Games Censorship: F


 

 

 

 

Fable

Developed by Big Blue Box - Lionhead Studios / 2004 / MobyGames

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

 

In June 2004, FABLE was passed with an M (Medium level animated violence) rating. Microsoft was the applicant.

 

 

Peter Beattie vs. FABLE

Just over a year later, the Queensland Premier spoke about FABLE in Parliament.

Queensland Parliament
Weekly Hansard
51st Parliament
Thursday, 11 August 2005

MINISTERIAL STATEMENT
Violent Video Games

Hon. PD BEATTIE (Brisbane Central—ALP) (Premier and Treasurer) (9.36 am):

In the course of seeking information this week about Getting Up, I learned of the existence of another computer game which also may warrant action. Fable, which has been classified M15+ with the consumer advice ‘medium level animated violence’, is said to promote violence. Women’s groups have complained that it encourages male violence against women. This is anathema to most Queenslanders and certainly to this government. Domestic violence is a crime; it can murder, it can maim and it can leave women and children traumatised and emotionally scarred. As we see too often in Queensland, it can throw families and entire communities into dysfunction.

The government encourages creativity and Queensland’s home-grown computer game industry as well, but we condemn the glorification of violence to young people. The Office of Fair Trading’s classifications officer is currently examining Fable. If it is determined that the game promotes violence, we will not hesitate in asking the federal government to take appropriate action.

 

 

Complaints to the OFLC

Classification Board & Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2004 - 2005
Computer Games - Complaints

A single complaint was received about coarse language in Jak 2 [PG], the depiction of violence in The Simpsons: Hit & Run [G] and perceived domestic violence in Fable [MA15+].

 

Fable - Microsoft [au] Xbox


 

 

 

 

Fallout 3

Developed by Bethesda Game Studios / 2008 / MobyGames

In July 2008, FALLOUT 3 was banned because it contained material that promoted or encouraged proscribed drug use. Zenimax Europe was the applicant.

 

 

FALLOUT 3: RC report

Thanks to Raven for sending in the Classification Board's report for FALLOUT 3.

Board Report
Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995
CLASSIFICATION BOARD

DETAILS OF THE COMPUTER GAME:
FILE No T08/2707

Title: FALLOUT 3
Version: ORIGINAL
Format: . Multi Platform
Duration: VARIABLE
Publisher: ZENIMAX EUROPE LTD
Programmer: BETHESDA GAME STUDIOS
Production Co: NOT SHOWN
Country Of Origin: USA
Language: ENGLISH
Application Type: Comp Game Demonstrated
Applicant: ZENIMAX EUROPE Ltd.

PROCEDURE:
The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines are followed when classifying films, computer games and publications

Written submissions: NO
Oral submissions: YES

MATERIAL CONSIDERED:
In classifying this item regard was had to the following:
(i) The Application YES
(ii) A written synopsis of the item YES
(iii) The Item YES
(iv) Other NO

DECISION
(1) Classification: RC
(2) Consumer Advice:
(3) Key:

SYNOPSIS:
Fallout 3 is a first person shooter/ role playing game where the player has to direct their character through post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. The game involves emerging from a vault, where survivors have hidden for hundreds of years, and exploring the wasteland above.

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), including the matters set out in sections 9A and 11 of 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 majority 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 also state that, as a general rule:

"Material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives and rewards is Refused Classification. "

The game contains the option to take a variety of drugs known as "chems" using a device which is connected to the character's arm. Upon selection of the device a menu select screen is displayed. Upon this screen is a list of"chems" that the player's character can take. by means of selection. These "chems" have positive effects and some negative effects (lowering of intelligence, or the character may become addicted to the "chem"). The positive effects include increase in strength, stamina. resistance to damage. agility and hit points. Corresponding with the list of various "chems" are small visual representation of the drugs, these include syringes, tablets, pill bottles. a crack-type pipe and blister packs. In the Board's view these realistic visual representations of drugs and their delivery method bring the "science-fiction" drugs in line with "real-world" drugs.

The Guidelines also state that "Material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use" is Refused Classification.

The player can also select and use "Morphine" (a proscribed drug) which has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain when the charater's extremities are targeted by the enemy.

The Authorised Assessor's report also states that "chems are an essential part of Fallout 3, and the player will likely use a variety of them throughout the game".

In the Board's view the drug use in particular the use of a proscribed drug. via means of selection from a menu, is related to incentives and rewards as the incentive to take the drug is to progress through the game more easily and the reward is an increase in the character's abilities and as such is Refused Classification.

