Lately in the media there has been some coverage of the Government putting back on the agenda for the meeting of attorneys-general the issue of introducing of an 'R18+' rating for video-games.
For many years now, video-games in Australia have been subject to an entirely different classification and ratings system to that applied to other forms of media such as movies, magazines, and publications.
Whilst movies and other media can be subjected to an 'R18+' rating, the maximum rating that can be applied to video-games is that of 'MA15+', with the more violent or more sexually explicit games that don't satisfy that rating being banned.
Here are my views on why i think there should be an 'R18+' rating for video-games:
- Consistency: There are really no good reasons why the media of video-games is capped at a maximum MA15+ rating, whilst most other media can at least be classified up to the R18+ rating.
Bringing in this rating for video-games will restore some much needed consistency to the media ratings and classification system in this country, and avoid consumer confusion.
- Getting past old-fashioned thinking: Part of the reason why video-game ratings have been capped at MA15+ is the old-fashioned thinking that video-games are mainly for children.
Most recent studies in Australia and overseas have consistently placed the average age of gamers as being from the mid to high 20s (of which I am a part of). Thus the majority of the individuals playing games are adults, and as adults we should be able to buy games that have been developed for an adult audience. Thus there should be an availability of 'adult-oriented' games that would be classified as such, in the same way in which individuals can buy 'adult-oriented' movies and alike.
- Better, more accurate game classification: A big part of introducing an R18+ rating for games, like movies, is to have a strong and obvious indicator for parents and consumers of the content of such media.
There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that a lot of video-games that are currently being classified MA15+ (the maximum available rating), would have been classified R18+ if that rating were available.
An R18+ rating would give the classifiers greater leeway in making a classification, and it is my opinion that it would result in a more accurate and more representative game classification system. This would see video-games that just make it into the 'R' type of content actually being classified as such, rather than them being labelled MA because the content doesn't go as far to warrant it being totally banned.
- Video games do not make people psychopaths: Every time there is a US high-school shooting or alike, one of the first things that is analysed and blamed is how the offender might have played violent video games.
The insinuation that violent video games make people more violent is totally ridiculous, and most clinical psychiatrists will tell you as much. The media and certain pundits are all too quick to overlook serious mental issues and defects of the offenders, but all too easily blame video-games, music, and movies for their actions rather than identifying the mental and social issues that led the individual to that point, or to scrutinise how they easily appropriated the firearms that were used.
- Banning is futile anyway: If a game that would usually fall into an R18+ rating is banned, often it only increases the publicity and public awareness of it. In today's world, if something is not available to buy where you live, and it is available for sale elsewhere, then it is just as easy to go on the internet and download or import it (legally or illegally).
This totally subverts and bypasses any Australian classification system, and undermines the whole purpose behind it.
In summary, Australia needs to be consistent in the rating of video-games in-line with other forms of media. As long as retailers and parents respect and enforce the classification of R18+ rated games as they should be doing with movies and alike, then there should be no problem with adults buying R18+ rated games any more than there is with adults purchasing R18+ rated movies etc.