A former member of Australia’s Classification Board has submitted an incredibly well-written and reasoned response to the government issued Discussion Paper, regarding the topic of adding an R18+ rating category for games.
The 17-page response (PDF) was crafted by Paul J Hunt, who served as Deputy Director of the Classification Board and as a senior executive with the Office of Film and Literature Classification. He also lists himself as a “parent of teenagers who play computer games and a child of “Seniors” who play computer games.”
Hunt begins his argument by imparting first-hand knowledge into the current problems with the rating system:
When I made a decision, or participated in a decision, that a computer game was unsuitable for minors, I was forced to refuse classification for that game. It was not because I thought that the game depicted, expressed or otherwise dealt with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that it would offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults. It was simply because the game was not OK for kids.
Not being able to restrict computer games to adults was an impediment to my ability to reflect Australian community standards.
Hunt offers another real example of how the lack of an R18+ rating affects gamers, comparing the rating of the movie Hannibal (rated R18+) and Grand Theft Auto III (which was Refused Classification). Hunt notes that, in the example, “…two products received different results, but both were assessed as suitable for the same adult audience. That the result does not reflect community standards is evident in the massive number of complaints… received by the OFLC regarding both the RC decision.”
A few more choice points from Hunt:
Some parents are irresponsible with the management of their children’s behaviour. If the reason for excluding an R18+ classification for games is to limit the access of the children of incompetent or irresponsible parents, then we should ban R18+ films, restricted publications, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. from our society.
There have been suggestions that an R18+ classification would include “sexual abuse, criminal activity, and extreme violence”. The guidelines do not permit their existence in the R18+ category.
Hunt addressed some of his responses directly to South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson’s claims that nobody cares about the R18+ issue, except for gamers:
Of even greater concern is the fact that Mr. Atkinson does not understand that most Australians are gamers, and therefore the majority of the population is familiar with game content.
All responses, including those from gamers, are responses from the Australian community. Whilst Mr. Atkinson may wish to marginalise gamers, and put down the knowledge of all Australians, I trust the Government will accept all submissions at face value as representative of the Australian community’s feelings on this issue.
Hunt concludes by using Atkinson’s own words against him:
There is a need to follow South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson’s advice on a recent similar issue regarding the rights and freedoms of Australians – an attempt to restrict political comment on the internet: "When one gets public opinion wrong, as I did, one has to change one's mind."
Hunt is now Principal Consultant for MLCS Management, a company that offers assistance with "classification services," such as pre-classification advice and help with the management of appeals.