R18+: Drugs, Dildos And The Unwinnable War

R18+: Drugs, Dildos And The Unwinnable War

Censorship is in the marrow of the bones of Australian culture and its institutions. One of the earliest acts of government in this country involved the establishment of a censorship board, and that was as far back 1917. Now, in an Australia that finally ‘grew up’, in an Australia that on January 1 2013 was granted an R18+ rating for video games 15 years in the making, we have seen two game refused classification in a single week. Those were headlines I never thought I’d have to write again, those were headlines you probably didn’t expect to read.

The real question is ‘what can we do in response?’ But the answer, depending on your perspective, is depressing.

Practically nothing.

I’d argue close to absolutely nothing.

I’m paraphrasing my friend David Rayfield when I say this but, to the outside world, gamers complaining about Saints Row IV and State of Decay sound like rabid miscreants howling at a full moon. Give us our drugs and purple dildos, we cry. It is our god given right to have drugs and purple dildos.

Not exactly a compelling argument.

And hardly the compelling argument we had previously. Pre-R18+ there was a genuine injustice and a problem that actually needed solving – adults were not allowed to play the games they wanted to play and parents were being misinformed about content unsuitable for children. Now, with Saints Row IV and State of Decay, the argument has become solely about consumer choice. That’s important, but not important enough. Not even close. There’s not a politician alive brave enough to war with lobbyists over the sanctity of the humble purple dildo.

There’s nothing to be done.

And the guidelines are the guidelines are the guidelines. They’re not going to change anytime soon.

The spectre of interactivity looms large in both these decisions, but I’d suggest two things are of prime importance here. Firstly, the Classification Board is simply working with the tools they’ve been given. You can question the veracity of these decisions from a cultural perspective, but it’s difficult to argue that ramming a purple dildo into the anus of innocent bystanders sans consent does not represent implied sexual violence. I think it does, and I also think it was a pathologically stupid idea in the first place. Secondly, these are new guidelines and there’s a human element to this — it takes time for the application of these guidelines to settle into something we can safely predict. And it’s going to take time for publishers to adjust and present their games appropriately.

Here’s the lesson: publishers, distributors, whoever is given the tricky task of submitting games for classification, sharpen your pencils. Australia isn’t the free ride you thought it had become. When sending in submissions make sure someone who knows what the hell they’re doing is at the helm. Be prepared to justify your purple dildos with context and your drugs with the relevant fiction. Developers: consider inventing fanciful names for the power ups in your video games. May your heroin become Hero-X, may your Methadones become Mecha-Zs. Because we may have won the battle but we have lost the unwinnable war.


    • the igea has completely ignored the r18 rating. this is bullshit. well, time to get copies from the UK (or singapore) like good ol’ times.
      i’m gonna miss that big purple dildo

  • Just posted this in the Talk Amongst Yourselves comments, but reposting here:

    “ok peeps, you all need to go put your serious/professional hats on and apply for this – http://www.classification.gov.au/News/Pages/26June2013-Classificationresearchcallforvolunteersforresearch.aspx . The Australian Classification Board is asking for “community members (eighteen years and over), to be included on a register of people who can be called on, to participate in research groups about a range of media classification matters.”

    If enough of us apply, the best and brightest from among our ranks might make it through and have a positive impact on the censorship regime in this country.

    Get to it.”

    As a retiring federal (non-PM) politician recently said (i’m paraphrasing): victory in politics goes to those who turn up.

        • Yeah man, @ash and @jimu, together at last!

          Picture this:
          Attorney general (b/c I’m sure they personally hosts all research events): “take this scene from the popualr video game Persona, where your female colleague is presented wearing only a towel. how does this make you feel?”
          Ash and Jimu in unison: “OFFENDED!!”
          AG: “and what is offesnive about it”
          A/J: “the towel is covering up all the hotness!”

    • I reject the notion that there is nothing we can do. Time to start letter-writing, just like I did to EA and Ubisoft.

      I’m not saying the letter-writing was successful, but I will note that they did actually abandon two of the practices I wrote to complain to them about.

      Go go magic pen!

  • I’ll tell you what I’m going to do –
    Import it from country that isn’t so precious about an in-game dildo and some non existent computer game drugs.

    • I’ve said this a couple of times, but if a Saints Row IV RC is what it takes to kill the ‘floodgates’ argument stone dead then it’s a bullet I’m willing to take!

      • I’ve argued several times on other posts that I’m perfectly happy with the decision to ban Saints Row based on the dildo-gouging aspect. It’s pretty clear in the legislation that violent sexual acts can’t be depicted and no reasonable legislator would argue that the law needs to be amended to allow a grey area for sexual assault as long as it’s “comical”.

