Game Censorship.

Being a gamer in Australia is a pretty unique experience. When I say unique I should say censored since we’re the only country that doesn’t have a 18+ rating for games and we’re continually gouged for any game that has to be released in Australia. What then end up with is either a modified product as we saw with Fallout 3 and GTA IV or the possibility of never seeing it as was the case with Manhunt 2. Whilst this isn’t such a big deal for most Australian gamers since there’s about 100 different ways to get these games they’re usually either dubious (ordering from overseas) or highly illegal (pirating), something which most people like to avoid. Now the government is seeking to censor the dubious method by blacklisting the sites themselves using their filter, as shown here:

The Federal Government has now set its sights on gamers, promising to use its Internet censorship regime to block websites hosting and selling video games that are not suitable for 15 year olds.

“This is confirmation that the scope of the mandatory censorship scheme will keep on creeping,” said Mr Jacobs.

“Far from being the ultimate weapon against child abuse, it now will officially censor content deemed too controversial for a 15-year-old. In a free country like ours, do we really need the government to step in and save us from racy web games?”

There’s two key points that are raised in this article and they are worth expanding upon. Firstly Australia is the only developed country in the world that does not have a R18+ classification for games, yet we have it for film and other media. What this means for us Australian consumers is that we either receive a delayed and watered down product or we never see it at all. Not only is this an act of censorship but is a detriment to the Australian market, as game sales not only help the developers but also the local stores that sell them. We can thank the honorable (HA!) member for Croydon Michael Atkinson for this, since he’s vetoed every attempt of getting such a rating in. Seems he’s got a great slab of cognitive dissonance going since I can go see someone be dismembered at a movie and that’s all well and good, but if its in a game that’s unacceptable. As we Australians say, I think he’s got a few kanagaroos loose in the top paddock.

Secondly we’re seeing a typical form of scope creep for the Internet filter. Now I’ve mentioned many times before that the filter was poorly thought out with no proper implementation details anywhere. Now this is fine for a design phase of a project but for something that is going to be put into law it’s unacceptable and is a avenue for abuse. What we’re seeing here is the government expanding the powers of a program that was already a complete disaster and doing things like this only makes it worse. What really gets me is that you can’t conceivably link this to any kind of rhetoric that Conroy has spewed forth previously. I mean how exactly does banning material that is aimed only at adults protect children in anyway? They might stumble across it online? Wait, shouldn’t it be the parent’s responsibility monitor their child’s presence online and not the governments? Shouldn’t adults be allowed to view legal material designed for them without having to be wrapped up in the same cotton wool as the children of Australia?

I just hope that the association of the R18+ rating with the Internet filter grants it enough air time so that we can finally get public pressure to get it passed. Keeping a developed nation such as Australia on the back foot like this is just plain unacceptable, we’re all adults here and I think we’re all capable of making decisions for ourselves. It would seem that the government is more then willing to take our own free will away from us, something which as a libertarian I can’t stand to bear.

Maybe we need another shameful radio interview with Senator Conroy to convince him to stop this crap.

3 Comments

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  1. Yea, I always thought it was weird you have movies with 18+ rating, but not games. It doesn’t really make sense in any way why you don’t have that rating for games, it’s like someone just forgot to put it in. In addition to that your games are insanely expensive compared to everywhere else. Someone doesn’t want you to play games I reckon!

  2. I don’t think that the government can see the ‘bigger picture’ here. Whilst those who choose to pirate the game are essentially ripping off the gaming industry (as we see with hollywood and television also) if the government stops people importing these games from overseas through currently legal channels (which is STILL contributing to the developers as there is still a transaction going on) this will inevitably lead to more people seeking out the illegal option as it will be the ONLY option that people have until we (hopefully) get an R18 classification.

    On the flipside, this may act as a trigger point to push people to get off their comfy chairs and actually make a noise about the necessity for this rating to be introduced so that we, as adults capable of making our own decisions, can actually purchase these games that have, in the past, been either censored or not sold here at all.

    This is also going to be a big blow to indie developers as this will effectively put Australia off limits to them in terms of another avenue for them to sell their games to. It will also be interesting to see how such a system would affect the functionality of eBay for buying and selling games in and out of Australia.

    It seems that gamers in Australia (who, according to recent surveys have an average age of 30! Yes 30!) are constantly getting the short end of the stick in the international market both in our inability to purchase games as well as the ridiculous prices that we have to pay compared with our international counterparts.

  3. It’s really interesting when a modern country turns such a blind eye to a topic like this. With the games industry making more money than it’s hollywood counterparts you’d think that the government would want to encourage them to bring some of the money over here. Instead we seem to be held back by a few key players who fail to see that what Australia is doing is backwards, and that’s the reason why no one else does it.

    I’m really hoping that since this has come up in a more public issue that it will get some screen time. The R18+ rating has always been seen as something of a non-issue by the government as industry has been willing (so far) to rework around our archaic classification system. With the clean feed now trying to expand its powers even before the trial is over we may see a bit more involvement from other groups, and I’m hoping the classification issue gets brought forward as part of that.

    As you said it makes even less sense when the average age of a gamer in Australia is 30. It would seem the omission of R18+ games means the government thinks we’re all 15-18 years old.

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