Saturday, 14 November 2009

Won't someone think of the gamers

This post was originally written (by me) and published on January 31, 2007 here.

I'm sick of hearing about things done for "protecting the children". Children shouldn't be playing games made for adults, their parents shouldn't buy them and as I'm sure you've heard from a hundred other people, I wish the politicians would wake up to the fact that games are not just for kids, in fact very few of them are for kids.
"True," you say, "but what brought on this outpouring of vitriol?"
It's been a week or so since it happened, but I've now reached a sufficiently high level of rage to complain about Australia's wonderful OFLC banning Blitz: The League because it promotes the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport. From the official media release:
While the game-player can choose not to use the drugs, in the Board’s view there is an incentive to use them. By using them judiciously, the player can improve the performance of their football team (while managing the negative effects) and have a better chance of winning games, thereby winning bets and climbing the league table.
The following rules are used to see if a game should be refused classification:
(a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or
(b) describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not); or
(c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence; or
(d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play
The problem here of course is that you would be hard pressed to find a AAA quality game that doesn't "promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence". So the question that should really be asked here is whether the implication that illicit performance enhancing drugs enhance performance is worse than something like, I don't know, shooting people in the face. According to the OFLC, the answer is yes. Of note, films have the same classification code, and I think everybody can think of a film or two that promotes violence or crime (if you want a movie along the lines of Blitz I suggest watching Any Given Sunday).

Now, Australia also saw the banning of Mark Ecko's Getting Up again on the grounds that it promoted crime (in this case vandalism in the form of graffiti). I know that somebody complained to their local politician who then raised the matter in state parliament which put pressure on the OFLC to have it banned. I haven't heard anything yet to suggest the same thing happened with Blitz, but my guess is that a single complaint was received and the OFLC went for the knee jerk reaction again.

The problem in Australia is primarily that games don't have an R18 rating in the way movies do, so if a game isn't suitable for a MA15 rating, then nobody gets to play it.

Maybe I should go and write an angry letter to my local politician, see if he'll take a stand for consistency in games classification, the fact that the average gamer in Australia is over 18, and ... oh, who am I kidding? What sort of attention is a politician going to get supporting liberalism?

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