Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm tells Senate the Government “should leave video gamers alone.”
Australian Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm has criticised the Government and the Australian Classification Board in a speech delivered to the Senate yesterday.
“This video game takes place in a fantasy world involving all kinds of creatures both human and non-human,” said Leyonhjelm. “The mere suggestion of an out-of-screen encounter between a creature and a human character was enough to get it banned altogether by the Australian Classification Board.”
“All of this operates on the false assumption that people who play video games are impressionable children who would play out anything they saw.
“Yet the internet is now awash with all manner of unpleasant images involving real people – not computer generated images – and violent crime around the world is in decline.”
Leyonhjelm’s description of the problematic event in Outlast II differs with that of the Classification Board, which explained in a report provided to IGN that, while “much of the contact between the creature and [the player character] is obscured, by it taking place below screen, the sexualised surroundings and aggressive behaviour of the creature suggest that it is an assault which is sexual in nature.” When combined with the player’s character’s objections the Board found the sequence constituted “a depiction of implied sexual violence.”
Citing figures from Australia’s Interactive Games and Entertainment Association Digital Australia 16 report Leyonhjelm correctly notes the average age of gamers in Australia is 33.
Claiming that very few gamers are in a position to make or enforce the laws thanks to an “unfortunate quirk of demographics” Leyonhjelm also explained that politicians and public servants are “blocked” from accessing games websites like “Polygon, IGN, PC Gamer or Gameplanet.”
Leyonhjelm posits that “[t]his is presumably because we might stumble across an image of something somebody disapproves of on a medium we don’t understand.” It’s been confirmed to IGN that entertainment sites and Facebook, etc. are commonly blocked for public servants for productivity reasons and this is not an issue specific to games websites.
“Prime Minister Turnbull claims to have an innovation agenda, but every signal we send to the gaming community in this country is of censorship, disapproval and discouragement,” concluded Leyonhjelm.
“Video games do not hurt anybody, and the Government and Classification Board should leave video gamers alone.”
Australia’s current R18+ rating in the Australian Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games prohibits visually depicted sexual violence, as well as the association of incentives or rewards for controlled drug use. Changes to classification laws in Australia require the approval of all state attorneys-general. For its part, the IGEA is still looking for “wholesale reform” regarding video game classification and believes an industry-led, self-regulated rating system is the answer.
Leyonhjelm was elected to the Senate at the 2013 federal election and became the Liberal Democratic Party’s first senator on July 1, 2014. This is after the 2013 classification hurdles faced by Saints Row IV, State of Decay, and South Park: The Stick of Truth but before the 2015 banning of Hotline Miami 2 for visually depicted sexual violence. Hotline Miami 2 remains banned in Australia today. What placed Outlast II on Leyonhjelm’s agenda over Hotline Miami 2 is unclear. The transcipt of Leyonhjelm’s speech was distributed by the IGEA upon request from Leyonhjelm’s office.
Alongside The Greens, One Nation, the Nick Xenophon Team, Derryn Hinch, Bob Day, and Jacqui Lambie, David Leyonhjelm is one of a record 20 crossbenchers in the current Australian Senate. The 64-year-old is a controversial figure in Australian politics and has attracted criticism during his Senate stint for utilising events like the Sydney’s Lindt Cafe siege and Melbourne’s Bourke Street vehicle attack to promote his calls for softer gun laws, and his claim that he would be happy for police to “lie on the side of the road and bleed to death,” amongst other examples.
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. You can find him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.