A strong response from gamer groups in the Australian federal government's R18+ public consultation has led censorship ministers to claim that more views from the community are needed before a decision into the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games can be reached.
Last week, Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor released a preliminary report into the results of the R18+ public consultation, which took place from December 2009 to February 2010. Along with news of initial responses to the consultation, O'Connor also made it known that ministers had agreed that "…further work needs to be done before a decision can be made." According to O'Connor, the ministers had already "…requested further analysis of community and expert views."
It now appears that the reason for this setback is the overwhelming response from gamers in the public consultation. Of the 59,678 submissions, 86 percent came from retailer EB Games and the pro-R18+ organisation Grow Up Australia. O'Connor's office told GameSpot AU today that ministers had agreed that a broader consultation of the public's views was needed following the dominant response from "interest groups."
A spokeswoman from O'Connor's office later stated that "interest groups" referred to the 34 community, church, and other groups that lodged submissions in the public consultation. However, given that submissions were dominated by pro-R18+ interest groups (EB Games and Grow Up Australia), the intended meaning seems clear.
O'Connor replied to GameSpot AU's queries with the following statement: "Consultations, by their nature, attract submissions from people who are passionate about the issue. Ministers would like to consider other legitimate views from as wide a cross section of the community as possible."
Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) president Ron Curry has hit back at O'Connor's latest statement, citing last year's IA9 report, which identified that 68 percent of Australians are now gamers.
"I’m not sure how the [Home Affairs] minister pigeonholes them as an 'interest group' because gamers cover all facets of society. If consultations, by their nature, attract submissions from people who are passionate about an issue--and I assume passionate in both opposition and support--then why bother? Surely the government asked for submissions to gauge the feeling of the wider community, of which gamers make up 68 percent," he said.
Curry believes that had there not been overwhelming support in the public consultation, there would have been a risk of interpreting the issue as a niche problem that didn’t deserve the full attention of the government.
"I don't see any harm done by a community voicing their opinion en masse. It’s incumbent on the [Home Affairs] minister now to continue to show leadership on this issue and spell out a clear and concise process and timeline to garner other 'legitimate' views from across the community. It’s all too easy to dismiss results that may not support a particular view, so we hope that the minister’s statement isn’t simply a way of placating those calling for an R18+ classification but rather a sincere commitment to ensure this issue is resolved in a timely and consultative manner."
Stay tuned to GameSpot AU for more on the R18+ debate. For more on video game classification in Australia, check out GameSpot AU's Aussie Games Classification FAQ feature.