        The drugs stuff irks me a bit, but if you look at the way the law is structured the decision to ban State of Decay was technically a correct one from a Board perspective (I downloaded it from the US XBL store). The problem is when companies name a real product (eg. Morphine) and then depict it being used in a manner which doesn’t represent it’s actual effects or which would be seriously harmful if used in that manner. I know people can make arguments that other items are contained in games without similar restrictions (“I got shot 6 times with an assault rifle in COD and I got better in 30 seconds. I’m going to assume that would be safe in real life”), but at the end of the day game companies can always rename the drugs and they would be fine.

        State of decay for example has “painkillers” which might be ok, but then morphine and a few other specific things which work as stronger health potions. Just rename them weak/ medium and strong “medicine” and the problem is fixed. Taking the Morphine in the game certainly doesn’t do what Morphine actually does so naming it that is ridiculous anyway!

        If it makes you feel better think of it less as censorship and more as a public health notice, nobody ever complains “My bottle of medicine has been censored because the government won’t let me write ‘THIS SHIT IS GREAT FOR YOU, TAKE HEAPS!’ on the bottle”.

        • Hey, quick interjection on State of Decay. The consumable ‘Amphetamines’ has a description that includes “Pure glass – the good stuff”, implying it is present in the crystal methamphetamine form. It’s likely the the contention on drugs in State of Decay may be due to the character dropping crystal meth for a stamina boost, in addition to the health benefits of morphine.

          It’s worth mentioning that I am yet to see anyone else pick up on the fact that crystal meth is present in the game, and given the importance that would hold in a ratings decision, I’m also kind of shocked and disappointed that the majority of journalism and commentary seems focused on morphine.

          Edit: @chaoticlusts picked up on the amphetamine link, but didn’t bring up the item description

          Source for State of Decay ‘Amphetamine’ description: http://stateofdecay.wikia.com/wiki/Amphetamines

          • Yes! I remember seeing that when I was playing and thinking that it was a Breaking Bad reference (lots of the item descriptions contain jokes or light hearted comments) and that it was kind of stupid but I forgot all about it since this whole thing blew up.

            Taking Meth as a stamina boost (with ZERO negative effects) is, like the Saints Row thing, a perfectly reasonable thing to ban a game for under the current legislation.

      • I have to agree your post here, Mark. Developers need to start taking some responsibility, especially when submitting a game to the ACB.

        If Saint’s Row IV has been caught out, I think it deserves to stay that way until the publisher & developer does something about it, and then resubmits it for classification.

        Previously, the majority of banned games were never my cup of tea, but I still believed the gamers of Australia were entitled to a certain level of rights so I was supportive of the introduction of an R18+ rating.

        With this though, I know people are upset they won’t be able to play the game straight away – or possibly ever now, but at this point things have become questionable. The reason Saint’s Row IV has been banned by the ACB is due to some disgustingly pointless act within it, and really I don’t blame them for making the call.

        Fellow Australian gamers who are still annoyed should swap focus from their rights and what they’re entitled to play/experience as adult gamers to frustration towards the developer and publisher. If anyone is to blame here, it should be the them for coming up with & allowing such a sick ritual (even if it is within the context of Saint Row’s outrageousness) – thinking it would get past local classification.

        So yeah, hopefully the dev & pub sort this matter out and it eventually meets the R18+ category.

        • It’s not just about rights. It’s about what the lack of classification says about us as a people, and how we’re viewed. Remember, there’s now a classification that says that it can only be sold to adults. But the board is now saying that this content isn’t even suitable for that. They’re saying that we, matured adults who are a part of society, aren’t mature enough to handle crude toilet humour and drugs in our video games

          • Exactly. I am absolutely stunned that people are ok with this. The saddest part about our nanny-state is that so many people seem to love all the rules and controls.

          • The fact that there are people arguing for ‘comical’ violent rape to be acceptable in video games just proves the point that we can’t be allowed to make decisions for ourselves. The view that anything and everything should be available in our media is childish.

            If this was about digital child porn would everyone still be hiding behind arguments entirely made up of censorship being bad and nanny states? If nobody actually has a valid argument regarding why they should be able to anally rape people in a game for entertainment then everyone’s complaints should be focused on the developers for thinking that including it was OK in the first place.

      • It’s stupid to think that the drug content which caused State of Decay to be banned is completely fine for film/TV producers.
        Is the ACB going to ban Breaking Bad in Australia next?