MINORITY VIEW
In the minority view of the Board the violence throughout the game is strong in playing impact and warrants an MA 15+ level of classification with the consumer advice of strong violence.

OTHER MATTERS CONSIDERED
The Board notes that the violence throughout the game could be accommodated at an MA 15+ level of classification.

DECISION
In the Board's view this game is Refused Classification.

 

 

FALLOUT 3: MA15+ modified version

In August 2008, a modified version was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, drug references and coarse language) rating.

In this version of FALLOUT 3, the morphine had been changed to a fictional drug.

 

The Classification Board’s Report On Australia’s Edited Fallout 3
Kotaku.com.au, August 13, 2008

They quote the Classification Board report as saying:

The drug references within the revised version are justified by context and lend a strong playing impact to the game. The drugs depicted are fictional; drugs are depicted as stylised icons on a menu with the drug use itself not depicted. Whilst navigating a post-apocalyptic futuristic landscape, players can invoke the use of a variety of "chems" listed by fictious names which include "Buff", "Rad-X", "Psycho" and "Ultrajet". Within the context of the game's narrative, the player may choose to make use of these "chems" to alter the physiological characteristics of their character in the game.

The Board noted that the "Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005" states that "as a general rule ... material that contains drug use ... related to incentives or rewards is Refused Classification" and found that relationship [sic] between drug use and the incentives and rewards is not such that it promotes or encourages the use of proscribed drugs. Therefore the game does not warrant to be Refused Classification and can be accommodated at MA15+ with a consumer advisory of "strong drug references".

Minority view:

In the minority view of the Board the drug use in the game is in excess of the general rule applied under the Guidelines. The drugs are unambiguous in their visual representations, which include pills and hypodermic needles, and are related to incentives and rewards in that the incentive to take the drug is that progress through the game is achieved more easily and the reward is an increase in the character's abilities. The game therefore warrants and 'RC' classification.

 

 

The Classification Board speak about FALLOUT 3

In August 2008, Logan Booker at Kotaku managed to get these responses from the Classification Board.

Australian Classification Board Speaks On Games, R18+ & Fallout 3
Kotaku.com.au, August 28, 2008

Kotaku AU: Regarding the use of drugs in computer games - could you elaborate on what specifically made its use in Fallout 3 too much for an MA15+ rating, and what was changed in the revised version to bring it in line?

 

Classification Board: The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (the Guidelines) provide that at the MA 15+ classification (the highest classification for computer games) drug use may be strong in impact and should be justified by context. The Guidelines also provide a general rule that material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives or rewards is RC (Refused Classification).

Accordingly, computer games may include the depiction of drug use. However, if the use of drugs provides an incentive or reward the computer game must be RC. An incentive may be the ability to progress faster through the game. A reward may be a gain in points or access to a wider choice of weapons.

In regard to the computer game Fallout 3, the Board is of the opinion that the use of morphine in the game has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain. This ability to progress through the game more easily is the incentive to take the drug while the reward is in the character's abilities.

The revised version of the game has been modified to remove the incentive and reward of progressing through the game more easily from the element of drug use. The revised version has fictional drugs depicted as stylised icons which will alter the physiological characteristics of the characters in the game.

In the decision of the Board, there is no incentive or reward to select drug use.

 

Kotaku AU: Regarding the portrayal of violence in video games - it appears dismemberment, decapitation; post-mortem damage and blood pooling are major issues for the Board, under the classification guidelines. Can you elaborate on what factors make these elements acceptable in the MA15+ category? For example, it appears to be acceptable in Fallout 3, but was deemed not so for Soldier of Fortune: Payback.

 

Classification Board: The Classification Board is of the opinion that the violence in Fallout 3 which includes large blood bursts, dismemberment and post-mortem damage is strong in impact. Strong impact violence that is justified by context can be accommodated at the MA 15+ classification.

The Board is of the opinion that the violent depictions in Soldier of Fortune: Payback exceed strong impact. In Soldier of Fortune: Payback blood spray is substantial and blood splatters on the ground and walls. The player may target various limbs of the opponents and this can result in the limb being dismembered. Large amounts of blood spray forth from the stump with the opponent sometimes remaining alive before eventually dying from the wounds. Additionally, dead bodies and blood remains on the ground. Dead bodies on the ground may be repeatedly attacked. The limbs may be shot off, resulting in large amounts of blood spray and the depiction of torn flesh and protruding bone from the dismembered limb. Shooting the head of a body will cause it to explode in a large spray of blood, leaving a bloody stump above the shoulders. Bodies will eventually disappear from the environment.

