The Australian Government VS South Park: The Stick of Truth
After hearing the positive reviews – some acknowledging that this is the rarest of video game beasts (a good adaptation of a film/television show) – I plunked down my hard earned Monopoly money (sometimes called Australian currency) and bought a copy from my local video entertainment emporium. Thusly equipped, I took the game home and played it. All was well. The game was fun, and really captured the spirit of South Park. Seeing a South Park character modeled on yourself interacting with the residents of the town is pretty sweet. The humour was top notch, plenty of the video game gags, physical toilet humour and the political satire the show is known for. Then this happened.
That’s right. A crying koala. Apologising for not being allowed to show me the content currently happening in the game. What the billabong is this? Oh, wait…I forgot that I live in the Australian nanny state. For those unfamiliar, there are few governing bodies quite as hung up on the notion of adult content in video games like Australia, insistent that they need to protect the poor kiddywinks from being corrupted.
There is a long standing tradition of Australian leaders burying their head in the sand, with video game censorship causing a fairly deep hole. Blind to the fact that gaming demographic is 82% over the age of 18, it was only very recently that an R18+ restricted rating was permitted, under certain conditions. Suddenly game retailers sprouted separate R18+ sections of shelves to house the newly released God of War prequel and the long missing Mortal Kombat, games previously banned due to their content.
The introduction of this new rating was supposed to put an end to this nonsense. The vast majority of the massive gaming industry clientele are adults, and it is deplorable the elected government felt it could dictate what games we chose. Now the banned games would be available to all over the age of 18+ and games previously available to 15+, such as Grand Theft Auto V would be rated more appropriately.
So what the fuck is this?
I am almost old enough to be 18 twice over, I bought a game restricted to my age group and still the government feels that it has a better idea of what I should see in my entertainment.
Firstly, this is a big brand name. South Park has been on the air for 17 years and has kicked up plenty of controversy in that time. It’s very unlikely that gamers and the parents of gamers won’t know what they’re getting in to. This is the show that features Paris Hilton being sucked into a man’s anus and a penis being grown on the back of a mouse. I suspect that the censorship board paid more attention to this title for that reason, as there’s a trend of the better known games being targeted for censorship.
Then there’s the hypocrisy. The game is filthy. Downright filthy. There is some shocking material in the game, and they’ve cherry picked two short sequences for censorship. As you can see above the first scene involves a group of men being anally probed by aliens for comedic effect. The second involves a man having his anus probed by medical equipment for the purpose of faking an abortion.
Let’s compare that to some of the material left in the game.
After the alien probe sequence the main character – an eight year old – retains alien equipment that can sprout out of his anus at the players command. The 8 year old character also gets preyed upon by a pedophile, with the player required to input commands to make his undress so the sex offender can take photos. The player can summon a bondage-outfit wearing grown man to attack children by jamming them up his anus. The children get attacked by knife wielding meth addicts. One of the final opponents of the game is an elderly man who attacks while naked. In one prolonged sequence the 8 year old main character must shrink in size so that he may retrive a bomb from inside a man’s colon, during which he must negotiate past dried semen and sex toys. Then there’s a scene where the child character is shrunk to gnome level and fights other gnomes on his parents bed whilst they are having vigorous sex, where the player relies on their reflexes to avoid low swinging testicles.
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have publicly stated their personal philosophy. They believe that unless all of it is OK, then none of it is. It’s hard to understand why the censors believe that the two cut scenes were inappropriate compared to the rest of the game. Given the content that the player is exposed to cutting out these short scenes is not only akin to taking a cup of water out off a swimming pool and calling it dry.
The official reason why the game was refused classification from the Australian Board of Classification is because the cut scenes featured ‘sexual violence involving a minor’. As it has already been noted, several scenes of sexual violence do still occur in the game, including be crushed by giant testicles and crawling into another mans anus. So why these ones? The only thing that these two scenes have in common is that they involve sexual assault on men’s butts. I’m not going to suggest that the censorship board ignored pedophilia, children getting frighteningly involved during their own parent’s bedroom activities and abortions performed on a female machine and instead took offence to gay sex, but it really seems as though they were offended by gay sex.
The game had been censored in other markets, with a total of six different scenes being removed. There are differences though. For one thing, Ubisoft took the initiative in removing content before the game was submitted for rating approval in those other markets, whereas it was only the Australian market that refused classification. In other instances the game was censored for specific legal or cultural reasons. For example, the German release of the game removes Swastika armbands and Nazi salutes as these are banned by laws put in to place following the fall of the Third Reich. For the rest of Europe, Taiwan and some Middle East regions the two abortion sequences were removed from the game by Ubisoft as they felt those markets would not respond well to the scenario.
It should be noted, again, that the Australian Board of Classification left in the sequence were a forced abortion is performed on a machine with a female voice but removed the sequence involving a man.
Hypocrisy aside there is also a pointlessness the the whole censorship effort. Firstly, there’s the placeholder images that Trey Parker and Matt Stone concocted for the deleted scenes. They describe what has been censored with so much detail and such relish that it’s more unpleasant that watching the sequences as they were intended. This was envisioned by the auters as a way around the censorship. There’s also the fact that we live IN A GLOBAL MARKET WITH THE INTERNET. Anyone with access to a computer and a credit card can obtain a completely uncensored version of the game from an overseas market. With the heavy tax placed on video games in Australia it will usually work out much cheaper. Or they can buy it completely uncensored from Steam with an instantaneous download. They don’t even have to wait on the understaffed Australia Post to deliver it.
Even if that wasn’t an option, there’s nothing to stop someone watching the clips in YouTube. Look, here they are!
The only question remaining is why Australian officials bothered doing this. The game is still restricted to purchases by adults, so the classification hasn’t been changed. The same content is available to anyone who wants it. Hell, more offensive content is available in cinemas, on TV and in bookshops. Did you see the last episode of Game of Thrones?! I would hazard a guess that more people felt uncomfortable watching that than playing this game. There are games aimed at children with more concerning and potentially damaging content than South Park: The Stick of Truth.
Perhaps this is a last, desperate attempt to remain relevant in a time when they can’t ban as many games as they used to, now we have an R18+ rating. Maybe it’s a pointless attack on a well known title to make themselves feel important in a time when the internet is making them feel more and more irrelevant. Or maybe no-one loves them.
Yeah. Probably the last one.