Video games causing moral panic in Australia.

While games have become more accessible with more advanced technological advancements, the concerns of the public and the possible connections to youth violence and terrorism was imminent when the topics of contemporary games are matching current affairs. Mass media has expressed concern that gaming could conclusively be making youth more violent, prone to mature themes such as racism, sexism, gun violence and more is common discussion. Even with classification being explicit in their definitions and the reasons why they are applied to certain video games, there are ways to work around this and stigmas will continue to develop despite government interference.

Mario Kart on Mobile. Picture by Isaac Percy.

The computer game industry is a big business in Australia, with franchises dedicated to selling games and game related content. However, with the responsibility of selling games to people, there used to be no R18+ or Adult rating for video games, which made it hard to control the age people are accessing games. The ACB now can do this rating and refuse inappropriate games, however it will not stop young people accessing these games. The median age for games is 30 years of age, which the controversial games being connected to crime are highly catered to, such as Grand Theft Auto with the crime being the title, and Call Of Duty, which has shown war crimes and extreme violence. The issue seen here is young people gaining access them isn’t difficult with various gateways into being able to access gameplay. With 88% of Australian households having a device to play video games, the tools are there.

The gaming industry started in Australia in the mid 80’s, with Nintendo releasing their ‘NES’ system, and arcade games coming around. As consoles and televisions have only upgrades more over time, game consoles began sweeping the nation – Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, and upgrades to come. In addition, computers and the ability to play games on them on Windows devices, and later Mac and Linux came both online and software games that were also very easy to access. This started the trend of independent games rather than just mass-produced game content.

The Playstation 2 Controller. Picture by Isaac Percy.

Games of adult themes in various degrees have become very popular, from realistic to completely made-up universes that similar to film, were very inappropriate. From the realistic ‘Call of Duty’ and crime-based ‘GTA’, to the creation of ‘Silent Hill’ to the independent ‘Slender’, the games are classified for various reasons. With the introduction of platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo, game content can be uploaded by other games and watched, which has also expanded into streaming – a new level of being able to consume a game and its themes beyond even playing it.

The Australian government introduced a classification system, called the Australian Classification Board (ACB) to help inform both its younger and adult market into what is appropriate for which age group, which is both in the video game, television and film industry. As games in other countries such as North America where the concerns about the political, legal, sexual and violent content have been spoken about in the mainstream media, and game producers and publishers having to pay the consequence, Australia has been impacted by this as well.

The infamous Nintendo Wii. Picture by Isaac Percy.

These concerns in the media are the effects of video gaming on youth, despite surveys showing that 78% of gamers in Australia are adults and the median age is rising. There are examples of youth being affected, and the awareness of game addiction is definitely looked at, which when you do a simple Google search on what the concerns of video games in youth are, there are connections.

However, in here, there is sensationalised and rare cases which with looking into research – gaming isn’t the reason for violence. There has even been research made where there was less violence around the time of violent games being in high playership.

The responsibilities for the gaming industry and the government working towards protecting youth from mature content can only be controlled to a certain extent with classification and distribution, however the media promoting the ‘dangers’ of video gaming makes the situation worse off and could possibly let to rebellion. Research is saying that video games has the same effect on children as movies, TV shows and Youtube content.

Runescape, my first gaming experience. Picture by Isaac Percy.

The moral panic as more events involving violence, youth will only make the discussion of gaming and the control of the content and it’s classification grow further, however this is purely fed by the media and the people who have not looked into the research that is being conducted. Games are growing constantly and becoming more realistic, immersive and simply – fun. Despite the current climate and the issues of the past such as terrorist incidents in America with youth, the comparison will still be made.

Additional sources:

Brand Jeffrey, Borchard Jill, Holmes Kym (2009), ‘Case Study: Australia’s Computer Games Audience and Restrictive Ratings System’, Communications & Strategies, no. 73, pp. 67-79.

McCrea, Christian 2013 ‘Australian Video Games: The Collapse and Reconstruction of an Industry.’


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