Friday, July 18, 2008

What is wrong with the classifications board?

I'm back after my tussle with the flu, and I'm mad as all hell.

Last week I was browsing Kotaku when I saw a story on Fallout 3 being refused an MA15+ classification in this country, effectively banning the full version from this country. Why?

Apparently because your avatar could shoot morphine, with positive in-game effects. Now, I'm not advocating drug use, it's been a huge issue in our country regarding the indigenous population (especially morphine in the NT), but this whole thing smacks of hypocrisy and ignorance from the rating board.

For example, I just have to browse my DVD collection to see that 21 Grams has been given a MA15+ rating. Something tells me that 21 Grams may just be a teeny little harmful and shocking to young minds than Fallout 3 would ever be. Even SAW IV, yes, SAW IV has been given a MA15+ rating according to classification office's press page!

So what? It's not being given a MA15+ rating in this country, can't you just make it an adults-only game? Well, as it turns out, no.

You see, there's no R18+ classification in this country regarding games.

Wha? But...don't they know adults actually play games? Well, one look at the board may give you some clues.

Do me a favour, go to the classification board's website and look at the board listing.

Notice the hilariously named Donald McDonald, the director of the board doesn't look a day under 60 (his bio said he got a BAComm in 1961, so you make a guesstimate). Do you think he's ever...actually played a video game in his life?

Or is it simply that his only experience with video games stems from watching his grandchildren play?

No wonder there's no R18+ classification for games in this country! The prevailing attitude seems to be that ADULTS DON'T PLAY GAMES! Of course they don't! The rest of the board doesn't exactly paint a youthful picture either.

Coming from a theoretical perspective (as these board members must be), video games do seem more harmful than film or books.

The logic is there, video gaming is a highly interactive medium which can be easily imitated. As gamers though, I bet you you've never learned to load a gun by playing GTAIV or Call of Duty. However, anybody who knows a thing or two about film can tell you that it's a highly interactive medium too.

Through the practice of semiotics and verisimilitude, a film involves the viewer. Viewers are not passive in making meaning, but are active in it.

It's easy to see why the classification board may have this view of video games, but that's not the biggest outrage in all this. There's another player in all this that could put pressure on the board, but idly sits by while gamers are treated like children.


You see the peak bodies on the news all the time, and yet they don't seem to be sticking up for our rights to play the same game the rest of the world will be playing. Could it be that censorship is just not a civil liberty issue anymore?

Unlikely. More likely however, is that they're ignorant of the whole thing.

They're kind of busy fighting lock-out laws and debating the alco-pops tax, so getting the full Fallout 3 here, and creating a R18+ classification is pretty low on their list of priorities. Who could blame them, even the most ardent gamer will tell you that these issues are more important than gaming.

There is something you can do to spur them into action though.

Instead on writing your angry diatribes to the classification board, write them to the civil liberatrian groups, lambasting their lack of action on this. Start with one, and if they don't do anything, move onto the next one.

Gamers writing angry letters to the classifications board will do nothing, however, if the civil liberatrian groups start getting tons of letters, the whole thing may just start to look like a juicy issue for them to pounce on.

So gamers, I implore you, don't post your letters to the classification board, post them to civil libertarian groups instead. There's bitching from gamers, and then there's bitching from peak bodies. Guess which one the classification board will listen to?

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