An Interview With David Doe, Founder of the Political Party Gamers4Croydon

Our interview with David Doe, Founder of the Political Group, Gamers4Croydon, which was formed to counter Michael Atkinson, South Australia’s Attorney-General who is opposed to a “Mature” game rating

Recently, South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson made headlines when he refused to support a vote that would create an R18+ video game rating in Australia. The most mature rating for video games in Australia is an MA15+ that classifies mature games as suitable for ages 15 and older. Many gamers in Australia believe that the ratings system is restrictive and irresponsible and wish to make the game rating system uniform with that of movies and television.

Mr. Atkinson said, when discussing why he wouldn’t vote for a mature video game rating, “there may be games some people consider too violent for for the MA15+ classification, but the solution is not to create a classification to permit even more violent games.” In addition, Mr. Atkinson invited any people who felt differently than him to challenge his run for office, stating, “I am next up for election in March 2010. The state district I represent is called Croydon. I would welcome advocates of R18+ computer games testing public acceptance of my policy by standing a candidate against me. I think you will find this issue has little traction with my constituents who are more concerned with real-life issues than home entertainment in imaginary worlds.”

Gamers4Croydon is the political party that was founded in response to Mr. Atkinson’s challenge. We had a chance to chat with David Doe, founder of Gamers4Croydon, to learn more about his party and the gaming situation in Australia that has led to the controversy.

Terminal Gamer: Thanks for agreeing to chat with us, David. Firstly, could you explain what the problem is in Australia? What is your rating system and why is it so unfair to gamers and to adult freedoms in general?

David Doe: The ratings system in Australia, like everywhere else, informs people about the kinds of content that a TV show, a film or a videogame may contain. Our ratings in order of severity of content is as follows : G, PG, M, MA15+, R18+, X18+.

In brief, G (General) contains very mild content, PG (parental Guidance) contains mild content, M (Mature) contains moderate content, MA15+ (Mature – but legally restricted to persons over 15 years of age) contains strong content, R18+ (Restricted – You must be over 18 years of age to purchase) contains very strong or high level content, and X18+ is the same as the R18+ rating, but the X denotes that the content is sexually explicit.

TV shows and Films are rated on the entire scale from G to X18+. Videogames are rated on a limited scale from G to MA15+. This inconsistency sees a number of games that have received the equivalent of an adults-only (18 at PEGI, M at ESRB, R18+ at NZ-OFLC and 18 at BBFC) rating overseas being shovelled into the MA15+ rating inappropriately, and in some cases, sees them being Refused Classification (banned from sale) for having content that is too strong to be considered for the MA15+ rating.

The fact that we do not have an R18+ rating causes confusion. It does not give parents the right amount of information when they are purchasing games for their children, and it takes away rights from adults who want (and should be able) to engage in adult-oriented material.


Terminal Gamer: Michael Atkinson is the Attorney-General of South Australia, is that right?

David Doe: That’s correct.

Terminal Gamer: Why does this give him veto powers?

David Doe: The Classification Act of 1995 (a federal piece of legislation) states that in order to have any changes made to the classification system, all Attorneys-General from the States, Territories and the Commonwealth must be in unanimous agreement to do so. This effectively gives veto power to any single Attorney General on the matter. Mr. Atkinson is currently the only ‘no’ vote, and in the past has delayed attempts to have a Discussion Paper released to the public on the topic.

Terminal Gamer: What is the stance of your party? What platform are you going to be running on with regards to gamers and their rights?

David Doe: Gamers4Croydon endorses and supports the implementation of an R18+ rating for videogames in Australia. That Australians have been forced to run a candidate directly against the only opponent of the rating as he will not listen to reason, scientific research or public opinion is a cause for concern in and of itself. Our other policies are quite progressive and revolve around water-saving, renewable energy, transparent government and bolstering the local manufacturing industry.

Terminal Gamer: What are some examples that readers here in the states and around the world would be familiar with in terms of games that have been banned in Australia?

David Doe: The ban list is decidedly small as most of the games that are initially Refused Classification are given minor edits and then re-classified under the MA15+ rating. But a short list of banned games includes Manhunt, Blitz the League, Narc and Reservoir Dogs. The list of games that have been edited and re-classified is much longer, but the big names include Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead 2, GTA 3 and Silent hill: Homecoming. Fallout 3 stands out as it was edited globally and still received an adults rating or equivalent everywhere in the world except Australia, where it received an MA15+.

Terminal Gamer: Gaming as a medium is maturing rapidly. Better technology is allowing for greater emotional draw in games and their storylines, and it’s also allowing for much more mature storytelling. Why do you think there is such a gap between accepted media forms such as films and television shows versus games? Why is it that a film such as “Shoot ‘Em Up” doesn’t get torn apart by the media while a scene such as the “No Russian” scene in Modern Warfare 2 gets lambasted by critics?

David Doe: It’s a generational acceptance problem. Videogames are still such a young medium that they haven’t yet had the broader social impacts that television and film in their ubiquity have. A lot of people just haven’t grown up with videogames and without that early childhood acceptance of them as a completely valid and engaging form of entertainment, it is easy to be dismissive of them, just as it is easy to blame broader societal issues on them as they are something they are not familiar with personally.

Terminal Gamer: What message do you have for gamers as well as for non-gamers across Croydon and Australia as a whole?

David Doe: Spread the word! The more people we have talking about this issue the better. Help us in our campaign to protect children from inappropriate content while maintaining the civil rights of adults. Everyone can donate to the cause via the website and any donations that aren’t used in the campaign will go to the Child’s Play charity. Link to the site, re-tweet our tweets, advertise the facebook group. Start signing your emails with “I game, I vote.” Use the art found on our webpage for your in-game avatar or forum signatures. And if you really want to get your hands dirty, write a letter to your sitting member.

Even the tiniest snowflake can start an avalanche.


Terminal Gamer: Thanks again, David, and good luck in the election process!

You can learn more about Gamers4Croydon by visiting their website, www.Gamers4Croydon.org. The election is expected to be held on March 20, 2010.