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Cheers - AE

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Aussie censorship - stupid on many levels.

That's Risen, a computer game due to be released around October this year. Not, however, in Australia where it is felt to be a little too adult for... er, the adult population of the country, which is the game's target audience. There's no 18 certificate or equivalent here so games with mature content risk falling foul of the censors. It happened with Fallout 3 last year*, and apparently this was largely because the game included the use of morphine (despite other games also referencing morphine) and some real world negative effects on the player characters such as addiction.
... Australian Gamer managed to get its hands on the OFLC’s report for Fallout 3. The ban had nothing to do with decapitation, gore or dismemberment. It was the drugs, and only the drugs. I should be shocked, but all I can do is shake my head. And shake it hard.

From the report:
The game contains the option to take a variety of “chems” using a device which is connected to the character’s arm. Upon selection of the device a menu selection screen is displayed. Upon this screen is a list of “chems” that the player can take, by means of selection. These “chems” have positive effects and some negitave effects (lowering of intelligence, or the character may become addicted to the “chem”). The positive effects include increase in strength, stamina, resistance to damage, agility and hit points.

Corresponding with the list of various “chems” are small visual representation of the drugs, these include syringes, tablets, pill bottles, a crack-type pipe and blister packs. In the Board’s view these realistic visual representations of drugs and their delivery method bring the “science-fiction” drugs in line with “real-world” drugs.
The report then states that “material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use” is grounds enough to refuse classification. Furthermore, the use of morphine is highlighted, as well as its in-game effect: allowing the player to ignore damage.

Wait, doesn’t
Call of Cthulu on Xbox have a similar morphine mechanic? It does indeed. What rating did the OFLC give it? An MA 15+.

As a lot of readers have mentioned,
Half-Life constantly refers to the use of morphine. Yet, by the same guidelines, the OFLC gave the 1998 title an MA 15+. While the OFLC has no control over the guidelines - that’s up to the Attorney-General’s department - it does determine how they’re applied.

I think in
Fallout 3’s case it was the addictive qualities of in-game drugs like Jet and Mentats and their visual representation, combined with the “morphine” mention, that pushed Fallout 3 into RC territory.
Not only that but what's the problem with morphine used in game to ignore damage? What's it used for in the real world? Pain relief. Not exactly poles apart, and not unusual either - I've had morphine myself in hospital** and been prescribed other opiates. So what's the fucking big deal?

Ah well, no matter now since the position of the OFLC, their patronizing view of Australian gamers and the lack of an appropriate classification*** meant that the game was altered worldfuckingwide just to appease those who protect what they presumably think of as a nation of big fucking sooks.

So, what's the problem with Risen? Drugs again? Well, yes, in part - from the ITWire article linked to above (my bold):
Many of the characters in the game smoke a fictional drug called “brugleweed.” The “wood reefer” plant is described as having a mild relaxing effect on users, and can be bought, sold, and used by players. Some profanity (e.g., “f*ck” and “sh*t”) can be heard in the dialogue.
Oh noes, rude words and something that has a "mild relaxing effect" on characters in the game but has far less effect than even that in the real world because it's fucking made up. The sky is falling, the sky is falling. Yeah, okay that quote is from a US censorship body, but from the ITWire article it seems that the OFLC have similar views.

Hello OFLC, did Pulp Fiction get a theatrical and DVD release here? You know, that film where every second sentence seems to contain motherfucker and John Travolta shoots heroin into his arm and Uma Thurman snorts the fucking stuff thinking that it was cocaine? Or Platoon, the Vietnam War movie where there's a bunch of soldiers having a big hash party and Charlie Sheen gets off his dial sucking smoke from a gun barrel, and which also features plenty of soldierly Anglo-Saxon? Oh, I forgot. There is a rating to label movies for 18s and over (for what that's worth - see the last footnote). But not for games, and because censorship and the OFLC is a product of both Federal and State governments it seems unlikely to change as long as this guy is about (see this interview linked from the ITWire article):
MB: Have you had a chance to play with the South Australian Attorney General yet? [Michael Atkinson is the AG most vehemently opposed to the introduction of a R18+ classification for interactive entertainment in Australia]

TC: No, well, ha ha, this fellow is of course the problem, he has been interviewed whilst playing games before, but clearly this is a guy that doesn’t get it, and to be honest, I don’t think, ever will get it. So the battle is unlikely to be won while this gentleman is the Attorney General of, I am embarrassed to say, my home state.
Right, so ignoring the mildly relaxing drug, which might as easily be an analogue for tobacco - still legal, at least as of this fucking morning - as anything else, and the coarse language that seems no worse than what you can hear on TV after 9pm or so, is there anything else that the OFLC got bent out of shape about? Yep, prostitution.
During the course of the game, players can interact with prostitutes (referred to as “whores” in the game) at a local brothel. Players can trigger a lengthy dialogue to engage in their services; sexual activity is strongly implied, but never depicted on screen.
Prostitution and brothels. So let's get this perfectly straight, because it features prostitution and brothels this game has been banned by the official censor of a country that has largely fucking LEGALIZED prostitution and brothels. And not only is it legal to run, own or use a brothel and bang away at the prostitutes who work in them to your heart's (or any other organ's) content, they can advertise. In the inner Melbourne suburb of Kew this advert caused a stir three years ago, but it was legal.

Apparently complaints were rejected at the time because the advert treated the sex and sexuality very subtly, although 18 months ago it had been changed to an advert that simply read "Melbourne's Best Brothel".

Yeah! Go and fuck yourself, Subtlety.

Now is it me, or does the decision to ban a game for something that is not only legal in real life but openly advertised seem just a little inconsistent? I'm not much of a gamer and can't even remember the last time the Playstation was switched on, so my life is pretty unaffected by this stupidity. But for fuck's sake, I thought I'd moved to a country of independent minded and self reliant people who can think for themselves. Actually I still do think that, but if that is indeed the case then what the fuck do we need these moralizing bansturbation happy self-important patronizing suppositories of all wisdom telling the rest of us what, in their opinion, we can cope with?

** Or possibly, I've been told, diamorphine. I don't know the difference except that one is almost heroin and the other pretty much is heroin, I didn't ask for it and I don't know why I was given it except that they probably thought I was going to hurt like hell. I just came out from anaesthesia feeling even less with it than expected, and was told that this was because of the morphine. My addiction as measured by my urge to go and get some heroin or other opiates is precisely zero, so I'm pretty sure I could have seen the unaltered for the OFLC (and its child like view of adult Australians) version of Fallout 3 without being corrupted and turning into Renton.
*** Which is a poor fucking solution anyway. Arbitrary lines such as age limits are never satisfactory since people mature at different rates. Some that are below the age specified will be mature enough and some that are old enough in law will not - it's as simple as that. But rather than allowing young adults to demonstrate individually, probably with some parental oversight, that they're responsible enough to drive a car or buy a drink or even to play a computer game with a lot of adult themes, we have this ridiculous situation where the law frequently assumes some magical maturity switch is thrown a nanosecond after midnight on the appropriate birthday.


JuliaM said...

"Now is it me, or does the decision to ban a game for something that is not only legal in real life but openly advertised seem just a little inconsistent?"

Just a tad...

Do they have the 'Grand Theft Auto' games over there? Because you can use the services of a prostitute in that one, then beat her senseless and steal back your money! :)

Angry Exile said...

Er, I think that got banned too. Or altered so that bit of the game isn't in the Aussie version.

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