Playing Politics: An Interview with Gamers 4 Croydon’s David Doe.

Ulric | 23 November 2009 | Comments off

Australian gamers have it rough. Not only do we have to deal with delayed releases, poor ping, region locking and digital price debacles, but we remain the only Western nation to lack an adult classification for video games. The current lack of an R18+ rating for games is seen as being largely thanks to one man, South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson, who appears to relish his dual role as self-appointed moral guardian and most loathed man in Australian gaming circles.

In March of this year, the Attorney General issued a challenge to gamers: if they were serious about an R18+ rating, then they should take him on in his (extremely safe) seat of Croydon and let the voters decide. Gamers aren’t one to let a challenge go unmet, and the result has been Australia’s newest political party, Gamers 4 Croydon, who intend to field a candidate to directly challenge Mr Atkinson. David Doe, founder of G4C, has kindly agreed to an interview with The Older Gamers.

TOG: So, David, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your gaming history?
G4C: I’m 30 years old, am married, I grew up in various parts of the country as Dad was in the Navy, and now I live in Melbourne’s western suburbs. I’ve been playing videogames since I was 5 years old or so, starting on my elder brother’s Commodore 64 (which I now own – and still have), and living through the golden age of Timezone ™ in the late 80s and early 90s. Nowadays, I have my own arcade machines (two at work, and the others at home where I try to recondition them,) and I play videogames professionally as my nine-to-five.

TOG: What made you decide to take up Michael Atkinson’s challenge to gamers to face him in the political arena?
G4C: It seemed as though popular public support and overwhelming supporting evidence just weren’t doing the trick, so I thought I’d try another avenue.

TOG: Are you concerned that if the party does not poll well that the Attorney General will become even more intractable as a result?
G4C: Given the current state of affairs, I don’t think it’s actually possible for the Attorney General to get any more intractable on this issue. He has already shown that no matter the evidence, no matter the public support, he will personally never support an R18+ classification rating. So no, I’m not concerned about that possibility.

TOG: What’s been the reaction, if any, from your employers (Melbourne-based game studio Firemint), and from the games industry in general?
G4C: What I’m doing with Gamers4Croydon is completely separate from my day-to-day duties at work, so there’s really nothing much to say. Feedback I’ve been getting from friends in the industry is positive, but that’s not necessarily indicative of the industry’s feeling as a whole.

TOG: There’s been some criticism of the choice of name for the party – namely that it’s too tied to the Left 4 Dead 2 banning, that it makes the party seem like a one-issue affair and that it has little chance of appealing to voters who aren’t already engaged with the issue. Do you intend to stick with Gamers 4 Croydon?
G4C: Those are fair comments, and they definitely were some of the counter-arguments running through my mind at the time. However, I believe we’ll have a strong enough message outside of the name alone, so we’ll be sticking with Gamers4Croydon as the party name for this election. First things first though, we still need to get officially registered with the SA Electoral Commission before we can even run a candidate anywhere.

TOG: How close are you to becoming fully registered? What work still needs to be done?
G4C: I’d estimate our South Australian member electors at around 120 now. We still need as many as possible, but the initial target of 150 is key. We also need to have a party constitution written, as that is something the Electoral Commission requires as part of the registration process. It’s something I’ve been working on in my *ahem* spare time. At this rate, we’ll cross the 150 threshold and get officially registered before mid-December.

TOG: Speaking of running candidates, you mentioned in a recent Kotaku interview that you’re looking at fielding a candidate for the Legislative Council as well as the House of Assembly, to enable more South Australian gamers to show their support. Do you have any firm plans in this regard? Have you thought about expanding into other states?
G4C: Yes to both. We fully intend on running at least one candidate for the Legislative Council, and we are currently analysing other seats in the House of Assembly to determine their feasibility. Once the SA election has run its course, we’ll gauge the public response and determine if we can expand on the federal branch. Branches in other states are definitely on the cards, but first things first; get registered and on the ballot in SA, then we can talk about expansion elsewhere.

TOG: So, why does Australia need an R18 rating for games?
G4C: There are several reasons. First, we need to be able to clearly indicate to parents and caregivers what type of content any videogame may have. Our present system allows far too much ambiguity and titles rated AO, or 18+ in other countries, are given the MA15+ rating here, and this can lead to inappropriate content being given to children unwittingly. Secondly, it would give the ratings system some consistency across the board. An R18+ is already in place for film and tv, and over 90% of Australians support the inclusion of the rating for videogames. A lot of parents would think twice before letting their children play a clearly rated R18+ game. Thirdly, adults should be able to view adult oriented content. It’s really that simple.

