Dr Jeff Brand, lecturer at Bond University, recently suggested a simple way for the government to save money in these troubling economic times: get rid of all classification bodies, which he estimates would easily save $300 million a year. His reasoning:
Over 75 per cent of games rated by Australia's Classification Board are labeled G or PG, while thousands of other games that Australians can download and play via online networks (including massively multiplayer games and the entire games collection on Apple's App Store for iPhone) receive no rating at all.
If one combines this with another one of Brand's ideas it's getting interesting.
Brand explains that digital game content is regulated by the market, industry self-regulation and government institutions: all models representing the 20th century. In a networked economy, however, alternative models exist to serve these content gatekeeping functions and help to close the lags and limitations that plague these models. This holds even more true given the growing appeal of games to an adult audience.
A classification body is first and foremost based on the principle to inform the choices of the public. Using technology based on the principles of openness, peering, sharing and acting globally would ensure that it properly fulfilled this function: A wiki-based user generated classification scheme would allow consumers to provide feedback on the appropriateness of the ratings. Purchasing decision would therefore be based on a much broader set of information.
This doesn't mean that classification bodies are entirely abolished but rather meaningfully amended.
Utilizing the concept of collective intelligence, community standards would be best represented by the aggregated views of large numbers of people who belong to the community in question. Thousands of community members could supplement the view of just a handful classification officers; hereby the regulators could be fair more assured of making decisions that reflect the desires of those for whom the content is actually intended.
The side benefit: The content is assessed by people who are experts in its consumption; they possess the time and the skills.
Current classification systems are designed to systematically ignore the views of those they are supposed to protect. A flexible and responsive scheme based on user participation would empower the community by allowing their members to actively engage in deciding what they will watch, play and read.