Although we may never have been forced to deal with it ourselves, I’m certain that many of us have witnessed the utter desperation of those who form the perfect target audience for a game like Grand Theft Auto 5 but, due to classification laws and regulations, are too young to purchase it for themselves. So as to acquire the games they so desire, these poor maltreated teenagers – trapped as they are with the immovable weight of an entire regulatory system between them and their felon-ridden fantasyland – are then left with no choice but to exploit the kindness of strangers, the blissful ignorance of their parents, or the complete lack of anything resembling jurisprudence in the average video game store clerk.
How are these laws and regulations made, and who is it that decides which games are freely available to adolescent aficionados, and which ones are not?
Join us at this week’s 5a7 symposium as we welcome David Simon who has kindly offered to give us a rare tour of this process. David – a Concordia graduate in Art History and Studio Art – worked for ten years in film and computer game regulation as part of the Attorney-General’s Department in Australia. He was a member of the Australian Classification Board, once known ominously as the Film Censorship Board.
One of a group of diverse individuals from across the country, he was appointed by the Governor-General and tasked with applying rules, regulations and “community standards” to determine the appropriate classification of any film and computer game. He finished off his career in government with a major legislative reform: the R 18+ adult category for computer games. This legislative initiative had been on the books for 10 years, but never seemed to be able to cross over the line, for reasons David will explain. David wrote the speeches, developed the policy, and created the working drafts of the legislation that was ultimately negotiated between all the Attorneys-General across Australia. Prior to this reform, no computer game that was rated above MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied 15+) could be legally sold in Australia. Some games were being banned, and others were being re-coded by the distributors to avoid a similar fate.
In his presentation, David will describe how the classification of computer games works in Australia and how this affects game development and distribution. He will detail the legislative reform process with particular emphasis on the influence of lobbyists, political alliances within the Australian body politic, and the role of government administrators in shepherding good policy through a messy process. He will reflect on the role of propaganda in government, and the unintended consequences of laws.
Hope to see you all there!
What: Notes from Underdown (Down Under?)
When: Thursday, May 8th, from 5-7pm
Where: Hexagram Game Lab, EV 11.425, 1515 St. Catherine W.
Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me? (Everyone is Welcome!)