DUDE WHERE’S MY R? Why Are We Debating The Dreaded R Rating?

In the continuing stalemated debate on the Australian R rating for videogames I can’t help but wonder what the major concerns and issues that are being looked at actually are. With NSW Attorney General Greg Smith abstaining from voting on the R18+ for games we are now again stuck with no answer. Are the right topics even being discussed? Do the politicians even know what they are debating and looking into?

Video gaming has been getting the short end of the stick from society since the birth of its existence. Whether we are discussing the first bloody sprites spraying from another sprite of a human (or monster) form or the fact that PAC-Man seemed quite psychodellic muching down the Pill looking Pac Dots. Obviously it’s the video games that are creating sociopathic murderous mind slaves. Don’t mind my sarcastic attitude towards the topic, I just find a lot of the generalisations laughable and enjoying engaging in the “lowest form of wit”.

I am not trying to say that video gaming isn’t an influential medium, surely the way that Nintendo DS Brain Training can help with brain development, GTA can make us think about how much easier it would be if we could just, steal that car and drive home instead of catching the train. Lets be honest video gaming is now a bigger industry then what Hollywood is and we all lived through the debates of movies being to violent (what ever happened to that topic of conversation anyway?), so where does their argument fall down.

Let’s not confuse this for trying to be controversial for the point of being controversial; I am simply saying lets fight fire with fire. If Michael Atkinson can come out with a bias slant towards his side of the argument, why must we as gamers and publishers of the gaming industry just report his side? Let’s take a look at our side of the arguments.

OH THE HYPOCRICY…

Let us get a tad hypothetical and say that this weekend we have a new Slasher movie with all the gruesome death scenes using real people (in film form) cutting each other up to survive during a teenage sex romp at a camp in the middle of nowhere. Okay so granted I just used every stereotype in the book but my point is still valid, and probably not all that hypothetical either. Point is have we seen any improvement in film standards? Or even worse due to its wide range and ease of access Television?

One of these is fine... the other is EVIL

Television I believe to be the biggest sliding downfall as far as standards are concerned. Even a commercial about Men’s grey hair treatment seems to be getting the overly sexualised treatment. Vampires having sex with humans before questioning whether to drink there blood or not are the new norm in television drama; no questions are raised about this though. But who reading this doesn’t remember the high moral standard of some of our favourite TV Sitcoms from the 80’s and into the early to mid 90’s.

Growing Pains, Family Ties, Full House, Step By Step, Save By the Bell, Alf, Family Matters and Perfect Strangers. These TV shows usually ended with a speech delivered by whoever learnt a lesson. Who could forget Danny Tanner addressing the children at the end of each show with a “Stef…” or “Deej…” and always followed by a family orientated moral that made us all warm inside.

Where has this television gone? Did the classification boards fall asleep or were they too focused on video games to notice the decline into smutty TV?

Turning this very idea inward to our own industry, there have been inconsistencies in the banning of games. We all remember the shattering announcement that Fallout 3 wouldn’t get released because of the Drug use and so with that fear still in the back of our heads the rumours began that GTA Chinatown Wars would come under scrutiny for its drug slanging ways (especially being on the DS). Nothing was said about it and much to all of our surprise it was passed with no changes required. Strange right?

As far as film classifications are concerned they appear to have suffered the same decline on the moral scale. Violent movies are becoming more violent, sex scenes more explicit, politically driven dramas are more politically driven (who’d of thunk it?). Now I am not saying that this is a horrible thing for this to all of gone ahead, because honestly we as adults should have a choice, that leads neatly into my next point.

And of course we cant leave the music industry out of this either, just watch any Lady GaGa video and see what I mean. But I guess this is a debate of Art Vs Childrens play toys right? See there goes that sarcasm again.

REGULATE OR DELEGATE?

