South Australia is about to have its state elections. The incumbents have already attempted to ban anonymous public comment on the elections and now are making a big deal about computer gamers.
South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson (think Minister for Justice/Law) has so far successfully blocked a R-18 classification for computers games in Australia. Our highest rating is MA (15+). The effect of this is that some games which ought to be R-rated are allowed to be sold to teenagers, some games get "modified" to make them appropriate and yet other games are not available at all (legally). We do have R-ratings for movies and some other media; but to allow it for games requires approval from all the Australian states; and Atkinson has been holding out.
In response, a political party called gamers4croydon have formed with the purpose of trying to get this rating approved if they win. Hooray! In the mean time, a gamer apparently stuffed a threatening letter under the Atkinson's family home at 2am some nights back. While I don't approve of such behaviour, I was baffled to hear that this makes Atkinson "feel that my family and I are more at risk from gamers than we are from the outlaw motorcycle gangs who also hate me and are running a candidate against me." Gamers are scarier than bikies? I haven't read the note; perhaps that one is.
So that's a bit of background. Then last night I read an astonishingly condescending article about gamers. This was written by Caroline Overington who has won the Walkley Award twice for investigative journalism, but that's no excuse for the tripe she's trotted out.
Let's see what she has to say:
[A]nyone over the age of 30 who spends any time deep in some sagging sofa, console in one hand, the other down the front of their pants, imagining themselves to be a combatant in some pretend city, is lame.
Anyone who has an avatar -- a dinky little cartoon version of oneself, bearing a physique that is in every way discordant with the physique of an actual gamer -- is major-league lame.
I know what you're thinking. Gamers, who cares? They don't participate in life in any meaningful way. As a rule, they don't even have jobs. With their wet hands and their weak chins, they'd never get through an interview.
I get that this is supposed to be funny, but it failed. Not because I don't have a sense of humour; but because telling me that there aren't any females in gaming isn't funny, it's marginalising. Telling me that gamers are so socially inept that they can't have relationships is not funny, it's marginalising. Telling me that gamers fail at life isn't funny, it's belittling.
Most of the gamers I know have jobs, have spouses and maybe children, are active in a number of different communities and are reasonably physically active. This shouldn't be surprising because the Interactive Australia 2009 Report tells us that the average Australian gamer age is 30 and that 68% of Australians play computer or video games. If all gamers over the age of 30 were as lame as Overington says, we'd have serious problems.
Spending your non-work hours playing computer games late into the night is certainly not a worse pursuit than spending them watching TV. At least with games you're actually required to do some thinking, rather than having it all be passive consumption. Sure there are probably hundreds of "better" things to do with your free time, but there are worse things too.
If Overington wanted to make a subtle dig at Atkinson's refusal to talk about 18+ ratings; I'd have expected her to poke some fun at the idea that computer gamers are more scary than bikies! As it is, I cannot make any reasonable guess as to what motivated this attack.