        Why is there no unified approach to classification?
        Surely this is a prime example of what the R18+ classification was introduced for.

          • It was more a point that other forms of entertainment have drug references that are completely fine with the ACB.

            Flims like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Trainspotting heavily feature drug use and yet are classified for the Australia market.

            I think there should unified rules for all media. If it’s acceptable in film why is it not okay in video games?

          • Simple from their POV. One word:
            “Interactive” (games) vs “Passive” (movie/tv series)

            edit: now its more than one word to clarrify my point, but i’m not changing the ‘one word’ bit. Yes i realise the irony of using many many more words to explain. I’m OK with that. Me and irony are like *this* ‘twists fingers together’

          • I would prefer they judge based upon realism as opposed to interactive/passive.
            It’s not like taking drugs in the game starts a find the vein mini game.

        • Your reasoning about the ACB banning Breaking Bad is flawed, because the drug content is Breaking Bad is covered under the ratings guidelines for film and television.

          The R18 guidelines for games only allowed for increased violence, and made no changes to the policies on drugs.

          Yes, there probably should be unity across the rating schemes, but there isn’t, and as this article clearly points out no politician is going to support a change to the rating for the sole use of drugs and purple dildo swords.

          • At least this has people talking about the topic again.
            We were all pretty content that the R18+ rating would solve our classification problems.
            You are right about purple dildo swords and drug use not being the argument which gets the attention of politicians.
            That said I think that it’s appropriate for both to be classified R18+. If that means that State of Decay is banned from sale from the Xbox Live store and is only available on physical media which proof of age is required to purchase then so be it.

      • Exactly what I said at home last night. My mother-in-law was a constant cause of angst with the, “won’t someone think of the children” and the “opening the floodgates” argument. I will be nice to point out to her that the system works (argument about anal probes and alien week aside).

        Somehow I don’t think the absence of an anal probe (assuming they remove it and resubmit) is going to make or break the game anyway. …funny the first few times, then, “that’s just meah”…

        I would have however seen much more humour if rather than weed it was alien herbal tea or something.

  • Finally! Somebody that agrees that this weapon was stupid! I found no reason for it to be in the game at all. As for state of decay, I’m not too sure what it was RC’d for. I didn’t really read that article.

    • I’ve read the article 3 times and I still don’t know!! The rules around drug references seem very vague

      • It’s because it contains specific real life drugs but the effects of taking them aren’t even close to the real life effects. For example if you take morphine in real life the same way you take the red health potion in Diablo, you would die quickly.

        All they need to do is rename the various meds to weak, medium and strong “health packs” or “medicine” and it will be fine.

        • “It’s because it contains specific real life drugs but the effects of taking them aren’t even close to the real life effects”
          Wrong, their rules are actually that you cannot gain benefit for using the drugs.
          So in real life morphine is a pain killer, and someone taking it can shrug off some of their damage (soldiers used to carry it in times of war, so if they were hurt they could use it and try to get to safety), but a similar use in game (giving some life back, or reducing the damage taken) would be a benifit, and is therefore explicitly forbidden. They do usually give a pass if they just change the name to something that isn’t a real drug.

        • Ahh we’ll I can see how that’s actually halfway reasonable but also I’d expect adults to a) know the difference and 2) exhibit some personal responsibility when it comes to their conduct with controlled substances

    • thought state of decay was on the same grounds as fallout 3.

      what irks me is that Australia as a matter of routine has different censorship standards in games to our cultural cousins in the UK and NZ. it says something that both countries have better quality classification regimes, that provide actually useful information to consumers, and ban far fewer games than Australia.

      we listen/watch Kiwi and Brit music/movies/tv shows all the time, we export our own content to those countries, and yet the censorship regime in this country treats us as less mature than them.

      • I’m really only talking for this case. I totally agree with their decision because this weapon was not justified at all. It didn’t have to be in the game.

        As with everything else, I think we just need time to ease into the new R18+ rating.

  • If this is Australia’s way of saying “we don’t want this rubbish being sold as ‘entertainment’ in our country”, so be it. The drug thing is a different story, but ultimately, a game like ‘Saints Row’ actually tries to push the bar of what’s acceptable. Having a weapon where you shove a dildo up someone’s arse is just plain degrading.
    Great article too.

  • I’d said in terms of arguing against this forget Saints Row IV. They used the buzz phrase interactive sexual violence, that’s a lost cause you will get looked at (as this article points out) as a pervert no matter how hard you try to explain it or compare it to south park humour or whatever.

