Games Censorship: N


 

 

 

 

Narc

Developed by Williams Entertainment / 2004 / MobyGames

NARC was already causing controversy the month before it was submitted to the OFLC.

 

Activists urge classification review
smh.com.au, March 21, 2005

Video game classifications categories must be updated to prevent games not suitable for children being banned altogether, a civil liberties watchdog has urged.

The request coincides with the expected release later this year of Narc, a game in which players shoot rivals and take drugs such as crack cocaine and speed. The pace and ambience of the gameplay changes to reflect the effects of the drugs.

The OFLC will not comment on Narc until it receives a request for its classification, expected later in the year.

In October last year, State Attorney-General Rob Hulls pushed for the introduction of uniform classification laws, but the move was not supported by the federal government.

"As part of a national classification regime, the Federal Government needs to act to resolve a clear gap in the system whereby computer games, unlike films, are not subject to R18+ or X18+ ratings," Mr Hulls said.

 

New game smacks of grim culture
theage.com.au, March 21, 2005

...the dangers of drug abuse, such as blackouts, addiction, arrest, job loss and death, are included in the latest version of a game called Narc, due for release by Christmas this year for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

In the US, Narc will have an M rating, meaning it may be sold only to those over 17, which, in the real teen world, means little.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification, which rates or bans computer games in Australia, has not yet seen the latest drug culture productions.

Dr Ken Checinski, an authority on addictive behaviour, at St George's hospital medical school in London, said: "I don't approve of a game that has people taking drugs.

"There is a risk that it will glamourise drug-taking and send out the wrong message to young, impressionable people. We want young people to understand the real risk of drug-taking, and games such as this don't help."

A spokesman for Sony defended the game, saying it was "a classic good-versus-evil game" that showed the destructive power of drugs.

 

 

NARC in the Victorian Parliament

Two days after the NARC news articles, the ALP's Jude Perera had this to say in the Victorian House of Assembly.

 

Title: Classification (Publications, Films and Computer games) (Enforcement) (Amendment) Bill
House of Assembly
Activity Second Reading
Date 23 March 2005

A video game supposedly coming into the USA market shortly will involve the taking of drugs, showing how drugs can create blackouts, drug addiction, job loss and, finally, overdose and death. These types of games glamorise drug addiction and could be triggers for psychotic behaviour.

 

So let us get this straight. According to Mr Perera, NARC will show how drugs can:

...create blackouts, drug addiction, job loss and, finally, overdose and death.

However, at the same time games such as NARC:

...glamorise drug addiction.

 

 

NARC: Banned in Australia

In April 2005, NARC was Refused Classification by the OFLC because of gameplay involving drugs being used as a reward or incentive. Red Ant Enterprises were the applicant.

 

The Classification Board's report is as follows.

NARC: Refused Classification

Reasons for decision:

This computer game contains frequent drug use. Throughout this game the player can choose to take illegal drugs to help achieve the aim of being an effective drug-squad officer fighting a major drug cartel. These drugs include, heroin, methamphetamine (speed), LSD, marijuana, ecstasy and Quaaludes. The effects of these drugs are varied but provide the player with some benefits in progressing through the game. For example, when a player takes ecstasy tablet opponents will stop attacking and allow the player's character to escape. Similarly, taking speed allows the player's character to run faster and catch bad guys.

The board was told by the applicant that these drugs also have a detrimental effect on the player in that they affect his/her "badge rating", meaning that other characters lose their respect for the player's character's police status making the player more vulnerable to attack.

Drug taking can slow make the player's character become addicted, blackout-which ends the game-or be thrown off the force.

However, the board also heard the badge rating can be restored if the player chooses to stop taking drugs and return and return to being a legitimate laws enforcer/ Similarly, the plater can also go into drug rehabilitation, which restores their status. The board was told told by the applicant that a player who takes drugs can also access better weapons & can achieve their objectives faster/

Information is also provided such details how many times a player can use a specific drug before they become addicted. For example, in the case of ecstasy it is 12 uses and for speed it is 7 uses. The the board was told that the player who used strategy in which they alternated between being a good cop and bad cop would progress faster than a cop who simply played by the rules and did not use drugs.

