South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, who has to date single-handedly blocked the implementation of an R18+ video game rating in the Down Under market, explains his opposition in a letter to Kotaku.
For starters, Atkinson writes that he does not trust the Classification Board to do the right thing. He claims that the group stretches the current MA15+ category to accomodate games that should be refused classification. He fears that the same thing will happen with R18+ titles.
Although he is portrayed as a lone wolf on the ratings topic, Atkinson claims that there are other A.G.’s who agree with his stance. He complained, too, that he receives a great deal of hate mail on the subject. On this point, Atkinson writes:
It confuses and baffles me why I am being harangued, threatened and abused by people who want the right to play a handful of games. It confuses my why so many gamers are arguing that they should have the right to play games that enable them on-screen to bash, torture, slay, slaughter, rape and take drugs.
I am concerned about the state of mind of an individual who thinks he should have the right to do this in a computer game and then wants to tell me about it. Add to that the threats to me and I feel more certain about my stance that I should do what I can to minimise the number of these games in Australian homes.
Atkinson points out that only three (out of 903) games considered in 2007-2008 were refused classification (i.e., banned). He cites the 2008 murder of a Bangkok cab driver whose killer – according to Thai authorities – claimed to be re-enacting a scene from Grand Theft Auto. In addition, Atkinson calls into question a video game industry sponsored poll which maintains that most Australians favor an R18+ rating.
Meanwhile, Aussie game journalist Jason Hill calls upon gamers to respond maturely to Atkinson:
As tempting as it is to also indulge in name calling and silly stunts, Australian gamers must continue to provide eloquent, intelligent and reasoned arguments about why they would like Mr Atkinson to change his long-held opposition to changes to our broken classification regime.
Demonising or attacking Mr Atkinson in the same manner that so many Americans targeted anti-games crusader Jack Thompson is not helpful. It is actually damaging the cause, no doubt helping to justify his stance.
Disappointingly, Mr Atkinson told Kotaku that he has received "more abuse and threats over my stand against R18+ interactive games than any other topic of public debate", including anonymous threats posted under his front door in the middle of the night…
Please write to your state Attorney-General or Mr Atkinson… But please don’t descend into name calling or threats.