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Australia bans graphic games ... sort of

Measures to prevent children playing games that simulate rape, murder and drug abuse have backfired.

Gamers play "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," at a pre-release event held in New York Nov. 9, 2009. Fans lined up hours in advance of the release of the Activision Blizzard Inc's video game. Australians, meantime, are struggling with the issue of how to classify violent and graphic games. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

BRISBANE, Australia — Has the Australian government’s most recent attempt at technological book-burning backfired?

Last month, the government gave the green light to controversial plans to censor the internet and now fans of computer games have started a political party to protest the censorship of globally best-selling adult games.

A debate is raging about the government’s refusal to allow an adults-only (18-years-old) or
R rating for games, effectively leading to the banning of some of the world’s most sought-after home entertainment — games that are available to adults in their entirety in the United States and other Western countries.

Ironically, the lack of adult rating — intended to exclude violent material — may be having the opposite effect.

Best-selling games such as "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" — which has raked in $1 billion and outsold the movie "Titanic" — are barely-edited in order to shoe-horn them into an MA+ rating (15-years-old). Computer game enthusiasts and researchers argue that this exposes younger players to similar versions of games that are rated for much older players in the United States, Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand.

Founder of the Gamers 4 Croydon party, David Doe, is busy preparing his party’s platform in the state of South Australia, where an election is due to be held on March 20. The
single-issue party’s candidate is yet to be chosen but will run against the South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson, who strongly opposes an adults-only rating for computer games, in the state’s electorate of Croydon.

Doe, 30, says gamers have come of age and the lack of adults-only rating is effectively censorship.

Research conducted Jeffrey Brand, a professor of communication and media at Bond University on the Gold Coast, reveals the surprising statistic that average age of computer and video game players in Australia is 30 years old.

Doe says young teenagers are being exposed to mostly adult material and parents misinformed.

“Most of the time when a game is edited the change is incredibly minor,” he said.

For example, in the game "Fallout 3" players are offered a choice to take the drug morphine and possibly become addicted. The edited Australian version of the "Fallout 3" merely gives the drug a fictional name, but allows much younger teens to virtually experience taking the drug, possibly become addicted and suffer the negative side-effects.

The games "Grand Theft Auto IV" and "Saints Row 2," both classified as MA+ in Australia and suitable for 15-year-olds, offer players a selection of methods in which to brutally murder innocent civilians.