Hotline Miami Creators Say Australia Is Wrong To 'Ban' Them

Hotline Miami Creators Say Australia Is Wrong To 'Ban' Them

The developer and publisher of Hotline Miami 2 have responded to news of the hyper-violent action game being refused classification in Australia, which effectively bans it. Kotaku Australia learnt a scene implying sexual assault against a female character prompted the decision. The people behind Hotline Miami 2, however, believe the ratings board "incorrectly portrays" this.

Here's how the scene is described by the Australian Classification Board:

"In the sequence of game play footage titled Midnight Animal, the protagonist character bursts into what appears to be a movie set and explicitly kills 4 people, who collapse to the floor in a pool of copious blood, often accompanied by blood splatter. After stomping on the head of a fifth male character, he strikes a female character wearing red underwear. She is knocked to the floor and is viewed lying face down in a pool of copious blood. The male character is viewed with his pants halfway down, partially exposing his buttocks. He is viewed pinning the female down by the arms and lying on top of her thrusting, implicitly raping her (either rear entry or anally) while her legs are viewed kicking as she struggles beneath him. This visual depiction of implied sexual violence is emphasised by it being mid-screen, with a red backdrop pulsating and the remainder of the screen being surrounded by black."

Though Australia has an "adults only" classification, Hotline Miami 2 won't be receiving that. Being labelled with "Refused Classification" means the game can't be sold in Australia. It's a ban.

This scene has been called into question before. A PC Gamer article by Cara Ellison prompted a vocal outcry, though Ellison's piece did not request for the game to be censored in any way.

Devolver Digital and Dennaton Games aren't denying Hotline Miami 2's introduction sequence could make people feel uncomfortable but feel it's misrepresented. It's also optional, apparently.

"First, to clear up any possible misconceptions, the opening cinematic that was first shown in June of 2013 has not changed in any way. We also want to make clear that players are given an choice at the start of the game as to whether they wish to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence. The sequence in question is presented below in context, both after choosing the uncut version of the game and after choosing to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence.

Second, in response to the report itself, we are concerned and disappointed that a board of professionals tasked with evaluating and judging games fairly and honestly would stretch the facts to such a degree and issue a report that describes specific thrusting actions that are not simply present in the sequence in question and incorrectly portrays what was presented to them for review."

Specifically, the game warns players "this game contains scenes that allude to sexual violence," and presents the ability to exclude those scenes. This video presents how the scenarios play out:

Devolver told me this option is present in all versions of the game.

There are no plans to "officially" challenge the ruling and the game's publisher "stand by our developers, their creative vision for the storyline, its characters and the game."

Hotline Miami 2 doesn't have a release date but is reportedly coming "very soon".


Comments

    Good on them for standing up for themselves and their product. Have been looking forward to Hotline Miami 2 for quite some time, especially after the true ending for the first game.

    Absolutely ludicrous that this was refused classification. Seems our rating system for games still has some disappointing inadequacies.

    Last edited 16/01/15 8:34 am

      I heard there was another ending to the game.. I never went back again to see what it actually was after I learned that though. I should lol, I loved playing it the first time around.

    I'm sure at some point in time I've seen sexual violence in an R rated movie.......

      Pfft fairly sure i saw some in MA15+ while were at it =/

      I'm pretty sure there is an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where spike tries to rape Buffy in her bathroom.

      Can somebody find the members of the Australian rating board and rape them, that'd be great. Thanks

    It doesn't matter if there are warnings about graphic material - the fact is the material is still there in the game and is apparently accessible by clicking 'okay.' Just because it was optional doesn't affect that it is part of the game. By including an 'uncut' section, surely they knew they were going above or at least skirting what is normally considered appropriate for R18+.

    As someone else said, R18+ isn't an "everything else" category, it still has its own rules and guidelines.

    I really do like Hotline Miami 1 and am disappointed by not being able to play it now, but honestly if I were playing and this scene came on I probably would have just walked away from it.

