Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Lone Wolf in Australia: The Fight To Save Video Games

For those who don't know, Outlast 2 has suffered the ill-effects of Australia's unusually restrict video game laws, and was denied a classification code. It means the game can not be sold in the country until changes are made to fit their rules. If you are a returning reader of The Geek Spot, you know all too well that Australia has some strange laws for video games. South Park: The Stick of Truth had to undergo several cuts (with scenes being replaced by a crying Koala) before it could be classified in Australia. Here in the US and several other countries, it passes by easily with an M rating. There was a scuffle a few years back to restrict sales of 18+ games, possibly banning them all-together.

The latest, and 5th game, to suffer from no classification prompted a response from David Leyonhjelm, a senator for the Liberal Democrat Party in New South Whales. This man might be the bright beacon of hope that Australia is looking for. His argument is that the classification board is out of touch with the public and their needs. The current system needs an upgrade, according to Leyonhjelm. While he feels that the board is on point with movies, the current set-up for video games leaves much to be desired. The heart of the debate is that Leyonhjelm feels that the people on the board don't understand video games. They don't play them and still feel they are children's toys. Because of this, the rating system and the sale of games hasn't caught up with the times. Adults make up the vast majority of the gaming market. Leyonhjelm quotes 68% of all Australians play video games on a regular basis, with an average age of 33.

What I found interesting about the interview is just how out of touch the Australian government is with games, gamers; and how restricted they are in accessing anything game related on their work systems to research the topic.

“In fact, politicians and public servants are blocked from accessing several gamer websites. If we want to access Polygon, IGN, PC Gamer or Game Planet, the computer says no. This is presumably because we might stumble across an image of something somebody disapproves of on a medium we don't understand. However, we have no such trouble accessing Neo Nazi forums.[sic] It tells us something about the illogical attitude bureaucrats have about video games."

Yeah. I would say that's a good way to produce a poor attitude about video games if you can't even access a review for research in your office. But want to pull up the latest gore-guzzling action-flick? No problem!

It doesn't matter if Leyonhjelm is a gamer or not. He makes a very valid point. The Australian classification system is out of touch with today's world. Even for Australia! The ratings read like they were focused on one task: keep children safe. Which is all well and good, but they are also denying the vast majority of the gaming population that enjoys these products. The board punishes developers for creating content that doesn't fit the extreme guidelines, forcing them to re-work their art in hopes that it can be distributed in Australia. If the citizens of that country have enough intelligence to vote, then they certainly have the ability to determine what games are appropriate for their children, and themselves: not the government.

Leyonhjelm, I don't know where you plan to go with this platform or how you want to accomplish these changes to the ratings system. But the gaming community wishes you luck!

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