The Australian Public Is Largely Unoffended By RC’d Video Games

The Australian Public Is Largely Unoffended By RC’d Video Games

As part of the Classification Review, the Australian Law Reform Commission, with the help of Ubris, put together a survey on attitudes to high level content in the MA15+ to RC classification categories. According to the survey, participants were largely unoffended by video game content that had been refused classification.

Those involved in the survey were shown footage from F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, The Ballad of Gay Tony, Mortal Kombat, and Modern Warfare 2. Bizarrely, the game participants found most offensive was one of the games that actually passed classification at MA15+: Modern Warfare 2.

“Most of the screened violent material from computer games was not considered to be offensive,” claimed the study. “In three of the four pieces of violent and/or sexual computer game material screened, a majority… found the material not to be offensive.

“[P]articipants generally found the airport scene in Call of Duty to be more impactful than the others, due to the random nature of the shooting of innocent people.”

The vast majority of those involved it watching the content also stated the content should not be banned.

“[P]articipants would generally not ban the material, although some felt that “killing people” in games should be banned. Participants would age restrict it – suggested age ranges from 15 to 18 – but at the same time there was acceptance by some participants that ‘the more you restrict things the more people watch it’.

“There was a view that the most vulnerable to such material may be children aged between 10 and 13, and as such a restriction 15+ was probably appropriate.”

The issue of interactivity, however, reared its ugly head.

“[R]respondents who were clearly offended by the material pointed to issues such as the fact that the player is actually carrying out the actions, which possibly made it more disturbing than an acted out scene in a film.”

As did the issue of context…

“There was strong debate amongst… participants on the importance of the context of the games (including what the purpose was, the understanding of the characters, and the overall objective for the player), ranging from the view that the context of the game makes the violence more acceptable…”

In comparison to other media, the airport scene in Modern Warfare 2 ranked highly as one of the most offensive, alongside scenes from A Serbian Film and Hostel, but other scenes from Mortal Kombat, F.E.A.R. 2 and The Ballad of Gay Tony ranked among the least offensive.

If Classification is supposed to be a way of reflecting community attitudes towards explicit material, perhaps it’s time we had a think about precisely what is seen as being offensive in Australia today?

You can read the full report here.

Thanks Braunman!


  • I’m quite sure that everybody knows this at this stage but it’s good to know that there is now some viable proof that the ACL has their head up their arses.

    • Did you not read the article man? The quote refers to the airport scene, so, yes they played No Russian. Seriously, read before posting comments.

  • I’m offended when i’m told what I can’t play. So I thoroughly enjoy buying everything from everything from every other country with ease.

  • My wife found the MW2 airport scene a little over the top. Though I was shooting the wounded to make sure there were no survivors and laughing hysterically.

    • Community Groups and Reference Groups.

      Here’s the relevant bit of the paper that defines them:

      Participants were recruited from across Australia, with a sampling methodology used for the community
      groups to ensure their representativeness of the broader community. The final sample of 40 community
      participants who formed the basis of the two CGs of 15, were selected from more than 1,000 applicants,
      who responded to newspaper advertisements placed by the ALRC throughout Australia, as well as
      notification through the Web or social media. Selection criteria used included demographic characteristics
      (gender, age, parental status), occupation, representation of all States and Territories, metropolitan,
      regional and rural representation, and attitudinal indicators nominated by applicants.
      The 28 RG participants were recruited by the ALRC on the basis of people who were representative of a
      community group or advocacy organisation, people who have publicly engaged with classification issues,
      people representing a relevant industry sector, or have established experience or academic expertise in
      matters related to media classification and media audiences

  • I think people are more concerned with the issue of morality than they are with the graphical depiction of violence. Mortal Kombat is far more violent in terms of graphical depiction in contrast to Modern Warfare 2, but the airport shootings in Modern Warfare 2 pick up offensive points because they put the player in an uncomfortable moral scenario. I also think Mortal Kombat gets away with being offensive because it’s seen as “unrealistic which goes back to the whole “context” argument that was being made…

    • Agree so much. Mortal Kombat is pretty incredibly gory but it’s also ridiculous, over the top, and complete fantasy.

      It really made me happy to see the article mention people actually asking the question of context. It’s one that seems to often be ignored when the issue of violence in videogames is brought up.

