Michael Atkinson has a new ally in his fight to keep R18+ videogame ratings out of Australia: The Australian Christian Lobby, which has called upon its members and other Australians to speak out against mature ratings for videogames.
South Australia Attorney General Michael Atkinson's opposition to mature ratings for videogames is well known by now: He has made himself the poster boy for anti-gaming sentiment in the country through his efforts to ensure that the highest available classification for games is MA15+. Because of his high profile, the popular sentiment among gamers is that if Atkinson could be eliminated (as a political force, that is, not with an Uzi), the R18+ dominoes would quickly fall and all would be well in the land Down Under.
But it may not be that simple. The Australian government's decision to launch a public consultation on the matter has attracted the attention of the Australian Christian Lobby, which is asking Australians to make submissions expressing their opposition to the higher rating. "The last thing our community needs is more explicit violence and sex. Australian Governments have always refused R18+ rated computer games for this reason," the ACL said on its site at makeastand.org.au. "However, following pressure from the gaming industry, the Federal Attorney-General's Department is conducting a public consultation asking for submissions on whether the Australian National Classification Scheme should include an R18+ Classification category for computer games."
"Many games force the child to identify with the aggressor and children are rewarded for immoral conduct and violent behavior. Research shows that increased playing of violent first person shooter games can significantly increase aggression," the group said. "And remember, even if R18+ games were only sold to adults, they would inevitably find their way into children's hands."
The ACL claims that current restrictions on game ratings are more important now than they've ever been because improving technology results in ever-more-sophisticated games that are thus more likely to cause harm. Instead of allowing an R18+ rating, it wants to see stricter enforcement of the current MA15+ rating, "to ensure that games aren't wrongly getting through in this category."
It's tempting to dismiss the ACL as just another fringe group that's completely out of touch with the realities of modern society, but the fact is that members of these organizations have a tendency to do something that a lot of "gamers," to use an admittedly broad term, don't: They vote. Furthermore, according to ABC Analyst Antony Green, most Australians are actually in favor of censorship.
"In my view, the issue of R18+ for videogames won't have much impact [on the election] at all," he told GameSpot Australia. "When push comes to shove, a significant portion of the electorate will reject lifting censorship on this sort of thing because most people tend to be rather pro-censorship as a gut instinct."
The deadline for submissions to the public consultation on "An R18+ Classification for Computer Games" is February 28. Go to ag.gov.au to learn more.