Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Emotive debate over R rating for video games -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Emotive debate over R rating for video games

Broadcast: 17/03/2010

Reporter: Thea Dikeos

Australia is one of the few countries that doesn't have an adult or R classification for video
games and the push to change the law has sparked a major row. All state Attorney Generals need to
agree to an R classification for it to become a reality. South Australia's Attorney General Michael
Atkinson is the only one publicly opposing the R classification and has received flak for his


KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: The impact of violence in popular culture almost always ignites a highly
emotive debate and the rise of the video game as a modern phenomenon has added to the equation.

Now a significant strand of mainstream entertainment, violence is a recurring theme in many of the
blockbuster games.

Australia is one of the few countries that doesn't have an Adult or "R" classification for the
games and the push to change the law has sparked a major row.

Some child rights advocates say the rating will open the floodgates to more extreme material, while
gamers say it's common sense.

Thea Dikeos reports, and a warning that the following story contains images that may disturb some

THEA DIKEOS, REPORTER: These eager fans are queuing for a sneak preview of the latest blockbuster
in a $70 billion a year global industry.

Video games are now threatening to eclipse movies and music as the world's most popular form of

Last year Australians spent a record two billion dollars on video games.

GAMER 1: Gone are the days where gaming used to be Mario Brothers for your 12-year-old when you
went out. It's very much an adult thing these days.

RON CURRY, INTERACTIVE GAMES & ENTERTAINMENT ASSOCIATION: The typical gamer now 30 years-old, more
likely to have a university degree than not. And also, the gamers now are 68 per cent of the

THEA DIKEOS: Psychology lecturer Caleb Owens is by his own admission an obsessive gamer who spends
most of his free time at a console, but he was so disturbed by scenes from the popular game Modern
Warfare 2, in which a player could at an airport assume the role of a terrorist in a Mumbai-style
massacre, that he complained to the Classification Review Board.

We've avoided using some of the more graphic scenes.

CALEB OWENS: The game's publishers at the time said "Oh, this is to help gamers understand
terrorism from the other side", but it... Even gamers agree that it's - it was a poor addition to
the game. The game is otherwise fantastic. Certainly it's violent everywhere else but in this
particular level, which you could skip, I guess. But this particular level, I thought, was just
offensive beyond belief.

THEA DIKEOS: In Australia, Modern Warfare 2 is rated MA 15 plus, which means it can be sold to
players aged 15 and over.

CALEB OWENS: There are people who lost family members in the Bali bombings who now have the
knowledge that from this day forth any video gamer in Australia can simulate a civilian massacre at
no penalty to them. And that's just horrifying.

(Guns blast at characters in a video game)

LAURA PARKER, JOURNALIST, "GAMESPOT.COM.AU": It was about moral choices. It was about showing
gamers what can happen in that situation.

CROSSHAIRS PRESENTER: This week on Crosshairs, we speak to Aussie retailers to find out their
thoughts about the R18 issue for games...

THEA DIKEOS: Laura Parker is an avid gamer and online journalist for a gaming website.

LAURA PARKER: A lot of people take these violent scenes out of context and say, "Well, you know,
this is blood, dismemberment, and post-mortem abuse and drug use. That must mean that the whole
game is made up of these elements," and that's often- very often not the case at all.

THEA DIKEOS: MA-15 plus is the highest classification rating for video games. Australia is one of
the few countries in the world not to have an R rating.

Games with excessive violence, drug use and adult themes are refused classification and banned from
sale in Australia.

LAURA PARKER: This is a form of censorship and it's basically the Government telling us that we are
not allowed to play video games that everybody else in the world is allowed to play.

CALEB OWEN: The kinds of games that are being refused classification are only being refused
classification because the gore is excessive - tendons are visible, decapitations are possible,
bodies pile up. That's the only thing that we are missing out on in Australia.

THEA DIKEOS: The body which represents the interactive games industry is pushing for an R

RON CURRY: We kid ourself if we say, "Without an R18, a big wall goes around Australia and prevents
the games being here".

That's simply ridiculous. The games are here. It's being pirated, it's being downloaded and it's
being, you know, imported by mail order.

