Games Censorship: C


 

 

 

 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

aka Bloodhunt

Developed by Infinity Ward, Inc. / 2009 / MobyGames

This game has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included because it was a controversial title.

 

In September 2009, CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence) rating. It was submitted under the title BLOODHUNT to disguise it from fans and the press.

 

 

Leaked airport massacre footage

On October 28th 2009, leaked footage claiming to be from the game began to appear on several sites. It included a mission where players could join a group of Russian terrorists and shoot civilians in an airport.

Fearing that this could damage the title, Activision soon released a statement.

 

Modern Warfare 2 massacre 'not representative of overall experience' - Activision
au.gamespot.com, October 29, 2009

"The leaked footage was taken from a copy of game that was obtained illegally and is not representative of the overall gameplay experience in Modern Warfare 2,"

"Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare 2 features a deep and gripping storyline in which players face off against a terrorist threat dedicated to bringing the world to the brink of collapse,"

"The game includes a plot involving a mission carried out by a Russian villain who wants to trigger a global war. In order to defeat him, the player infiltrates his inner circle. The scene is designed to evoke the atrocities of terrorism."

"At the beginning of the game, players encounter a mandatory 'checkpoint' in which they are warned that an upcoming segment may contain disturbing elements, and they can choose not to engage in the gameplay that involves this scene."

 

 

Airport massacre controversy reaches Australia

In Australia, the usual suspects were soon calling for CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2's MA15+ rating to be reviewed.

Outrage as terrorist game lets players massacre civilians
smh.com.au, October 29, 2009

Jane Roberts, president of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, called on the Classification Board to review its rating decision.

She said even if the game maintained an MA15+ rating it would still be easily accessible by people under 15.

"The consequences of terrorism are just abhorrent in our community and yet here we are with a product that's meant to be passed off as a leisure time activity, actually promoting what most world leaders speak out publicly against," said Roberts, who is also the principal policy officer in Western Australia's Department of Premier and Cabinet.

"We understand that it's a game but ... we're not far off when you look at the images that you could actually put it on a Channel Nine news report and you'd think maybe that is real.

"If that material was on the internet about how to become a terrorist, how to join a group and how to wipe out people - that would be removed because it would not be acceptable."

South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, said: "Expecting game designers to be responsible by not glorifying terrorism will always lead to disappointment."

 

 

MA15+ (Strong Violence) Report

In November, Gamespot obtained the Classification Board report for CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2.

Modern Warfare 2 safe for sale down under
au.gamespot.com
, November 10, 2009

"The game contains violence that is strong in impact and justified by the context," the report states. "[In a mission], a player goes undercover with the terrorist Makarov and may (but is not required to) assist in the massacre of Russian civilians at an airport. During this mission, several civilians are shot with blood-burst bullet wounds; civilian corpses are strewn across the airport floor, often in stylised pools of blood; injured civilians crawl away with lengthy blood trails behind them; however, corpses disappear at random and no postmortem damage can be inflicted. The impact of this depiction of violence does not exceed strong, and in all other levels, the killing of a civilian will result in immediate mission failure."

 

 

Michael Atkinson to call for a review

In an interview with ABC radio, Michael Atkinson, the South Australian Attorney-General, said that he would appeal against the MA15+ rating that the Classification Board had awarded the game.

Does Australia need an R18+ rating for computer games?
abc.net.au/rn/nationalinterest, November 20, 2009

The decision on this game to give it an MA15+ classification and in that sort of Commonwealth Classification Board I'll be appealing against that classification. I think it's wrong, it doesn't surprise me because the Classification Board in Australia does everything to try to get games in under the radar and film generally, but just because the system's not being applied properly, does not mean that the principals in the system are wrong.

 

 

Atkinson backs away from review

In January 2010, Michael Atkinson revealed that he had not applied to have CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 reviewed.

Atkinson "won't surrender" anti-R18+ fight
au.gamespot.com, January 19, 2010

"[Federal Minister for Home Affairs] Brendan O’Connor was planning to appeal the same game I was, and I understood that he went ahead with this appeal so there was no reason for me to do the same,"

"I don't know what the result of this appeal was."

According to the Classification Board of Australia, the Classification Review Board has not received an appeal on any video game classification decision from O'Connor in 2009 or 2010. The board also told GameSpot AU in November last year that no appeal from Atkinson had been received, which indicates that neither minister followed up his intentions to appeal Modern Warfare 2.

