A panel of Australian politicians and pundits made a sorry show of themselves on ABC’s Q&A program last night.
The rampant cluelessness begins when an audience member (sporting a Fallout 3 t-shirt) raises the issue of banned video games due to Australia’s lack of an R18+ rating. The announcer mentions the recent Fallout 3 ban, which was based on in-game drug use.
The panel’s answers are astounding. Aside from their immediate willingness to censor games, they seem not to even be aware that Australia has a system for rating games. One member of the panel even raises the spurious "rape in games" issue – and almost seems to compare banned games to snuff films. Only Sen. Mark Arbib comes across as unbiased:
Announcer: Okay, so here’s the question… Should there be censorship of these things, or should people over the age of 18 be able to buy these things with an R rating and play them, even though, as we’ve just heard, they’re obviously extremely violent?
Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group, Heather Ridout: Look, I mean if they’re over 18, they’ll find one way or another to get hold of it, Tony, and they do. But, as a mother of three kids, two of whom spend an awful lot of time playing these sorts of games, I mean I just find the whole thing appalling, the minds that come up with this stuff. Now Grand Theft Auto is one of the more famous games that seemed to turn everyone into a car thief, you know?. My Jordan thankfully didn’t do that. But… I mean I’m not a censorship girl… But violent games, violence breeds violence. It’s not nice.
Senator Nick Xenophon: I think we need to listen to the psychologists who’ve looked into this. And this is different in the sense it’s interactive. People get immersed in these games and I think there’s a real risk. I think as a society we can live without it.
Announcer: But does the risk warrant censorship?
Sen. Xenophon: Look, I think it does, when you look at some of the concerns of what it can trigger in some minds, then I think we need to be just a bit cautious about it.
Sen Mark Arbib: To actually ban them they must be terrible games. So, personally, I’m probably thinking R rating over the age of 18 is fine because as you said, if you wanna play to game, you’re going to get it somehow. But I haven’t seen the games so I really can’t judge whether they should be banned or not.
Announcer: …these things are being banned because there isn’t a rating system on video games… that means anyone of any age can buy them…
Sen. Arbib: As I said, I think there’s a strong argument to actually have a rating system, for all games, no doubt about it. And not just an R rating, but ratings just the same as ratings for the movies… so yeah…
Sen. Barnaby Joyce: You can’t just say you can see it, therefore you should be allowed to see it, otherwise you legalize snuff movies and all sorts of profane things which I don’t think take our society ahead… we had the thing with avatars, is that the right term, where people can actually go out and rape people. Now, this is not acceptable. You have to draw a line… you must take into account… those who are vulnerable to influence, how they would be affected by that. And if you don’t, well you suffer what comes next. I, too have four kids… I want these kids to grow up in quiet, unaffected streets. And if there’s someone playing a video game where they’re raping someone, I’m not feeling good about the place, so, knock it out.
Christine Jackman, Journalist: I agree, we urgently need a rating system. I’m not a pro-censorship person, either… (to the audience member in the Fallout 3 t-shirt who asked the question) Can I throw it back on you… why would you want to play it…?
Audience member: I want to play the game because it’s a story-driven experience that you could experience in a movie… however the Australian government won’t let me.
Christine Jackman: And how many hours do you think you or your friends would be playing those games a day?
Audience member: It differs between everyone… the average gamer is anyone nowadays. The Queen has a Wii… it’s not a question of who’s playing them or how long they’re playing them, it’s a question of whether we’re allowed to as adults…
Other audience member: …I’m not a gamer, but in terms of restricting people’s right to choose… how can you make that distinction between pokies [slot machines] and games which might be socially unacceptable when gambling itself, in our society in particular, has so many social problems than what might be caused by violent games?
GP: Thanks to reader Michael ‘sod’ Pearse for the heads-up!