      But those guidelines you mention are much too harsh on videogames and those classification boards too often just throw their hands up in the air and say "it's too hard to do our jobs, let's just ban the thing and go home".

      The scene in those videos was almost no different than the content in the first game. When you go from bashing peoples heads in to bashing peoples heads in and then implying sexual assault, is it so much more worse? I would rather not have my head bashed in, or do it to anyone else, or even see it done. Someone sexually assaulting a corpse really doesn't seem much worse to me.

        I completely understand, but sexual violence is different. Literally it's a different aspect of criminal law, so I think it's fine that the Classification Board treats it differently too.

        Sexual violences' victims are overwhelmingly female (in NSW 82%) and is perpetrated in a huge majority of cases by men. Between 2013-2014 over 4000 women reported sexual assault in NSW, which is widely considered to be highly under-reported. The scene also has issues with the notion of "automatic consent" whereby a woman does not have to give consent to a male when he demands sexual gratification.

        While of course the game has brutal violence scenes (which I'm glad can exist because of the hard-fought for R18 rating), it is against opponents who can, and often do fight back and win, rather than against a dead woman. So I think these sorts of ideas influenced the Board's decision.

          I see what you are saying. Sexual violence and violence against women is more of a real issue that is still a problem in society. And perhaps they are different enough to be considered more offensive / touchy issues.

          But I would argue that there is a difference between promotion and depiction. It might be fair to say that these problems are so big partly because they are made a too taboo subject to be depicted in media. When sexual violence is put alongside smashing peoples heads in, I think it sends a clear message that both those things are [email protected] up.

          However I do get the feeling that these boards view videogames as trivial, and therefore their content must be trivial. The conclusion that comes out is that the game trivialises violence against women, and that's not cool.

            It's not a matter of the opinion of the board. They're given legislative guidelines for the different categories. One of the guidelines is that you aren't supposed to be rewarded for drug use, which has led to some games being banned. Another is that sexual violence is not permitted.

            They're not being lazy. They're applying the guidelines correctly. If the guidelines are overly restrictive, there's nothing they can do about it.

            The fact that the content is optional doesn't matter. All content in any game is optional; you can just shut the game down as it starts.

            The OFLC is not at fault. The people who drew up the guidelines (the state Attorneys-General, I think) are at fault. If the OFLC had ignored that scene, that would be dereliction of duty and it would be reasonable (if possibly excessive) to sack them.

            I don't know if the described thrusting scenes are there or not, but I don't see anybody disputing that it's a rape scene. That's a Refused Classification under the guidelines.

              I haven't actually played Farcry 3, but I remember there being an article here on Kotaku about the main character being a victim of rape. If that's the case, then the application of those guidelines would seem to be inconsistent.

              Fair enough that the board members themselves are not at fault. It seems that there is an unfair stigma placed on videogames that doesn't apply to other media forms, regardless who enforces that stigma, and that is more upsetting in general than this game being effectively banned. In recent memory there have been rape scenes in TV shows eg. MADMEN and Game of Thrones that were allowed to be shown.

                TV, as far as I know, is actually classified by the station, not the board. That's why they have a different rating system and shows that are PG on TV can show up as M/MA on DVD.

                  But that's exactly my point, on TV it's almost a case of anything goes. Videogames are given harsher treatment.

                  Actually it's still subject to board classifications. AFAIK they still need to submit classifications for films and tv.

                  The only difference is for some reason video games are held to a much much more stricter level than other media because of "interactivity". I'll just point out the excessive classification Rorona Plus got in AU for having the audacity to have swimsuit DLC and some throw away lines misconstrued as "sexual innuendo".. it went from PG13 to a freaking R18+ game. =_=

                The difference is deliberate, and is based on the idea that content has increased impact if it's interactive.

                There have been several studies that disprove that, but the guidelines are drawn up by politicians, not by scientists.

                The OFLC has traditionally shown a bit more lenience than the guidelines strictly called for, particularly before R18 was introduced for games, Quite a few games were rated MA15+ in Australia which were given R ratings in the USA. That's been a bit less common since R was introduced, IMO, since the OFLC is not forced to peg games as RC when it's actually perfectly suited for adults.

