One Year After Granting Adulthood To Video Gamers, Committee Suggests Australian Government Reenact Ban On R18+ Games

from the the-land-of-eternal-youth dept

Early in 2013, the Australian government finally recognized the fact that the average gamer is nearly 30 years old and can probably handle twice the objectionable content a 15-year-old can and passed a law creating an R18+ classification (roughly equivalent to the ESRB’s “M” rating). This gave Australian gamers the chance to play something more age-appropriate, something that usually wasn’t possible with the previous top-end classification of MA15+. Whatever wasn’t banned outright was often gutted to meet censors’ requirements.

Now, part of Australia is considering rolling that new decision back.

The Australian State of Western Australia (WA) is reviving the country’s vexed games classification debate, with a new report suggesting the state government should consider banning games currently carrying an R18+ classification.

The average gamer may be nearer to a mid-life crisis than mid-teen surliness, but WA’s governing bodies are still thinking about “the children.”

The suggestion is contained in a report from the Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People, in the latest in a series of reports on the Sexualisation of Children.

Among various recommendations aimed at preventing the sexualization of children (including a suggestion to put government resources to work regulating child beauty pageants) is the following:

Proposal 5: Amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996 (WA)

Further consideration be given to possible amendments to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1996 (WA)

• To prohibit the sale, supply, demonstration, possession or advertisement of a R18+ computer game in Western Australia; or
• To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a R18+ computer game to a minor; and/or
• To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a R18+ film to a minor; and/or
• To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a Category 1 Restricted publication to a minor.

The first suggestion is obviously a regression to Australia’s pre-2013 days, the golden era of “computer gaming”, when everyone agreed video games weren’t to be played by adults. The other suggestions are slightly less odious, but still point towards the government further entrenching itself in the content-regulation business. Like similar awful legislation mooted by US lawmakers, this points towards criminal charges being levied against anyone who supplies certain content to minors. It’s a bad idea, and one that infantilizes not only the “children,” but adults as well, threatening to take away their choice in content as well as their own personal decisions as to what’s appropriate for their children.

But the report’s bad ideas aren’t strictly limited to video games and other entertainment media. The report also suggests the government might be interested in regulating other areas as well.

Consideration be given to referring to the Law Reform Commission of Western Australia a review of Western Australia’s laws and regulations that may impact on the regulation of the content and display of billboard and outdoor advertising to determine if there is any scope for Western Australia to regulate the nature and positioning of outdoor advertisements to ensure that children and young people are protected from exposure to sexualised images.

Government regulation of advertising is nothing new, but rather than clear-cut bans on tobacco products or alcoholic beverages, this new directive would ask the government to determine whether or not any image is too “sexualized” to be allowed to be seen by the public. Advertisers will be forced to deal with a regulating body’s highly subjective views. Erring on the side of caution will be the most common option — for both involved parties. The end result will be ad campaigns that attempt to sell products to adults by approaching them as if they were five.

The committee also thinks the government might be able to do something about sexting.

The findings of the Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform Committee inquiry into sexting be examined to determine if there are any strategies or options to reduce the negative impact of sexting on children and young people in Western Australia both generally and in relation to the sexualisation of children and young people.

The only way the government can intercede in private communications is by criminalizing certain content. The outcome of this has already been seen in the US, where sexting between minors has ended with participants being accused of sex offenses — charges that lump them together with actual child predators and saddle them with years of government-induced ostracism.

Elsewhere, the report is very even-handed in depicting the realities of regulating content and advertising, noting that parental supervision will have far more impact than any laws that may result from its findings.

It is necessary to recognise that if sexualised media and advertising content is available to adults it is inevitable that some of this content will be accessed (either deliberately or inadvertently) or viewed by children and young people. With the convergence of media and the multitude of platforms by which children and young people can access material from the internet (for example laptops, smart phones, smart TVs, iPad, iPods and other gaming devices) laws and regulations cannot alone protect children and young people from the potential harmful effects of being exposed to premature or inappropriate sexualised content.

It also notes that this committee’s desire to head off the sexualization of children may veer into damaging witch hunts if not tempered, especially if the “sexualization” itself is given too broad of a definition.