The impact provided by the amount of blood and detail of dismemberment in Soldier of Fortune: Payback exceeds that can be accommodated at MA 15+ (such as the depictions in Fallout 3).

 

 

Bethesda on games censorship

In September 2008, Bethesda's Product Manager, Pete Hines, was interviewed in response to the censorship problems of FALLOUT 3.

Bethesda: Multiple censorship laws 'frustrating'
computerandvideogames.com, September 2, 2008

Hines refused to talk specifically about the issues Fallout 3 faced with Australian censorship last month. But, on the topic of censorship in general, he told CVG: "The frustrating thing for us is that the standards and rules can be so varied across territories, that we work with five or six ratings agencies and each one has different 'hot buttons'."

He went on to explain: "In one place nudity is a big deal but violence is fine, and in another place drugs are a problem but nudity is fine.

"I guess that's the way of the world - not every country is the same. You're not aiming at one target, you're aiming at six different ones, worrying about how each one will feel about different things," he added.

But Hines insists that this doesn't effect initial development decisions. "We just go through and make the game that we want to make," he said. "We have our eyes wide open, mindful of the things that could be flagged up and how we're going to resolve them if that becomes a problem."

 

 

FALLOUT 3: Australian censorship goes global

Bethesda's Product Manager, Pete Hines, was interviewed again, and revealed that Australia's censorship of FALLOUT 3 was going global. All real-world drug references were to be removed from every version of the game.

Censors Force Fallout 3 Changes
edge-online.com, September 9, 2008

Speaking to Edge, Bethesda has explained what it calls a “misconception” regarding the classification of Fallout 3 in the Australian region. Edge has also learned that due to concerns and issues raised in the process of international classification, Fallout 3 will not contain real world drug references in any territory.

Edge has been told by Bethesda vice president of PR and marketing Peter Hines that there will be no differences between the version that releases in Australia and the versions that will release in other territories, including Europe and the US.

Calling the idea of an Australia-specific version of the game a “misconception,” Hines told us, “We want to make sure folks understand that the Australian version of Fallout 3 is identical to both the UK and North American versions in every way, on every platform.”

He continued, “An issue was raised concerning references to real world, proscribed drugs in the game, and we subsequently removed those references and replaced them with fictional names. To avoid confusion among people in different territories, we decided to make those substitutions in all versions of the game, in all territories.”

Hines stated, “I didn't want people continuing to assume the version in Australia was some altered version when it's not.” Finally, he explained that, “There are no references to real world drugs in any version of Fallout 3.”

 

 

FALLOUT 3 in the South Australian Parliament

During a South Australian parliamentary debate, the Liberal's Isobel Redmond taunted the Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, and commented on FALLOUT 3.

South Australia
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Thursday 16 October 2008

Mrs REDMOND: I know that the Attorney loves computer games. It is because of computer games and their classification that the Attorney has recently made it to No. 6 on the most hated people in Australia list, in fact I think he was the highest ranked South Australian on the list by a long way. So, it is good that he likes being so hated by the people who like computer games.

No doubt the Attorney will be pleased to know that at least one of the games for which there was no classification available in South Australia, largely because the use of the substance of morphine as a painkiller was referred to in the game, so the game makers changed the name to a fictitious name. They did not change the game at all, but having changed the term 'morphine' to a fictitious name they were able to get the game classified and, in fact, they have had that name changed all around the world.

 

 

FALLOUT 3 (MA15+) vs. DARK SECTOR (RC)

Mick has played the uncut version of DARK SECTOR, which was banned by the Classification Board in February 2008. Here he compares the release version of FALLOUT 3, with the violence in DARK SECTOR.

I just recently began playing FALLOUT 3 and noticed something almost straight away; the gore content is actually a lot more graphic and detailed than what DARK SECTOR was banned for. I was quite astounded that the OFLC had no issues with any of it. Only the drugs.....Which I might add is completely laughable. Hey kids, did you know it's fine to decapitate and eat innocent people but just don't ever ask for morphine if you happen to land yourself in the ER for whatever reason?

