The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor, has voiced support for the introduction of an R18+ video games classification in Australia ahead of an Attorneys-General meeting next week, expected to move the debate forward.
“I believe adults have the right to see information that minors should not see,” he said this week. “I believe we have to consider whether an R18+ classification for video games is actually going to help provide parents guidance in relation to the information of what games children should play.
“I believe we should really properly explore [the issue], and if I conclude that minors will be better off in terms of the use of games and parents have got better guidance, it’s certainly something I would be strongly considering.”
O’Connor’s comments agree with an overwhelming majority of submissions to the Attorney-General’s office arguing in favour of the new rating.
Of 59,678 individual submissions provided to the Attorney-General’s office this week in reply to a discussion paper on an R18+ classification, just 1089 disagreed with its introduction locally. Despite the overwhelming response, a literature review released by the department failed to conclude whether such a classification should be legalised.
The review pointed to submissions arguing that some video games had been “underclassified” as MA15+, where in other countries the same game was restricted to adults over 17 or 18. A joint submission from lobby groups Electronic Frontiers Australia and AusGamers found at least 24 example of this but O’Connor said he believed the number was closer to 50.
“There are about 50 games in Australia, that are currently MA15+ that in the United States are at a Mature 17 classification and in the United Kingdom an R18+,” he said. “So in fact it could be said that having an R18+ classification for games, you will be able to reclassify the games that are currently for 15-year-olds, for adults effectively.”
A change to the classification rating requires the unanimous vote of all Australian state and federal Attorneys-General. The vote has previously been held back by outspoken former Attorney-General for South Australia, Michael Atkinson.
O’Connor also indicated the debate could move forward when the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meets on 10 December to discuss the issue for the first time in more than a year.
“I’m now in the process of talking to Attorneys-General about this issue and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “We are certainly focusing on the issue, we don’t want to leave it there - I think people want to resolve the matter and move onto other issues.”
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The literature review coincided with research released by O’Connor this week that failed to provide a conclusive link between video games and violent or anti-social behaviour in participants.
"Much of this research has shown that playing violent video games is a small to moderate risk factor in later aggressive behaviour, at least in the short term," it said.
There was some consensus in the collective research that people with psychotic personality traits might be more affected by violent video games than others.
However, Australian Christian Lobby chief of staff, Lyle Shelton, said he thought the review had been a little hasty in dismissing the vast body of research showing links between exposure to violent games and aggressive behaviour.
"It does show there's definitely, certainly, short-term evidence and they're not dismissing the long-term effects," Shelton said.
Additional reporting by AAP
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