In our continued efforts to see both sides of the argument in Australia and elsewhere about the extreme content of some games we find this letter to the editor that says that many violent game defenders are being disingenuous.
The context is the ongoing debate in Australia about whether the country should finally allow video games to have the equivalent of an M rating, or in movie terms, an R rating, for video games. Currently, a game must be deemed suitable at least for a 15-year-old in Australia in order for the game to be classified by the nation's ratings board. Many games rated M in America have failed to meet this threshold, though the recent controversy over the very violent upcoming Aliens Vs. Predator appears to have ended with the game getting Australia's MA15+ rating.
Here's letter-writer Caleb Owens writing in to today's Sydney Morning Herald:
True maturity an alien concept to video gamers
I wish video gamers were more honest about what they want (Letters, February 2). Most mention these days that the average age of gamers is quite high, but they do not mention that most of those gamers do not play ''mature'' games. It is like arguing that tennis needs more nudity and gore because the average age of those who watch is above 18.
While it is true Australia stands alone in not having an R rating for video games, gamers do not tell you that an R rating is needed only to slake their bloodlust.
No game maker has yet created what an ordinary person might consider a mature game. Video games in other countries that receive 18+ ratings, many of which are refused classification here, are ''mature'' only because they contain excessive gore, cruelty or torture. There are no great works of video game art being held back.
All we miss out on is graphic gore. It would shock most non-gamers to realise that in a current MA15+ game, players can shoot, decapitate and dismember. All games refused classification (and there are just a handful each year) are described by the classification board as containing things such as ''excessive blood spurts, excessive cruelty, the ability to kill innocents without consequence''.
When gamers discuss this issue on their internet forums, they complain that the bodies do not pile up in the Australian version of one game. But when they write polite letters to politicians or the Herald they hide this reality and instead talk about ''mature games'' and how they are being denied their right to enjoy content.
If we translate this into their ''right'' to indulge in gory simulations of murder and dismemberment, it beggars belief they would be able to state their case without causing their peer groups to react in horror.
Video gamers also make direct and crude comparisons with the movie ratings scale. However, the last time I saw an R-rated movie I do not remember being allowed to participate in the various heinous acts.
It takes a great work of art to advance a ratings scale. When the Lady Chatterley's Lover of video games arrives, all citizens will be rightly concerned if it is withheld. But that seems a long way off.
Would it change the debate if gamers who advocated for mature games described the details of the games they think should be permitted? Certainly comparing the content of some of those games to that of some movies that get rated would present a strong argument that games shouldn't be held to a different standard. But must the content be justifiably "mature" for gamers to win this argument? Would it help?