Lets take a quick look: both games contain slow motion death scenes, equipped with up close blood sprays, dismemberment and decapitation. This is done using the VATS system or during real-time game play. There is a plethora of weaponry to be used and the gore ranges from your run of the mill dismemberment right through to heads flying off bodies in slow-mo and bodies exploding into pieces after using a grenade or rocket launcher. There are even 'perks' that one can acquire to bump up the graphic violence even further by allowing bodies to explode into a bloody mess via just one bullet. There is even a cannibalism perk which allows you to regain health by munching on dead bodies! The OFLC also didn't even seem to have a problem with the fact that you can even assist a guy commit suicide during the game....But ok, drugs are MUCH worse. I mean come on, you're even rewarded for killing innocent people as you can then regain health by eating them, gain experience points to level up and steal whatever is in their pocket.

I really cannot get my head around the fact that DARK SECTOR was banned for much less than this. If this incidence doesn't display a 40,000 ft high sign flashing "HYPOCRISY" I don't know what does.

 

 

Morphine in FALLOUT 3 (RC) vs. VELVET ASSASSIN (MA15+)

Tim at R18games wrote to the Classification Board questioning the seemingly double-standards that saw morphine in VELVET ASSASSIN rated MA15+, but morphine in FALLOUT 3 was banned.

Morphine and the Classification Board
r18games.com.au, March 13, 2009 

VELVET ASSASSIN
The board notes that the game (Velvet Assassin) contains drug references that can be accommodated within a lower classification. However, the presence of the drug references warrants the additional consumer advice of drug references for the following reasons:

1) The drug references consist of references to morphine and the presence of syringes that can be collected by the players within each mission. The syringes allow the player to have morphine implicitly administered to them a limited number of times. The morphine links back to the reality of Violette being administered the drug in hospital. Although the use of morphine enables the player to better complete difficult parts of the mission, this does not lead to killings being more violent, to the demise of more enemies or a better outcome for the player or the character of Violette.

2) While the general rule in the Classification Guidelines state that “material that contains drug use (…) related to incentives or rewards is Refused Classification”, the Board is of the opinion that the incentives in the game are very nuanced and mitigated by the historical and medical context of the references to the drug. The drug references are no higher than moderate in playing impact. They can therefore be accommodated within a lower classification, but warrant the additional consumer advice of drug references.

 

FALLOUT 3
The use of Morphine in the original version of Fallout 3 was refused classification for the following reasons:

1) The Guidelines state that “Material promoting or encouraging a proscribed drug use” is Refused Classification. The player can also select and use “Morphine” (a proscribed drug) which has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain when the character’s extremities are targeted by the enemy.

2) In the Board’s view the drug use, in particular the use of a proscribed drug, via means of selection from a menu, is related to incentives and rewards as the incentive to take the drug is to progress through the game more easily and the reward is an increase in the character’s abilities and as such is Refused Classification.

The Board notes that the revised version of Fallout 3 which was classified MA15+ on 7 August 2008 has been modified to remove the incentive and reward of progressing through the game more easily from the element of drug use. The revised version has fictional drugs depicted as stylised icons which will not alter the physiological characteristics of the characters in the game. In the decision of the Board, there is no incentive or reward to select drug use, however the Board considers these drug references to be strong in impact

 

 

Morphine in VELVET ASSASSIN

In their 2008 to 2009 Annual Report, the Classification Board further explained the reasons for the VELVET ASSASSIN MA15+.

Decisions: MA15+
Games: VELVET ASSASSIN
Annual Report 2008-2009

The computer game Velvet Assassin was classified MA 15+ with the consumer advice 'Strong violence and drug references'. The Classification Board noted that the game contains violence that is strong in impact and justified by context. Whilst the Classification Board noted that the game contains drug references that can be accommodated within a lower classification, consumer advice for drug references was included due to the use of morphine in the game. The use of the drug was not, however, related to incentives or rewards.

 

 

FALLOUT 3: Complaints to the Classification Board

Complaints
Computer Games
Annual Report 2008-2009

The Classification Board received 725 complaints in relation to the classification of computer games. The Board made 1068 classification decisions for computer games in 2008-09. Some titles received a large number of complaints while other titles received single complaints but overall, the complaints were about a small number of titles.

Five computer games were classified RC during the reporting period. These computer games were Fallout 3, Silent Hill: Homecoming, F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin, Necrovision and Sexy Poker. There were complaints about four of these decisions.

There were 629 complaints about Fallout 3.

Many of the complaints about the decisions for the RC computer games also complained about the lack of an R 18+ classification for computer games.

The Classification Board also received 509 complaints that were specifically about the absence of an R 18+ classification for computer games. These complaints were referred to the Attorney-General's Department as the issue of an R 18+ classification is a policy matter for Censorship Ministers.

