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New Australian Political For South Australia?

Come next years state election in South Australia, gamers may have a chance to vote for someone on their side. 30 year old gamer, David Doe, has grown tired of the way gamers are insulted with the lack of an R18+ rating and is stepping into the political ring.

The Gamers 4 Croydon party (taking inspiration for their name from Left 4 Dead) plans to contest the seat held by Attorney-General (and the guard of the R18+ rating) Michael Atkinson in the Labor Safe area of Croydon.

Doe has stated the reason for doing this is "to place political pressure on the South Australian Attorney General, Michael Atkinson, as he is currently the only Attorney General voting 'no' on the issue of an R18+ rating for videogames"

In order to register as a political party, Doe needs 150 Gamers 4 Croydon members who are over 18, enrolled to vote and live in South Australia.

If you are in Adelaide, fit the criteria and are interested in the issue, why not head down to Rundle Mall between 5.30pm and 6.30pm today. He will be standing near the "balls."

Kotaku Australia posted an exclusive interview with Doe this morning. It's a really good read, so I suggest you give it the once over.

He states that the reason for doing this was he had "seen enough “Down with Atkinson” threads over the past few years" and that "it was time to actively DO something" about it.

He also brings up a point that I agree with. "That said (and I’m not going to be Mr Popular after this), I think that the Classification Board does an outstanding job. I agree with their decision to Refuse Classification for Left 4 Dead 2 on the grounds that it is graphically violent. This isn’t about the board, it’s about the lack of an R18+ rating that effectively hamstrings what the Board can and can’t classify."

I think this point a lot of people tend to mix up. The board operates under strict rulings, and as such the ban for Left 4 Dead 2 on the grounds of being graphically violent is valid as it does not fit under the MA15+ rating. The question that remains is "Would it have been allowed if we had an R18+ rating?"

 

Left 4 Dead 2 - Censored Version Video

Destructoid have posted a video showing the edits applied to Left 4 Dead 2

Blood is now almost completely removed, bodies disappear, no limbs flying around, and none of the infected catch fire.

It's safe to say that it now looks rather...plain...Part of the originals charm comes from carving up the number of infected you come across.

Video can be found via Destructoid here

 

Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 2 leaked footage results in calls for reclassification.

Leaked footage from upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has revealed a mission in which the player character is placed into the shoes of a terrorists and participates in the massacre of civilians in an airport.

Jane Roberts, president of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, has called on the Classification Board to review it's previous rating decition of MA15+. According to The Age, part of her concern with the game is it is still easily accessible to people under 15.

What is concerning is how they came into possession of a restricted title in the first place.

In the accompanying report, the Classification had this to say about the mission:

"Several civilians are shot with blood burst bullet wounds; civilian corpses are strewn across the airport floor, often in stylised pools of blood; injured civilians crawl away with lengthy blood trails behind them."

 

Classification Board concerned about availabilty of unclassified applications for iPhones and smartphones.

Applications for the hugely popular iPhone may soon be required to be submitted for classification according to Donald McDonald, Director of the Classification Board.

PCWorld have reported a letter stating McDonald's concern that applications did not require classification had been sent to Brendan O'Connor, the Commonwealth Censorship Minister, on the 2nd of October.

This comes shortly after the classification of popular MMORPG World of Warcraft, which received an M rating after 5 years of being unrated.

According to Apple, there are over 80,000 applications available on its iTunes store, which would prove to be a large job for anyone involved in their classification.

Earlier in the year Apple approved an application named Baby Shaker whose goal was to shake a crying baby to death. It was removed shortly after its approval.

 

Left 4 Dead 2 Refused Classification...Again

An attempt to appeal the ban on Valve's unedited version of Left 4 Dead 2 has been rejected, with the ban being upheld.

The Board appears to be concerned with the impact this game would have on children, due to the "insufficient delineation between the depiction of general zombie figures and the human figures, as opposed to the clearly fictional ‘infected’ characters."

An edited version had previously passed classification with an MA15+ rating, which toned down the more graphic elements such as the "depictions of decapitation, dismemberment, wound detail, or piles of dead bodies lying about the environment."

Yet again the topic of minors is brought up, which could be solved if it was only available to people aged 18 and above.

 

Classification.gov.au now back online

After several weeks of downtime following from the recent hacking attempt, the Classification Operations Branch has let us know that the http://classification.gov.au/ website is now back online with a new design.

The new design includes two search boxes on the homepage, one for classifications and one for general site search. The site's content has also be re-organised and re-written making it slightly easier to navigate. Much of the content changes appear to relate to the rename to the Classification Board from the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

There may be some technical hic-ups with the new site, as refused classification video games are no longer appearing in searches where the used to.