 

 

Complaints to the Classification Board

MA15+ Computer Games
Classification Board Annual Report 2009-2010

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Reflex is a first person shooter game for the Nintendo Wii. The Board classified the game MA 15+ with consumer advice of ‘Strong violence’. The game contains violence that is strong in impact and justified by context. Players fire handheld weapons such as sniper rifles and machine guns, throw grenades and perform melee attacks. When opponents are shot, some blood spray is seen and occasionally blood pooling is depicted after opponents fall to the ground dead. The Board found the violence to be strong in playing impact and justified by context.

 

Complaints
Computer Games
Classification Board Annual Report 2009-2010

Nine correspondents complained that the MA 15+ classification for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was too low, with many citing the violence and terrorism themes. One complained of an inconsistency between the classification of this game and Left 4 Dead 2. This game was classified RC by the Classification Board, but on appeal was subsequently classified MA 15+ by the Classification Review Board, with consumer advice of ‘Strong science fiction violence’.

 

 

November 2011: Community attitudes to violence in video games

In October and November 2011, the Australian Law Reform Commission conducted a study to gauge community attitudes to 'high-level material'. It was carried out as part of their research for the Classification: Content Regulation and Convergent Media Final Report that was released in March 2012.

The study, which includes an explanation of the methodology, and the final report, can be found at alrc.gov.au

The groups were shown footage from CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 (2009), F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN (2008), and MORTAL KOMBAT (2011), and then asked to rate them.

 

Community attitudes to higher level media content
Community and Reference Group Forums conducted for the Australian Law Reform Commission
Final Report: 7 December 2011

CG = Community Groups
RG = Reference Groups

 

18. Violence in Computer Games

Personal Response

Each participant’s immediate personal response was indicated by raising one of three cards immediately after the viewing of the footage and then recording this response in the questionnaire. Based on the metaphor of the traffic light, a red card implies 'yes, this content is offensive to me', a yellow card implies 'I’m unsure whether the content is offensive or not to me’ and a green card implies 'no, the content is not offensive to me'.

 

Description

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: in this game you are an undercover operative with a terrorist group. The activity occurs in an airport lounge. Passengers in the lounge are fired upon with machine gun fire.

Airport Scene

Community Groups
15: Yes, offensive
2: Unsure
13: No, not offensive

Reference Groups
16: Yes, offensive
7: Unsure
5: No, not offensive

 

Description

Mortal Kombat: the aim of the game is to beat an opponent using a variety of violent moves, sometimes with weapons, including slicing bodies with chainsaws .

Fighter Scene

Community Groups
8: Yes, offensive
6: Unsure
16: No, not offensive

Reference Groups
3: Yes, offensive
2: Unsure
22: No, not offensive

 

Description

F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin: the aim of the game is to engage in war moves to combat an enemy. Harm is caused by using a variety of weapons including guns, rocket launchers, hand grenades and nail guns.

Lift Well Scene

Community Groups
5: Yes, offensive
9: Unsure
16: No, not offensive

Reference Groups
4: Yes, offensive
3: Unsure
21: No, not offensive

 

Violence In Computer Games – Detailed Analysis

Was the material offensive?

CG participants were generally unsure or not offended by the material, with comments such as ‘one expects a level of blood and gore’, ‘it’s all fantastical’, and ‘it’s comic book material’.

A minority found the footage offensive and noted that ‘it was unacceptable that it’s becoming acceptable’ and that ‘internet gaming assists in making violence so acceptable’. One commented that the more she was thinking about it, the more offended she was getting: ‘If it had been real people (e.g. in a movie) I would have been instantly offended’.

The airport content in Call of Duty was identified as the most offensive, generally noted as being due to it portraying violence directed at innocent people, e.g. ‘it’s too close to reality’. One participant noted the potentially negative effect of such violence particularly on refugee children.

RG participants often questioned the validity of the term "offensive" to describe their reactions to the video game material.

RG 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.

 

Was the material impactful?

CG and RG participants 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.

There was recognition from some participants that computer games may have a more serious impact than what people generally think or give them credit for, and that ‘it can be the tipping point (i.e. inciting violence) for some people’.

 

Should the material be banned or restricted?

CG and RG participants 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 content regarded by most participants as being unsuitable for games included content that has a superfluous role in the story, sexual violence, and graphic scenes of torture.

 

CG participants with a gaming background introduced into the discussion the point that ‘artists search for the craziest way to finish off someone’, and that it's the creativity of the designer that gamers focus on, not necessarily the violence being portrayed. They also noted that gamers are able to „skip‟ certain footage of the game, but that ‘gamers often don’t choose this option because then they miss out on the artistry’. The dexterity required of players to perform certain of the actions was also highlighted. It should also be noted that numbers of participants indicated that they had never played computer games before. There was also an admission by many CG participants who were parents that more often than not, very little attention was given the supervision of the computer games their children played.

