All the *** are there because you cannot write some words on GS without them being censored, even if they are not offensive. Convenient that this article is about censorship then :)
As you may or may not know, Michael Atkinson is the Attorney-General of South Australia, and is the sole reason why Australia does not have an R18+ rating for video games. This unfortunately, gives Australia the dubious honor of being the only Western country without an R rating for video games. All thanks to Michael Atkinson. In our country, all of the Attorney-Generals must be in favor of changing censorship laws (amongst other things). As it stands, all other Attorney-Generals are in favour of introducing an R18+ rating, but Atkinson keeps stopping the change from going through. I remember reading once that democracy meant that, whilst all people should have rights, if there is an issue, that issue should be resolved by doing what the majority wants. Likewise, democracy is supposed supposed to represent the opinion of a nations citizens. Currently, 88% of Australians support an R18+ rating. Yet, due to one man, we won't see such a rating whilst that man holds office. Democracy?
In the thread about Fallout 3 being banned (due largely to the absence of an R18+ rating in Australia), Darth_Homer provided an interesting link to a letter written by Michael Atkinson on the issue of an R18+ rating. I would like to raise a few issues with this letter.
Mr. Atkinson quotes from the National ****fication Code that:
"a.) adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want;
b.) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them"
Firstly, I personally don't believe there is much material likely to 'harm or disturb' minors in some video games that have been banned. Take Fallout 3. It was banned for promoting drug use. I don't believe that a child would play Fallout 3, use drugs in the game (to heal themselves) and then go and use drugs in real life as a direct result of having used drugs in a video game. I don't propose that nobody would play Fallout 3 and also use drugs, but I don't believe there would be a direct correlation. Just like not everybody who uses drugs in the real world does so because they once played a game with drugs in it. I grew up watching and playing games and movies which were ****fied higher than my age, and I don't think they 'harmed or disturbed me.' I'm probably not a model citizen, but I go to University and don't use drugs (a feat in itself).
Nonetheless, there are people who believe that playing stuff in games as a minor can affect you. Even so, I fail to see how parts a and b cannot operate together. I suppose that is partly due to my opinion that part a. shouldn't come second to part b., but I also honestly think both can be achieved together. If the powers that be truly believe minors should be protected, increased censorship is not the way to go. The lack of an R18+ rating simply punishes all people of all ages (at least all those above eighteen) indiscriminately. The ironic point here is that the whole point of having ratings is to discriminate - only allowing certain age groups to play certain games is the whole point. So whilst not having an R18+ rating does protect children by limiting what content is available, the problem is that children could still be protected if there was an R18+ rating.
So how should children be protected? In my opinion, instead of maintaining our archaic censorship system, Australia should catch up with the rest of the Western world and then actually enforce the rules. That way, the right people are being protected, rather than limiting what can be sold to all Australians. At the moment, as Mr. Atkinson quite rightly points out, it is far too easy for children under 15 to get MA15+ games and films, usually by getting others to buy them the product. Often, it is parents who are unaware of what many of the ratings really mean. Therefore, educating them would surely be a more sensible course of action to take. Furthermore, maybe enforcing some sort of penalty on those who knowingly buy games for people under the certified age would be better. Not many responsible shopkeepers would sell tobacco or alcohol to children, the reason being that they can suffer heavy fines and loss of their license to sell such items if they are caught doing so. I may be wrong, but I don't think the same can be said for video games. There may well be ramifications for selling games to underage gamers, but are they actually enforced? Instead of restricting the content available to all Australians, it would be far more logical to punish those who try and bypass the system in place to protect children. Having said this, it makes me wonder why there are not bigger sanctions on people who buy games and films for children, and I suspect it is because a large majority do not truly believe it is necessary. Whereas the majority of people understand and recognise that alcohol can be damaging to a minors health, the same cannot be said for video games.
