Outlast 2's New Classification Report Is Interesting Reading

Image: Outlast 2

As regulars are aware, Outlast 2 will officially go on sale in Australia with an R18+ rating after going through a couple of rounds with the Classification Board. The game was initially banned for implicit sexual violence that was showcased in an alpha video of the game that was incorrectly sent to the board.

The Board quoted one scene in particular when Outlast 2 was initially banned. Question is, what changed in the final version of the game?

In the latest copy of the Classification Board's report, which has been provided to Kotaku Australia, the censors have helped outline some of the changes in Outlast 2 that illustrate why it was eligible for an R18+ the second time around.

For reference, here's the passage from the Board when Outlast 2 was originally banned. Warning: this passage contains a description of implied sexual violence.

Image: Supplied

In one cut-scene in the game ... a female creature prepares Blake for a ritual. She says, "I want to see your true face. Your seed will burn this world." Shortly afterwards, he objects to having psycho-active dust blown into his face, yelling, "Nope! Nope!" before he stumbles into a forest clearing.

His vision blurring, he witnesses what appears to a ritualistic orgy. His wife, Lynn, calls out for his help, saying, "It hurts! Oh god!," as she hangs from chains on a raised platform at the front of the clearing. Humanoid creatures, their skin grey, spattered with blood and scarred, implicity have sex as others pray, or chant, or gesticulate.

One creature has another bent over a rock, thrusting as they implicitly have rear-entry sex, another sits astride the pelvic region of a creature prone on the ground, moving their hips rhythmically as they too implicitly have sex. Two other pairs of creatures in the clearing are also implicitly having sex.

As Blake yells for the creatures to "Get away from her!" a female creature, her greyish breasts bared, pushes him onto his back, holds his arms to the ground and repeatedly thrusts her crotch against him. As Blake protests, saying "No! Stop that!" the creature thrusts again, before placing its face over his midsection and then sitting up and wiping its mouth.

Although much of the contact between the creature and Blake is obscurred, by it taking place below screen, the sexualised surroundings and aggressive behaviour of the creature suggest that it is an assault which is sexual in nature. The Board is of the opinion that this, combined with Blake's objections and distress, constitutes a depiction of implied sexual violence.

In the Board's opinion, the above example constitutes a depiction of implied sexual violence and therefore cannot be accommodated within the R18+ classification category and the game is therefore Refused Classification.

In the latest report from the board, the scene is described as a segment of gameplay where the player is able to move around, rather than being bound, and the interaction with the female demonic creature is removed:

In one section of gameplay, the player, as Blake, stumbles into a forest clearing after having psycho-active dust blown into his face. Blake's vision blurring, he witnesses what appears to be a ritualistic orgy. Humanoid creatures, their skin grey and scarred, implicitly have sex as other pray, or chant, or gesticulate. One creature on the right side of the clearing has another bent over a rock, thrusting as they implicitly have rear-entry sex. The player can approach the couple and view the implicit sex from different perspectives, but no genital detail is viewed.

Importantly, the Board wrote that Outlast 2 contained "no actual sexual violence nor does it contain implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards."

"Themes and violence are inextricably linked by the game's narrative, in which the player's character, Blake Langermann, finds himself navigating a hellish world when his wife, Lynn, is abducted," the report added.

Other Outlast 2 scenes described focus more on their violence and gore, rather than anything of a sexual nature. If you don't want to have the game spoiled for you, look away now:

Image: Supplied

In one section of gameplay, Blake entres a room to find a man, Josiah, chained to a spiked wheel, next to a large pile of maimed and bloody bodies. The wall behind is covered with blood spray and blood coats the floor beneath. He has the word "Judas" carved into his chest and his eyes appear to be gouged out. He begs Blake, saying, "Kill me. You have to kill me. Knoth is coming back. With MARY. He'll hurt her and I'll talk."

Knoth and two of his henchmen enter the room dragging Mary, Josiah's wife, and strap her to a rack-like torture device. She is already covered in cuts and blood. Knoth interrogates Josiah about the whereabouts of Blake's wife, Lynn, and when he does not give a satisfactory answer Knoth commands his henchmen to wind the rack, saying, "Make the woman scream.".

He does so, causing the woman to struggle and scream in agony as she is stretched. Josiah begs for them to stop the torture, before his will breaks and he tells Knoth of Lynn's location. Another of Knoth's henchmen then implicitly kills Josiah with an axe, before they leave the room, with Mary still strapped to the rack.