    However State of Decay is an entirely different creature and reasonable arguments can be made for it without sounding creepy to non-gamers. All they listed was drug use, something that movies can get away with in an M rating (MA if it’s graphic), also while they prefaced the list of drugs by stating illegal drugs and illegal use of prescribed medication the only potentially illegal drug in the entire list was amphetamines and that’s a vague term as there’s several prescribed amphetamines every other one was a prescribed (granted heavily abuseable) legal medication.

    And to quickly examine ‘illegal usage of prescribed substances’, we’re talking about a post apocalyptic world here. That’s truly one of the most insane nitpicky things ever, there’s no society there’s no government there’s no legal system. Yes violence remains violence but how on earth to regulated substances exist without regulation! By that logic if the apocalypse happens noone should have access to antibiotics because without an official prescription from the old world government they would be taking them illegally and using illegal drugs :/

    So yes I’d say focus on State of Decay it’s far easier to make a reasonable argument for and honestly it was the one that truly surprised me, they always said R18 wouldn’t allow every game to get rated so it was only a matter of time before they chose one to make an example of and Saints Row is an easy pick as is ‘interactive sexual violence’ but State of Decay is truly strange >_

    *edited for typo*

    • Any prescription drugs are technically illegal without a prescription, as far as I’m aware. The fact that in the context of the game there is no “legal system” is irrelevant. They are regulated in the world we live in.
      All I’d hope for is a laxing of it to allow context to apply to drug use as well.

      I find it amazing that we live in a country where we’re allowed to play games where we are tasked with chopping off our own fingers or crawling through broken glass, but taking explicitly named painkillers in said games is out of the question… It makes me feel sorry for all the virtual characters in video games that must endure such hardships with no access to anaesthetics.

  • Cool read. I agree that from the guideline’s perspective it is down to the publisher to ensure they “sharpen their pencils” and get the job done to put context to content. Rockstar has done this consistently and managed to add context to initially confronting content.

    Although I disagree we can do nothing: IMO progressive shaping of morality and what’s acceptable in society has led us down an unfortunate path of “progressive censorship”, which is itself an oxymoron, I guess like how outlawing hate speech is technically censorship, which is inherently “conservative”, yet we ban something shaped on progressive thought.

    What has frustrated me personally is that some commentators are being especially sympathetic towards the decision because of its sexual nature. Censorship in its existence can only grow — limiting censorship is to discard it completely — so no matter what the level of censorship we are still limiting the ways we amplify opinions, beliefs and debate. The unfortunate compromise of limiting censorship — and allowing people to judge an anal probe device in a game on their own accord — is that we allow bad things to seep through, but again, we would then judge these things on individual merit and understanding of morality, rather than rely on a government-set standard that is so stringent in execution, despite the flexibility that should be applied to an individual’s morality.

    To put this into context: I don’t personally approve of Kotaku’s removal of comments. IMO this should be at the discretion of the community, down to the individual to downvote a comment and eventually get it removed. An editor deciding whether or not a comment should be removed is akin to the Classification Board determining what is right and wrong for society. (I don’t mean to say this with malice, though!)

    It is a painful process but we can initiate change by educating the Classification Board, the government, the people that shape these “standards of morality” as indicated at in the report. We need to loosen these, because they tighten a grip on society that admittedly keeps nasty things out, but also stops toilet humour from getting through, as has been the case here. It’s really, really sad.

  • IF dev’s need to make a special edition of a game for our market, it gives them an out to charge us more. They will simply state that we need more people to tailor the release of product in Australia, and then continue to charge ridiculous amounts for New Releases. I think this hurts the choice for the gaming consumer and will ultimately keep prices higher than they should be.

  • I just want the option to say “I don’t want to buy this game with dildos” rather than someone else saying “We will not let you buy this game with dildos”

    I will decide for myself what I find acceptable. As an adult I think I should be able to make that choice.

    • But, you do have a choice. You can easily just not pick the item up and not use it.
      Unless there’s a main story mission that requires you to use it, it always comes down to your own choice.
      Considering Saints Row is a open world sandbox game, you still have the choice to not play the main missions.

      • That choice is taken away from me when they edit the game to remove/replace the item altogether.

        Adults don’t need to be babied like that.

      • What about the average person on the street who has never played a game like this – never browsed through thousands of pages of blogs and forums, let alone one review of what content is in a game – then buys a game like this and finds that they get to a mission to sodomize people?

        There is a limit to what the ratings and descriptions of ratings can put onto a game to warn you of the content (like we see before shows on TV now – *May contain such and such nudity drug use violence), I cant see them changing it to also include – *May contain missions where you use a weapon to sodomise unwilling people, but as it is at the moment – everyone knows that an R18+ game is going to be violent, with no abusive use in regards to sex and or drugs. They know this because that’s what the classification board has set as guidelines. So the rating is there to warn these people that this content is or isn’t in the game.

