In Australian Govt., One Guy is Blocking Badly-needed R18+ Rating

With a number of high-profile games facing bans or near-bans, gamers in Australia are literally begging for the addition of an R18+ classification.

But, as The Age reports, one guy is screwing it up for everyone.

GamePolitics has reported in the past on the anti-game antics of Michael Atkinson, the South Australian Attorney General. The Age has the latest:

Censorship ministers in March agreed "in principle" to canvas public opinion on the proposed introduction of a R18+ classification for games and release a discussion paper on the issue, but Mr Atkinson has refused to agree to make the report public, effectively shelving it…

"Games may pose a far greater problem than other media – particularly films – because their interactive nature could exacerbate their impact," Mr Atkinson said. "The risk of interactivity on players of computer games with highly violent content is increased aggressive behaviour."

Australia is the only developed country without an R18+ classification for games… Ron Curry, CEO of the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia, [said] "You could be forgiven for taking a view that the South Australian Attorney-General has now actively censored the debate on censorship. What’s next?"

GP: It’s amazing that one guy can stand in the way of a nation of gamers.

Big thanks to: GP reader Jarrod from Australia for the tip!

And did we mention that… The Australian government is moving toward implementation of mandatory Internet censorship? Just like China!

Now that’s progress…

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  1. Untouchable says:

    Yeah, that’s been a hot topic down here. Most people are seriously questioning the validity of the immigration laws if something like that can be done.




  2. Ryno says:

    Not game-related, but it’s another example of how the Australian gov’t seems to think:

    To sum it up, they want to deport a German Internal Medicine physician, who is also the only doctor in a community of 54,000, because his son has Down’s Syndome. They say he’ll be a burden to the state, even though he’s never done anything in his time there to warrant this, AND his father is a freaking doctor who knows how to care for someone with DS, and will likely leave a nice inheritance to see to his well-being after he is gone; and just in case that doesn’t work, there’s always the kid’s three siblings to take care of him.

    Stupidity that may rival what goes on here in the USofA.

  3. Twin-Skies says:

    Blech. If you don’t like it, then don’t buy. Dumbass…

    An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

  4. TBoneTony says:

    At least the Attorney General of my state ‘Victoria’ is one of the few who are really trying to support the R18+ rating.


    "Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who has long supported the push for an R18+ games rating and took the lead in drafting the discussion paper, appears resigned that no changes to the classification system for games will be made anytime soon.

    Spokesperson for Mr Hulls, Meaghan Shaw, said "whilst the issue is still formally on the SCAG (Standing Committee of Attorneys-General) agenda, it now appears unlikely that there will be unanimity from all jurisdictions to proceed further at this stage with introducing an R18+ category for computer games."


    Sadley only the gamers in South Australia can do something about it.


    And that is to Vote out Michael Atkinson.


    If I was a game developer in Australia, and i wanted to make an adult game, I will have to face facts that I can never sell my game within Australia and I will have to start up an online market for Australian gamers that will support an R18+ rating online.


    But here is a message that I would like to say to Rob Hulls, why not all the states go at it alone without South Australia.



  5. ZippyDSMlee says:

    This is almsot as bad as the guyin charge fo the local power corp gettign a 30% raise when they raised our rates 20% a month ago… nothign quite like morons running things….

    I is fuzzy brained mew =^^=
    (in need of a bad overhaul)

  6. Jarrod from Australia says:

    Times like this make me feel bad about calling myself an Aussie. Our system of government is clearly flawed as it allows this guy to continue to meddle with the issue that the majority of Australians support (90% i heard). i don’t want to have to wait till 2010 to have him voted out. How dare he block a discussion paper, this is a not democracy if he can legally do this. As for the ISP filter, it’s complete bullshit, Aussie pollies simply don’t understand technology, it is obvious that the filter will reduce internet speeds, not stop cyber crime and does not appeal to the democracy ideals that adults should be able to view adult content. You let me down Australia, fuck censorship.

