Despite years of vocal outrage, despite thousands of letters to various government officials, despite countless angry forum threads, and despite strong response to a public consultation that showed overwhelming support, Australia's state and federal governments are still not convinced about the merits of an adult rating for video games in Australia. This year's public consultation canvassing community views on the introduction of an R18+ for video games in Australia found 98.2 percent were in favour of the new rating, but Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor now says the views of the "silent majority" still needs to be canvassed. Translation: our government thinks the strong response is not representative of the broader community.
Well, it's time to prove our state and federal governments wrong. Our political leaders are convinced that they've already heard everything the gaming community has to say on the issue. But what we can do is help them realise that this issue is of relevance to far more than just Australian gamers. We need to help O'Connor's "silent majority" speak out—average, everyday Australians who don't identify themselves as gamers.
How can we do this? The next meeting of Australia's censorship ministers—the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General—is set to meet on December 10, 2010, and the R18+ for games issue is on the agenda. What we as gamers need to do now is to encourage our friends and family who don't consider themselves as gamers—O'Connor's "silent majority"—to speak up about R18+ before this meeting takes place. And it's as simple as writing an email.
STEP 1: FIND THE NON-GAMERS IN YOUR LIFE
This should be easy. Think about all of your friends and family. Then ask yourself: who out of these people don't know what a goomba is, don't know what KDR is short for, or would be unable to join a robust debate about Zerg vs. Protoss. They're probably non-gamers, so seek them out.
STEP 2: INFORM THEM ABOUT THE R18+ CAUSE
Everything you need to know about the R18+ issue in Australia can be found in our extensive feature here. But for your convenience, here's the argument boiled down to a few points.
* Introducing an R18+ for video games allows for greater freedom of choice in the Australian market that is free of heavy-handed censorship. Australia's classification regime for games was last revised in the 1990s, where the prevailing attitude was that games were only for children. Recent studies have shown gaming to be an adult pastime, with the average age of the Australian gamer being 30 years old.
* Introducing an R18+ for video games will bring games into line with the same sets of ratings found on other forms of media such as film and DVDs. Having the same ratings scale across media will make it easier for all consumers to discern the appropriate content for them.
* Introducing an adult rating for games means that some games that are currently being passed as MA15+ will be classified correctly. This actually ensures better outcomes for parents and other concerned citizens and it gives them a much clearer indication about the suitability of a particular game for their children.
* Introducing an R18+ rating DOES NOT mean more violent and depraved games will make it into Australia. Anything that is considered by the Classification Board to have inappropriate content will still be banned. All an R18+ ensures is that content is being properly rated.
* Introducing an R18+ for video games bring us into line with the vast majority of developed nations which have an adult rating for games.
STEP 3: GET THEM TO WRITE A LETTER
Urge your non-gamer friend to put finger to keyboard (or pen to paper if they're more traditional) and write a letter explaining their view about R18+. Or if they don't have the time for that, they can also use our handy pre-written letter below.
Dear Mr O'Connor
My name is [NAME]. I am writing in regards to an R18+ classification for games.
I'm not a gamer, but I know many people who are, and I share their concerns about the lack of an adult classification for video games in Australia. I believe the introduction of an adult rating will ensure games are being rated appropriately in this country, and will allow parents and other concerned citizens to better identify games that may be unsuitable for minors. The introduction of an R18+ rating will also bring Australia into line with most other nations who have long ago introduced an adult rating for games.
Most importantly, I believe the introduction of an R18+ for games will be belated recognition of the fact that games are no longer a pastime for children, and that adults make up the majority of Australia's gaming demographic. I think all Australian adults have the right to choose their entertainment options, and video games should be afforded the same classification as films or DVDs.
I understand the issue of R18+ for games is being discussed as part of your next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. I would like you to register my support for its introduction as an Australian and as a non-gamer.
STEP 4: SEND THE EMAIL!
The best email contact for Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
His physical postal address is:
M1.19 Ministerial Wing
PO Box 6022 Parliament House Canberra ACT 2601
Congratulations! You've just helped the cause of R18+ by getting a non-gamer to voice their support. Why not see if you can get others to write in as well? Even if only a few hundred letters are sent, it's still a few hundred voices that have piped up to tell our political leaders that R18+ is something that's of interest to those outside of the gaming community. And the more non-gamers speak out, the more it seems our government will listen. Keep up the good fight, and for more information on R18+, check out GameSpot AU's extensive coverage here.
Tell us how your efforts in helping the silent majority speak out by hitting the comments section below!