                It is a silly situation, but it's what we're stuck with, and there doesn't seem to be the political will in the gaming community to fix it, since the number of outright stupid bans has gone down considerably.

                  And there in lies our problem..

                  I think anyone who really paid attention to the guidelines when R18+ was announced that it was your standard political tokenism kicking in again. Sure we have a ratings but if you take into account the fact that games still *need* to be censored in australia to get through whilst other media are still getting free passes for the same content you realise just how very little the new ratings really means =/

                  But since a majority of gamers don't really pay attention to the details and see it as a"victory" then it's going to be long up hill battle till we get those guidelines fixed

                  Last edited 17/01/15 1:55 pm

                  Really replying to rock_m here, but Kotaku won't allow a direct reply...

                  When the R18 rating was introduced there was some worry that it would basically just be a renaming of MA15+. In practice the result was something of a middle ground, allowing more than the old MA15+ but less than R18 in other media.

                  A few people drew attention to this at the time, but the general feeling seemed to be that the result was "good enough" as the big exceptions are just not terribly common. After fighting for an R rating for years, the feeling of victory over getting SOMETHING exceeded the sense of disappointment in the remaining restrictions.

              I'm going to go ahead and say they ARE lazy. The 8-bit cartoonistic style graphics here are ok, but the necrophilia and male genital mutilation in Outlast fits in just fine with an R-rating.

              They clearly saw the "sexual violence" warning and opened their eyes. Outlast they clearly thought "oh its just blair witch yawn whatever"

              If anyone wants to go ahead and youtube Outlast videos, go right ahead and tell me that Hotline Miami 2 is worse.

          did you even watched the scene in question? why is it not OK to show explicit scenes of sexual violence in a video game? they do not encourage rape or the normalisation of violent sexual behaviour, so why is the non-censorship of these scenes a problem?
          what do any of those figures about sexual assault in australia have to do with hotline miami 2? are they somehow linked to hotline miami or violent sexual scenes in video games that have resulted in a criminal act?
          if you don't like it, don't play the game. get off your fucking high horse.

        I personally think this is a really tough issue. Violence in general, and sexual violence in particular, is such a huge issue in all societies. I personally don't see the need to feed the appetite for it. I appreciate that there's a line in the sand, even if we dispute what side of it certain games fall on.

        I don't think that violent media will somehow turn a well adjusted consumer into a violent offender, of course. But it's well documented that violent criminals will work their way up to their crimes. The truly dedicated will always find an outlet, zoosadism as an example, but I do wonder whether we should avoid making it easy for them. Whether society in general should agree not to indulge certain whims, not because they're necessarily problematic on a wide scale, but because it's worth avoiding the rare cases where they can contribute to a genuine tragedy.

          I think the problem here is that there is an assumption people are "indulging" in something. I don't "indulge" in Requiem for a Dream, despite protagonists committing horrible acts, i don't feel sympathy for them but maybe a little empathy for the situation - which is simply a greater perspective. We "indulge" in Game of Thrones perhaps and I seem to remember a main protagonist blatantly raping someone without being demonised. Again, we're trivialising the understanding or perspective other people may gain from a confronting scene (that we haven't played) because people are more interested in simply distancing themselves from immorality than engaging it as legitimate discourse seemingly because it came from a video game and is indulgent.

          I can't speak for other people but whilst I can see "indulgence" in Call of Duty, I felt no such thing through similarly impactful violence found in Spec Ops The Line. When I saw a dead body burnt to a crisp in that game, I DID feel something entirely different and I DID question my own consumption of this media because I could see the creators were almost forcing me to through the design of the game and how confronting it was. I'm not going to say sexual violence is the same but I definitely think a confronting exploration of the topic is valuable. I think the ensuing discussion over the scene might even be more valuable than what is in the game itself but the argument of removing what we don't understand (and by the way people are talking it's almost like no one really knows how to articulate the value of scenes like this in any media) prevents us from ever having any true perspective on it. I'm pretty disgusted that the mere existence of a scene depicting a topic that's confronting is what's wrong according to most of the media, it's definitely not the way to promote games as even being capable of meaning when our own writers have to simplify the entire spectrum of video game storytelling just to demonise a topic and publicly reaffirm their own personal morality system. If you assume your perspective is perfect in every way and everything else there for you to judge then you'll probably just sound like a Polygon article.

