The NZ Herald has published an article in which Bill Hastings, the chief censor, wants to prosecute some parents over access to restricted video games.
Now, as a parent and a retailer of video games, I whole-heartedly agree with what Mr Hastings is hoping to achieve. But I believe his approach is possibly wrong. Prosecuting some parents (who may or may not be aware of their responsibilities) doesn’t seem right.
I’d suggest (again) that a lot of parents would be completely unaware that they are breaking the law when they allow their children to play R-rated video games. In my opinion, the government needs to educate parents before prosecuting them. They need to get some advertising campaigns in the mass media to educate parents on what their legal responsibilities are and how to monitor their children’s internet activities. This would be more effective than any law suit… and yes it would cost more. Give Bill Hastings an advertising budget.
Another concern I have, is that in the past, Internal Affairs have been very focused on packaged goods, yet its getting easier and easier to access R-rated games via the internet. Possibly the best way to enforce censorship over the internet, is to educate parents & caregivers. Parental censorship is getting more and more important by the minute (broken record syndrome is kicking in!).
Bill Hastings also wants to have all video games rated, which I believe would be a disaster for the local gaming industry.
- For starters, its costs $1450 to get a game classified — this will lead to higher prices & some games not being released (officially at least)
- It takes at least two-four weeks to get a game classified – this will lead to slower release dates & more overseas buying
- There’s a massive trade on Trademe that would need to be controlled (controlling this may lead to the cost of classifications rising further? The extra enforcement has to be funded somehow?)
- It would be cheaper and faster to buy games from other countries via the web.
The obvious question I have is… will requiring a kids game to be rated a “G” help address the real problem? I can’t see how? Can you?
In my opinion, the local video game industry doesn’t need more regulation to fight against. It needs less. The industry is already struggling to compete with overseas imports and New Zealand is doing poorly compared to markets like Australia (we had an estimated 7% growth from 2008 vs 30% growth in Australia).
Personally a classification system similar to Australia may work. Across the Tasman, the distributors “submit” the rating — meaning its cheap and fast to execute. Implementing such a system, while retaining the strict classification of games likely to be R-rated, may well work.
But I believe expanding the current system to require official classification of all games will make the local game industry uncompetitive and the result would be more imports, more internet purchasing and an even greater reliance on parents.
The government needs to get educating. Not legislating. And definitely not prosecuting… yet.