There is a risk that if a broad definition is adopted, the extent of sexualisation of children may be overestimated or that the more serious examples of inappropriate sexualisation will be overlooked. Incidentally, it has been observed that one commentator (Catharine Lumby) is concerned that ‘by having this conversation [about sexualisation] all the time we’ll end up looking for sexual images of children where there aren’t [any]’.

The problem is that, no matter how well-written and even-handed the report is (and much of it is), it’s being handed over to government bodies which tend to prefer broad brushwork to subtlety. What’s completely intolerable to most legislators is admitting there’s very little they can do to address convoluted issues like these, at least not without making things much worse. All it takes is a few bits of anecdotal evidence to fuel the lawmaking fire and Australians could see their government (or at least the Western State side) slip back into censor mode.

Taking away adults’ choices because children might avail themselves of the content isn’t the answer but this report presents it as being just that, a potential “fix” for a societal issue. Video games have long been low-hanging fruit for legislators whose reach never exceeds their limited grasp and “for the children” may be all the excuse they need to roll back the recently-granted adulthood of its gaming population.

There’s plenty in the report that warns against such legislative band-aids, but the most troubling suggestions are right up front, easily skimmable and bullet-pointed. Which part of this report is likely to see more politician eyeballs? The first 15 pages, with all the “remedies” and “do somethings?” Or the last 100+ pages, where the subtleties, nuances and limitations of legislative action are thoroughly discussed?

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “One Year After Granting Adulthood To Video Gamers, Committee Suggests Australian Government Reenact Ban On R18+ Games”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
31 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Well strewth maate, I’ll be stuffed! Most Aussies are ridgy-didge fair dinkim. It’s them pozzys that have a kangaroo loose in the top paddock.

As for Rolf, he was always dodgy – he used to tie his kangaroo down, sport, keep a cockatoo, blue, mind a platypus and play a didgeridoo. I’m convinced these are all euphemisms.

Anonymous Coward says:

I sincerely doubt the average age of gamers is 30ish (just as I am highly suspicious of other similar stats the industry, media, and commentators love to throw around to ‘prove’ that videogames are ‘mature’) but thankfully bullshit ‘facts’ like those are completely irrelevant. It wouldn’t matter if the average age of gamers was 3, 30, or 300, banning ‘adult content’ is equally ludicrous in any scenario.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I sincerely doubt the average age of gamers is 30ish”

Why? State facts in your answer, not “I know 10 gamers and 6 of them are under 18 so this trumps actual studies”.

“It wouldn’t matter if the average age of gamers was 3, 30, or 300, banning ‘adult content’ is equally ludicrous in any scenario.”

At least you see sense here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Why do you accept it? State facts in your answer. I’ve only seen baseless ‘facts’ on this topic. The TD article links to Wikipedia, which links to the ridiculous ESA infographics which do not show their methodology and which don’t actually state that the average gamer is around 30, only that the average game purchaser at retail is around 30. Equating one with the other is idiotic.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

We have a couple casinos here in Winnipeg. One has the only places to eat within walking distance of my office.

They’re each filled at any time with hundreds of senior citizens playing video lottery terminals. They’re REAL video gamers, with real money at stake.

It’s sad, but a ban isn’t in the works; the government runs the casinos and gets the revenue.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Why do you accept it?”

Because I’ve not seen any reason not to. Especially since the advent of the Wii and smartphones, I’ve seen generations older than me play videogames on a regular basis. I also see many people my own age (I’m 39) game on consoles on a regular basis. These cover both “casual” and “hardcore” styles of play. I know several parents around my age who regularly meet up for a raid in WoW or some such thing rather than just veg out in front of the TV.

These are anecdotal, of course, but I see no reason to disbelieve a 30-ish mean demographic. The ESA appears to agree with me (http://www.theesa.com/facts/index.asp) as their current claim (point 4) is that the average gamer is 31 and has been playing for 14 years. This is not surprising – why would a gamer stop gaming just because they got older? Isn’t it more believable that games start to cover more complex and mature subjects because their target demographic is not older and more mature?

If you have other studies that prove otherwise, please present them. “I don’t like what the ESA says” is not a counterpoint to anything.