    • Yeah, I think the innocence of the victims plays a role too; In Mortal Kombat, both the people fighting are willing, and judging from the costumes, probably serial killers. On the other hand, innocent civilians and children are very different. In Mortal Kombat, they were FIGHTING, in MW2 they were DYING.

  • The fact that No Russian (Hell, even Hostel) was rated as disturbing on a similar level to A Serbian Film just blows my mind. We’re talking a virtual scene depicting civilians being shot (A scenario in games which has been done many times before, but you also have the option of skipping it to boot!), being compared to a scene in which a man, crazed by sexual desire/bloodlust, is tricked into sodomising his 7-8 year old son.

    In my opinion, there is no way those two scenes can even begin to be compared.

      • Nothing in commercial media is remotely comparable to A Serbian Film.

        That being said, No Russian abusing a whole host of emotional tricks to invoke a response. It could just be that the scale they were judging this on simply did not go high enough. After maxing out on No Russian, there was nowhere for people to go with A Serbian Film.

        I have not seen A Serbian Film. It’s about the only thing I’ve ever heard of where I simply cannot bring myself to watch it.

        • To be fair, A Serbian Film sounds horrendous, but it’s so utterly ridiculous that it’s more of a black comedy than anything else. Offensive? Sure. But it’s not serious in the least.

    • Maybe the difference is interactivity, one has you actually gunning down non-combatants, the other doesn’t force you to sodomize the 7-8 year old.

      If the situation changed that A Serbian Film was a video game where you actively engaged in child pornography they would definately be more offended.

    • Whilst true (and I can’t read the full report here at work), but it was probably more of a case that the items sampled were rated on a simple “Not Offensive / Offensive” outcome and not against each other.

      So “A Serbian Film” and “Modern Warfare 2” both could have scored in the highest “is it offensive” bracket based on the respondents, but that’s all that can be taken from it.

    • Yeah I read that and was like ‘Huh?’ No way that compares to the smorgasbord of rape that was A Serbian Film.
      Slightly OT but I found A Serbian Film kind of boring & trying too hard to be offensive. In my opinion, Martyrs was way more disturbing. Still would rather watch that than a katherine heigl romantic comedy any day of the week.

      • Martyrs was far more disturbing! Probably the only thing I have ever viewed that got to me.

        Cerzel, I’m all for black comedy. But, “A Serbian Film” is not that at all.

        Really the only thing that ever offends me is when I’m told what I can and can’t view.

  • Context is a key point here. For instance, was the viewing of No Russian done from the perspective of someone just walking through the level looking at the carnage taking place, or being an active member laughing hysterically? The game plays out no different regardless of which way you choose, there is no reward or score kept for the number of innocent people shot.

    It would be worth showing a similar group of people the consistencies between classification titles in Australia.

    Modern Warfare 2, “No Russian” scene – MA15
    Grand Theft Auto 4, implied sex with hookers, bloody tire tracks – RC
    Grand Theft Auto 4 Addon Packs with sex and bloody tires – MA15
    Dark Sector, throwing a blade at a humanoid enemy to behead – RC
    Gears of War 2/3, multiplayer, any of the execution moves to a downed COG player – MA15
    Saints Row 2, “Crowd Control” activity – MA15
    Bioshock, extracting Adam from the little girls – MA15
    Saw, choosing innocent people to die so you can progress to the next area – MA15
    Fallout 3, dismembering a shopkeeper because their body fell on an object you want to pick up – MA15

    All of these titles have carried an 18/Adult rating elsewhere in the world and for good reasoning, yet perfectly suitable for a younger audience here. Mortal Kombat is clearly fictional where as many of the other titles are trying to push the boundary of being realistic.

    • How exactly does Classification board rule on objectional content or what needs to be classified? do they give the publishers a list of somesort and they declare what might be objectional in thier game?

      Or do they actually play the game?

      • Yeah that’s a good question actually, I’ve often wondered that myself. Do they look through the game for issues, or do publishers have to make a list/presentation? I wonder if their opinions would change if they played the games?

  • Interestingly, I saw several multiplat copies of Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition for sale in a shop in Melbourne yesterday (not saying which because good on them, don’t want to get them in trouble).

