Violence in video games has been around forever, and so has the controversy surrounding it. Studies from around the globe show that violent video games can be linked to kids aggression to results that state that there is no link between violent media and violent behavior. Even studies such as Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiment in 1961, where children were tested for aggressive responses after watching an aggressive model can be linked to the effect of violence in media on children.
Personally, I don’t believe that the anxieties associated with violent video games are justified at all.
There have been well documented studies from Professor Michael Ward and other researchers that state there is no link between video game violence and actual violence, due to theories such as catharsis, “venting violent impulses through a video game rather than on an actual person”.
So how does Australia deal with violent video games and its potential impact on children? Two years ago the “Classification of Computer Games and Images And Other Legislation Bill 2012” was passed, which allowed the Australian Classification Board to pass video games with an R18+ classification instead of banning them. It meant that Australia was able to finally move past the media’s stance on video game violence and entrust parents with ensuring their children are not affected by restricted content.
Video game news platforms such as Kotaku were ecstatic at the time, this new classification would be able to inform consumers, parents and retailers which games were not suitable for minors, and allow the video game industry to expand further into Australia. However here we are two years later and has the R18+ classification really done anything at all? Almost all current R18+ video games were initially refused classification, and there are still a large amount that still haven’t been considered for having the rating revoked. So why is this? Wasn’t the R18+ rating initially passed to ensure that violent video games didn’t influence minors and instead were held in the responsibility of adults who knew what was right and what was wrong? It could be that the current classification board consists of middle-aged men and women who in all likelihood do not have any interest in video games or haven’t played a video game in their life.
Maybe we should understand why video games were initially refused classification in the first place. The main reason being either that they contain high impact gory violence or that they maintain connotations associated with high impact themes such as sexual violence and activity.
But how is it any different from other media, particularly movies and television shows such as Saw, Fifty Shades of Grey, Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead? All these television shows and movies contain adult themes which should be restricted from minors, yet these still hold MA15+ ratings and are easier for minors to get their hands on.
Is this fair?
Is this really Australia’s response to violence in video games and media?