There’s been overdoses of moral panic, hyperbole, petitions, research, lots of heads banging on tables and too many trips to Canberra to remember, but this week adult gamers in Australia will join other mature audiences across the western world who are able to access and enjoy ‘age appropriate’ material. With the final tick off from Queensland, we now have a national scheme allowing for the release and sale of R18+ titles in Australia.
It’s been a long road to get here and there’s been many people along the way that have helped make this a reality. I know that when you start mentioning anyone specifically you will no doubt run the risk of forgetting or overlooking someone who made a valuable contribution, but I will run that risk and offer apologies in advance in doing so.
When iGEA (or IEAA as it was then) started their push for an R18+ rating, it was clear that those who needed to be influenced had no idea about the industry or what a gamer really looked like. Overcoming the stereotypical view of a gamer needed some robust and credible research which was delivered by Dr Jeffrey Brand from Bond University in the first of his studies into Australian gamers and gaming habits for IEAA, Gameplay Australia 2005 which was followed by the more comprehensive (and often cited) Interactive Australia 2007. Jeff has continued to be a voice of reason and balance in the ongoing ‘expert’ debate around video games.
In the early days the mainstream media was certainly an opposing force to any introduction of a higher classification, with almost weekly segments highlighting the ‘evils’ of gaming. Violence, obesity, addiction and a break down of the moral fabric seemed to dominate the discourse around games. In an effort to counter some of this noise, a small but focussed PR team from Espresso Communications (Corrie McLeod and Grace Gabriel) joined the extended iGEA team. Espresso are still managing and advising on the R18+ messaging for iGEA and have cemented themselves as an integral part of the R18+ lobbying effort.
As a counterbalance to mainstream media, the specialist press really jumped on board and ensured that the messaging around R18+ was clear, articulate and largely free of the heightened ’emotion’ that was becoming more evident (and problematic) in the discussions from all quarters on the issue. Journalists such as Jason Hill and Janet Carr and the team on Good Game championed the issue in the early days. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Laura Parker (Gamespot) and Mark Serrels (Kotaku) take the reporting and analysis of the R18+ issue to an invaluable new level.
Amidst the noise of the debate a Facebook page emerged, Grow Up Australia, which gave another voice to Australian gamers. Aaron Percival reached out to the disenfranchised gamer and provided a forum where they could understand how to express themselves in a way that politicians would hear them along with keeping them connected to the issue.
How could we not thank Michael Atkinson, the former South Australian Attorney General, for his contribution? Although a continual stumbling block in the SCAG process, he did give gamers a point of focus for their angst and was a catalyst for the establishment of Gamers for Croydon, led by David Doe and Chris Prior. It has gone unsaid the amount of time, effort and resources that Aaron, David and Chris have given in order to bring around an R18+ rating. For many of us who were part of the wider push, although we did it passionately, it was largely part of what we did for a living. Not so for Aaron, David, Chris and many others.
Brendan O’Connor (former Home Minister for Home Affairs) and his team took hold of this issue and really championed the political push that was needed to get an R18+classification on the Commonwealth agenda. Through Brendan, his policy team and the Classification Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, the R18+ issue got its first real political leg up.
There are so many more individuals who contributed to this all coming together, not least of which are the 90,000 people who took part in the submission to the Commonwealth directly or through the efforts of EB Games and the subsequent petitions from Game. It was indeed a team effort.
This whole process has highlighted the maturing of an industry and the maturity of Australia’s gamers. Over the last 4 years we have seen a cogent, consistent and constructive argument put together for an R18+ classification. All stakeholders have come together to make an R18+ rating a reality and collectively deserve a huge amount of recognition.
Lastly, it would be remiss of me not to thank the members and Board of iGEA who have supported the effort for at least 10 years and who have expended a considerable amount of resources on research, lobbying, communication and…well….me!
Well, that’s step one in our master plan to have an Australian classification scheme that’s fit for purpose and able to cope with the rapid change in content creation, delivery and consumption. I guess I have something to do for the next 10 years.