“The TD article links to Wikipedia, which links to the ridiculous ESA infographics which do not show their methodology”

Are you somehow limited in your research to thinks that are given to you on a plate, or can you do your own research? A quick Google search shows other studies, such as this Australian survey:

http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/games/blog/screenplay/new-statistics-reveal-the-face-of-australian-gaming-20120801-23g49.html

…showing an average age of 32. Or, this 2010 story also claiming 32 as the average age in an NPD study:

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/average-age-of-gamers-is-32-says-study

Now, those were just the first non-ESA links I saw, and I don’t have time to delve into all the links and go through the methodology. But, every story I can see on a study seems to be claiming between 30-35 as the average age.

Where are your studies that prove otherwise?

“which don’t actually state that the average gamer is around 30, only that the average game purchaser at retail is around 30.”

Can you read? On the PDF you’re complaining about, page 2 states “The average age of game players is 30”. Page 3 does indeed contain a separate figure of purchaser, but the only person equating them is you.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Since the majority of the surveys come out around the same average age (in the 30-35 year old range), there’s a perfectly logical reason why this would be so (that is about the age that the first very large group of home gamers would be about now), and the most popular video games are clearly aimed at an older audience and are expensive, I don’t see any obvious reason to doubt the figure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

How do you define ‘gamer’? The ESA report linked via Wikipedia in the above article is talking about the average age of people who purchase games at retail; does buying a game in a shop make a person a gamer? Does giving up physical media and buying online only, or not purchasing but only borrowing/pirating mean a person is not a gamer?

How do you acquire accurate statistics? The ESA report provides no methodology.

Why do you think 30 is a reasonable average when these days children start playing videogames pretty much as soon as they have good enough motor control?

Do you really think the most popular games are aimed at an older audience and, if so, do you really think that would make them unpopular with a younger audience?

Why is it that you see no obvious reason to doubt a figure coming from an industry famed for its secrecy and misrepresentation?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

A gamer is a person whose hobby is playing video games.

“The ESA report provides no methodology.”

True, but the ESA isn’t the only source for these sorts of statistics, so we don’t even have to pay attention to them at all. Don’t you find it interesting that multiple studies by different groups with different agendas all cluster around to 30 year old range?

“Why do you think 30 is a reasonable average when these days children start playing videogames pretty much as soon as they have good enough motor control?”

So did current 30 year olds, so I’m not sure how that’s a relevant point. I find it reasonable because it’s in line with the pattern one would expect just based purely on numbers.

“Do you really think the most popular games are aimed at an older audience”

Yes, there’s no doubt about it.

“if so, do you really think that would make them unpopular with a younger audience?”

Not necessarily, but I never asserted that it would.

“Why is it that you see no obvious reason to doubt a figure coming from an industry famed for its secrecy and misrepresentation?”

Because I’m not relying on what the industry says.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The ESA report linked via Wikipedia in the above article is talking about the average age of people who purchase games at retail; does buying a game in a shop make a person a gamer?”

No, but the separate figure you seem incapable of reading that talks specifically about game players, rather than purchasers, does.

I agree that the methodology would be nice to see, but you’re basing your objection so far on a complete misreading of the information placed in front of you.

“Why do you think 30 is a reasonable average when these days children start playing videogames pretty much as soon as they have good enough motor control?”

Why do you discount the several generations of gamers who have been playing since they were that age, and continue to do so? Why do you discount the generations whose introduction to gaming came as adults, and have started gaming at ages over 30?

“Do you really think the most popular games are aimed at an older audience”

Some are. Some aren’t. Some are aimed at all ages rather than a specific demographic (e.g. Wii Sports). Some (e.g. Mario games) are ostensibly aimed at a younger audience but often finds favour with an older audience for various reasons. Others might be aimed at an older audience but find that maybe teenagers are their biggest play base.

None of this disproves anything you’re trying to say, which at best seems to be based on an inability to read information and an unwillingness to look beyond what’s given to you on a silver platter.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Ratings Systems - The Gateway Drug to Censorship

Years ago various groups wanted a ratings system for records, so that kids could be stopped from buying music with explicit lyrics. They were quick to say that it wasn’t about censorship; they just wanted kids and parents to be informed.