      One of the instalments of Call of Duty had a scene with senseless killing of civilians in an airport and was allowed classification as it had an option to avoid the scene.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXBDkevx5lM

      Also seeing the above clip adds a lot more context as its not just an implied rape scene its and implied fictional rape scene as it is filming for a movie.

      The TV show Banshee has some pretty horrific shit in it, including Season 1 Episode 3 a professional fighter beats a woman bloody before raping her and it received an R Rating.

      Its obvious that the standards for Film and TV classification and far more relaxed than those for games.

    It is a bit weird how there are things described in the Classification Board doc that are exaggerated or simply not there (thrusting etc). I watched the linked footage after reading the description and thought "that's what they were talking about?" It seemed a bit different and the context of the 'movie shoot' was completely ignored, which makes a big difference.

      Agreed. I read the ACB description and thought it sounded pretty full on. Then watched the scene and thought, "was that it?".

      May lend weight to the argument that the written word is more impactful than video games!

      Agreed, when you reed the description it sounds pretty horrible, but when you watch the clip - given the low res art style he could be just lying on top of her suffocating her for all it shows - I'd say the 'implied' is pretty heavy...

        His pants are down, it's clearly what he's doing (blegh)

      ^This.

      I was on the fence based on the description (ie not where to draw the line, but who draws it).

      But having watched the clip, It's been misrepresented by the Classification Board. There is no thrusting, and the protagonist is an actor shooting a snuff film. The immediate scene afterwards shows the female actor standing up and reading her lines.

      Most these articles should have trigger warnings btw.

      Last edited 16/01/15 10:00 am

      The OFLC has never been one to put context into consideration when it comes to games.

      Does anyone remember the SRIV Dildo Bat vers.2 banning?

    I hate Australian censorship in any way-or-form, and if I can get a Vita hard copy then I'll just do that (though I'd prefer digital - c'mon Sony, let us have multiple accounts on our Vita!), but Hotline Miami is just too good a game to pass up - if I have to suck-up a 'cleansed' version sans sexual violence, then I'll do it. I'll bitch and moan about it, but I'll do it.

    Disregard, point proven.

    Last edited 16/01/15 9:06 am

    To play devils advocate.
    If you can skip it, why include something like that in the first place?
    It couldn't have THAT much of a plot impact if this is the case.
    Also, the fact that some people who played the demo reacted negatively when they showed it in 2013 is not great. (as per the article here: http://www.joystiq.com/2015/01/15/hotline-miami-2-refused-classification-in-australia/)

    I understand that people should be able to vote with their wallets, but erring on the side of caution when it comes to sexual violence is a decent decision.

    Im sure it wouldnt be too hard for the developers to make it so that scene is removed (but auto selecting NO) or just plain removing it all together, then resubmitting.

    Again, just sharing an opposing opinion

      I find myself agreeing with you here, even if you are just playing the devil.

      Not to sounds prudish, but sexual violence is a big deal. it's not something that should be handled flippantly. If they're including the scene (even optionally) just for impact, then the value of the scene in terms of the narrative is really limited. Given that, I think it's appropriate for the board to be more stringent in how they classify it.

      Yes sexual violence is dealt with in other forms of media, but I think it's the combination of the brutality and almost non-narrative nature of the scene (it really does seem to be there for the shock value - no discussion, no discourse) that makes it the bad kind of depiction. If were implied, but more distant, and part of an intelligent narrative that allowed for some discussion other than what we're having, then maybe it would be warranted, but as it stands, it's not worth it.

      Whether this deserves to be banned is another question though. Could we use another level of classification that would allow this? Yes, more nuanced tools are generally good. Do I want to have this sort of stuff in the media I consume. No. But that's just my opinion.

