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The do-gooder brigade stands ready to march on video game classification

By Shane Ogden - posted Monday, 19 April 2010

Following reports that the Federal Government is investigating the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games, comes our trusty brigade of moral do-gooders ready and able to quell the flames of ultra-violent evil.

And catchy is their cadence call. From brigade member Professor of Law at Flinders University Elizabeth Handsley, in her recent Online Opinion piece first published in The Advertiser, comes that commonest of calls, sung with the military precision one has come to expect: For God's sake, won't somebody please think of the children?

Video games that are too violent and sexual must be banned. We must censor ourselves and our brothers and sisters because if our children ever see or play the games that we, as adults play, they will be ruined, irreparably.


Adults mustn't see or experience anything more violent or sexual than something an average 15-year-old is mature enough to handle. Violent and sexual content in books and movies must be severely limited on the basis that perhaps your or someone else's child finds, and reads or watches, your copy of American Psycho or A Clockwork Orange. Children before freedom.

Of course, Professor Handsley does not call for a banning of R18+ books, movies, and other media. Merely, the Professor calls upon our government to retain our current ban on R18+ video games because it is them and them alone that cause our vulnerable children to suffer irreparable harm.

But don't we already recognise that ultra-violent images cause our children harm? Isn't that why we have a classification regime? And haven't we already settled on a balance between freedom and child protection? And isn't that balance classification?

We already accept that the world is full of behaviours and things too terrible for children but perfectly acceptable for adults to engage in or to obtain. Such as watching porn, gambling in a casino, driving a car, getting a tattoo, commencing litigation, and voting.

We don't ban alcohol on the odd chance that a child finds a half empty glass at a family barbeque and then takes a swig. We do try and limit access of alcohol to children because we recognise the adult nature of alcohol and that it might cause children harm. That is, we accept that alcohol causes harm to children and we effectively classify alcohol as R18+. But what we don't do, is we don't ban it.

We haven't banned adults from smoking cigarettes, not even around children. We haven't banned pregnant women from smoking or drinking even though it would be most likely in the foetus's best interest. We don't force adults to behave in any particular way in such situations because we recognise that they're adults. We tell them we don't like it but we don't criminalise them.


As adults we defer to peer pressure and reason in an attempt to persuade others that there may be a better way. We do this because we recognise the overtly dictatorial and corrupting nature of attempts to control others where not entirely necessary. We recognise that the ends don't always justify the means, that the law is an ass, and that the law's power over people is limited.

Of course, it is concerning that a child might be able to amass their own collection of porn. Or be allowed to sit in their room playing violent R18+ video games day-in and day-out without adult supervision or guidance. But this is, however, about parents condoning such behaviour or either parents proving themselves to be neglectful, ignorant, or lazy. And in such cases, even a ban won't prevent parents flouting the rules.

The protection of children does not justify censorship of adults. But that doesn't mean we ignore the kids. Classification is not about ignoring the kids. On the contrary, it's all about the kids. We classify so that we can limit access to children of certain material.

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About the Author

Shane Ogden is a young lawyer who, by writing out his thoughts, is hoping not to bore his friends with those same thoughts quite so much. His views are his own and do not represent his employer's.

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