 

 

FALLOUT 3: MA15+ expansion packs

Several FALLOUT 3 expansion packs were passed by the Classification Board.

In June 2009, FALLOUT 3: THE PIT AND OPERATION: ANCHORAGE was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, drug references and coarse language) rating.

In July 2009, FALLOUT 3: BROKEN STEEL AND POINT LOOKOUT was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, drug references and coarse language) rating.

In September 2009, FALLOUT 3: MOTHERSHIP ZETA was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, drug references and coarse language) rating.

All were combined in the FALLOUT 3: GAME OF THE YEAR release.

 

Fallout 3 - Zenimax Europe [au] PS3Fallout 3: The Pit and Operation: Anchorage - Zenimax Europe [au] PCFallout 3: Broken Steel and Point Lookout - Atari Australia [au] Xbox360Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition - Zenimax Europe [au] Xbox360


 

 

 

 

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

Developed by Monolith Productions / 2008 / MobyGames

In November 2008, F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN was banned because it contained high-impact violence. Warner Bros Entertainment Australia was the applicant.

 

 

F.E.A.R 2: PROJECT ORIGIN - RC report

Jason Hill obtained the Classification Board's report and wrote about it on his Screen Play blog.

No F.E.A.R.
theage.com.au/digital-life/games/blog/screenplay, November 27, 2008

The classification report lists examples of high-impact violence such as the game's hero Michael Beckett using his sub-machine gun to bisect an enemy, with the "two parts of the body lying separately on the ground, with copious blood spray".

The report says "there are also a number of explicit close range decapitations involving both human and mutant creatures. The decapitations are the result of close-up throat slashing from behind and close-up gunshots to the throat.

"All violence results in large blood spray: there are blood-stained interiors and blood sprays onto objects, including the camera lens. With weapons such as sniper rifles, bodies can be torn apart at close range, limbs are seen flying off and the wounded flesh is reduced to a bloody pulp."

The report explicitly details the game's weapons, which include hand guns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers, and there is particular emphasis on the nail gun.

"The use of nail-guns pins victims to a wall before they fall to the ground in a bloody mass," the report says. "The scenes often have blood soaked walls and floors and the victims' bodies do not always disappear."

The report describes the game's third mission, set in a hospital, with "civilian victims, doctors and nurses, lying dead on the ground in pools of blood".

"There are also post-action images of partially dismembered corpses and severed heads - all with significant blood detail - that form part of the scenery of the game."

The report concludes that the game's "enhanced graphics and the realistic behaviour of human and mutant foes increase the playing impact of the violence to a high level".

"The Board considers that the cumulative effect of this type of violence is high and as such cannot be accommodated at the MA 15+ classification and the game must therefore be refused classification."

 

 

Warner Bros appeal against the RC-rating

Australian Government
Classification Review Board
27 November 2008
MEDIA RELEASE

Review announced for the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification of the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin.

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin was classified RC (Refused Classification) by the Classification Board on 26 November 2008. Computer games classified RC cannot be legally sold, hired, advertised or demonstrated in Australia.

The Classification Review Board will meet on Monday 15 December 2008 to consider the application.

The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the Classification website once the review has been finalised.

 

 

RC-rating dropped to MA15+ by Review Board

In December 2008, the F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN ban was overturned by the Review Board, who awarded it an MA15+ (Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language) rating.

Australian Government
Classification Review Board
15 December 2008
MEDIA RELEASE

F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin classified MA 15+ upon review

A 4-member panel of the Classification Review Board convened today to review the RC (Refused Classification) classification given to the computer game F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin.

The Classification Review Board has determined, in a unanimous decision, that F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin warrants an MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied) classification with the consumer advice ‘Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language’.

“After considering extensive submissions and demonstrations of game play across all levels, the Review Board concluded that the level of violence in the computer game, whilst strong, could be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification”, acting Classification Review Board Convenor, Trevor Griffin said.

Computer games classified MA 15+ are not suitable for persons under 15 years of age. MA 15+ computer games are legally restricted.

The Classification Review Board convened today in response to an application received from Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment to review the decision made by the Classification Board on 26 November 2008 to classify the computer game RC.

In reviewing the classification, the Classification Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

The Classification Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the Classification website when finalised.

 

 

F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN: Full Review Board report

The Review Board report was eventually released in February 2009.

