garry

  6. Fantastic letter Garry. i really hope this issue is taken more seriously by politicans in the future. Im so worried about god of war 3 being banned. At this stage it looks certain.

  7. “But that’s an issue of policing, not policy, Garry. If that’s what you want to fix (and I think it’s clear that’s not the real agenda), you should be hounding the office of film and literature classification to outright ban or censor games that are unsuitable for an audience 18 and under rather than letting them pass through with an MA15+ rating.”
    Truthfully, I don’t think anybody really cares about a game being banned, so you (and Atkinson supporters) would be wrong to assume that my ‘real agenda’ is to play more violent games. Gamers like you and me can download and import games from a thousand sources.

  8. “I think Joey has misunderstood the point of Atkinson’s interview and the letter. We would understand if the majority of people don’t want to see the introduction of highly violent or sexualized games. The problem is that these games are now turning up under an MA 15+ rating.”

    But that’s an issue of policing, not policy, Garry. If that’s what you want to fix (and I think it’s clear that’s not the real agenda), you should be hounding the office of film and literature classification to outright ban or censor games that are unsuitable for an audience 18 and under rather than letting them pass through with an MA15+ rating. Frankly I couldn’t care much one way or the other regarding R18+ games, since real time strategies obviously aren’t seriously affected by the ruling. But I think what is needed if you’re serious about changing policy is a reliable assessment of the public’s views – politicians will do anything to avoid a bad poll – and I don’t believe that has been done.

  9. Well done, Garry, for making such a well reasoned argument and stimulating such intelligent discussion. If only Mr. Atkinson had stumbled upon this group of gamers when he ventured online to discuss the matter rather than an insulting lot of anger-fuelled venters.

    I am not a gamer. Many of my closest friends are gamers, I must admit and certainly I have played games in the past, violent and otherwise, though never regularly or for any great length of time. I do not own any sort of specialised gaming console and my computer is not used for gaming. I feel that I am, therefore, entitled to speak as a part of the wider “90%” of Australians who are not gamers and who agree with Mr. Atkinson when I say ‘I do not agree with you, Mr. Atkinson.’

    I see that the comment made about child pornography was made to draw attention to the fact that Australia does have censorship (and rightly so) and not to insult anyone or liken gamers to pornographers. However, the lack of an R18+ rating means that games made for adults and including scenes no less horrific than films seen in our cinemas and programs shown on television are banned like they were dangerous and horrific victimisation of children, rather than properly classified like violent, and sexually explicit imagery seen elsewhere. Imagery that has been available to consenting Australian adults for a long time.

    The key word there is consent. Mr. Atkinson seems to assume that gamers have no right to give their own consent. Mature gamers are adults and able to make their own decisions, just as mature filmgoers are. Child gamers have parents or guardians to protect them. A lack of an R18+ rating in games means that they are unable to properly do so.

  10. I think Joey has misunderstood the point of Atkinson’s interview and the letter. We would understand if the majority of people don’t want to see the introduction of highly violent or sexualized games. The problem is that these games are now turning up under an MA 15+ rating.

    To put this into perspective – Aussie kids in Year 9 can play the same games that British and American people can play when they are in college. (Dead Space, Modern Warfare 2, The Witcher are just a fraction of examples where little to no edits are made).

    If the system was working, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt- but since it is clearly not working – something needs to be done.

  11. Seems to me like most of the posters here are missing the point. Atkinson is not drawing a distinction between gamers and the public, he is drawing a distinction between those gamers who seek to play R18+ games and the general public; the former group is a clear minority. Even if the majority of gamers are adults (which is probably true), it doesn’t contribute anything to the argument, since the argument is one of morality. The question is whether or not the majority of the population (not just gamers) feels that the introduction of highly violent or sexualized games is on the whole harmful to society.

  12. Interesting how Atkinson separates ‘gamers’ from the ‘public.’ As if it’s an underground movement and we ‘need to get out more.’ It’s clear insight into how he defines himself as the norm and everyone else as part of a fringe community.

    Atkinson, you enrage my rational and adult sensibilities. You treat us as idiots when we comprise some of the most intelligent and productive echelons of society. You as a non-gamer and part of an increasing minority in our media entertainment society are not qualified at all to speak on the topic of video games.

    You are the old-guard, defending values through generalisation, misinformation and your own ignorance. You wonder why gamers get so angry Mr Atkinson? I’d say comparing us to child pornography consumers and murderers have something to do it. Insult our moral integrity and expect a calm response, another unreasonable demand on your part.

  13. Well said that man!

    Differences of opinion on classification regulation aside, considering how much gamers contribute to the Australian economy (http://bit.ly/6fId1E), surely there’s political worth in investigating new streams of revenue. At the end of the day, this is what a more effective classification system would be statistically more likely to generate than murdering child pornographers.

    While the lack of respect afforded to gamers is particularly dissapointing, it has to be said that the personal and unreasonable attacks on both sides do absolutely nothing to progress the debate. It may be a brave new world where we have a greater degree of intellectual freedom due to information sharing and community building online, but is the best use of that freedom making irrational and personal attacks on your opponents? I’d argue that it probably isn’t.

    Which is why Garry’s well reasoned and graciously argued open letter is all the more important. Well done.

