While some were disappointed that an R18+ rating was not approved by the Australian government, one group was delighted by the outcome: the Australian Christian Lobby. Lyle Shelton, Chief of Staff of the group, seemed delighted that it failed, but not all Christians in the country agree with him or his group’s views on the subject.
Anthony Caruana, a technology journalist and practicing Christian, takes offense with some of the things Shelton has said about the R18+ rating and emphasized that his group doesn’t represent all Christians in Australia.
In an article for ABC Caruana said that most video games are played by adults and that the stereotypical gamer is no longer just male and points out that women make up a large portion of the gamer demographic.
He also takes apart something Shelton said on ABC’s Technology and Games:
In Mr. Shelton’s recent story for the ABC’s Technology and Games, he noted that a recent "survey also found that 63% of Australians agree that playing violent computer games results in real life violence and that 59% of Australians agree that computer games should be classified differently, because the gamer is invited to participate in the violence, not just watch it".
What’s interesting about the statistic Mr. Shelton chose was that it was based on the personal views of survey respondents. Unfortunately, the majority of Australians aren’t scientists or statisticians. If we’re trying to find a causal relationship between violent video games and actual violence we need more than a simple correlation.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, violent crime occurs at a far lower rate than it did 100 years ago. To draw a long bow, is the availability of violent video games today the reason we have fewer violent crimes? If all we need is correlation to make an argument then my argument is as strong as the counter.
The simple fact is that there is no study that categorically proves that violent video games are a precursor to violent behaviour.
He goes on to say that, depending on what studies you want to choose, you can get the result that backs up your theory. One study he mentions concluded that children who played violent video games were more hostile or argumentative towards authority figures like teachers, and performed poorly in school.
But another study found that those who played 56 hours of violent video games a week were not any different than a control group that didn’t play video games at all. In other words, the correlation between violence in video games and aggression in real life just is not there.
But then we get to the heart of what Anthony Caruana’s beef is with Shelton and the ACL:
Mr Shelton asks "How does introducing new violent media into Australia benefit children especially when we know that these games will inevitably find their way into the hands of children?" I’m sorry, but kids that want access to violent video games already have it. The introduction will not likely do anything to curb the black market that has flourished because of censorship. What a rating system will do is bring those games into the open and provide parents with a clear way to make better informed decisions.
I also take offence at Mr. Shelton’s supposition that the "games will inevitably find their way into the hands of children". It would seem that he feels parents are unable to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness (to borrow from 2 Timothy 3:16).
While Mr Shelton is free to express the views of the Australian Christian lobby, it’s important to remember that he is a representative of that organization and that the ACL is not representative of all Christians.