Australian Government
Classification Review Board

15 December 2008
23-33 MARY STREET
SURRY HILLS, NSW

MEMBERS:
The Hon Trevor Griffin (Acting Convenor)
Ms Ann Stark
Ms Irina Kolodizner
Mr Brook Hely

APPLICANT Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment (WB)

INTERESTED PARTIES None

BUSINESS To review the Classification Board's decision to classify the computer game F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin RC (Refused Classification).

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Decision The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) unanimously classified the computer game F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin MA 15+ with the consumer advice 'Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language'.

 

2. Legislative provisions

The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 provides that films are to be classified hi accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines. Relevantly, the Code, provides that 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; or

(b) describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not); or

(c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence; or

(d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play,

are to be classified RC.

The Code also provides that 'Computer games (except RC computer games) that depict, express or otherwise deal with sex, violence or coarse language hi such a manner as to be unsuitable for viewing or playing by persons under 15', are to be classified MA 15+.

The Code also sets out various principles to which classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible.

Section 11 of the Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a computer game include:

(a) the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and

(b) the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the computer game; and

(c) the general character of the computer game, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and

(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005 (the Guidelines), determined under s 12 of the Act:

o the importance of context

o the assessment of impact, and

o the six classifiable elements - themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

 

3. Procedure

Four members of the Review Board met on 15 December 2008 in response to an application from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, received on 27 November 2008, to review the Classification Board's classification of the computer game.

The Review Board determined that the application was a valid application and was assured that the subject of the review application was the same computer game which had been classified by the Classification Board.

The Applicant provided a written submission and pre-recorded gameplay of the computer game before the hearing. The Review Board viewed the recorded gameplay on 15 December 2008.

The Review Board also heard oral submissions from the following representatives of the Applicant:

o Mr Roger Clarke (Managing Director, WB)

o Mr Paul Hunt (Consultant)

o Mr Mark Aubrey (Marketing Manager, WB), and

o Ms Melissa Faustmann (Pre-Production Manager, WB).

Parts of the computer game were demonstrated by Mr Andrew Hurford (WB).

The Review Board then considered the application for review.

 

4. Evidence and other material taken into account In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:

(i) Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment's application for review

(ii) Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment's written and oral submissions, including Mr Hurford's demonstration of the computer game

(iii) The computer game, F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin

(iv) Three discs of gameplay footage (provided by the Applicant)

(v) The relevant provisions in the Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and

(vi) The Classification Board's report.

 

5. Synopsis

A sequel to the computer game FEAR, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin is a first person shooter game set in the ruined city of Auburn. Starting moments before the ending of the original game FEAR, F.E.A.R. 2 involves the player taking on the role of Michael Beckett, a soldier who is part of an elite military team sent to detain the CEO of Armacham, an 'evil' corporation engaging in psychic experimentation. At the start of the game, Beckett undergoes an operation enhancing his reflexes, after being rendered unconscious in a nuclear type explosion of psychic energy. Throughout the course of the game, Beckett and his squad combat both human enemy forces and mutant beings as they struggle to complete their mission and stop Alma, a young woman with unnatural psychic abilities that is the catalyst for the chaos which the world is experiencing, as well as combat the mysterious forces which she has released.

 

6. Findings on material questions of fact

A number of classifiable elements were present in the game.

(a) Themes - Pervading the game were themes of challenge and reward and good conquering evil, as well as human experimentation and psychic mutation. The player is rewarded by being able to progress to the next level or interval upon killing various enemies, which in turn enables the player to get closer to completing the set mission. The context for the game is the issue of human experimentation and exploitation of psychic abilities by Armacham. The Review Board took the view that the themes in the game are justified by context and can be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification.

(b) Violence - The purpose of the game is the killing of human, mutated and supernatural enemies utilising a variety of weaponry. Killing of enemies is often accompanied by significant blood and gore, including blood spatter, decapitation or dismemberment. The scenery of the game is at times gory, particularly the second interval where the walls and floor of an abandoned hospital are splattered with blood and other gory imagery. At times the 'camera lens' of the game is momentarily splattered with blood when the player kills opponents at close range.