        And @neo – the choice to not play the main story line? Really?

        On another point, it bugs me when writers like @markserrels constantly say Those were headlines I never thought I’d have to write again, those were headlines you probably didn’t expect to read…. really? Did you not read your own forums or even bother to read the regulations when the regulations clearly stated that drug use and sexual content were going to be judged just as harshly as before? Do some reading before whinging because it makes you look silly – If you say “Unfortunately we are seeing these headlines again because the guidelines weren’t altered enough” then you are a person who bothers to research, not a sh*t stirring miscreant.

        Also I mentioned in another thread that if people wanted to change this then talking to local members of parliament were the way to get their voice heard – but many people thought “Oh – that’s too hard” or’I didn’t vote for mine so why would I bother” These are the reasons that things don’t get changed – people are too lazy or cant be bothered to actually DO something about but, but are quite happy to cry and moan and b!tch about it… maybe someone else will do it for them?
        Things wont change until that changes.

        • What about the average person on the street who has never played a game like this – never browsed through thousands of pages of blogs and forums, let alone one review of what content is in a game – then buys a game like this and finds that they get to a mission to sodomize people?
          There is a limit to what the ratings and descriptions of ratings can put onto a game to warn you of the content (like we see before shows on TV now – *May contain such and such nudity drug use violence), I cant see them changing it to also include – *May contain missions where you use a weapon to sodomise unwilling people, but as it is at the moment – everyone knows that an R18+ game is going to be violent, with no abusive use in regards to sex and or drugs. They know this because that’s what the classification board has set as guidelines. So the rating is there to warn these people that this content is or isn’t in the game.

          They can warn about sexual content on the cover in the rating area but then it’s the individual’s responsibility to do some more research themselves. It could be as easy as reading a description of the offending content on the Classification site, which would be even more convenient in today’s day and age where they could probably look up the info on their phone while in the store making their decision.

  • The alien probe is something that simply would not get through. I think that it should be able to, but the classification system does not exist to inform of us what content we’re viewing so that we can make informed decisions as consumers. Seeing as the system doesn’t work the way that I’d like, I have to concede that’s a losing battle (for now).

    The classification guidelines’ approach to drugs on the other hand, seems arbitrary and heavy handed. We know that in the past, simply changing the names of the drugs from morphine to med-x gets around it. We also know that we can see TV shows like House where magic mushrooms, cocaine and a whole lot more have been mentioned and used (off screen) in a positive fashion.

    This whole “drugs are bad, mmkay” thing is just nonsense. I’m not the type of person arguing that we should legalise everything and whatnot. Just that the approach taken with drugs in the media, particularly video games, makes absolutely no sense.

  • Isn’t there a point that the guidelines are guidelines, not rules? They’re meant to assist the ACB in making a decision, not be a hard dividing line between what is acceptable and what is not.

    In both cases, they’re applying some fairly broad parameters to sexual violence and drug use. To my mind the violence seems non-sexual – the issue seems to be the “dildo” aspect – if that’s the argument, change it to a “purple cucumber” or “purple relay baton” or “purple pepper mill”. If it’s the penetrative aspect, then why not ban the first episode of Bates Motel (which got by with an MA rating)?

    It does seem to be that games are currently being held to a higher standard than other media, which is nothing new. We know how Looney Tunes turned our parents and great-grandparents into violent, murderous psychos.

  • Why doesn’t someone record a clip of State of Decay showing the actions and effects of taking the drugs that got the game banned (I’m sure it will fall within the TV guidelines for G programming since the footage is not interactive) and go on one of those breakfast programs. The video shows the survivor picking up a bottle of pills labelled Iboprufen, using it (just a small rattling sound) and the red health bar filling up. The vast majority of Australian adults would see this for the farce it is.

  • One thing that I don’t understand is why can we have films that have explicit drug use, but not games? It seems like double standards.

    • The only reason I can think of is the oft repeated argument that interactive media has more impact over non-interactive media. So, in other words, it’s a bit different watching a movie of someone taking drugs, compared to controlling a video game character and making them take drugs through your volition.

      I don’t necessarily agree with this argument. I do believe that interactive media has a greater impact (it’s one reason why I play games). I also believe that it does not strain the reality/fiction barrier we inherently possess; we know it’s a story, it’s not real life. Nobody in their right mind truly believes that popping a pill will immediately grant health benefits. For those not in their right mind, then no matter the media, be it books, cinema, paintings, poems, music or games, the influence will still be the same.

