Ten Games Australia Has Banned/Censored For Stupid Reasons
Video games have come a long way since their inception some thirty years ago. Although there were a number of adult themed games in the Atari era the industry found it’s market among children and became defined as a kiddie hobby from there. In spite of the ongoing image of gamers being kids or people with kid-like sensibilities the business has grown up with the players. It’s only in recent times that public perception has begun to change to accept adults as gamers as well.
Well, except in Australia. The nanny state mentality bans the sale of games that are classed as 18+ Restricted, causing more problems than they had to begin with. Come the new year this law gets turned around and the R18+ Rating will be introduced. Before that happens let’s take a look back at the ten most bone-headed decisions the Australian Classification Office has made in relation to video games.
This list is not about which games are the best or most violent, but the ones that were banned or censored for the most stupid reasons.
#10 – The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
Crime Against Decency: Consensual Sex
Of the critically acclaimed PC RPG sequel Eurogamer said “[The game] treats you not as a player… but as an adult, free to make your own mistakes and suffer a plot in which not everyone gets what they deserve.” Apparently the Australian government doesn’t consider treating gamers like adults to be a positive and slammed the ban hammer down upon The Witcher 2 for including sex as a game play element.
This isn’t a game that is intended nor expected to be played by younger players. Not only is it a violent fantasy game with a heavy dose of violence and gore but it takes quite a bit of effort to play. The control scheme is complicated and the game features many layers of detail to slog through. Including sex in a game that is already geared towards adult players isn’t going to turn anyone’s head unless they’re in a position of Australian government.
Current Status: One side quest was altered as it appeared as though sex was offered as a reward and the new censored version was released with an MA15+ rating. Although sex features at other points in the game it was only one quest that earned them a banning.
#9 – Reservoir Dogs
Crime Against Decency: Murdering Innocents and Police Officers
One day a game developer took a nasty blow to the head and decided that Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs would made for a good video game. Nobody thought that this would turn out well and they were pretty much right on the money. With only Michael Madsen turning up to provide his likeness and voice it was difficult to place the characters to their cinematic counter-parts and the game actually depicts the jewelry heist that was famously left out of the film.
The game got blocked from sale in Australia because the player could frequently take civilians hostage and use them as human shields or execute them, even if they were cops. This is the first of many cases of extreme hypocrisy we’re going to encounter on this list, since the same mechanic appears in dozens of other games, including the bestselling Hitman: Blood Money. It isn’t even the only game based on an R rated film that features this level of violence – The Godfather and Scarface were available on the same system.
Current Status:Still banned, but nobody seems to mind.
#8 – Syndicate
Crime Against Decency: Blood and Bone Being Visible During Violent Acts
During the reboot of Bullfrog’s classic game Syndicate the player is equipped with some shockingly powerful guns. Powerful enough to knock their enemies arms and legs off. When this occurs the dismembered limbs exude a massive amount of blood and bone is visible.
Putting aside the fact that they’re dealing with cyborgs here, the violence is pretty full on. But given that arms and legs are coming off is odd that the censorship board were “shocked” by how much blood was present. Surely it would be more strange if there wasn’t buckets of claret being spilled. In the context of future cyborgs it’s not as disturbing as some scenes inthe Call of Duty series.
Current Status: Publisher EA has publicly stated that they will not appeal the decision nor will they alter the content of the game. In the process they also had a few things to say about the “arcane censorship on games” found in Australia. So it’s still banned.
#7 – Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, San Andreas and IV
Crime Against Decency: Prostitution
During the ongoing rally against normal, law-abiding decency in a virtual environment that is the GTA series the player can pull up alongside the curb. An odd looking rendition of a woman would climb into the car, the camera will point itself at the tires and the car would rock. The player would be out a couple of bucks and have regained some health.
The Australian Classification Board felt that this element of the game was crossing the line. Sure the rest of the game involved the player being free to walk up to a car, drag the occupant onto the road and back the car over them a few times, ramp the curb and run down dozens of pedestrians before holding up a fast food outlet, unloading a shotgun onto some police officers, stab a few people with a screwdriver and then lobbing some grenades into a crowd of people and traffic – but we can’t have people having consensual sex.
Rockstar now removes the prostitute mechanic before submitting any GTA game for classification in Australia.
Oh, and when the ‘Hot Coffee’ mod leaked the Classification board shat a brick and revoked the classification. On a side note I got suspended from ebay for trying to resell my copy.
Current Status: Whilst the ACB is quick to refuse classification based on the prostitution mechanic Rockstar have since re-released Vice City with the prostitutes re-instated and either the ACB didn’t bother replaying it or had gotten over this particular hang-up. After sneaking that one past the fuzz Rockstar have patched the PS3 and PC versions of GTA IV to replace the prostitutes and nobody seems to mind.
#6 – 50 Cent: Bulletproof
Crime Against Decency: Promoting Gang Violence
Some of you may be wondering just how a 50 Cent video game came about. After the man whose mother called him Curtis was asked to provide the voice for GTA: San Andreas’ lead character CJ he responded that the only character he would play is himself or some shit like that. This claim inspired a lightbulb moment in a some developers and they put a 50 Cent game into production, allowing gamers to control 50 Cent as he hunts down some hitmen who were trying to kill him for some reason.
The ACB were in full hypocrite mode when they put the ban hammer on this one. Like a bajillion other crime themed games you can kill civilians, and this game was submitted for classification on the one day of the year when the ACB has a problem with that. They claimed that this behaviour was ‘promoting gang violence’ somehow.
Current Status: A censored version of the game was resubmitted for classification and passed the incomprehensible test the ACB puts games through. It was still crap.