The moment the system was in place, the movement began to purge those records from stores. Because HOW DARE they sell them – even behind the counter and hidden from view – in the same stores where children were shopping!

The same thing happened with television. The TV-14 and TV-M ratings were put in place to inform people, and to move such shows to later in the evening. Again the claim wat that the system was not – no sir, not at all – for censorship. Instantly there were demands from folks like Reverend Wildmon, that the network drop those shows altogether. Wildmon also campaigned against Blockbuster Video for stocking NC-17 rated movies.

For added irony, the TV-M was changed to TV-MA because of a trademark dispute and to remove confusion with the ESRB’s “M for Mature” rating for video games.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Ratings Systems - The Gateway Drug to Censorship

“For added irony, the TV-M was changed to TV-MA because of a trademark dispute and to remove confusion with the ESRB’s “M for Mature” rating for video games.”

I can understand the trademark thing to a degree. But, why the hell would having the same rating for 2 different kinds of media cause confusion? Unless I’m misunderstanding something, both ratings indicate that the material is restricted to under 17s.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Ratings Systems - The Gateway Drug to Censorship

Parent’s shouldn’t have to adapt to the world, the world should have to adapt to them so they can go on their way pretending that sex, drugs, violence, and evolution don’t exist. It’s hard to be a responsible parent when the government isn’t doing the job for them.

Perish the thought that they might actually talk to their children and try to give a rational explanation why they object to certain sources of entertainment.

They shouldn’t have to help their child understand why one thing is appropriate and the other is not, because they don’t know either. They just mindlessly parrot the same brainwashing they were told as children.

DannyB (profile) says:

Australia, don't stop at video games

Please ban other dangerous crimes that are a public offense, such as the crime of skateboarding.

If you look into this, you will discover that there is an entire ‘underground’ of small shops that sell criminal skateboarding paraphernalia such as replacement wheels, skateboard parts, stickers, etc. as well as the boards directly used in the criminal act of skateboarding.

The importance of this cannot be overstated. Once you ban all video games, kids might actually go outside. And that could lead . . . to skateboarding.

Jay (profile) says:

Who pays?

There’s something that I’ve had to keep wondering in regards to these games…

Who’s paying for this legislation?

Let’s stop vilifying the government for five seconds to realize what’s going on…

There’s a slew of private interests that seem to be interested in regulating games far more than movies or music. That’s the problem that I have here. The government reflects whoever is paying them and here, there’s a strong suggestion of a coalition of movie and retail interests which make games far more expensive, particularly in the digital realm where it makes no sense.

I’d also say that publishers make a lot more money off of the games, which prompts some really crazy taxes on such income.

I bet if we dig deeper, we could find out where those interests lie and how they will try to legislate.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Current situation in the UK

• To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a R18+ computer game to a minor; and/or
• To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a R18+ film to a minor; and/or
• To provide that it is an offence for any person to supply a Category 1 Restricted publication to a minor.

Sounds pretty much like the current situation here in the UK, except that it’s up to local governments to enforce the ratings, not Westminster. Of course, it may be an offence to supply 18 rated films to those under that age, but that’s never meant that irresponsible parents go to jail (prison), only irresponsible shopkeepers and store assistants/managers.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Current situation in the UK

WA has always been the ‘weird’ state in Australia, mainly because it’s very young compared to the others.

As for the three ‘proposed’ offenses you posted they are strangely ALREADY OFFENSES under Federal criminal codes and therefore offenses under State laws as well.

Sometimes I have to wonder about these Joint Standing Committee’s and mostly about what the hell are they thinking or smoking when they write this crud.

And you are correct, no parent has or ever will be charged let alone convicted by allowing there children to play, watch, or read a R18+ film, publication, or game.

Like the selling of tobacco products (and knives strangely enough – don’t ask long convoluted reactive bullshit law) the ‘supply’ is targeted for sellers only.

Anonymous Coward says:

“The end result will be ad campaigns that attempt to sell products to adults by approaching them as if they were five.”

Or just perhaps the end result would be ad campaigns that attempt to sell products to adults as adults and not as fifteen year old boys. Just saying, there’s nothing particularly adult about selling things using the “sexy”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...