What's intriguing between the latest report and the first one appears to be a difference in perspective: the Board seemed to be much more appreciative of context and surrounding. That's not to say implied sexual violence would be appropriate in Outlast 2 at all, but the note about sexual violence "not justified by context" is an indication that the Board would accept with implied sexual violence, provided it was neither interactive nor incentivised. (Both points were the breaking point for GTA: San Andreas and the Hot Coffee scandal.)

There's also another note towards the end of the report which reads as a warning of sorts to the developers. "If the Board is of the opinion that a classified computer game contains contentious material (whether activated through use of a code or otherwise) that was not brought to the Board's attention in accordance with subsection 14(4) or 17(2) before the classification was made and if the Board had been aware of the material before the classification was made, it would have given the game a different classification, the Board must revoke the classification."

Basically: if the original Outlast 2 scene is ever re-released via DLC, or patched into the game at a later date, the Board reserves the right to revoke its classification and ban it from sale all over again.

Outlast 2 launches in Australia on April 26 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

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Comments

    In video-game terms, it was aeons ago but I remember a podcast I was listening to re Saint's Row 4 (DLC?) and the developer's to and fro's with the Board at the time.

    It was the Giant Bomb team, they read a statement from the makers of the game detailing that while there was content cut from the game to appease the Australian classifiers, it was not important or something to that effect.

    The GB boys then went on to pick holes in what the developer was telling the portion of their audience who would be buying an Aussie copy.

    The podcasts at the site are all of course saved there, but I can't for the life of me remember when it was exactly or how the conversation went.

    My point is, when game developers talk about their games in this fashion before it's about to be released in this country, they should expect to be scrutinised.

    I never played San Andreas, wasn't that just excised content that remained in the game's programing that you could access through some convoluted process?

      Yep. You literally had to use a pc program to go in, activate a modded version of the game to access unfinished data to utilise the content. The funniest part out of all of this, is that you could pretty much do this later on in GTA IV anyhow (oral sex, full sex etc) in the dlc, which itself was uncut in australia.

      I don't know squat about game development so I'm a bit confused about what's usually included in an Alpha build. Aren't they usually used to show and test core gameplay mechanics? Like movement, level layout, enemy AI, lighting engines etc? Why would a fully realised (or at least complete enough to fool the classification board into thinking it was representative of the final build) demon orgy cut scene, that presumably takes place well into the game, appear in an Alpha build? That seems like some pretty unusual Alpha content to me...

    I really don't like our ratings system. I think we are all a little precious when it comes to how we decide what is appropriate. I personally hated hatred, that doesn't mean I think it should be banned, quite to the contrary I believe it is important for it to br released so that we may criticize it appropriately.

    I believe sexual violence and drug use in video games are ridiculous reasons for anything to be banned. It is Broke Back Mountain being banned levels of precious.

      Fair point. They don't call us a nanny state for no reason.

      Except Brokeback Mountain wasn't banned, since I saw it at the cinema in Oz?

        It was going to be by the conservative types when first announced.

          Are you conflating conservative outrage with the actual classification process? Yes, conservative groups were up in arms about the content, but it was never at risk of being banned as far as I recall.

    Maybe it's just me, but I'm fine with not having rape in a game.

      That's missing the point, though. One adult may find it objectional, where another might not. An adult rating means that it boils down to a responsible adult making the choice, not the government making the choice for us. The principle of the matter has nothing to do with Outlast 2 specifically, but rather the OFLCs status as an advisory board and our rights as adults.

        One adult may find it objectional, where another might not. An adult rating means that it boils down to a responsible adult making the choice, not the government making the choice for us.

        Perhaps, but that logic can be easily used to say things such as including child porn in a game should be acceptable because it boils down to a responsible adult making the choice, not the government.

        From my point of view though, I have to wonder what 'responsible' adult enjoys having rape as part of their entertainment.

          Well, no, because child porn is straight up illegal. You are looking at it solely from your perspective. Keep an open mind, and try not to miss the point: its not about the implied sexual violence, it's about censorship. As an adult you may find it objectional, but I respect your right to form your own opinion about it. Perhaps it is necessary for the story, perhaps you are unphased, or perhaps you find it objectional straight away. You should have the right to view it yourself if you wish and make up your own mind.

          It is nothing worse than what has been represented in other mediums before, and the content itself is not inherently illegal or taboo. It is heavy, but your government should advise you of this, and label it as adult content.

