An R18+ rating for games in Australia

Now why can't I have this in video games?

Now why can’t we have all this in video games?

You may have gathered from my review of Mass Effect that I’m one of those irritating people who thinks that there may be more to Video Games than just mindless entertainment. You may also remember that I mentioned in that review that one of my favorite games was Fallout. Set for release later this year is the much anticipated Fallout 3. It has just been revealed that in Fallout 3 there will be consequences for using drugs, not all of which would be negative, and the Australian censorship board promptly banned it.

This is not the first time that this has happened and the end result is that the game was censored so that it could receive an MA15+ rating in Australia. Now, I don’t know what’s worse, a game being banned or a bastardised version being handed to me instead of the genuine product. Would you prefer them to ban Apocalypse Now or just cut out all the parts with war in them? You know, the ones that could potentially offend someone?

There are two main reasons why I think should be an an R18+ rating for computer games in Australia.

Number one. Games can attain the same levels of expression and sophistication as any of the classical art forms. Don’t be confused, I’m not saying all games are the pinnacles of creative expression, worthy of enshrinement in the annals of human culture, but neither are all films, books or paintings. Some are amazing experiences which move us and expand our understanding of existence and some are gratuitous and attention seeking. Most people wouldn’t place the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the same pedestal as Citizen Kane. In the same way that most people wouldn’t rate Bad Day L.A (described by 1UP.com as “the worst PC game to stumble drunkenly onto the scene in years.”) in the same legue as Beyond Good and Evil or Bioshock.

Let us take Bioshock as a recent example (being that I’ve already harped on about Mass Effect):

It is with no lack of irony that I chose a game which obstinately deals with censorship by setting itself in a 1950’s, underwater city, created as a haven for artists, scientists and philosophers who wanted to work unfettered by all those pesky ethics and morals. In the game you play Jack, a man whose plane crashes in the middle of the ocean and finds himself trapped in the city of Rapture. It is apparant that, while Rapture was no doubt an amazing cultural, technological and engineering wonder, something has gone horribly wrong. The city has sustained huge structural damage, the streets are littered with corpses and a terrifying menagerie of creatures are wandering about.

It would have been very easy for Bioshock to be play like just another first-person shooter. They could have designed it in such a way that you walked through endless corridors, leaving a bloody swath behind you. It would have sold pretty well and gained a loyal following among first-person shooter fans. But they didn’t settle for that. The graphics are wonderful, yes, the combat is visceral and the pacing is spectacular but, ultimately, it is the setting and narrative of Bioshock that makes it truly special. As the player moves through the game and explores the setting the story of what happened to Rapture unfolds via audio logs, left behind by its residents. This story is fascinating, exhilerating and terrifying all at once and, most importantly, it plunges you headlong into a world and an experience that you would never have outside of the game. This is the key to Game’s potential as art.

Immersion.

A great work of literature will transplant you into another world and make you feel things at a base, visceral level. A great painting will worm its way into your consciousness and hypnotise you with its beauty, ferocity or horror. A great film will pluck you out of your seat and inject you into its protagonist and a great game will do exactly the same thing. Bioshock can be considered a work of art, not because of its pretty graphics or nice design, but becuase of its level of immersion and the loving care with which its designed to illicit emotion. Like all great art, it allows you to vichariously project yourself outside of your everday realm of experience. With that, i’m going to close my case for game’s potential as art (I could go on, but I want to wrap this up).

The second reason (remember, there were two reasons) that I think Australia should have an R18+ rating for video games is that the average age of the Australian game consumer is 28. The people playing and, more importantly (for the purposes of this article), buying these games are adults. To say that we can’t have them around becuase they’ll corrupt children is redundant. This battle has already been fought on the fields of film and television. It is the entire reason why we have a ratings system; consumer choice. Are we to believe that, as far as the government is concerned, we can buy pornography but not an unmolested version of Fallout 3?

The adults of Australia deserve to be treated as such. If you care about this issue even 1/100 as much as I do, please, for the love of god, sign this:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/game-ratings-aus/index.html

If you’d like to learn more about australia’s horribly outdated classification system for games the ieaa has produced this extensive article.

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~ by Morgan on August 14, 2008.

2 Responses to “An R18+ rating for games in Australia”

  1. I have decided that, rather than post my reply to your post here in your comments box, where only a few people will read it, I will post my reply on my weblog where absolutely nobody will read it.

  2. To like me this post…

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