Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Artistic Revolution of New Media (the R18+ debate)

As with all new forms of media, or new artistic mediums, controversy surrounds the content that should and shouldn’t be displayed. For society to come to grips with new media a period of scrutiny must ensue. During this period society enforces its accepted moral standards upon the new media to control and restrict its access. This has been occurring for hundreds of years in all cultures, but more recently and in Australia the moving image was once thought of as a crude and distasteful medium. Such classics as King Kong, Frankenstein and Dracula were banned in Australia in 1941 for high impact scary violence and cruelty. Society of the times had heavily scrutinized a new media they did not fully understand. Today we have such movies as Hostel and its sequels, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Cannibal, all of which have incredibly high amounts of blood and gore and are freely available from any video store. Gradually society has accepted film as an art form that should not be easily restricted for it can be used as a form of expression and meaning.

Today interactive media is under the watchful eye of society. Video games are a new media not yet fully fleshed out as an art form much like film was in its infancy. On top of the crude and violent image video games have received they are also unfortunately seen as the domain of children. Hence society has scrutinized and shunned games for a very long time. However this has been shown not to be the case as Dr. Mark Finn discusses in his insightful reading Politcal Interface: The Banning of GTA 3 in Australia (2006);

The criticizing of a new form of media is an entirely natural process, yet with games it has lingered for further than usual. One person; Attorney-General Michael Atkinson is responsible for the banning of so many potential games in Australia over the years. As it still stands today, “In Australia, a game that cannot be rated by the Classification Board into the top MA15+ category is essentially unclassified (UC). Anything that is UC cannot be legally sold in the country.” For example, the banning of an American parody game known as GTA 4 was recently banned in Australia (then modified and released) for containing the ability to perform what would be an indecent act in real life. A potentially positive addition to the education and culture of Australia was restricted by a man that does not accept that games can have an artistic message much the same way film and literature can.

What do you think?


  1. I think there is a huge difference between watching a man murder people in a movie, and playing a game where the player is in control of the murderer's actions.

    Suppose a situation where a child is exposed to an R18 movie for 2 hours versus a parent buying that same child an R18 video game such as Manhunt or GTA instead.
    The child would become much more involved with the video game, perhaps spending upwards of 30 hours playing it over the course of a few months. The movie would only be watched once and probably with the parents in the room as well.

    Although I do agree that an R18 classification should be introduced to the Australian market, I can understand how the controllers of consumer classifications may be cautious considering the fact that young children might play these games and not understand the moral implications of the characters on screen.

  2. That scenario does highlight a definite issue surrounding violent video games and the interactivity leading to greater levels of user involvement and immersion. Which would arguably lead to a greater level of influence on the players idea/actions etc. I.e Boy plays game, boy shoots people in a game, boy gets teased at school, boy borrows dads gun and goes to town.
    BUT the suggestion that the introduction of a R18+ will lead to greater social problems, namely young child/teenagers being influenced by these high levels of violence/unsuitable content is ignoring several key arguments, which make me believe the argument that games should not have access to a R rating void.
    First, A R18 rating is currently available in many countries world wide, and with games being so linked and sometimes reliant on the internet to function, if a child/teen feels the overwhelming need to butch several score of infants or willy nilly decapitate hundreds of millions of unsuspecting bad-guys/good-guys/undecided bystanders, they can no doubt do it by going to Google etc typing in what they want and following the prompts to the latest edition to "Man-Hunt 4, Kindergarten edition" , OR asking a friend at school to burn them a copy...and trust me they are aware and capable of doing this probably better than myself...damn kids and there smart brains.
    Second, A R18 rating has a few social understandings attached to it, Mainly that its for ADULTS....parents that are so stupid as to buy their small child a R18 game, probably shouldn't have children, and there probably so poor from some form of substance abuse that they cant afford the game anyway, and then it isn't purchasing a game for there child, but shoplifting and an entirely different issue.

    The best way to demonstrate societies feelings toward violent/unwholesome video games is with our wallets, let us have a R18 rating, let us enjoy our uncensored fun, and if a company makes a game so un-tasteful that society feels it inappropriate let us inform them of their epic cock-up by bankrupting the dicey bastards by not buying the game they borrow copious amounts of money to make.....Namely I think games like ManHunt are the limit...if maybe a little over the limit. . . .its the saw/hostle of the video game industry and as such is a waste of time.

    Come get me internet!

  3. It's going to take people using the industry as a serious media for story telling. Until then it's doubtful any progress would be made on the rating.

    As important as it is, for the local industry and media in general, because quite simply we need to have a rating for content by adults, for adults. The R18 does carry the implication of it being worthy, if required, of restriction. Not every game in the rating has to be full of tits, drugs and violence, but have content that's way beyond what a teenager should have access to.