A hot topic in the community of Australian gamers at the moment is the call for an R18+ rating for computer games. At the moment, Australia has no such category, so any game that does not fit into the classification below (MA15+) is refused classification — effectively banned. This has had two consequences: some material has indeed been banned, or censored to meet the demands of the Australian market, but the more significant effect is that a lot of material that is elsewhere deemed unsuitable for minors makes it into the MA15+ category (“more than half” of MA15+ titles, according the Electronic Frontier Australia).
As a gamer designer and educator, I support the creation of an R18+ category, but I find it puts me in uneasy company. Of course I realise that most gamers are adults and I respect their freedom to play what they choose. I also respect the need to help parents keep adult content out of their children’s hands (but parents must also act responsibly). But I fear that the majority of people campaigning alongside me are merely baying for blood, and that makes for unwelcome company.
It is the dilemma of the civil libertarian. I respect people’s freedom, but I really wish they’d freely choose something better than extra gore in Left 4 Dead 2 or “hot coffee” in GTA. I feel like a nutritionist defending your right to eat McDonalds. I’m not saying these games are intrinsically bad – I enjoy blasting zombies with a shotgun as much as the next man – I just wish the medium had more truly “adult” content to offer, beyond titilation and jeunvenile power fantasies. Show me the Ulysses or Lady Chatterly’s Lover of games and I may change my mind.