Several participants from particularly the RG groups made the point that they were viewing the content solely from an adult perspective, and that this was a separate issue from their equally important view that the content was not suitable for children. CG participants also struggled to separate their own opinions from their concerns about children – as one noted, ‘I’ve got 8 and 11 year old grandchildren so I find it difficult to separate my views from what would be suitable for them’.

There was strong debate amongst some RG 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 (e.g. ‘context is critical to determine if violence is gratuitous or not’) to the sense of offence actually increasing due to the context the player was placed in (e.g. ‘needing to shoot innocent people at the airport’) to the view that they had only been asked to rate their responses to the extracts of content, not to consider contextual issues. Some RG participants (who were not gamers) indicated that they felt they could change their attitudes toward the material on the basis of arguments made about the context, i.e. that the context could be critical in determining whether the violence was gratuitous or not, but this sentiment was by no means uniform.

 

Degree To Which Opinions Changed After Open Discussion

There was some evidence of opinions changing after the open discussion but only in half a dozen or so instances. These mainly applied to participants who felt that some content should be made illegal to purchase in the shops and/or blocked on the internet.

There was also some evidence, although to a lesser extent, of a change in some participants‟ viewpoints in relation to computer games with contrasting views between the sale of the content and access to it on the internet. For three of the materials shown – Mortal Kombat, Call of Duty and F.E.A.R.2 – viewpoints changed to make this content legal for sale in shops. For this same content opinions were divided about whether it should be blocked on the internet with as many agreeing it should with those who felt unsure. This represented a line of thought amongst participants that the material is easier to control at the point of sale than it is on the internet.

 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Activision Blizzard [au] PS3


 

 

 

 

Carmageddon

Developed by Stainless Software / 1997 / MobyGames

This game has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included because it was a controversial title.

 

In June 1997, CARMAGEDDON was passed with an MA15+ (High Level Animated Violence) rating. Hilad Corporation was the applicant.

 

In their Annual Report from 1996 to 1997, the OFLC explained the reasons for the decision.

Probably the most notable classification decision in the last twelve months has been the restricted MA15+ classification for the PC racing game Carmageddon. The game received quite a lot of media attention and caused some concern in the community both prior to and after its release on CD-ROM. Before being formally classified, a 'demo' version of the game had been (and apparently still is) available via the Internet to players of any age.

In Carmageddon the player races an animated car around a track, and can gain bonus points by passing checkpoints and by driving over obstacles. Bonus points are also awarded for driving over pedestrians, and it is this aspect of the game that gained people's attention. Media reports concentrated on the presence in the game of 'blind pedestrians'. This was presented erroneously as the targeting of a minority disabled group. In fact, the game contains an effect (which occurs when a particular object is run over by the car) which temporarily renders all pedestrians on screen blinded. The effect lasts for a number of seconds.

The Classification Board was divided in its opinion on the game. However, the majority were of the view that, despite the strong conceptual impact of aspects of the game, the depictions involved were unrealistic and undetailed, and the main focus in game-play was on competition and skill. These and other mitigating factors present in the game, such as an element of black humour, were noted in its decision. The majority the Board was also of the view that the game was not appropriate for younger players and should be legally restricted to a mature audience 15 years and over.

 

 

CARMAGEDDON SPLAT PACK: MA15+

In January 1998, an add-on to the original game, CARMAGEDDON SPLAT PACK, was passed with an MA15+ (High Level Animated Violence) rating. Hilad Corporation was the applicant.

 

For more information on CARMAGEDDON in Australia, see Anthony Larme's Dangerous Games? page.

 

Carmageddon - Sales Curve Interactive [uk] PC


 

 

 

 

Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now

Developed by Stainless Software / 1998 / MobyGames

This game has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included because it was a controversial title.

 

In October 1998, CARMAGEDDON 2: CARPOCALYPSE NOW was passed with an MA15+ (High Level Animated Violence) rating. Ozisoft was the applicant.

 

In their Annual Report from 1997 to 1998, the OFLC explained the reasons for the decision.

Carmageddon II - Carpocalypse Now is an animated car racing game. It is a sequel to Carmageddon, which was released in Australia in 1997 with an 'MA15+' classification. As with the original game, the object is to increase your driver ranking and proceed through a number of racing formats and levels. The player, as a driver of one of a number of cars, races around or near to a predetermined race track, passes checkpoints, and aims to beat other competitors or complete the race within a limited time. As the player progresses around the race track bonus points are awarded for gameplay, including hitting competitors' cars or other targets such as 'barrels' (special effect triggers) and 'pedestrians' including people, animals and mutants.

