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Computer Games - Interactive Movies - Players - Stakeholders
Local Censorship - Overseas Censorship - Developer Responses - Accusations

Who plays computer games?

Adults, as well as children, play computer games.

In their early/mid 1990s drive to protect children from the alleged dangers of computer games, Australian politicians gave very little recognition to the fact that a significant minority, if not a majority, of players were, in fact, adults.  At no point during the initial panic over computer games did anyone suggest that this form of entertainment adversely affected adults.  With very few exceptions, the automatic assumption was made that children were the exclusive players of computer games.  For example, during discussion of Queensland's Classification Bill in 1995, Deputy Premier Tom Burns recognised that some adults had "genuine civil liberties concerns" over the decision to ban games of an "R" level and above, but he believed in taking extra caution as computer games had "particular appeal to children".  This degree of caution was such that he believed "...research is needed to ensure that any future decisions in this area are based on cold, hard evidence."  (see LAQ 1995a and LAQ 1995b).

Subsequent research from both industry and Government groups found considerable earlier underestimations of the percentage of adults who played computer games - but no one took corrective action because of these findings.  Australian games industry magazines, Hyper and PC PowerPlay conducted surveys and found that thirty-three and sixty percent of their readers respectively were over the age of eighteen.  One Australian games distributor, Psygnosis, alleged that the percentage of computer gamers over eighteen to be closer to seventy-five percent.  Overseas industry figures suggested similar percentages, America's Interactive Digital Software Association providing a seventy-two percent figure.  The research of the Australian Government supported these findings.  For example, a recent OFLC study formally recognised that adults play computer games and deserve to be able to buy games aimed at their age group.  Finally, countries with which Australia likes to compare itself and owes much to politically and culturally, namely the US and the UK, have both had computer games classification systems that recognise that adults play computer games for many years.

Adults can readily supervise their children’s use of computer games.  As a very large percentage of adults actually play computer games themselves, it stands to reason that they know enough about the technology to supervise their children.  The academic research supports this conclusion.  In fact, Australian adults are nowhere near as afraid and as ignorant of technology as those who persist in supporting severe regulation suppose, with 66 per cent using a computer in the past year and 50 percent accessing the Internet during that same period (10 per cent of adults were sufficiently proficient and comfortable to order goods through the Internet) (see ABS, 1998).  This is not to say that some parents might not have difficulty supervising their children’s use of computer games, but such people are in a small minority and the current games classification system is in fact overkill in dealing with this situation.

A sizeable proportion of adult computer games players are women.   For further details, please see other pages at this Web site such as Accusations and the Resources.  Especially relevant are particular magazine and newspaper articles.

© Anthony Larme 2002
Comments and questions are most welcome