In ‘The Ethics of Game Design’ panel at Freeplay, Digital Australia author Jeff Brand questioned the R18+ virtues.
We’re now full steam ahead towards an R18+ in a few months’ time, but the specific wording of how videogames were to be treated alongside other media led to some backlash in the local media.
Dr Jeff Brand from Bond University, author of the and Digital Australia and New Zealand Reports (formerly Interactive Australia), outlined his specific grievances with the new guidelines on the panel.
He begins, while going over the new guidelines with a fine tooth comb: “So here we have the part where games are allowed to have an R18+ rating, but then we’ve still, as is their wont in any quasi-governmental scheme, got the ability to refuse classification or censor games.”
“Always in the Australian classification scheme, we have to assess ‘impact’, and impact goes all the way from very mild up to very high and if it’s very high it gets refused classification.”
Brand then read directly the section of the guidelines which he found most problematic:
Due to the interactive nature of computer games, the active, repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule, computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
Brand continued: “Because games are interactive, they’re deemed to be more ‘impactful’. Well, there’s no research on this at all. There’s just no evidence of this.”
“So as a result, we now have MA15+, which we had before. But we’re going to say that because it’s interactive, it’s got a higher impact, which just means (really) that the classification board is now free to put a lot of things into the R18+ which it might not put into that category with, for example, films.”
“Oh well. There we go. We haven’t made any progress at all, people. I just wanted to point that out.”
“And, of course, a lot will still be refused classification.”
“The publishers of course have come out and said that the anti-R18+ rhetoric is from an unrepresentative minority voice, but what does this mean for game designers? Well, it means that in theory, you’re held to a higher standard than other creative industries, artists and designers.”
A standard which will only become more important as games mature even further and are used more actively to educate people academically and politically, Brand concludes.
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