The Review Board considered that the impact of these violent elements could be accommodated at the upper limit of the MA 15+ classification, as such impact was justified by context and mitigated by a number of factors:

o First, the violence in this game primarily occurs in a military or quasi-military context rather than a civilian context, with the enemies portrayed as enemy soldiers or mutants bent on conquering the world. The context is very much the 'good saving the world'.

o Second, in many instances the victims are either masked, heavily armoured or ethereal which tends to de-personalize the shooting. Some of the victims are either mutant or ethereal beings of a stylised nature which further detracts from the reality of some scenes. The depiction of the characters hi the game generally also appears stylised hi parts, which further detracts from realism.

o Third, whilst post-mortem damage can be inflicted on enemy opponents, it is limited to causing blood spatter and 'rag doll* motions of the body without causing body dismemberment. There are no rewards for inflicting post mortem damage and once a player leaves a scene, the dead body is no longer present should the player return to that spot hi the game.

o Fourth, the violence is not sadistic or cruel hi nature. For example, the violence is limited to killing enemy soldiers or mutants in the context of military style combat rather than the gratuitous infliction of excessive pain.

o Fifth, the game falls clearly into the horror genre, in which large amounts of blood and gore are common and, to a certain extent, likely to be expected by the likely audience for the game.

o Sixth, whilst shooting of opponents can result in decapitation or dismemberment, such outcomes occur randomly. Accordingly, a player cannot develop special skills in dismembering or decapitating opponents.

The game contains three particular violent scenes of note, which are more impactful than other aspects of the game.

One scene involves the player struggling with the commander of the Armacham army in an attempt to control the gun between them. If the player is successful in the struggle, the scene climaxes with a gunshot that beheads the commander. In this scene, however, the beheading is heavily obscured and darkened so that visibility is limited, with blood spatter to the lens further obscuring the imagery. In addition, the gunshot occurs very quickly and unexpectedly, with the more bloodied aspect of the imagery disappearing quickly from view.

The second scene involves the beheading of SnakeFist, a friendly character, by a psychic assassin sent by Alma. This scene, however, is mitigated by the non-interactive mode in which it is carried out - the player has no control over the beheading but rather it occurs as an animated 'cut scene'..It is also an isolated scene that is not representative of the remainder of the game and is the sole scene of its kind in the entire game. It is justified by context as it reflects the extent of Alma's psychic abilities and is a prelude to subsequent events in the game. Once again, the beheading occurs relatively quickly and unexpectedly and the bloodied imagery quickly disappears from view.

The third impactful scene involves the implied sexual assault by Alma of the principal character, Michael Beckett. The scene is a one-off implied event that is very brief and obscured. The scene is also a non-interactive animated cut scene in which the player exercises no control.

Finally, the Review Board notes that on one of the three discs provided by the Applicant to the Classification Board there was footage of a player in a room of motionless opponents in which the player proceeded to provide a demonstration of the effect of each type of available weapon in the game on these opponents. The Applicant has, however, confirmed in its written and oral submissions that this scene did not form part of the game. Rather, it was provided to the Review Board as an additional aid for understanding the visual elements of the gameplay in the computer game. According to the Applicant's submission:

'This simulation was made specifically to show the effects of weapons on other game characters, but is set in a completely different context to the gameplay. It should be viewed as a visual and interpretive aid and not as an example of gameplay'.

The Review Board is satisfied that this scene does not form part of the game and has therefore disregarded this scene in its classification of the game.

(c) Language - Coarse language, primarily 'fuck' and 'shit', is used throughout the game, typically as exclamations when unexpected events occur, when an enemy is shot or by non-player characters for the purpose of context. The Review Board took the view that the coarse language in the game is moderate in impact and justified by context.

(d) Sex - The sexual content of the game is limited to the single instance of implied sexual intercourse referred to in sub-paragraph (b).

(e) Drug use-None.

(f) Nudity - There is some discreet nudity, primarily when Alma appears nude at certain intervals hi the game. These instances are rare and at no point is Alma entirely nude, as her breasts and other genitalia are obscured by her long hair, hand, camera angles or other visual devices. The nudity in the game can be accommodated in a lower classification.

 

7. Reasons for the decision The Review Board determined that due to the impact of certain scenes and the combination particularly of strong themes and violence contained in the computer game, it was not suitable for persons under 15 years of age.

The Review Board unanimously took the view that violence was the sole contentious classifiable element, as the themes, language, nudity and sex contained in the computer game could all comfortably be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification. In relation to violence, while the game contained impactful violence throughout which was at the upper limit of the MA 15+ classification, the violence was justified by context and could be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification. While there were three particularly impactful violent scenes of note, each of those scenes was justified by context and was highly stylised and obscured. Two of the scenes were also animated cut scenes with no element of interactivity. Consequently, the Review Board was of the view that F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin could be accommodated within the range of the MA 15+ classification.