 

Public Lecture - Online games, censorship and the crisis of control

Dr Jeff Brand from Bond University will be presenting a talk on Wednesday 13 May 2009. Dr Brand has been closely involved with the IEAA, producing the annual industry reports. Dr Brand's research at the Bond University explores the effects of electronic media on audiences and the government policies that attempt to deal with these issues. His talk will cover the controversy surrounding the introduction of the R18+ rating in Australia and classification of online video games.

This sounds like a fascinating event for anyone in Melbourne interested in the R18+ rating issue. The description is listed below;

"Computer and video games are big business in Australia, just as they are in many other developed economies. In 2008, the retail sector traded AU$1.9 billion in hardware, software and peripherals. Of this total, approximately AU$15 million were MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft (WOW). Ongoing online game subscriptions such as WOW may have accounted for another AU$300 million and games downloaded through services such as Steam and Direct2Drive are not accounted for in domestic retail figures. Australia is unique among developed states in that it does not provide for an R18+ or "Adult" rating for computer game content. Yet demographic, behavioural and attitudinal data indicate that adults are a core market for games, are the heaviest consumers of massively multiplayer online games and are savvy consumers capable of considering the risks of playing games with challenging and confronting content while acting responsibly when using such games in homes with children. Recent controversy over whether games that are exclusively played online must be classified to be legally sold or exhibited in Australia has added to a growing chorus of criticism over the Australian content regulation regime. Most online-only games such as and including WOW have not been submitted by their publishers for classification by the Classification Board. James Beniger¹s (1986) notion of a ³crisis of control² will be used to contextualise the contemporary regulatory environment and its failure to accommodate the rapidly changing medium of computer games. Suggestions and probable scenarios will be offered and canvassed to evaluate the policy and technical trajectory of ratings and classification in Australia."

Wednesday 13 May 2009 @ 06:00 pm - 07:30 pm
Theatre 3, Alan Gilbert Building (bldg 104) Corner of Grattan and Barry Streets, Parkville
More details: http://events.unimelb.edu.au/event/5772/

 

Michael Atkinson Responds

A couple of weeks ago Michael Atkinson had a lengthy discussion on some comments posted on gaming blog, Kotaku. For the first time he made some very in-depth public remarks about his position. Now that the heat had died down and Mr Atkinson has moved on, I think it's important we examine what's been said to get a better understanding of his position.

The full articles: 1 2 3 4 5

Key Points

Feedback from gamers that Mr Atkinson has received has been abusive and anonymous
Below is an except from a letter he sent to Kotaku regarding the site's comments.
"EzyLee opened the batting for those advocating an R18+ classification for games by deriding my appearance. JW says I am "a dirty smiling twit." Juggernautz says "You are an ignorant coward." Ben says I am "a bully protected by the law." Allure Media and Kotaku moderator David Wildgoose think this is an appropriate tone for the debate and so it continues. At 8.09 p.m. Shawn says "What is it with all these threats to his life. Does he really think ppl (people) give a damn about him." Dateman at 8.59 p.m. says: "So when are they going to patch GTA (Grand Theft Auto) so Atkinson is a pedestrian? (i.e. run him down with a vehicle and kill him)". Are none of the advocates of an R18+ classification for games - including the two Attorneys-General - worried about death threats and the kind of anonymous cyber-rage in which their comrades are engaging? If you are, why don't you say so? Why is the site's moderator letting this kind of thing through?"

Mr Atkinson has agreed to an R18+ discussion paper, but there is friction over its content.
"I agreed to the discussion paper last year. I want the discussion paper to include depictions of actual games, including the types of games that are currently above the MA15+ rating. I intend to take my version of the paper to other ministers at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) in Canberra in April so they can decide whether it will be released. I hope Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls doesn't stop the discussion paper's being released in April."

Mr Atkinson agrees that there are complexities involved with the demographics of gamers. Moreover he states that sophisticated games don't require extreme violence or sexual defilement.
"I may be labouring the point, Terry, but, Yes, I know adults play computer games and have said so many times. Why must you put words in my mouth that I have not uttered? Indeed, a generation has now grown up with computer games and I realise how complicated they can be because I have four children playing them in my household. Terry claims: "Those mature adults are not, I might add, playing simplistic arcade-style shoot-em-ups. Mr Atkinson is erroneous if he thinks so." Again, Terry has just made this up and verballed me. I have not thought or said any such thing. It is not surprising that those who enjoyed gaming as children go on playing into adult life and, indeed, play electronic games with their own children (as I do). Added to this, games grow ever more sophisticated, challenging and entertaining, and accordingly more attractive to adult players. There are many, many games that are strategic and challenging without requiring extreme violence or sexual defilement."