TOG: How do you intend to address your opponent’s more outrageous claims on the issue, such as that the introduction of an R18 rating will see Australians playing games where points are scored by raping a mother and daughter?

G4C: Just by presenting the facts. I’ve tried to determine exactly when the game being referenced there applied for classification in Australia and have not been able to find any such information. This is possibly because it was never submitted for classification in Australia. It’s going to take reasoned rebuttal to educate people on the hyperbolic nature of these soundbites.

(Ed: you can see their approach in G4C’s recent rebuttal of the AG’s latest letter outlining his ‘reasons’ for opposing an R18+ rating)

TOG: Do you believe that the Australian classification system as a whole needs an overhaul, or will you just be satisfied with the introduction of an R18+ rating for games?
G4C: I think the introduction of an R18+ rating would clear up most, if not all, of the issues we’re currently experiencing with the current system. At present, content that would be rated R18+ for television or film is being inappropriately squeezed into the MA15+ rating. The Classification Board is there to give parents the information they require in order to make an informed purchase, but the Board is currently hamstrung by the lack of an R18+ rating. This has the potential to cause confusion due to its inherent inconsistency. Ultimately, parents have the right and responsibility to determine what type of content is appropriate for their children to engage with. After the introduction of the rating, as currently, parents will still be able to use their console’s current parental controls to restrict their children’s access to content they deem inappropriate.

TOG: Despite whatever implications some may take from the name, you’re making a concerted effort not to be a one-issue party. Can you tell us a bit more about some of G4C’s other policies?
G4C: Our overall aim is quite clear; we’re a progressive and forward thinking party. We want to provide people the opportunity to access renewable and sustainable lifestyles by offering substantial rebates on solar and wind power systems for the residential home, reducing the overall load on the mains grid, and cutting people’s power costs. We want to increase everyone’s access to fresh water by initiating a rainwater tank retrofitting program for all residential and commercial properties, which will lessen the impact on the city’s water-supply. We aim to create manufacturing jobs and put Adelaide on the global map as a world innovator by not only investing in the world’s largest solar farm, but by enticing car companies back to the city to open Australia’s first mass production facility of Zero Emissions Vehicles (electric cars).

We support the introduction of an Independent Commission Against Corruption, something South Australia has been clamouring for, to remedy the situation where SA is one of only two states without one. To reflect the power wielded by politicians, we would introduce legislation for a strict code of conduct, including the prohibition of lying about matters of public interest; This would hold them to the same level of professional accountability as those working in law and medicine, as well as those involved in the enforcement of the laws they create.

And perhaps most ambitiously, we want to preserve the Murray River, by engaging in a tri-state effort to commission a desalination plant to pump sufficient treated water into the Murray to keep it flowing, in conjunction with efficiency and water-saving efforts for irrigators and industry.

TOG: Croydon is viewed as a very safe Labor seat, and Atkison will have the support of Labor’s war-chest and publicity machine. How is the affecting your approach to the campaign?
G4C: This campaign will be won very much on the ground, with people knocking doors, handing out fliers, giving out collateral and educating the public at every chance we get. We’re going to rely on passionate people doing an exemplary job to engage the public interest and raise awareness at every street corner, shopping centre and school of higher learning. It will be a guerrilla marketing effort.

TOG: What can interested readers do to help out?
G4C: They can get the word out! They can link the website (http://www.gamers4croydon.org/) on their blog or forum signature, they can actually join the party by filling the form found on the members page, they can join the Facebook group (Gamers 4 Croydon | Facebook) , they can re-tweet our tweets (gamers4croydon on Twitter), they can donate to our campaign and any donations we don’t use during the campaign will be donated to the Child’s Play charity, and they can just use old-fashioned word of mouth to spread the good word. Even the tiniest snowflake can start an avalanche, and we need all the snowflakes we can get right now.

We’d like to thank David for taking the time out of an increasingly hectic schedule to talk to The Older Gamers. Mr Atkinson has yet to respond to our request for an interview.

(Interview by TOG’s Bookbuster)

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