      Or, to put it as succinctly as possible; refusing classification based on drug use does not actually protect anyone. It only soothes the minds of those who fear the idea of it.

      • Unfortunately the “interactive” vs “passive” argument somewhat falls flat when we are talking about “mature” games ie. R18+

        The biggest issue w/ interactivity is the supposed factor of influencing a person. While it has been shown that there may be some influence on a younger/developing mind. A normal healthy adult is more than capable to distinguishing fantasy vs reality (note the focus on the word *healthy*) and as such would be just as influenced the same way as any other passive media out there.

        The second problem w/ the interactivity argument is the “realism” factor that the game somehow supercedes reality and allows a person to “experience” these acts themselves which may translate to real life tendencies. Again besides the healthy adult proviso the key problem here is they are confusing “realism” w/ “immersion”.

        A player can be fully “immersed” in the moment the same way a person listening to Bach can be enthralled by the music until the piece is finished or reading a pivotal chapter in a book or watching an extremely tense scene in a movie. Games have a higher rate of “immersion” because you are taking active actions… however immersion simply means that your sucked into the “atmosphere” of the media. It doesn’t become a *substitute* for the reality. At the end of the day your still doing actions w/ tools that do not match up in *reality* (well until they create some sort of lethal KB and Mouse rifle/lockpick/shield). It is this fear of “immersion” somehow superceding “reality” that has always had people scared of new media.

  • The fact that the Classification Board assume something that is “interactive” is far worse than something that isn’t, is one of the large issues with all of this. Their words: a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context…

    Now lets look at this logically.

    QUESTION: Which unjustified visual depiction of implied sexual violence is “worse”?
    A: The use of a purple, ass-dildo, people launcher in a video game.
    B: The 15-minute rape scene in Irreversible.

    • Here here… the rape scene in I Spit on Your Grave was graphic and confronting.

      I know I have brought it up a handful of times but how is the acts in this game worse then the content in Human Centipede. I cannot imagine content that requires banning more then that film and yet it is available in Australia. I would much rather have that banned then the weapon in Saints Row.

    • Your post reminded me of the Kotaku article of the guy who took Bioshock: Infinite back for a refund due to the interactive baptism scene because he didn’t agree with it. This is actually how it should be instead of a game being censored. If you don’t like it, there is no need to play it. “interactive” does not mean “forced”. And if something should be “refused classification”, there should be some empirical evidence to back up this decision. For example, take 1000 gamers and let them play the anal probe scene in SRV. If they don’t go out and re-enact that in real life, don’t ban it.

    • Your argument is invalid – the rape scene in Irreversible is justifed by context – the whole movie is based around the scene – same with I Spit On Your Grave – they are plot elements of the movie that are at the core of the movie

      Their explicitness should come into question, but not their “justification” – the probing scene in SR4, as I am lead to believe from the articles about the game, has no impact on the plot or storyline development of the game, hence it is unjustified

      • The problem as I understand it is that SRIV is almost definitively non-narrative. The plot summary for the wikipedia entry (as at 28th June 2013) is:

        Five years after the events of the “Save Shaundi” ending in Saints Row: The Third, the leader of the Third Street Saints is elected President of the United States. It’s not long before an alien invasion occurs and the Protagonist and the Saints are kidnapped and placed into a virtual simulation, where the player will wield superpowers in order to destroy the Zin empire.

        It has less narrative drive than Scribblenauts. In that context, either everything conceivable is justifiable, since the entire world is an imaginary world inside an imaginary world where anything is possible, or nothing is justifiable, since the narrative doesn’t exist – if it is anything like the last one, even by open world game standards, it’s really “just a bunch of stuff that happens”. If the former, then the comparison is valid, since they’re imaginable. If the latter, then no comparison to anything could ever be valid (well, except maybe to previous SR games, but even then, this is one is a lot more out there from the look of it).

        If the issue is context setting, consider that the meta-context for the ACB decision is [deep breath] that they are concerned that a speculated subset of theoretically impacted gamers may potentially be incited to commit acts using an imaginary piece of alien technology that reflect acts committed by a non-existent someone else using a self-described “alien anal probe” in an imaginary world created by aliens that takes place within another imaginary world in which a gang leader is the PotUS elected to fight said aliens in said imaginary-world-in-imaginary-world using a myriad of weapons that include said probe that the suspected subset of theoretically impacted gamers is interacting with via a 265g piece of inert plastic. With access restricted to adults only using the logic that said adults are capable of distinguishing fantasy (or in this case, fantasy-within-a-fantasy) from reality.

