It's a schism for the 21st century: The Australian Christian Lobby is hardening its stance against R18+ videogame ratings while the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has come out in support of the rating as the best way to keep inappropriate games out of the hands of children.
If it's 2010, that means Australia still doesn't have an R18+ rating for videogames, and that means that one of two things happen to every "mature" game that hits the market: It either gets shoehorned into the MA15+ rating, which has precisely the opposite effect intended by R18+ opponents - it effectively puts the game into the hands of kids - or it winds up censored or banned outright. It's a ridiculous situation and one that, like so many things in life that become mindlessly political, has a way of creating strange bedfellows and odd rivalries.
Case in point: The Australian Christian Lobby, which formalized its opposition to R18+ game ratings in January and then in February compared violent videogames to the training methods used by the infamous Special Air Service. The ACL's website at makeastand.org.au collects donations, encourages concerned citizens to express their opposition to R18+ game ratings in letters to the editor and to their Members of Parliament and provides links to anti-gaming newspaper articles and similar information.
The ACL also, it turns out, made a pretty ragin' phone call to the Australian Catholic Bishops after the ACB came out in support of extending mature ratings to include videogames. "Our view is that in an ideal world we wouldn't need an R18+ rating, but we live in the real world and you can't ignore the situation," an ACB spokesman told Kotaku Australia. "The fact of the matter is that you can chuck any of these games into Google and you'll be able to find them."
"When we put our submission in support of an R18+ rating, we got a furious call from the ACL, but we said, 'Go and read the submission'," he continued. "It's simply not practical to try and ban all these games. How are you going to ban them? They were a bit angry but such is life."
It's pretty clear that the ACB has a better grip on the reality of the situation than the ACL. Neither group is keen to see R18+ games on store shelves - a position I can understand, if not sympathize with - but the ACL's approach serves absolutely no one. While it gloats over the game industry "shooting itself in the foot," games designed for adults are either given a lowball rating or are simply distributed illegally. Because of that, the ACB says it will stick to its guns despite the anger of the ACL.
"We're talking to the Attorneys-General, and we're going to continue to talk to them," the rep said. "We're saying the same thing to them as we said in the submission. That's basically our view. Certain games - like GTA for example - they need something a little extra so parents understand the game is not for children."