          I am happy for them to reject child porn as it is illegal, immoral, and to be honest I would not even need them to ban it for me to avoid it entirely. I don't "enjoy rape", I enjoy being able to make my own mind up where the content is heavy.

          The important difference with child porn is that the creation of child porn requires the abuse of an actual living victim.

          If we're talking about digital children who don't actually exist being shown pornographically... urgh, that's pretty gross... I don't see any reason that something like that should be legal to sell, no. Definitely not a hill I'd want to die on. Frankly I don't think it should be illegal to posses, though. If there's no victim there's no crime as far as I'm concerned.

          As a fan of horror I've enjoyed movies that included portrayals of rape (...including of minors for that matter, in Snowtown - a movie which was somehow only rated MA in Australia). But it'd be a bit off the mark to say that I 'enjoy' rape scenes in movies - they're deeply uncomfortable and disturbing. To be made deeply uncomfortable and disturbed is part of the reason I like watching horror movies.

          I don't think the portrayal of any topic should be off-limits. Maybe the glorification of certain things should be. Then again, we don't always ban movies/games that glorify wanton murder, so I'm not sure quite where to draw the line. Depictions of sexual violence and pedophilia seem like reasonable things to bar from retail distribution if those things are portrayed positively though, absolutely.

          But in the context of a horror game? As long as people buying it know what they're in for and nobody had to be harmed to make it, I think its fair game to include basically any content you want, even if its just for shock value. It might be crap and it might be pretty offensive but neither of those are reasons to stop adults from consuming it if they want to.

    PSA: bad things never happen in real life so they can't possibly be reflected in creative mediums. Think of the children

    I'm so psyched for this, the first one is one of my favourite Horrors.

    I'm definitely in the camp of people saying that a game shouldn't be banned because of a rape scene. If it's necessary for the plot and isn't anything remotely like a quicktime "press these buttons to rape" scenario then there's no reason to exclude it.

    I mean, look at the new Netflix show 13 reasons why. There's a lot of uncomfortable sexual violence in that, but it wasn't banned in Australia.
    Kind of a different idea since it displays it to send a message, but still.

    "..but the note about sexual violence "not justified by context" is an indication that the Board would accept with implied sexual violence, provided it was neither interactive nor incentivised."

    The Board was merely quoting from their own guideines. Also, implied sexual violence can't be visually depicted. "incentivised" = related to incentives and rewards.

    You would have noticed R 18+ games that have the warning of "References to sexual violence." That's because sexual violence in games can really only be depicted as text or spoken word, or possibly off-screen where you can hear it. As long as it isn't out of bounds in any other way that both you and I have outlined.

    "(Both points were the breaking point for GTA: San Andreas and the Hot Coffee scandal.)"

    Wrong. That was sexual activity, not sexual violence. Also, that was back in 2005 when the old, pre-R 18+ guidelines were in effect. The problem was that the hidden "Hot Coffee" content was contentious material that wasn't brought to the attention of the Board when they rated the game - and also that the content would have caused the Board to apply a different classification if they had seen it the first time. This part of the guidelines is still included in the current guidelines.

    GTA: San Andreas was a revocation of the MA 15+ rating (making it unclassified and therefore illegal to sell/hire/advertise) as opposed to an RC (the effect was the same). Then the applicant removed the "Hot Coffee" content and this version was rated MA 15+.

    http://www.refused-classification.com/censorship/games/grand-theft-auto-series.html#grand-theft-auto-san-andreas
    quoting:
    The banned (revoked) segments feature interactive sex scenes between CJ and one of his six girlfriends in the game.

    In each of the scenes, which vary between the girlfriends, CJ is invited into the house after the couple have gone on a date.

    In one version there is a short animated scene where CJ receives oral sex from his naked girlfriend.

    The next segment is interactive. CJ starts off in the missionary position with his still-naked girlfriend. The player can control the "rhythm" and position of the sex. The better the "rhythm", the more the excitement meter of CJ's girlfriend rises.

    If the player fails to get the right "rhythm", the game announces that "failure to satisfy a woman is a crime" and CJ is promptly booted out onto the street. If the player gets it right, the girlfriend proposes matrimony.
    end quoting:
    That's not to say that interactive sex scenes in general couldn't have been rated MA 15+ back then or R 18+ now. Also, sexual activity and/or nudity related to incentives and rewards is actually permitted at R 18+. Within limits of course.

    Old (games/film combined) guidelines:
    https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2008C00126

    Current games guidelines:
    https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2012L01934

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