  7. Wolvenmoon says:

    Good luck trying to stop the pirates, and on the internet thing, good luck trying to stop the darknets.

    Once again, greedy old men with no clue what they’re destroying get in the way of progress and stamp on the rights of the masses.

    And I always thought austrailia was one of the more intelligent countries. *sigh* They’re so afraid of being invaded by china they’re starting to act like china!

  8. VideolandHero says:

    That’s great!  All we need is much more people to keep writing things like this over and over and hopefully they get the message.

    — Official Protector of Videoland!

  9. Aliasalpha says:

    We’re also sexier.

    This is the text of a letter I sent about the censorship thing which has predicatably been ignored:


    Dear Senator Conroy


    I am writing with a few suggestions for modification to your internet filtering proposal. Whilst I do applaud the idea of keeping inappropriate material out of the hands of children (this part is a lie but you have to pretend to be partly on their side), I think the approach you propose has a few fundamental flaws that are drawing very harsh criticism and threatening the good intentions behind the plan.


    As an IT security professional, I feel that I should inform you that a filter of the type you propose would require what is called Deep Packet Inspection. This is a process whereby the individual pieces of information are scanned, compared to a list of known inappropriate content and then depending on how well it matches, the packet is allowed to continue to its destination or is abandoned. This process requires very powerful computers and drastically limits the speed of passing information which will inevitably lead to a long queue. Furthermore it has serious privacy considerations and may be legally challenged under the national privacy principles. Finally the DPI technology cannot be used on traffic with encryption and so all it would take to defeat the system is a simple change by the end user to use encryption.


    To use a travel analogy for the current internet, imagine if there were stations on every border-crossing road to ensure that drivers did not carry fruit interstate to prevent the spread of fruit fly. The staff at the checkpoints would stop cars, ask where they’re going and if they have any fruit. The driver would tell them the destination and surrender any fruit they were carrying, they would then be allowed to pass. This system would be very easy to bypass but the vast majority of Australians are honest and sensible people who do not wish to see fruit crops destroyed and so would comply with the rules.


    Extending the analogy to the proposed filtering system, the car would be stopped and the driver questioned at length whilst officers searched every possible hiding space within the car for any signs of fruit. As you can imagine, this would take a LOT longer to accomplish and result in an extensive queue of vehicles. This searching would drastically slow the movement of traffic across the border and create major resentment. Considering the situation from a cost/benefit perspective, the extended public backlash from everyone affected by the excessive searching would be far more damaging than the damage caused by a single deceptive fruit smuggler who made it though the more trusting system.


    Another major downside of the filtering system is what is known as False Positives, this is where something is deemed inappropriate where it is actually innocent. As an example, consider child pornography. You’ll find very few people who would object to wanting to deny access to that but how will it be done? If the filter searches for the words “Kiddy” & “porn” and blocks anything where those 2 words are included, it would be reasonably effective at blocking kiddy porn but it would also block news stories about the arrest of people who create kiddy porn and even news reports about the filter which blocks references to kiddy porn. That also only deals with text which is really quite simple to perform analysis on but what about images or video? A human can instantly know if an image is kiddy porn but computers have no such instinctive analytical capacity, image analysis software is extremely expensive, slow and still quite imprecise.


    Furthermore there is the simple common sense that humans can exhibit but which will forever elude computers. A human operator would be able to tell quickly if an image of a naked child is paedophilia or humorous baby photos being sent to a distant relative but even a sophisticated image analysis computer program would only be able to tell that the photo appears to contain somebody under the age of 16 and naked and therefore drop it. If this system is designed to send an alert to the authorities, this may result in elderly grandparents being questioned about paedophilia for receiving amusing photos of their grandchildren.  Obviously this system cannot possibly rely on human operators, the cost would be prohibitive, the privacy implications dire and the speed would make carrier pigeons a viable communication alternative.