Mr Atkinson is concerned that R18+ will make violent games more accessible to children, rather than less.
"To my mind, a child being able to watch ultra-violence and sexual defilement in a movie is damaging to the child, but a child participating in ultra-violence or sexual defilement, or both, in a computer game is worse. Moreover, playing a game with on-screen violence makes violence part of their everyday lives and what is especially concerning is that this is the gamer's recreation."

Commentary

First of all, I think it's fantastic the Mr Atkinson took the time to address the issue so thoroughly. It's clear he's quite engaged and willing to openly discuss the topic. His points are not unfounded and gamers who continue to insult him are only serving to cement his poor image of us. Which brings me onto the first point; the majority of gamers are not represented by the comments posted in poorly moderated blog comments. People in anonymous communities tend to say the first thing that comes into their head. User comments are not the place for genuine discourse on the topic. This is why we really need to see the discussion paper out in the open so that there can be some reasonable feedback provided to the Standing Commission of Attorney Generals.

Secondly, I largely agree with Mr Atkinson's points. I do believe that violent games have more impact on children, if due to the larger percentage time that is spent on them. However, I disagree that an R18+ rating will make these violent games more accessible. As Mr Atkinson states, very few games are actually banned from Australia. When you compare the games classifications in Australia to other countries, it's clear that the Classification Board is stretching the MA15+ rating beyond reasonable measure. When games get past the RC classification and into the MA15+ rating, it's because they've had some minor technical change (like Morphine use removed in Fallout 3) not to remove the excess violence. These games deserve to be classified in the R18+ rating. If it existed the Classification Board would not be squeezing games into the lower ratings. This has been the key point we're trying to address in EveryonePlays and I believe it should be the platform that we continue to push on when the R18+ discussion paper is released.

 

New Media

Hope you all had a great weekend!

We've just added a bunch a new media which you can use to link back to EveryonePlays here; http://everyoneplays.org.au/content/everyoneplays-media (also linked from the Take Action page).

Thanks for the great support we've had so far! The take action page will be updated with new tools this week. We're also reaching out to a few other media sites to see if they're interested in coming on-board before making a bigger push with the campaign.

Stay tuned.

 

Welcome to EveryonePlays

Phew... It's good to see this site finally up!

Since this is the first post, I thought I'd give a brief history of what brought this site about.

Our work on this project stems back to 2008 eGames Expo in Melbourne last November. PALGN had a bit of booth space reserved and were racking our brains as to what we could do with it this year. Someone had the bright idea to host an R18+ petition. What was initially just a stop-gap idea turned into a huge success. We collected over 1000 signatures at the expo and received the support of numerous other publications and industry bodies. We knew something needed to be done.

The initial project leader was Evan Stubbs. He did a lot of the ground work in setting the plan for what we wanted to achieve and getting a few other media outlets on-board. Vooks.net, Aussie-Nintendo & Australian Gamer all pledged their support. Unfortunately Evan was weighed down with other commitments and after a brief stint in Daniel Golding's hands it fell to me to complete the site.

I've had a fair bit of help along the way. A special thanks goes out to Joshua Smythe for creating both our awesome logo and the initial draft of the site's design. One of the key elements that I've tried to perpetuate from Joshua draft was the concept of black and white. I think it fits in nicely with our issue - no matter which side of the political fence you stand on, the R18+ demands your support. It's such a clear cut issue it's incredible we've managed to get this far. Also a big thanks to Roland Kulen for putting together a lot of the site's initial copy.

Where to now? Well the aim of this site is three-fold. Firstly it's to inform. We want to make a strong case for introducing the R18+ rating. There's many many many arguments for it. We hope to collate them here to make them more accessible.

Secondly this site is intended to evolve. We want to fill it with more content, refine our arguments and continue to make a stronger case. If you have any suggestions for doing so, or content you want to add, please add a comment to this post, or send me an email.

Thirdly (and most importantly) we want to use this site to coordinate our efforts to lobby for the introducing of the R18+ rating. There's a lot of support from the gaming community. We've got some awesome ideas for harnessing that power and using it to speak to the politicians on their own terms. Check out the Take Action page for more.

Australia needs to be brought into the 21st century for its video game classifications. The current system is broken, but I know we can fix it.

James Peter