The Board noted that while some people may view with concern the conceptual impact of visual depictions in the game, such depictions are animated, very unrealistic and highly stylised. The Board was of the view that the impact of such elements is mitigated by the intensity of the competitive skill-based gameplay and the need to master the game controls.

The Board recognised that the game contains strong concepts supported by gory but unrealistic animated visuals which may be of concern to some people and which are not suitable for younger children. Accordingly, the Board legally restricted the game to a mature audience 15 years and over, with consumer advice of 'High Level Animated Violence'.

 

Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now - Sales Curve Interactive [uk] PC


 

 

 

 

Casino Royale

aka Virtual Casino

Published by Gentleman Club

In April 1997, VIRTUAL CASINO (said to be CASINO ROYALE) was banned in Australia. The New South Wales Police Service was the applicant.


 

 

 

 

Crimecraft

Developed by Vogster Entertainment / 2009 / MobyGames

In November 2009, CRIMECRAFT was banned because of drug use, which was used as an incentive or reward. Vogster Entertainment was the applicant.

 

Thanks to Joab from GameArena for the Classification Board report.

Australian Government
Classification Board
File No: T09/5626
Decision Report

Classification decisions are made in accordance with the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act), the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines.

Production Details:

Title: CRIMECRAFT
Alternate titles:
Publisher: VOGSTER ENTERTAINMENT
Programmer: VOGSTER ENTERTAINMENT
Production Company:
Year of Production: 2009
Duration: VARIABLE
Version: ORIGINAL
Format: MULTI PLATFORM
Country/ies of origin: USA
Language/s: ENGLISH
Application type: CG2
Applicant: VOGSTER ENTERTAINMENT, LLC

Dates:
Date application received by the Classification Board: 23 October 2009
Date of decision: 26 November 2009

 

Decision:
Classification: RC
Consumer advice:

A senior panellist has confirmed that the application considered was valid under the Act and that this Decision Report accurately reflects the Board's decision and any minority opinions.

 

Synopsis:
This massively multiplayer online (MMO) game is a third person shooter set in a rundown city in which a player can play in free for all, team death match, capture the flag, capture the points or player versus environment modes. A player can also undertake missions set by non-playable characters, learn a profession, trade goods and form a gang, The aim of the game is to become the most reputable player, achieve the highest character level, form the best gang, possess the best wares and kill the most players.

 

Reasons for the Decision:
In making this decision, the Classification Board has applied the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005 (the Guidelines).

In the Board's view this game warrants an 'RC' classification in accordance with item 1(a) of the computer games table of the National Classification Code:

"1. Computer games that:

(a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified;" will be Refused Classification,

The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games state:

"Interactivity includes the use of incentives and rewards, technical features and competitive intensity. As a general rule:...material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives or rewards is Refused Classification."

The game contains the option to manufacture, trade and self-administer legal "medicines" and illegal "boosts", which are made up of various elements and sold "on the streets". Boosts are sometimes referred to as "drugs" both in the game and in the Applicant's submissions to the Board. There are five categories of boosts as follows:

- Bolsters, which "improve a player's health";
- Cicatrizants, which "improve a player's regeneration rates";
- E-genes, which "improve a player's ability to resist attacks";
- Anabolics, which "improve a player's ability to cause damage"; and
- Psychostims, which "improve a player's accuracy".

The Board notes that the category "anabolics" is named after a class of proscribed drugs and that the Applicant described boosts as "like real-life steroids". In addition, the names of boosts mimic the chemical and colloquial names of proscribed drugs. Examples include "K-dust", "Birth", "Chimera", "Majoun", "Betadyne ResistX" and "Zymek Stim-Ex" as well as the anabolics "Raze" and "Frenzy". Boosts are depicted by a range of icons including pills, medicine bottles, syringes, rubber tubes, medicinal equipment, weights, DNA-strands and plants,

A player can choose to pursue the profession of chemist as either a "Bio-Forger", who crafts customisable illegal boosts, or a "Med-Seeker", who crafts legal medicines. A detailed list of available ingredients for creating boosts includes many real-world items such as base chemicals, nucleotides, hormones and enzymes as well as tools and objects associated with the production or use of drugs including syringes, disposable rubber tubes and silkscreen filters. Available fictional ingredients are given abstruse names such as "alemomycin", "obelprofen", "adenaze", "ODP", "lithione" and "schenoids". These names parallel existing chemical compounds and this, along with the detailed crafting prodecure, strengthens the correlation between boosts and rea'l-world proscribed drugs.