    To provide a personal example of the dangers of a blocking list, during the latter part of my education at TAFE, the NSW department of education created an approved website list to prevent students from accessing illegal or inappropriate material, perfectly understandable and similar in principle to the Clean Feed system. The only problem was that it was a ‘one size fits all’ system which did not quite ‘fit all’, it relied on the fact that the websites had to be manually examined and added to the approved list which is a rather lengthy process considering the size of the internet. The majority of students had no need to access internet content about hacking statistics, security breaches or new tools to bypass security but it was absolutely essential to the education of IT security students. The page that informed students that the content was blocked had a contact address where we could request for a site to be added to the approved list and it was usually done within a few days but that drastically reduced our efficiency and any task we performed was on hold until we could access the website which might have the information we needed. This persisted for months until we manually bypassed the system so we could get some education.


    The government has made a promise to create a national broadband network which is one of the primary reasons I voted Labour (the other major reason of course is that anything would be better than John Howard). Australia has been allowed to stagnate technologically under the Liberal government, it has seriously damaged our international reputation and the efficiency of business, especially in rural Australia. This broadband network shows the promise to drastically improve matters but the casual implementation of mandatory Deep Packet Inspection will counteract any gains to be had and leave us once more at the tailing end of progress.


    What I would propose is really a relatively minor modification to your existing plan.

    ·         Analyse and streamline the more efficient parts of the filtering system so it creates the least drag on the network speed while performing the filtering as efficiently as possible

    ·         Create a centralised ‘blocked website’ database which people can freely consult and to which they can suggest additions

    ·         Split the filtering database into 2 separate categories, pornographic and illegal

    ·         Make available a public proxy using this database to which interested people can connect and have all filtering performed by individual choice rather than as a blanket approach which will grossly inconvenience the majority of normal users for the cause of frustrating the minority of criminals or underage users seeking adult material

    ·         The system must be tested on a bi-annual basis to ensure that it is still functional, relevant and cost effective


    This system would be fairly simple to bypass but those mature adults who want an unfiltered internet experience or who want to maintain a filter on their own computer must be able to avoid the filtering entirely or the simple fact is we’re all being treated as if we were untrustworthy children. It is a natural reaction to think that if something is illegal then it must be blocked automatically but there are a large number of people who have to have some form of contact with illegal content to guard against it; IT security people need to research the tools & tactics used by hackers, ASIO/ASIS officers must be able to access anything which potentially threatens the security of Australia & police investigators need to access potential criminal information in the course of their duties. (I didn’t add here that what I really want is to download terabytes of porn)


    In summation, mandatory filtering will cause major consumer backlash, destroy the improvements to our communications infrastructure, disrupt important work tied to illegal activity and make Australia the punchline of a worldwide technological joke.



    Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.


    Adrian Kay

  10. Moonlight says:

    At least we know in twenty years all these idiots will of died and people who’ve decided to become politicians will end up being the leaders of the world.

  11. Thomas McKenna says:

    No…China has that title.  Laughing stock of the english speaking world…maybe.  At least Australians have awsome accents.  That has to count for something.

  12. BearDogg-X says:

    Micheal Atkinson is a coward. That’s all that needs to said about the c**kbiting f**ktard.

    Be a man, Atkinson, be a man. Give Australian gamers what they want instead of hiding behind children.

    Back in Black from a forced hiatus by Hurricane Gustav.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

  13. Aliasalpha says:

    Oh well, good thing I never deleted that draft letter I was writing to him, time to finish it I guess. I think I’ll push the economc angle since so many would have done the "we’re old enough and don’t give stuff to children".

    Then again the temptation to point out the lowest common denominator approval is fairly high, what will happen to high literature when it’s realised that the average person only thinks monosyllabically (and would have no hope of spelling it)?

    "Friends, romans, countrymen! Lend me your ears" becomes "Hey you, you you, hear me!"

  14. Andrew Eisen says:

    Here you go.