        I think i read somewhere that it wasnt just this scene that caused the game to be refused classification.

        I think what we don't see is how gameplay and player agency is actually what allows the actual narrative of video games to fully reveal itself. It can just seem like there's no intelligence behind it but we aren't playing it, it's like seeing a quarter of a still screen from a film, it's not enough. I don't think it's up to us to decide what "intelligence" is - that's just a kind of prejudice and also completely subjective - we need to play it and allow it to inform our discourse. If it's a prime example of how NOT to portray sexual violence then maybe it becomes a warning of how we can actually make it meaningful and insightful - which would be something extremely valuable today. I'm fine with criticism because it informs our direction but for people to attest to how much "worth" something has when they don't have everything, when there's no player interaction or chance to empathise with the scene (empathy is not sympathy and the scene is not the character) then I don't think this can even come close to being judged.

      Originally you couldn't skip it. Only after it was initially complained about did he add the feature to simply be accommodating. It's really a moot point because on one hand we could have no options and just stick to a single desired output, or add options until they all become redundant.

    Reading the classification boards description of that scene was pretty shocking. Then I actually watched the clip I can see how it could be confronting for some, even within the simple art style of the game but it certainly sounded worse.
    It wouldn't put me personally off buying or playing the game, but I can easily see how others could be offended.
    I just don't understand the classification boards decision(again) when it comes to sex or drugs in games, if you put the appropriate warnings alongside an R18 sticker then every adult as an individual has the option to decide if they find that content acceptable or not.

    Last edited 16/01/15 10:27 am

    And region hopping to download in 3....2.....1.....

    Yes it's censorship to get them to change the game to fit into our classification system. It would also be a trivial change that does not appear to have any meaningful impact on the game.

    If the Red Hot Chili Peppers could make changes for Krusty, surely Devolver could make changes for us?

    I'll be playing the game either way.

    EDIT: The Classification Board description is definitely exaggerated. The ruling should be challenged on that alone because if they aren't providing accurate information about the media they're classifying, then they aren't doing their jobs. Where the line is drawn matters.

    Last edited 16/01/15 9:43 am

    Don't actually understand why sexual violence in the third person is worse than a first person terrorist attack like that in CoD 'no Russian'.

      Ok, i'll answer that one: In CoD, the terrorist attack was a pretty big part of the story; it was used as an attempt to start a war against the USA, by blaming the attack on Americans. So while not a pleasant scene to play through, it did have a reason to be there. Also, you didn't actually have to kill any of the civilians; I'm not a fan of shooting unarmed civilians myself, so I simply walked through the level.
      From what the developers have put forward about this scene in Hotline Miami, there doesn't really seem to be much necessity, or justification, for its inclusion. They've yet to explain how it adds to the story, or how it's anything more than a cheap shock tactic.

        What exactly makes cheap shock tactics inherently bad?

        Not everything needs to be meaningful, or add layers to something. Sometimes, things just are, and that should be okay.

          "What exactly makes cheap shock tactics inherently bad?"
          The fact it's an attempt to gain attention without adding any value to the story. A shocking scene can add to the story if used appropriately, such as those found in films such as American History X, where a Nazi sympathizer kerbstomps an African American man in a display of how little he regards the life of someone of colour, before undertaking a reformative journey through prison. Or A Clockwork Orange, where the protagonist's crime is so bad that the justice department figure the sick and twisted individual would be the perfect candidate for their extreme new reform program.
          The scene in Hotline Miami seems to add nothing; it's just an attention grabbing exercise. A cheap marketing stunt. And you know what? It worked. Now people are talking about it.

            Whole bunch of assumption and ignorance here. It seems like this is just rationalisation.

              You're more than welcome to prove me wrong, and explain what it actually adds to the story.

        Err, you could skip that No Russian mission, and it was made to be so when you started the campaign, you could choose to play the game with it or with out it, since it played no significance to the story, well that's what the word was at the time..