  14. You can find his email with a simple search on Google, but as for his actual address I’m not quite sure. Keep in mind that this guy gets letters every day from abusive kids and we definitely don’t want to look like a rabble.
    Good luck!

  15. Just wondering do you actually have the address of Mr Atkinson. I would like to personally write a few letters to him myself explaining the benefits of an R18+ game rating system.

  16. That man is as backwards as it gets. Sorry he won’t listen to reason. I also can’t stand the no R18+ classification. It’s incredibly undermining to the very large gaming community. 90% of Australians not playing games? Yeah right. There’s probably an xbox 360, ps3 or wii in at least 70% of Australian homes. The gaming community is also a maturing one. Sure we started playing games young, but now were older and guess what? We’re still gaming.

  17. also to say that Gamers are not part of the community is absolutely horrible for a man of his position, or implying that gamers have no say in community issues,

    because in reality, Gamers ARE part of the community, even though we may be a small part, we are still community and it is that part of the community that Mr Atkinson is seriously not going to listen to.

  18. I think that all personal abuse in the emails and letters should stop, but I also believe that Mr Atkinson has also had his fair share of insulting people who didn’t believe in his remarks.

    When he says, get out and smell the roses, I take it as an insult to my intelligence because he is trying to tell me that my opinion does not matter against his opinion.

    Now, in trying to have a fair a reasoned debate, it is hard when you are up against a person who is putting allot of negative gamer opinions against you, and putting his political position to intimidate you.

    Also saying things like he wants the Classification Board to be tighter around videogames because of their interactive nature and wanting to fire people who are doing their honest job and best judgement, I feel that is Mr Atkinson’s way of insulting people too.

    So yes, Mr Atkinson, I do believe that we need to stop all the trash talking, but also understand that you yourself have also done a fair bit of trash talking yourself.

    Saying that 90% of Australians don’t play videogames is a fair indication that you still believe that videogames in your view are not as accepted as another form of medium who had allot of flack from the older generation back when you were younger that was TV.

  19. It is infuriating to see politicians who like to dictate regulations based on exceptions to the norm. “A man in Bangkok was killed because a gamer played Grand Theft Auto”. Really? I can site examples of car wrecks where the individual was killed because they wore their seat belts. Therefore, by his logic, public safety dictates that seat belts be illegal. Individuals who are utterly and completely misinformed on a subject matter should never be in a position to dictate public policy. Mr. Atkinson seems to want to govern based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence.

  20. Well said mate! Im sick of Atkinson, ABSOLUTELY SICK OF THE STENCH HE PUTS ON THIS INDUSTRY…i dont consider him a fellow australian!

  21. We can spend a weekend doing a petition when I get home if you like! But no Nando’s breaks, ok?

  22. GTA IV
    Gears of War 1 & 2
    Assassins Creed 1 & 2
    Call of Duty (all of them)
    Rogue Warrior
    Resident Evil
    Left 4 Dead
    Army of Two

    The above is only a small sample of games that have been classified as M 17+ or R18+ around the world that are getting pushed through the M15+ rating here in AUS and sold legally to younger gamers. Adults should have the right to choose which games they want to play and kids should be restricted to what they can purchase, the current system does neither. Anyone who cant see that the current system is broken and that a properly enforced R18+ rating would actually serve to protect kids the same way the Movie Classification system is designed to is clearly not seeing the big picture.

    Whether or not you like violent games is irrelevant, what is relevant is who do you want to be able to purchase it, a 18+ adult or kids 15 to 17.

  23. well said.

    i hope this doesn’t fall on deaf ears

  24. Hi everyone,
    thanks so much for the support even though in all likelihood, Mr Atkinson will not read this letter (I have sent an email to his office however).
    If you have friends who would also like to see a public discussion on this subject, please share this link with them.
    Garry

  25. I have one sentence for you Garry.

    You poured all my thoughts on this web-page.

    Great work and I hope Atkinson sees some sense…

  26. Great Job Garry, with any luck maybe he’ll listen. I’m getting sick of people blaming Australia as a whole for this matter. So its time we made our voices heard!
    Dan, Vic, Australia

  27. Exactly, well done, these guys need to wake up and get with the times. Kids ARE NOT the majority of those who play computer games sorry to say and we as adults deserve the choice in what we watch and play.

  28. Well said! The absense of this rating is absurd.

  29. Australia isn’t branded as a huge market in the gaming industry’s eyes. Unfortunately Michael Atkinson isn’t helping the situation, instead of letting the rating sytem grow and evolve into something majority of people could understand, accept and respect. He has insulted the rights and intelligence of of current gamers who’s voices are obviously ignored, the struggling gaming industry in Australia who don’t have enough support to grow on their own, the parents of the ‘children’ who should exercise their rights to protect their own children, the other Attorney-Generals who no one has heard.

    The game industry has grown tremendously in the past 2 decades and there is a lack of substancial research made between the relationship between ‘violent games’ and aggressive behaviour. Aside from Craig Anderson’s result there is a mixed result from D. Williams & M. Skoric. http://dmitriwilliams.com/CMWilliamsSkoric.pdf

    Look at the bigger picture, the ‘violence’ in games are only a representation of the violence happening in the real world.

  30. Good Job! Saw you posted on the forums and decided to have a read. Everyone moans, whereas no-one does anything about it. Though, i am from the UK, i really hope you get some kind of response! Ross


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