    -Games provide a sense of acheivement, unlike passive mediums like television.

    -Active participation decreases the tendency to "forget" your experiencing a fantasy vs. non-interactive visual mediums.

    -Gamers find violence in television and movies more upsetting than violence in games.


    Andrew Eisen

  15. JustChris says:

    What is wrong with Australia’s entertainment ratings organization? It seems like Atkinson has the power to just "veto" everything that gets thrown at him. That goes against the very idea of representing a group.

  16. Tacticus says:

    Yep but his responsibility is to represent the people in his seat  not the rest of .au

    the censorship is thanks to this conservative anti family\anti gay\anti family planning right wing evil shit who holds a deciding vote in the senate hence the current govt needs to curry favor (still frakking wrong though)


  17. NovaBlack says:

    its crazy one guy can do this.


    I mean didnt a recent survey say 91% approved an R18 rating? Surely in a democracy you are there to represent the people, or did i misunderstand that?

  18. NovaBlack says:

    ”Michael Atkinson is single-handily responsible for the reality that Australian children may freely acquire games that developers intended only for adults”


    Couldn’t have put it better. Hes actually doing the opposite of why he claims to be not allowing an 18 rating !

    By saying no to an 18, games recieve cuts (sometimes simply minor ones like ‘oh turn that green, blur that .. done’) so they can be released under the lower rating.

    But the point is, that this was an adult game intended  for 18+!. By having a few cuts on specific areas, the game is apparently suddenly suitable for the lower rating, even tho it still may be based around adult themes and issues.  This means kids can get hold of it, Despite the fact, that had there been an 18 rating, kids would never have gotten their hands on it.



  19. CortenPlus says:

    Typical short-sighted extremist.  As they commonly do in these little quests to sculpt society into their image, this fool has achieved the precise opposite of what he sought out and still claims to have accomplished.  Any intelligent person could have predicted that a multi-billion dollar industry wasn’t going to pack up and wander off — that the combined influence of the parent companies, publishers, retailers, even the government would facilitate bringing the income of adult games into the nation in whatever form they could manage.  Consequently, developers have been forced to make minor edits to thinly veil any mature content into vague compliance with the ratings board.  He must be oblivious to the fact that Australia has nearly every adult game in existence, with only a handful of token extremes like Manhunt being turned away. 

    Michael Atkinson is single-handily responsible for the reality that Australian children may freely acquire games that developers intended only for adults, that retailers could have done a respectable job of limiting to adults; they may not have been a hundred percent successful, but a register boy who occasionally remembers to card a buyer really couldn’t help but be more successful at shielding children than Atkinson’s increasingly incompetent career. 

  20. MrKlorox says:

    Also people should take into account that Libertarians and Liberals are not the same, though the political pundits pushing their own agendas will have you think they are. Liberal does not equal Libertarian.

    Liberals are about liberal use of government resources.

    Libertarians promote liberty.

  21. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    Yup. I may be wrong, but it seems like liberals have actually done more against videogames than conservatives in the US. It just surprised me though, since he seems more like a conservative by western standards, at least to me.


    -Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! -The Buck Stops Here. -Thou Shall Not Teamkill, Asshole.

  22. Baruch_S says:

    It’s not a big surprise that a liberal would try to censor video games. Conservatives censor stuff because they think they have to force morality on people. Liberals censor stuff because they think the government can run your life better than you can. Both sides forget that they’re supposed to back the hell off and just make sure that nobody’s rights get violated, so both sides get involved in stuff that they have no business screwing around with and start trying to censor games.

  23. Ashkihyena says:

    Thank you very much, yes, its not just conservatives, and I’m glad you pointed this out.  Luckly though, none of them caused this much trouble, and hopefully they won’t.