      • It is a big part of the plot! One of the later missons “Dildozer” requires you to break out of a club and all you have is what you happened to be locked in the basement with.

        It ends with an emotional reunion with your gang and your character talking about his special bond with the weapon which turned out to be his saviour.

  • I would have thought the third game was worse. Still, I’m not overly affronted by this news, however, if I do end up getting this game, I will not be getting an aussie version.

  • So explain to me why its ok in a program like Wentworth to show a 16 year old girl be given a shot of heroin by her boyfriend (who was deliberately trying to kill her by overdose) and then have her passed out on the bed, choking on her own vomit.
    Why is that acceptable?

    For the record, Wentworth is great. My kids were in an episode 😀

    • Probably because it didnt show her jumping up immediately, with “super” powers, showing no ill effects but boosting her strength and impact in the scene

      In fact the opposite, and you even said it, she passed out and choked on her own vomit – showing a potentially real-world, realisticly negative side-effect to taking the drug

  • I keep having to defend this dildo anal probe thing because some of you keep saying that the ban against that is right but the ban against drugs is wrong. If they ban sexual violence, they have every right to ban any other violence, crime or drug usage in every other game. It’s a double standard, even if you think dildo anal probes are immature. You can’t draw a line because once you do, that paves the way for the more conservative of us to start asking questions. Why is sexual violence any different from regular violence? It’s not, they’re both very wrong in the context of real life. The difference is that we’ve gotten used to regular violence over the years and so it’s not a taboo or immature. We’re conditioned to think sexual violence is degrading but if you move time back or forward, you would find that what classifies as degrading changes. What you are doing by agreeing with the dildo ban is agreeing to censor other people – exactly what the board is doing to you with drug use. Just because you find the dildo probe inappropriate doesn’t mean someone else will.

    That’s not to say you’re not allowed to find dildo anal probes tasteless. I would agree with you. But as I said, you can’t draw a line, it’s all or nothing. You either allow everything or deal with whatever the board sees fit. Just to put things in perspective, I actually agree with the board when it comes to banning sexual violence AND drugs. The glorification of drugs espcially is something I’ve never been happy with. But, having a double standard is wrong and people deserve that choice – just as you have the choice not to use a dildo anal probe if it is given to you in a game. It should be up to the individual person to decide for themselves what is right or wrong, not someone else.

    • Agreed that this sets a dangerous precedent; we are going to potentially end up with a worse classification system then we had before the R18+ rating was introduced.

      Where does the censorship end?

    • Censorship is censorship, and it’s never ok as long as the content was created without impinging upon the life, liberty or property of someone without their consent. If that is true, there is no reason it should not be available to adults who want to purchase it.

  • There was no line drawn over anal probes in Destroy All Humans or its many sequels. Nor was there problems having “morphine” in Velvet Assassin.

    If they were consistent about their ruling, that would be one thing – it seems as though they’ve been biding their time looking for an example to make. Saints (nor Destroy All Humans) is not a rape simulator, nor will State of Decay teach you any more about making drugs than Breaking Bad will.

    There needs to be a consistent body of classification, not this half-arsed crap. Its not about defending a purple dildo, its about defending your right to choose. Yes, a game has an anal probe, much like its predecessor had a dildo bat. Don’t like dildos? There are PLENTY of other weapons to dismember innocent civilians with. For State of Decay, you’re trying to help people with medicine when there is no-one else to do so. Its not like you’re using illicit substances (as opposed to prescription medicine) to cause people to overdose and choke on their own vomit before using your anal probe.

    How these two games get refused is beyond me, when television shows and movies are far more damaging.

  • “but it’s difficult to argue that ramming a purple dildo into the anus of innocent bystanders sans consent does not represent implied sexual violence” – No it isn’t. To be exact this is really just violence… I mean from the article the other day it then launches the person into the air and explodes, there seems to be very little about it that is “sexual”. It’s in poor taste but it doesn’t sound like a “sex act”, just murder. The only reason this could be viewed as sexual violence is due to the shape of the probe, and if thats a problem, well Saints Row the third had a giant dildo bat weapon… which should be classed as implied sexual violence, and was rated MA.
    Like I said it’s tasteless toilet humor – which can be funny from time to time – but it isn’t “implied sexual violence” (eg rape), it’s killing someone in a nasty (vaugely humorous) way.

  • I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to buy a game and then found out it’s banned. Guess I’m not going to miss out.

