Friday, September 18, 2009

Get with the times, Atkinson!

Having played violent games since I was 14, I don't see why games should be prevented from reaching sale in this country on the flawed assumption that violent games will automatically inspire violent behaviour. There is no conclusive evidence to back this view; it is highly disputed, and with good reason. With proper parenting and education, as well as a lack of psychological problems, I don't believe games inspire violence at all - I've thrown about two punches in my entire life, and only ever after being attacked myself. I'm 19 years old, and an Army Reservist; apparently I'm mature enough to handle a rifle, grenades, claymores, and a whole array of other weapons, but not a game?

Virtually the only reason L4D2 has been refused classification (a nice little euphemism for 'banned') in Australia is SA Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, who seems totally opposed to even considering an R18+ rating for games. Movies, sure; we've had it for a long time. When it comes to games though? MA15+ is the highest it goes. We lack an equivalent not only to the ESRB's AO rating, but also to its M17+ rating. The OFLC, while extremely inconsistent, can't really be blamed when they're forced to ban anything that would be deemed unsuitable for a 15-year-old. While the introduction of the R18+ rating for games has been on the table for quite some time, without Atkinson's go-ahead and the resultant unanimous decision, we won't be getting it.

Personally, I'd like to know why he thinks games are any less deserving of an R18+ rating. Perhaps he thinks those evil gamers will go on killing sprees once they're finished with their murder simulators, no matter whether they're nine or ninety? I recall catching the last few minutes of a television programme covering the issue once as I went channel-surfing; he was up on a soapbox smugly proclaiming just how many threatening letters he'd received, and how they proved him right. I suppose that if he tuned in to the news once in a while and heard about the various attacks by extremists around the world, he'd also come to the conclusion that the Islamic faith turns people into killers? Doesn't seem much of a leap, does it? Simply throwing every gamer into the same basket is little more than discrimination, yet he's allowed to get away with it. If he had arrived at the aforementioned conclusion instead, he'd be out of a job and publicly disgraced. Why, then, is it perfectly alright to bash gamers and deny them equal rights to movie connoisseurs? Why are gamers the only group against which outlandish generalisations are perfectly acceptable?

Of course, the fact that the media will immediately call out an actual killer for playing some GTA or Halo at some point in their lives - and then make it out to be the cause - doesn't help. It's undeniable that some gamers are absolute headcases, but so are some businessmen, suburban mothers, and even politicians. No matter what group you decide to look at, there will always be some who are on a hair trigger, yet time after time us gamers are the 'fall guys'. Because games are interactive, they somehow inspire us to kill while movies like Saw or exceedingly violent books don't. We are treated like some unstable, already partly unhinged, and paranoid children without the mental capacity to tell the difference between a game world and the real world.

Here's some news for you: we're not stupid. Most people have no trouble telling the difference, most before they even reach the age of 10. In the cases where a child (or even adult) is unstable enough to be affected by a game (or a movie or book), then it's simple - their parents or friends should do something about it, not a branch of the government. Stop trying to raise peoples' children for them. All it does is breed lazy (synonymous with terrible, in my book) parents and kids who resent authority. If you want to see an increase in violence, then keep on going the way you are, interfering with decisions that cannot be made based on a mythical figure like 'the average Australian child' or 'the average Australian gamer'. These decisions should be made per case, and not by you.

I'd also like to make a very large point of the fact that violent games are a very good way to blow off steam; rather than going around whacking people in real life, I can shoot up computer-generated zombies with my friends and forget all about whatever made me angry beforehand. I don't know about you, but I'd say that sounds like a pretty good way to reduce violent crime.

I'm 19. I'm responsible. Now give me my damn game, please.


  1. This.

    Why is it that at 20 years of age the Government does not think I can choose what games I play? I should be able to play whatever I damn well please.