Aggression and games link "inconclusive": O'Connor

Australian Federal Government review of existing research into the effects of violent games on behaviour finds no links; Home Affairs and Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor says review will be passed on to other censorship ministers for upcoming R18+ decision.

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The possible links between violent video games and increased aggressive behaviour in players have long been used by anti-R18+ proponents as a major reason an adult rating for games should not be introduced in Australia. But now it seems the Federal Government has officially denied that supposition.

The Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, today released a review into an R18+ classification for video games that looks at existing research in order to try to answer the question of whether those who play violent video games are at greater risk of becoming aggressive. According to the review findings, there is no conclusive evidence that violent games have a greater impact than other media.

"The review found that evidence about the effect of violent computer games on the aggression displayed by those who play them is inconclusive," O’Connor said. "From time to time people claim that there is a strong link between violent crime or aggressive behaviour and the popularity of violent computer games. The literature does not bear out that assertion."

According to O'Connor, Australia's censorship ministers requested this review be carried out in order to assist them in making an informed decision about R18+ for games leading into the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting on December 10. The review also found that there is stronger evidence of short-term effects from violent games than long-term effects and that some research points to the fact that games are a small risk factor in aggressive behaviour over the short term. However, according to the review, "these studies do not thoroughly explore other factors such as aggressive personality, family and peer influence, and socio-economic status."

According to O'Connor, censorship ministers will look carefully at the review findings during next week's SCAG meeting.

"Australia needs a consistent classification system that protects young minds from any possible adverse affect, while also ensuring that adults are free to make their own decisions about what they play, within the bounds of the law," O’Connor said.

"Classification ministers across Australia are carefully considering the pros and cons of introducing an R18+ classification for computer games--restricting the viewing of these games to people aged 18 and above.

"As part of their decision making, ministers requested this literature review and other documents to assist them in making a well-informed decision. I'm keen to proceed with making this important decision, based on solid and robust evidence. This comprehensive review adds to the material ministers can rely on to make their decision."

O'Connor's view on R18+ has shifted somewhat since he first revealed that more consultation on the issue was needed back in May. In October he called on Australia's "silent majority" to speak out, before announcing just last month that he is keen to make progress on R18+.

Other politicians have also made their voices heard on the issue recently. Last week, Labor ACT Senator Kate Lundy delivered a speech to the Senate on the benefits of an adult classification for games; earlier this week the Federal Opposition's Shadow Attorney-General George Brandis stepped up to the plate and declared he is sympathetic to the R18+ for games cause.

For more on the issue, visit GameSpot AU's previous coverage.

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