Jim Wallace of the Australian Christian Lobby told me recently there was disappointment in the Christian community with church leaders who are perceived as failing to take public stands on tough social issues.
He said this reluctance often stemmed from the ‘hard hits’ they received in the media and opponents whenever they spoke out from a Christian perspective.
Perhaps church leaders have been watching the treatment dished out to former South Australian Attorney General, Michael Atkinson, who has single-handedly held back the introduction of R18+ video games in Australia.
He stepped down as Attorney General yesterday, citing a need for renewal in the Rann Government ministry, but one wonders whether the slew of hatred directed at him over the R18+ issue was a contributing factor.
There’s no doubt Atkinson has had his fair share of controversy due to unrelated political issues. However being the lone AG in Australia to oppose the R18+ classification – effectively blocking its introduction – has placed him in the cross-hairs of angry adult gamers and many others, as a quick Google search will reveal.
Atkinson, a devout Catholic, announced his resignation outside his local church today and within minutes speculation spread across the internet that the way was now clear for R18+ games to be sold in Australia.
That remains to be seen, as this may force other state or the federal Attorney General to declare their opposition, but in the mean time, it is a lesson about how even one person, standing true to heart-felt values, can influence society.
As for the issue itself, Australia is apparently the only western nation to not allow the classification of video games that exceed MA15+ rating which means these ultra-violent and sexually explicit games simply can’t be sold in Australia.
In defending his opposition in the past, Mr Atkinson said he knew the lack of an R18+ rating denied Australian adults choice but this was necessary to help restrict children’s access to “potentially harmful material”.
The next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General is held in Melbourne on April 29, but it is not yet known whether the introduction of an R18+ games rating will be discussed.
The Australian Christian Lobby told a recent inquiry on the issue that there was good reason for stricter rules to apply to interactive games than films and DVDs.
“The interactive nature of computer games causes their content to have a greater impact on players than the effects of similarly rated filmic depictions of violent or sexual conduct on viewers of movies.”
It cited 2003 research from Iowa University professor Craig Anderson that found, “Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behaviour”.
A recent Sunday Telegraph story revealed that a 14-year-old boy was easily able to purchase, many times, an MA15+ game that should have only been available if he was 15-years-old or more and with a guardian.
What if there was R18+ games on the shelf?
As a society, how do we learn to balance the preferential rights of adults with the absolute right of children to be protected and nourished?
And would you want your husband, father, brother or son spending 30 hours a week (a relatively low gaming weekly rate for many gamers) interacting with this material? PH