  24. Thomas McKenna says:

    Many "Liberals" in the US are about as stuck up as this guy, in case you have forgotten.  Joe Liberman, Hillary Clinton, etc…

  25. Hitodama says:

    Note though, that "liberal" and "conservative" aren’t always certain viewpoints. Conservative is more "the way it’s been done before/traditional" while liberal is more "agianst tradition".

    Currently in the U.S. the right side of the political goverment spectrum is known as "conservative" while the left is known as "liberal" but that doesn’t mean it will always be that way, and in fact it hasn’t.

  26. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    Thank you.

    -Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! -The Buck Stops Here. -Thou Shall Not Teamkill, Asshole.

  27. Tacticus says:

    A liberal party not the Liberal party (one of our conservative parties and the other major party(yes i know it’s frakked up))

    Then again the Labor party is a very wide spread party and does contain rather contrasting view points(the democrat and republican parties in the USA would probably both be members of the Lib\national coalition (the far left of the democrat party would be around the centre of au labor party(and far right of the liberal minor parties)

    It’s a wider (in both social and fiscal areas) political scene here in .au

    hopefully i’ve kept the same case in this

    liberal == view point

    Liberal == australian major conservative party that has a mix of Social\Fiscal conservatives, Fiscal conservatives\Social liberals and Social conservatives and Fiscal liberals.

    Labor == australian major liberal party that has  a mix of of Social\Fiscal liberals, Fiscal conservatives\Social liberals and Social conservatives and Fiscal liberals.

    Greens, Democrats== minor liberal parties who are more liberal than Labor with a lower ratio of social\fiscal conservativeness (primarily seen in major cities or in the senates multi seat election (1vote with preferences == 2-12 elected(allows more minority views))

    Nationals\CLP(Country Liberal Party) == minor conservative parties (CLP are only in the NT) (more socially conservative than fiscal) primarily regional parties outside of major cities due to the unbalance of the au seat setup (country votes are generally worth more)

    Family first == Our ultra social conservative nutjob who the recent attempt by the AU Labor party to censor the internet is an attempt to please (has 1 senate seat that controls the balance of power in the senate) sometimes there is a downside to preferential voting :\




  28. Harry Miste says:

    Australia is the living version of Bizzaro, political-wise. I should know, I live there.
    And the Liberal party are actually right-wing, while the Labour Party counts as left-wing.

    XBOX LIVE GamerTag: Harry Miste | Steam ID: Harry Miste | PSN ID: HMiste | EYE. HAVE. YOU.

  29. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    Wait…he’s a member of a LIBERAL party? Additional WHAT THE HELL?

    -Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! -The Buck Stops Here. -Thou Shall Not Teamkill, Asshole.

  30. VideolandHero says:

    That’s great.  Now get thousands of people to repeatedly send that to him.

    — Official Protector of Videoland!

  31. sqlrob says:

    "Games may pose a far greater problem than other media – particularly films – because their interactive nature could exacerbate their impact,"

    Somebody send him the BBFC report that says films are worse BECAUSE they aren’t interactive.


  32. Aliasalpha says:

    One major contrast I’ve noticed from years of internet usage is the way Australians & Americans react to certain things. On average based on what I’ve seen, americans have MUCH thinner skins when it comes to anything they find remotely offensive or confrontational where Australians & Brits seem a bit more likely to percieve what is a joke around a sensitive subject and whenever someone is being a wanker, we just think they’re a dickhead & ignore them.

  33. Thomas McKenna says:

    Plus you always have the option of just moving a bit west within your country, and then you’ll be out where no government can really have a say over your actions.  Then again…not sure if you get internet in the far outback in your country…

    …Oh well, at least it looks nice there.

  34. Rabidkeebler says:

    The FCC is limited (though there is a push on extending its power) but basically it only has power for things that can be accessed freely (ie the radio air waves and tv air waves).  Cable isn’t restrained by this, though the push for ala carte may send it that direction.  Plus, the courts have been pushing back against some of the more stupid FCC censor stuff (the fleeting explitives for instance).


