You Better Run, You Better Take Cover
I’m frankly unsurprised that the movement by the Aussie government to censor all the dangerous and subversive material on the internet is now reaching its greedy hands out towards online gaming. This is after all the natural next step, if you’re a repressive regime bent on mindlessly preventing consenting adults from any exposure whatsoever to sex or violence, or for that matter entertainment in general.
I lived in Brisbane for 2 years 8 months, returning to the States last November. I can attest firsthand that the internet access there was already fairly miserable, with outrageous ping times and frequent DNS problems. Now the Aussie government is proceeding with its (frankly insane) plans to filter more or less everything crawling through the pipes connecting the Land Down Under with the rest of the world. This will inevitably add to the already-terrible pings there, making even “legitimate” internet use more cumbersome – this serves nobody and hurts the nation at large. I wish I could say I’m shocked but I’m not; the Aussie government is sadly all-too-much like the American and British governments, in that it’s often run (or controlled, or heavily influenced) by ultraconservatives who lack a fundamental understanding of how people have lived for the last 30 years.
The latest twist in the scheme involves filtering content in online games. The obvious problems here, beyond the simple and compelling evils of censorship in general, include the difficulty small indie games face in getting a rating, as well as the unpredictable nature of all online games. When you log into any MMO, you’re warned that the game experience may change during online play – which is to say not only that the game’s developer might patch in changes to the game, but that other players are unpredictable.
What does this mean? If this plan is consummated, it means Aussie gamers likely won’t be able to play games like Spore or Sims 3, because if even one user creates content that’s objectionable and unsuitable for 15-year-olds (hello, penis-shaped aliens!), the whole game will be refused classification. It means that small indie games like Plants vs. Zombies will likely be unavailable to Aussie gamers because they’re not rated. It means games like AoC are very likely to be unavailable in Oz (boobies and blood!), but this could even extend to behemoths like WoW (which does, after all, have plenty of ultraviolence as well as drug and alcohol use).
I have no objections whatsoever to a government seeking to educate its populace about becoming responsible, mature adults. If a government feels it’s necessary to censor materials available to children in order to protect them before they’re old enough to be educated, that’s also fine and reasonable. I do however object in the strongest possible terms to any government censoring the content available to consenting adults “for their own protection”. The sweeping and general nature of the Aussie internet censorship movement deeply disturbs me, and the extension of this movement to include games available online is frankly ridiculous.
Please spread the word. Our Aussie friends are at substantial risk of losing access to a lot of games that are not only harmless to adults (and even to children), but that are by their nature educational and help to form social bonds. This is a grave injustice.