Slouching Towards The Nanny-State

With apologies to Yeats.

It’s been a bad news day today hasn’t it?

There appears to be more to come for us Aussies. Nestled among the stories about Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcet — my sympathies to their loved ones — is another about the Internet filter that our so-called democratic government wants to foist upon us.

It looks like that they want to protect us now, aside from child pornography, from racy and unrated downloadable games that we can get from the internet. And since Australia does not have a 18+ rating for games, that means many of the unrated games that we can now get from overseas will be filtered.

A lot of gamers possibly won’t find this an inconvenience. After all they buy their games from stores which by law must be rated.

For MMORPG gamers though… well that’s the sticker. Apparently most of these are unrated in Oz simply because they are primarily available online and the content changes. (Though there is some dispute over this at the moment as I understand.) It’s entirely possible that the Australian government will decide to block games like World of Warcraft for this reason.

And games like Age of Conan may be hard pressed to get a rating even if they apply. AoC has blood splatter and decapitations, and worst of all, to the shock and horror of the what-about-the-children crowd, it has exposed boobies. Oh who will save us from those evil knockers!

Now here’s where it could badly affect casual web gamers.

Pretty much none of the independantly developed games out there are rated, at least officially, it’s way too expensive. If the Australian government decides to go the whole hog and censor all unrated games (perhaps unlikely) then there will be virtually no access to independant web games within Australia. That’s an exteme possibility, but when have governments ever been rational?

The thing is, I thought this filter idea was effectively dead. Some months ago, a number of the top ISPs in Oz withdrew from the trial saying that it was a bad idea, a waste of time, and that they weren’t going to have any more to do with it. They also said what everyone else knew, the filter was going to slow our access speed down to a crawl, a bad idea considering the comparatively low speeds we currently get.

Now I’d like you to do something. I know there are a lot of Australian readers of this blog, the stats say that Aussies are the second most common visitors, with the Americans being first.

If you don’t want Australia to be locked away behind a firewall and secret blacklist and be unable to access the games you want to play, contact your local member of Federal parliament. Tell them you are unhappy about being treated like a child.

If you are an indie game developer, hey you’re losing customers. Try letting your Aussie customers know what is going on, and get them to raise a stink.

Finally, if you’re a blogger, even if you’re not from the Land Down Under, I’d appreciate if you could publicise the issue too. The more noise and ill feeling that we can raise against this completely inappropriate violation of our civil rights, the better.

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  1. Ysharros

    Yeah, saw this earlier — it’s pretty scary. Underneath everything else I’m a generally pretty optimistic person, but this only thickens the layer of pessimistic cynicism plastered protectively over the top. In many ways, I’m surprised it took this long for some country to try this, and I’ll admit I’m a little shocked it’s Australia. Before, you know, places like Burma or Saudi Arabia.

    Censorship & Big Brother ftw. 🙁

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  5. Thallian

    If there were some legit way to identify who is young and who is old, like a driver’s license, but for online people (Online surfing license, anyone?) Then I might be in favor of blocking content for those under 18 and yadda yadda but now you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater by blocking anything a certain body of individuals deems “unworthy”. Its not a far stretch more to just have the government control everything you see and hear.

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  7. johnC

    So if they block it all, then they are going to block because that has swearing and is unrated. THey would have to block about 80% of the games, you can play My little pony online woot. Stupid.

  8. Stropp (Post author)

    @JohnC – that’s the thing isn’t it? If they implement this legislation they’ll need to be consistent which means that the government will need to start blocking content that hasn’t crossed their wildest dreams. If My Little Pony was unrated in Oz, the govt would have no choice (according to the law) except to blog that too.

    @Thallian – you’re right, it would be easier (but no less immoral) if access to the internet was age verifable. But still, it’s not the governments right or responsibility to be the moral or thought police of its citizenry. Children should be looked after by their parents, not the government except in extreme cases of parental neglect or absence.

  9. ?????

    i think its not a good step.I am shocked it’s Australia. Its little scary i think its going to almost 70% games block.. .

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