THEA DIKEOS: Ron Curry doesn't believe an R 18 plus rating will open the floodgates to more violent

RON CURRY: The classification guidelines say if there's extreme violence in a game, or gratuitous
violence, it'll be refused classification anyhow. So, it's not, all of a sudden we're going to see
a bunch of games that currently are refused classification coming in. They'll simply still be
refused classification, and we're happy with that.

THEA DIKEOS: An R rating is unlikely to lead to the reclassification of existing MA-15 plus games.
Last year, according to the industry, only five games that may have fitted into the R category were
refused classification.

CALEB OWENS: The argument for five or six more violent games per year - and that's all it is - has
been translated into an argument for free speech or mature games. There are no mature games in that
category! They're games with lots of blood and lots of guts but they're not games which are mature
in a way that you or I might think they're mature.

DR ANDREW CAMPBELL, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: Most parents that I've spoken to about games for their
children have no real idea that the games themselves could get to a level of inappropriate
behaviour both through language, sexual information or violence.

THEA DIKEOS: As part of a Sydney University study, Dr Andrew Campbell asked 150 young people aged
between 17 and 22 to watch a violent movie clip and then a week later play a violent video game.

(Explosions and dramatic music on screen)

ANDREW CAMPBELL: In both conditions their rate of aggression went up, but it was more prolonged -
as in held over for a number of hours after playing - with the video game, especially in the more
realistic settings of the video games.

THEA DIKEOS: Andrew Campbell supports the introduction of an R rating for video games.

DR ANDREW CAMPBELL: I think parents do need to be informed about how severe the content can be in
some games that are coming out today, which is equivalent to a lot of R 18 movies.

PROFESSOR CRAIG ANDERSON, PSYCHOLOGY, IOWA UNIVERSITY: If the industry in Australia really wants
parents to have more information, it's pretty easy for them to do. That is, they could create a
rating system that would emphasise what the content is and would put warning labels to warn about
content that has shown to be harmful - much like, at least in the United States, cigarette

(Onscreen, to a group of students) How many of you play computer games...

THEA DIKEOS: Psychology professor Craig Anderson of Iowa University recently published a study in
the prestigious American Psychological Association analysing 130 research reports on over 130,000
subjects worldwide.

CRAIG ANDERSON: Exposure to violent video games has now been shown to increase the likelihood of
aggressive behaviour in both short term and long term contexts.

THEA DIKEOS: Professor Anderson's research is being used by child advocates here in Australia to
oppose the R rating, but the industry questions such findings.

RON CURRY: We've looked hard and talked to a lot of academics on that issue, because there's been a
lot of debate and we'd love to stand up and say, "Here are some undisputable facts that say there's

Conversely, we haven't been able to find anyone who could stand up and say, "You know what? Here
are some undisputable facts that it is." At the moment, the jury's out.

THEA DIKEOS: All state Attorneys General need to agree to an R classification for it to become a

South Australia's Attorney General Michael Atkinson is the only one publicly opposing the R

(Michael Atkinson plays a game featuring a murderous human-ape hybrid)

He's become the focus of a concerted online and real world campaign by angry gamers.

Michael Atkinson was unavailable to be interviewed for this story but sparked controversy when he
spoke on ABC2's Good Game program last month.

MICHAEL ATKINSON, SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ATTORNEY GENERAL (on Good Game): I had a threatening note from a
gamer shoved under my door. I feel that my family and I are more at risk from gamers than we are
from the outlaw motorcycle gangs who also hate me.

RON CURRY: Firstly, we don't condone that sort of behaviour. It's ridiculous, it's stupid and it's

THEA DIKEOS: The Federal Attorney General's department is now considering the 55,000 public
submissions it received on this issue.

LAURA PARKER: It's not about a small amount of gamers with blood lust. It's about everybody. We're
all affected when a game is refused classification. Partly because we know we're being censored for
no- for no good reason.

CALEB OWENS: It's one thing to say, "I want freedom to enjoy watching a depiction of something" -
freedom of consumption, if you like.

But this is about simulating acts. Do we want people to have the freedom to simulate gory,
murderous acts, day in, day out?