 

8. Summary

The Review Board determined that the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, though containing impactful violence throughout and several particularly impactful violent scenes, sits at the higher end of the MA 15+ classification rather than within the range of the RC classification. The Review Board therefore determined that F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin should be classified MA 15+ with the consumer advice 'Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language'.

 

 

Warner Bros. on F.E.A.R 2 ban and MA15+

Beating the Ban: A Win for FEAR 2 and Aussie Gamers Warner Bros
JB Hi-Fi: Stack Magazine
February 2009

Interactive Entertainment’s Mark Aubrey tells STACK how they had no fear.

When you initially played the game F.E.A.R 2, were you immediately concerned that classification issues might arise in Australia?

Not really. We felt as though the game probably sat at the higher end of the spectrum in terms of violence, blood, gore and the like, but there are plenty of examples of games in the Australian market with similar levels of blood and violence.

As such, our feedback to Monolith during the development process was always that we felt as though we sat within the parameters of what was an acceptable level of violence for an MA15+ rating. To be honest, in the initial stages there were elements of the storyline that had me more concerned than the violence.

 

When did you submit the game to the classifications board?

I don’t remember the exact date but it would have been around November last year.

 

Were you surprised at the decision?

Absolutely, it came as a huge surprise to both Warner Bros and Monolith. As soon as we read through the Board report we immediately decided to appeal the decision.

 

What exactly were the problems that the Classification Board cited to legitimise the ban?

The vast majority of the initial concerns of the Australian Classification Board related to the strong levels of violence, blood and gore in the game. They also felt that the enhanced graphics and the realistic AI behaviour of the enemies increased the impact of the violence.

 

How exactly did you counter this ban?

I won’t bore you with all the details as it was quite a lengthy process, but we have a number of authorised games assessors on the team here at WBIE and we believed we had a strong case to appeal the original decision.

We also hired a consultant to help us with the classification review. Long story short – the classification review process allowed us to provide a lot more detail about the game. We were able to present our case to the Australian Classification Review Board and do a comprehensive game demonstration.

The Board were then able to ask us questions about the game. It was a much more collaborative process and it allowed us to provide a lot more detail on the story and the violence that was taking place.

 

Did you have to change or edit any of the game content?

No changes were made to the game. As I mentioned, we always felt the game sat within the parameters of a MA15+ title in the Australian market so we wanted to appeal the game as it was.

In addition to this we wanted to do our best to give Australian fans of the F.E.A.R franchise the best game experience we could. This is a bloody scary FPS game and that’s how Monolith expected the game to be played. It would have been a real shame for fans if we had to change or dilute this experience.

 

At any time did you consider the possibility that the game wouldn’t receive an Australian release?

Of course, we were forced to. There was no guarantee that our classification review would be successful and this is a key release for Warner Bros. Had we been unsuccessful we would have had to discuss our next steps with Monolith to see how we would then approach F.E.A.R 2 in the Australian market.

I am just really pleased that Australian gamers will get to experience F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin the way the guys at Monolith intended. Be afraid… be very afraid.

 

 

F.E.A.R. 2 - Complaints the Classification Board

Complaints
Computer Games
Annual Report 2008-2009

The Classification Board received 725 complaints in relation to the classification of computer games. The Board made 1068 classification decisions for computer games in 2008-09. Some titles received a large number of complaints while other titles received single complaints but overall, the complaints were about a small number of titles.

Five computer games were classified RC during the reporting period. These computer games were Fallout 3, Silent Hill: Homecoming, F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin, Necrovision and Sexy Poker. There were complaints about four of these decisions.

There were ….19 complaints about F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin.

Many of the complaints about the decisions for the RC computer games also complained about the lack of an R 18+ classification for computer games.

F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin was reviewed and classified MA 15+ with consumer advice for 'Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language' by the Classification Review Board.

The Classification Board also received 509 complaints that were specifically about the absence of an R 18+ classification for computer games. These complaints were referred to the Attorney-General's Department as the issue of an R 18+ classification is a policy matter for Censorship Ministers.

 

 

November 2011: Community attitudes to video game violence

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 groups were asked to give their opinion on the lift well sequence from F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN (2008).

See our Games Censorship Database entry for CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 (2009) to see the results of this study.

 

 

F.E.A.R. at the Classification Board

The original F.E.A.R. game, and two expansion packs had all previously been passed with MA15+ ratings.

 

F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin - Warner Bros Entertainment [au] Xbox360


 

 

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