  • “Interactivity Looms large”. Yes indeed Mark.
    It seems that the interactivity with a purple dildo was just to much for the review board.

    • On an Australian 360 you can still import a European game with a PEGI/BBFC rating, and the game isn’t censored there AFAIK.

  • If you wanted R18 classification so that you could have an anal probe gun which allowed you to sodomise strangers, then you and I have very different views on what constitutes “adult content”

    • No I want an R18 rating where I can make my own choice if I want to purchase. If I purchase Saints Row 4 I wouldn’t be using that particular weapon, just like I never used the giant dildo in number 3.

      If the fact that it is in the game truly offends you to the point where you do not want the game then I respect your decision and your ability to vote with your wallet.

      • The amount of childish tantrums that have been thrown over this is amazing. All that’s happened is it’s been refused classification for something that very clearly isn’t wanted here.

        Even the people arguing against censorship haven’t gone so far to say they really need the purple dildo rape weapon. The assets will get removed. The game will get released. The real discussion should be about why the devs even thought this was a good idea to begin with.

    • I wanted an R18 classification that would be used as a guideline to give people an idea of the sort of content in it, without the power to ban anything – because banning content is censorship, and censorship is for assholes.

      If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Nobody is forcing you to, so don’t force YOUR choices onto someone else. I don’t care if it’s a how-to book on suicide, a video game where all you do is kill Jews, or a comic book where people use frozen dogs to rape the homeless: If it was created without impinging upon the life, liberty or property of someone without their consent, there is no reason it should not be available to adults who want to purchase it.

  • It’s just sad because the extra time and effort that the volition devs need to put in to release it in AU is going to use resources, and to offset the loss they will probably raise the price for australian retailers. However let’s face it, we’re all going to import it or gift it on steam at a cheaper price, so volition will again be at a loss. So that screws over Volition, now onto the AU government, they’re always complaining about us buying things online and threaten to put massive taxes on private importing because it’s not stimulating our economy. So what do they do? ban AAA titles that would rake in massive amounts of revenue. Got an IQ of 50 or less? no problem at all, join the Australian government, we’ll give you lots of money and you don’t have to do a damn thing.

  • When it’s a good price on Zavvi (PS3) or Amazon (PC Steam Key) I’ll pick it up then. But publishers and developers should just not bother submitting adult games in Australia since our own government doesn’t bother to treat us as adults.

    I’ll continue to make my careful purchase choices based on my own research and my own judgement as an adult. And if that means import only then so be it!

  • There is something you can do: If you meet someone in favour of censorship, educate them on how it is wrong to force their views onto other people. If that doesn’t work, excoriate them. Make them ashamed to be a book-burning pile of crap. If that doesn’t work, they’re probably old and will hopefully die soon.

  • It’s high time we stopped allowing these government moral censors to control what we can and can’t consume as entertainment.

    It’s time for the publishers and distributors of these games to step up and take action. They should be releasing this game without a rating. Damn the law. The law is wrong.

    Retailers should be selling this game, unrated. Restrict it to adults only of course. Why should anyone else have the right to say what video games adults can play?

    The law is completely broken here. I’m willing to go around it and obtain things that are not classified. Why are we so lenient on the people who actually make money here? I’m giving away my money, and taking on all the risk. It’s time they stood up and took some action.

  • A large part of what annoys Australians, Is that we get a kiddy-tier classification set of rules, whilst every other country allows content which was intended for adults.

    Sure, game stores are sometimes too lazy to ask for proof of age, But that happens everywhere.
    Maybe the classification board should tell parents to raise their children properly, Then people wouldn’t have to worry about the R18+ rating influencing stupid kids.

  • This happens because we’re leading the world in pandering to puritanical sissies with no fucking common sense. We don’t deal with the real villains and the real crimes over here. That’s too difficult and inhumane apparently. It’s much easier to look progressive if we overreact and accuse decent people of being a closet bigots over the slightest thing. Punish society as a whole and not the perpetrators.

    I guess that makes me a misogynistic racist or something. Whatever. I appreciate humour and no one gets hurt because of it.

  • This is bullshit. Mr. Mark Serrels you need to try harder. You are in the media and you simply submit to their censorship? I don’t care what the content is, refusing these games entry to our country has to stop. Parallel to this argument runs the argument about censorship of the internet in our country. CLASSIFY THE GODDAMNED MEDIA AND LET US DECIDE FOR OURSELVES. CLASSIFY!!!

  • This argument makes me furious, people are just missing the point, it’s not about wanting our “drugs and purple dildos”. We are being denied our freedom to choose. I’m sick of being coddled by this strongly Christian backed group.

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