All boosts are administered in the same manner. The character quickly injects him or herself in the leg with an auto-injector device in a depiction reminiscent of the administration of an adrenaline shot. The text "drug effect" appears onscreen and there is a positive effect in one set of player statistics coupled with a negative effect in another set of statistics. For example, a boost may increase accuracy but decrease regeneration rates. The Applicant has stated: "The negative effect is sometimes substantial, but this effect is balanced against the increased strength of the boost's positive effects." Boosts are intended to be used to gain short-term rewards or benefits in various scenarios within the game where the negative effects are mitigated by the positive effects.

Furthermore, a skill which a player may acquire is known as "Addicted" and is represented by an icon depicting a bloodshot eye. The skill is described by in-game text as follows: "After a long period of usage, you have learned the fastest way to start feeling the effects of medicines and boosts while not endangering your health. This ability leads to a global reduction in the cooldown timer of all medicines and boosts."

The Applicant has stated: "In CrimeCraft there are drug enhancements called "Boosts". They are fictional drugs that improve a players stats [sic] while in battle for a small period of time." In the Board's opinion, there is insufficient delineation between the "fictional drugs" available in the game and real-world proscribed drugs. Boosts parallel the names, chemical elements, administration, treatment and addictive effects of real-world proscribed drugs and, when used, provide quantifiable benefits to a player's character. This game therefore contains drug use related to incentives or rewards and should be Refused Classification.

 

Decision:
This game is Refused Classification.

 

 

CRIMECRAFT: The final word

RC Computer Games
Classification Board Annual Report 2009-2010

Crimecraft is another computer game that was classified RC by the Board during the reporting period. This multiplayer online game is a third person shooting game set in a rundown city in which a player can play in various modes. In the Board’s opinion, there is insufficient delineation in the game between the fictional drugs or ‘boosts’ available to players in the game and real-world proscribed drugs. Boosts parallel the names, chemical elements, administration, treatment and addictive effects of real-world proscribed drugs and, when used, provide quantifiable benefits to a player’s character. The Board found that the game therefore contains drug use related to incentives or rewards and classified it RC.

 

Crimecraft - Vogster Entertainment [us] Online


 

 

 

 

Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors

Developed by Nippon Ichi Software / 2015 / Official Site

This game has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included because it was a controversial title.

 

In August 2016, Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) America announced that they would not be submitting CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS to the Australian Classification Board.

The announcement came after the game was banned in Germany, and a week before the Classification Board banned another Japanese title, VALKYRIE DRIVE BHIKKHUNI (2015).

 

Criminal Girls 2 Will Only Carry ESRB and PEGI Ratings
nisamerica.com, August 5, 2016

Today we are disappointed to announce that the Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK), Germany’s video game ratings board, has refused to provide a rating for Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors. This is an unfortunate blow to the game, and for fans of the series, and means that the title will not be advertised or sold at retail in Germany.

We have filed an official objection requesting a rating for the game, but the USK has stood firm in their refusal citing the potential for the game to qualify as “content severely harmful to minors” which could violate certain clauses of the German penal law. German Penal Law dictates that a game cannot be rated if the panel of experts suspects that the content would fall within the purview of these laws. (More information from Germany’s Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors)

We will still be releasing Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors in other regions for Europe carrying a PEGI 16 rating on September 23, and in North America with an M rating on September 20. There will be no release of Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors in Australia or with an OFLC rating. For more information about the game, please visit our official game website, www.CriminalGirls2.com.

 

The version that NIS America declined to submit had already been censored to remove sexual content that was present in the Japanese version.

Four Changes to Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors
nisamerica.com, June 1, 2016

1 - Redrawn art.
We had a bit more time to work on this title. We didn’t want to make any alterations to the game that would be jarring to the experience or feel “off,” so we worked with the original artist of the game who redrew the art for the Motivation scenes that might have caused issues due to their explicit nature. We didn’t want the game experience to change though, so we are also investing the extra effort into incorporating Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors’s unique Live 2D effect into the new art.

2 - Terminology changes.
As with the first in the series, Criminal Girls: Invite Only, “Punishment” will be framed as “Motivation,” and other terminology changes from the first game will also apply here. There may be a few other translation changes as well. This reduces the power distance between the player character and the girls in the Reformation Program and makes the activities of the game more consensual.

FAQ
5. Why was the terminology changed?
Two of the main concerns that ratings boards had in regards to Criminal Girls: Invite Only were power imbalance and consent. To avoid this, we decided to change some of the terminology to reframe the situations to be accepted by the ratings boards. Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors follows the same trend for consistency.

 

Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors (2015) - Nippon Ichi Software [jp] PS Vita


 

 

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