I always did believe that the purpose of the classification boards were to classify media publications into age restricted groups so that we still had the freedom to choose what we wish to view. Seems to be a fair synopsis considering we live in a democracy in the free world. Well my confidence in this system has been shaken up a lot by the further restrictions placed on placing the restrictions, If that makes sense.

First off all for anybody reading this outside of Australia, let me state clearly that the highest rating video games can attain in this country is MA15+, which is still a fairly high rating and should be regulated as so. By regulation I mean that yes CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO PLAY THEM. If a child attempts to watch an MA15+ movie at the cinemas or hire it on DVD they are blocked at the counter for being underage. If the same child attempts to buy cigarettes from a corner store they receive the same frontline blockage treatment, WHY? Because the classifications and laws are abided by.

This issue I place mainly on two groups, video gaming outlets and parents who somehow refuse to read the large MA15+ sticker on the label. Obviously though this is hard to regulate totally because parents are always going to buy these age inappropriate games for their children. Adults are always going to take bribes to buy some young school kids alcohol but I don’t see a large campaign being launched to get rid of alcohol completely. In fact that kind of behaviour is regularly laughed at as it is constantly shown in majorHollywoodmovies.

I witnessed this very thing only a month ago at an EB Games store where a witless mother was talked into buying Assassins Creed Brotherhood for her son. The store clerk asked if this was okay and she said yes that’s fine. Her face changed after the sale when her son explained the intricacies of stabbing somebody in the face with your hidden blades. Of course if an adult says yes than the person behind the counter can’t really say otherwise. If it was an R rating and his job could be in jeopardy he might be inclined to say more.

The problem with these laws and regulations comes not just from the people who are putting them into place. In fact they are correct in this instance, but rather from lazy parenting and the ever present modern idea of “someone else will handle it”.

Why the only question here is why we all should lose this choice to play adult only video games because of people who shouldn’t be playing them at all. Is this a case of Primary school syndrome where if Billy doesn’t apologise the whole class will be kept back. It doesn’t allow us to all have a say in our fair democratic system.

LET’S CHECK THE NUMBERS

Thank you Nintendo.

On October 28, 2008 Gamespot AU’s Laura Parker put up an article which featured the findings of a study run by the Bond University. The main content of this study was focused on certain statistics involving video game interactivity amongst the Australian public. One of the core discoveries made by Dr. Jeffery Brand and his team in the IA9 report was that the Average age of Aussie gamers in 2008 was 30. That figure in 2007’s report was shown to of been 28 years of age. Current numbers display the exact same trend, these kinds of figures display a pattern and a pattern leads us to conclusive evidence.

What this tells us is that the misconception about video games being a children’s medium is long dead. Besides the video game industry is a lot like 3d animated feature films, they can be made into many different Genre’s as school BUT instead it is simply termed as the animated genre (just ask the guys over at Pixar what they think of that mindset).

In the exact same way Videogames have several different genres that it can be engaged in and just as films have an adult’s only genre (granted gaming comes with a different connotation list) why cant videogames? Isn’t that what the classifications are set up for in the first place? So many questions can be asked of this topic but aren’t. I wonder why?

SO WHAT’S THE BIGGER PICTURE?

Whether the R rating gets the nod or not, this will continue to be an issue and the major reason for that is education. I don’t mean for children either although that wouldn’t hurt, but they are always going to want to play the games with the most gore or hey some want to sneak a bit of computer generated boob in too. The parents and more specifically the older generation need to be educated on what videogames are now.

How can this even be up for debate if the people against it have no idea what they are arguing against?

Why should adult gamers (if you read the above section we are the majority) not be allowed to play certain games because the ratings systems are being ignored by ignorant parents and children who are doing the wrong thing? It’s a school yard system gone mad.

The older generation need to understand that just as film and television have been allowed to gradually pull away from family and child friendly concepts, so to should video games be allowed to. Because whether they like it or not they are all over the world and have been for over two decades now.

Let the children have their Wii’s while we adults enjoy the more hardcore side of our favourite little hobby. (Don’t read that literally older generation).

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