Mr. Atkinson also states, "I cannot see how adding an R18+ ****fication for games will stop parents from making bad choices for their children or stop children getting a game from their friend or sibling." Surely the same can be said for films, which not only have an R18+ rating, but also an X rating? Regardless, this once again shows Mr. Atkinsons ignorance towards the best method of protecting children, which would be to enforce a just ****fication system rather than to maintain our old and overly conservative system which does not meet the wishes of the majority of Australians. M. Atkinson quotes that 62% of Australians with a gaming system in their household say that the ****fication of a game does not influence their decision to buy a game. Firstly, I would be amazed if that entire 62% of households contained children. If not, then I do not see the importance of them not considering the ****fication of games, since everybody in that household would be allowed to play any game available anyway. For those that do contain children, I can see Mr. Atkinson's point, but will still have to disagree with it. By quoting this statistic, Mr. Atkinson acknowledges that a lot of parents do not consider ****fications when buying games. Yet he does not think that alerting parents to the importance of ratings is the best solution. Instead, he proposes that Australia should continue with our current system, because introducing an R18+ rating would allow for more graphic content to be available to children of parents who do not consider the ****fication of a game. To me, this is like fixing a broken window just by covering it up with something else. Sure, it gets rid of the problem for a while, but it ignores the bigger problem.
Mr. Atkinson later admits that restricting what content is available for purchase 'restricts adult liberty to a small degree' and that that is the price society pays to be able to protect children and, I quote, 'in my view, it is worth it.' The problem here is that, whilst Mr. Atkinson is completely entitled to have a view on the matter, he is ultimately supposed to be representing the people of South Australia. What Mr. Atkinson should not forget, is that he is amongst only 12% of Australians NOT in favour of an R18+ rating. Thus, he is only effectively representing a minority of people. Either this indicates his lack of support for effective democracy, or he is doing his job badly. He goes on to say that a 'legal restraint' in what can be bought by Australians is only part of the answer, but he is 'loath to give it up.' I think this goes to show that even if 99% of Australians were not in favour of an R18+ rating, Mr Atkinson has already informed us that he would be too stubborn to care about it.
He later argues that the age of moviegoers can be regulated, yet games cannot be, once they are in the household. This is true, but is only a small part of the truth. As I have already suggested, the sale of games could be restricted in the same way that the sale of tickets to a movie is restricted. It isn't difficult. Once in the home, I admit it is harder to regulate. But then that goes for everything. Films on DVD (which can be pornographic in nature) and music cannot be regulated in households. Neither can cigarettes and alcohol. A child could hypothetically drink alcohol in their household just as easily as they could insert an R18+ game disc into their gaming console. Thus, the way in which some forms of entertainment (a category into which alcohol most certainly falls!) is regulated in Australia is inconsistent. However, one man is alone in his quest to stop Australia's system from falling in line with the fairer system present in other Western countries.
Ultimately, I think Mr. Atkinson is either ignorant to the real issues and the most effective ways to deal with those issues, he is employing a policy of conservatism for the sake of conservatism, or he would solve the inconsistencies present by restricting all types of media in the same way video games are if he could. Personally, I think the answer is somewhere between the first and third possiblities (and by this I don't mean the second option). In his arguments, he does seem somewhat oblivious to more effective and fair means of regulating sales of video games. In a short space of time, I have thought up one or two better ways of enforcing restrictions more effectively. Presumably, if he was dedicated to finding the best solution (rather than just imposing a blanket restriction which affects all gamers of all ages), he could expand upon my ideas and make them even better and even more efficient. Although there is no evidence of it in his letter, I also believe that Mr. Atkinson would be in favour of restricting more content in other forms of media, if he could. If I am correct, this once again shows how his commitment to the people he represents comes second to his commitments to satisfying his own minority views.
So, if you disagree with Mr. Atkinson's point of view, what can you do to influence change? Well, the most obvious solution if you are living in South Australia in the district of Croyden is to not vote for him again. Alternatively, all South Australians can avoid voting for the ALP at the next State election, of which Michael Atkinson is a member. I don't presume I should tell you which party to vote for, but just remember that as long as Michael Atkinson is the Attorney-General of SA, Australia will not get an R18+ rating. If you don't live in SA, then you cannot really express your voice via elections, but you can still let people in power know what you think. The best way of doing this is to write to Michael Atkinson or your MP. The easiest way to do this is via email, but if you can muster up enough enthusiasm to write a letter and send it by snail mail, this usually ellicits a better response.
Email email@example.com to send an email to the Attorney-General of SA, Michael Atkinson. If you would rather write a letter, you can send one to...
GPO Box 464
ADELAIDE SA 5001
The other option is to write to your MP. The best way to do this is to go to their website, which will usually include contact details. If you are not sure who your MP is, go here to find out.
Whoever you write to, please remember to be polite. You may not agree with that persons opinion, but it is still their opinion. Instead, emphasise that, at present, the will of the Australian people is not being fulfilled.