    Strangely enough, at 4pm today, society has still not collapsed.

    • Well seeing how many wars, atrocities, torture, and general unpleasantness has been caused by the bible over the years that wouldn’t be a bad idea….

      • Don’t worry, the bitching about the ending for mass effect 3 is fast catching up in terms of unpleasantness

  • I’m still worried that we’ll just get a rebranded MA15+ as the new R18+ and stuff like Left 4 Dead 2, Mortal Kombat, Syndicate etc remain RC’d.

    Then they can say “well we listened and gave you what you wanted!”

    • This will depend on the game publisher, whether they see the value in paying for a game to be reclassificed as R, if it’ll generate sufficient sales. At the very least, it’ll mean no further titles coming in won’t be RC’d.

      L4D2 will be a tricky one, for Steam at least. If Valve automatically update the low-violence version to full content, they’ll potentially be giving R-rated content to those that were initially suitable for the MA-rated content. The only way they’d be able to do it would be to release a “directors cut” version at a discounted rate for owners of the low-violence version, but still have some nominal cost so its not just a free patch upgrade.

      Shogun 2 had this issue with the blood pack. As Shogun 2 is rated PG here where elsewhere has a higher rating, we don’t have the blood pack in Australia.

  • Awesome that my tip got picked up! Something else that I thought was weird was with two of the clips, shown one after the other. The first was a scene from “A Serbian Film” which showed a bound woman being raped, beheaded, then raped again in that order. The following clip was one involving footage from an actual, entirely non-fictional, execution.

    A Serbian Film was deemed more offensive.

    Either Australians have some weird standards when it comes to offence, or A Serbian Film really is that messed up.

    • A Serbian Film is more about degradation, humiliation and pure shock value. Look up “newborn porn” from the film and ask if the film is really that messed up.

      • Yeah, I’d heard that the clip they showed is actually one of the *least* offensive scenes in the movie. Am I a bad person for wanting to see this movie to see what the fuss is all about? 🙁

        • Here lies the problem – you’re one of those individuals interested in seeing it for what it is; art. Sure, its a perverse and disturbing form of art, but thats all it is – and the government is censoring it regardless of whether you’re “mature” enough to appreciate it – even if its not to your taste.

          Another thats worth looking up is the movie from the 70’s – “Salò”, probably more disturbing due to its apparent historical nature. The Australian classification site is currently down, but throw “salo” in the search, you’ll see it was banned, then re-released with an R-rating, then banned again, then re-released again last year I believe.

          The worst part about it is, I’d never heard of either until I’d heard they’d been banned from Australia. Within 30 seconds, Google was able to produce streaming versions of both, right up there with Kids in Sandbox and Jar Squatter.

          • I concur sir. Regardless as to how disturbing the content is, it’s still a fictional work. Personally I find publications made by the ACL to be highly offensive, but we shouldn’t ban things just because we don’t agree with the content.

            Funny you should mention Salo, because I bought it right after it was unbanned (just in case it got banned again). Maybe I’ve been desensitised by the internet, but I didn’t really find it too bad. Still it’s worth a watch for it’s artistic merits. I’ve seen a few of Pasolini’s films and they’re all fantastic.

            It’s ironic how banning things just acts as a form of free advertising. I would like to see Serbian at some point, but since I’m in WA probably best to wait until I’m not likely to be arrested for viewing RC content. Unless you know of a loophole I can exploit? 🙂

  • Of course people are mostly unoffended by the RC content in games……..they see the same content in movies all the time…

  • How long after we get an R18+ classification for games will it be safe to mention X18+? If our game censorship is backwards, our censorship of porn is even worse in terms of what is deemed refused classification.

    And that’s before you consider X18+ for games. If there’s an issue with a game having a sex scene – give it our sexual content classification. You’d think that’s why we have one, but apparently even if we manage to get common sense on R18+, we will still not have equality between mediums.

  • Could this mean MK9 “could” get released here once the R18+ rolls in?

    I heard all games that were RC’ed under the soon to be “defunct” system won’t be released.

    I’ve got so many questions right now…

    • From what I understand, it won’t just get automatically converted to R18+

      It would have to be re-submitted to the Classfication Board after the R18+ classification is in place, which of course, costs the publisher money, which they want to make back in sales…

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