#5 – Left 4 Dead 2
Crime Against Decency: Realistic Violence Against Zombies
Left 4 Dead 2 throws four players together with the singular purpose of surviving a zombie onslaught. Equipped with everything from shotguns to chainsaws. As expected things get Braindead pretty quickly. One of the main themes of the game concerns the overwhelming odds that the players face, and the rising levels of gore is a part of that. Is this any different from other zombie games like Dead Rising 2? Not even a little.
Once again the ACB freaked the hell out and refused to give it classification. Gabe Newell and Valve expressed shock at the decision and pointed out that the game featured the same level of gore and violence as the original game in the series and it makes no sense as to why they would be classified differently. Also, they are zombies.
Current Status: Valve appealed the decision on the grounds that the original game was classed as MA15+ but were over-ruled. As this ruling was so close to the intended release date of the game Valve released a heavily censored version of the game that feature no “decapitation, dismemberment, wound detail or piles of dead bodies”. The appeal process was continued but the ACB again refused classification as there wasn’t enough to differentiate the zombies from humans.
#4 – House of the Dead: Overkill
Crime Against Decency: Violence – Possibly Not Enough Violence
We are now entering the realm of the really stupidly confusing episodes from the Australian Classification Board.
House of the Dead: Overkill wasn’t just a clever name, it was a product description. There’s a house, it’s full of the (un)dead and you are going to go into overkill on them, I guess. Much like with Left 4 Dead 2 the ACB were less than impressed with the amount of blood and innards getting splashed around and they banned it until cuts had been made. This is the point where things got stupid.
Sega made an appeal against the refusal of classification with the argument that the violence is so commonplace and so over-the-top that the over-all effect is mitigated. For some bat-shit crazy reason this argument washed and the game got released without any censorship. Wait, what?
Current Status: On shelves without censorship. Who the fuck does Sega have making their appeals?!
#3 – Silent Hill: Homecoming
Crime Against Decency: Being Scary
Just in case the concept of video games is a new thing for you the Silent Hill games are pretty much as disturbing and scary as mainstream interactive media gets. It is some downright twisted stuff and if you don’t let yourself get drawn into the terror then you’re not playing it right.
That said the more recent games in the series hasn’t managed to reach the bar set by the original games. In response to that the games upped the violence. Not that the games weren’t violent before that, but they cranked it up for Homecoming. The ACB took exception to this and claimed that in order to be classified it would need to “tone down the horror elements”.
You what? This HORROR game would be more suitable for release is it had less HORROR? Are you missing the point of horror games?
Current Status: Konami went the censorship route and the game saw a release after the violence was toned down.
#2 – Fallout 3
Crime Against Decency: Demonstrating Realistic Consequences of Drugs
Nope, in spite of the above image this game was not struck by the ban hammer for dismemberment or excessive violence. It was drugs. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland the player has the option of obtaining short term bonuses by taking drugs. Having a degree of realism to it the developers opted to use real drugs and real effects. Take some speed and you get better endurance. Take morphine to relieve pain. You get the benefits and the consequences. The more you use the drugs the less impact they have and before long your character gets addicted and will begin to lose health as a result.
This added amount of realism caused the ACB to freak the hell out. This is downright confusing. Putting aside the fact that this game isn’t exactly going to be played by the pre-school crowd isn’t the realistic consequences of drug use something that we should be promoting? Players get the short term benefits but will suffer in the long term. The big hypocrite stamp goes on this entry as well considering that other games with drug content gets a pass.
Compare the use of drug use in Fallout 3 to drugs in GTA. In Vice City you steal and ice-cream truck and sell drugs from it. In the DS (a much younger players system) release Chinatown Wars you profit from trafficking drugs with no consequence. Suffering health problems from addiction and running the risk of overdose is what is considered wrong.
Current Status: Released, but with the names of the drugs changed to fake names. Morphine becomes Med-X and so forth. Again, compare this to Chinatown Wars.
You can only use the real names of drugs in games if they are used for profit.
#1 – Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
Crime Against Decency: Promoting Street Art
In a perfect world every person spraying paint illegally on walls would be as creative and unique as Banksy. Instead 99% of them insist on scribbling illegibly their made-up gang name in between going through puberty and playing CoD. The Australian government has a particular hatred of graffiti and takes the same approach to it as they do drug use. If you keep screaming at teenagers that they can’t do it and hide it from them they’ll stop showing an interest in it – because that’s how it works, right?
When a game came out that involved the player performing acts of graffiti the ACB completely lost their shit. There was no way that they could possibly allow a game that promoted such a heinous act of indecency into the public market. The moment that people saw it on the shelves the world as we know it would crumble. Blood raining from the skies, cats and dogs living together.
To put this into perspective the game was released after GTA: San Andreas and Tony Hawk’s Project 8 had been released and their graffiti mechanics went unmentioned, even though the former was it to signify gang warfare. The argument was made that those games did not centre on graffiti – but Jet Set Radio sure as hell did and it went unchallenged. Getting Up‘s publisher made multiple appeals making these arguments but they were countered with the fact that the game promoted an illegal act. Because this is literally the only game to ever, ever do that apparently.
Running with this complain the publisher made another appeal comparing Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure to the recently released Need For Speed: Most Wanted. The argument here was that the latter promoted illegal street racing – a far more problematic and dangerous social issue – but only received a G Rating (General Release…available to all and sundry).
In spite of…or possible due to…the immense public scrutiny this banning came under the ACB refused to give any ground to these arguments. Not helped by most media outlets splashing headlines like ‘Graffiti Simulator Game Banned’.
Current Status: Banned, banned forever. And forever marking the Australian Classification Board as being complete morons.