          The terrorist attack was at the airport was blamed on Americans. It prompted a Russian retaliation, a direct attack on the US. Seeing as it was the entire cause for the Russians invading the US, it played a REALLY big, and very significant part of the story, skippable or not.

            "Story"... we're talking about a "story" where Russia invades America by FLYING OVER EUROPE (are you telling me NO-ONE in Europe noticed AT ALL?!??) and then proceeds to invade SURBURBIA (which has absolutely no logistic or strategic value) and claiming that's a serious plot? MW2's plot is paper thin and utterly preposterous. At least in MW3 they had the dignity to go full Team America and recreate the Eiffel Tower destruction... oh wait, but they were still trying to play it straight...

            In this case the person being "raped" gets up after said scene and it is then clear that they are participating in a movie - therefore indicated that it's not actually rape at all - actual or implied. The classification board is once again misapplying and misinterpreting content because it doesn't fit with their (christian) values - much like happened with Risen and Witcher 2 when those games were banned and changed (respectively) due to blatant and willful misinterpretations of actions/content devoid of the context of the game, it's setting, or the characters involved.

              Hey, no-one here is making the outrageous claim that CoD actually has a GOOD story, just that it WAS a part of the story. For Hotline Miami, implied rape or not, actors or not, it doesn't appear to add ANYTHING to the story. I would be happy to be proven wrong on this.

      Because sexualised violence explicitly earns a ban under the classification guidelines, whereas non-sexual violence is permissible.

      From the R18 guidelines for games: "Actual sexual violence is not permitted. Implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted."

      Implied sexual violence, visually depicted. Certainly sounds like this scene earns a ban under the guidelines. Government being what it is, the OFLC probably has to err on the conservative side in such cases; if you can argue either way, they're obliged to ban rather than give the benefit of the doubt.

      http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2012L01934 if you want to look it up.

    Oh man, that electro soundtrack! Can't wait to play this.

    In case anyone hasn't seen.... the Developer has given Australian's permisson to pirate his game.
    Here's the reddit thread.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/pcmasterrace/comments/2si0b2/i_contacted_jonatan_s%C3%B6derstr%C3%B6m_hotline_miami_2/

    http://i.imgur.com/Z84eDVa.png

      Well now I'm DEFINITELY going to donate money to them.

    I would be okay with the refusal to classify a game, if the implied sexual violence was interactive. This however is no different than watching an implied sexual violence being committed in a non-interactive video/movie. I've seen plenty of movies that have had more realistic sexual violence, that could be found disturbing that have been shown on free-to-air.

    If the scene is not story related and just there to be there, maybe they should just modify it. Still censorship of any kind sucks.

      "Implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted." - quote from the R18 guidelines. It doesn't have to be interactive to be banned, if it's in a game.

      I may not agree with the guidelines, but that's what the OFLC is obliged to implement.

    Out of interest, are the games available on say the Humble Store rated by the ACB? Or alternatively, are there any games up there that we *know* haven't been rated/were refused?

    Just wondering because I've bought plenty of games from them but don't remember ever seeing any AU ratings info, so it makes me think even if this won't be for sale on PSN or whatever, we should still be able to buy it somehow.

    Wow that was rather weak!

    why don't they just give these games X18+ ratings and sell them in only adult shops, less chances of children seeing them and wanting them

    I too think the classification board has been a little heavy handed here. Sadly it seems that despite the introduction of the R18+ rating, video games are still being classed differently to movies and tv shows. I also think the term sexual violence is used as a boogeyman go to against anyone who defends these games. If you're pro game then you must be pro sexual violence, you creep

    Again, the in-universe context is justifiable. Firstly, it's a movie/porno shoot. The 'rape' doesn't actually happen at all. Secondly, the ACB's description of the scene is ridiculously overstated and exaggerated. Their isn't any 'thrusting' whatsoever, not that that in itself excuses the game, but in principle it shows the ratings decision has not been very well thought out or discussed.

    So, uh, that scene where Neil Patrick Harris is killed in Gone Girl is less violent than this?

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