    Foaming at the mouth

  35. Ashkihyena says:

    Hopefully if it ever does come to that (heaven forbid), I think the people in the States would be very, very vocal about it, hopefully.

  36. Dejaa says:

     If no one does anything, then sure, US censorship could be on it’s way. It’s really just a question of how far can government push it’s power without anyone really pushing back.

  37. Thomas McKenna says:

    Well…seeing  how GP lives on this side of the world as well, I would imagine Australian news to be a bit off the radar most of the time.

  38. MrKlorox says:

    Finally GP is reporting that it is one neanderthal in particular that is impeding the R18+ movement for Australian gamers. You need to single this guy out more often so the voting people will more likely take note that Atinkson is the key. Sadly I’m on the other side of the world so the voting is out of my hands. Besides we have our own impending election to worry about here in the States.

  39. Lucid says:

    I think your comments are a little misleading.

    I won’t argue that Australian’s don’t hold personal freedoms in as high a degree as the US. We never had a war for independence, never had a civil war dividing the nation, and other than some Japanese bombings in WWII, we’ve never been invaded by a foreign power. As a result, we’re pretty peacable and largely non-confrontational. Gun control is a good example of that difference. The 2nd ammendment was originally designed to prevent the government using force to impose itself on the people. Australians would find the concept of using passive threat of force to protect themselves from their own government absurd.

    There’s a lot more talk and debate about the spirit of laws rather than the letter of them and Australians are far less litigious. Americans refer to the constitution and know it better than most Australians would know their own Bill of Rights, Americans turn to the legal system far sooner than Australians, who would only seek this out as a last resort. This might make us appear more detached from our own governing bodies and legal system.

    In truth, it’s not apathy so much as docility. We’re more reactive than proactive. If the waters are calm, why rock the boat? And the waters have historically been pretty calm when you compare them to the history of every other 1st world power. A controversy like this will fire us up, mind you.

  40. Sigvatr says:

    We had a thread about this guy in the Something Awful forums and some goons sent him letters. He replied to one. His excuse was pretty much that Australian parents are incompetant and can’t be trusted.

    Here in Australia, the government does a lot of the thinking that people would normally do in Western civilzation, and Australians don’t seem to care so long as they can have a beer and watch the footy game.

    As an American living in Australia, I have to say that the average Australian is pretty apathetic with regards to politics when compared to the average American, so it’s no surprise to me that stuff like this happens. The Australian Constitution really doesn’t have anything in it to support human rights either, it’s mostly "the government can do this, you get to do this" etc but there isn’t really anything resembling enlightened freedom or rights or anything.

    There is a Bill of Rights in the Australian Constitution. This means that the fundamental rights and freedoms of everyone living in Australia are not protected by the law.

    So at the end of the day, Australians don’t hold personal freedoms to a very high degree. They never have. It’s not part of their culture, and so the government has gotten used to doing stuff to the public that to me comes across as completely outrageous.

  41. Vake Xeacons says:

     We see this censorship in Asia, Australia, and Europe. Can a U.S. censorship be far behind? We’ve passed unconstitutional, anti-amendment-one laws before…

  42. VideolandHero says:

    Why doesn’t anybody get rid of him?  He obviously doesn’t represent the people of Australia.

    — Official Protector of Videoland!

  43. Tacticus says:

    The same way it can happen in the USA one guy in the right spot can block legislation

    a senator in a commitee can place holds on bills.

    A governor\ator can veto stuff

    The solution to this problem is easy to fix the SA Labor(the liberal side of au major parties) party need to vote to remove him from their party or remove him from that portfolio (the ag is just a normal member of parliment who gets selected to be it)


  44. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    I find your lack of democracy disturbing…


    How the fuck can ONE GUY hold back something that the vast majority of people want? WHAT THE HELL?

    -Remember kids, personal responsibility is for losers! -The Buck Stops Here. -Thou Shall Not Teamkill, Asshole.

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