In the board's majority view, in which drugs are used as a reward or incentive, has an impact that is higher then strong and/or exceeds the general rule "except in material restricted to adults, nudity and sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards and material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives or rewards is refused classification.

Other matters considered

This computer game contains violence and language that could be accommodated at a lower classification.

Minority view-

In the boards minority view the impact of this game is no higher then strong and is justified in context of a game based on busting drug dealers. This view holds that drug use as an incentive is equal to, if not outweighed, by such disincentives as losing a badge rating or becoming addicted. This view also holds that an exception can be made to the general rule, allowing this game to be accommodated at the MA15+ classification.

Decision

In the boards majority view this game warrants an RC classification.

 

 

Thanks to Mick for writing to the OFLC and obtaining the above report. He makes some valid criticisms of the OFLC reasons for the ban.

This is extremely stupid, SHELLSHOCK NAM 67, PLAYBOY: THE MANSION, GTA SAN ANDREAS, GOD OF WAR etc, all use sex and nudity as a reward. SHELLSHOCK NAM 67 even uses drugs as a reward. It's so inconsistent! Also why is it not ok to use drugs and sex as a reward, but it is ok to use extreme violence as a reward?

 

 

Red Ant on the NARC ban

Four days after the NARC RC-rating, Red Ant Enterprises issued a media release conforming that they would not be appealing or modifying the game.

 

The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) have refused classification (RC) on Midway Games’ NARC
April 12, 2005
Red Ant Enterprises
Media Release

NARC is an in-depth, 3rd-person action/shooter video game set against a stylised modern-day backdrop of the War on Drugs. Playing in the elite NARC squad, players must rid the world of the powerful international K.R.A.K. drug cartel. Using deadly firepower and police authority, players will make the choice to play it straight or use and abuse narcotics to get that extra edge and quick cash. Players decide whether to play as a good or bad cop as they face the mean streets and criminal underworld that rules it.

The OFLC classified NARC with an RC in accordance with Part 1(d) of the computer games table of the national classification code, which states, in part, that “1. Computer games that; (d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play"*.

A seven-member panel of the Classification Board determined, in a majority 6 to I decision that Narc be refused classification.

The minority view of the board believes the impact of the game is justified in the context of a game based on busting drug dealers. Unfortunately the majority of the board did not agree that NARC was justified within the current highest classification rating of MA15+.

There is no R classification for computer games. MA15+ is the highest possible rating given to a game. Those games, which are unsuitable for a minor to see or play, are refused.

Classification decisions are to be given effect on a list of principles from the National Classification Code, including:
- Adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want. * and
- Minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them

An Adult, means a person who is 18 or older. The Restricted (R) rating does not exist in the world of gaming. Because of this, it appears that adults are not able to read, hear and see what they want.

Gaming is fast growing in the entertainment industry. With the average gamer being of an age around 25, the demand is high for a restricted (R) rating to be introduced.

Midway’s upcoming release NARC will not be released in Australia. The line was crossed.

 

Narc - Ocean Software [us] PS2


 

 

 

 

Necrovision

Developed by The Farm 51 / 2009 / MobyGames

NECROVISION was banned in April 2009 because it contained high-impact violence. 505 Games SRL were the applicant.

 

 

NECROVISION: RC-rating report

Thanks to Scott for this report.

 

Board Report
Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games} Act 1995

DETAILS OF THE COMPUTER GAME;
FILE No T09/750
Title: NECROVISION
Version: ORIGINAL
Format: Multi Platform
Duration: VARIABLE
Publisher: 505 GAMES
Programmer: 1C
Production Co: NOT SHOWN
Country Of Origin: EUROPE
Language: ENGLISH
Application Type: Comp Game Standard Level 2
Applicant: 505 GAMES SRC

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: NO

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;
This game is a first person shooter game set in World War II and includes German Soldiers as well as zombies, vampires and other monsters as enemy combatants.

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(d) of the computer games table of the National Classification Code:

" 1. Computer games that:
(d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play;" will be Refused Classification.

The game contains violence that is high in impact and is therefore unsuitable for persons aged under 18 years to play.

The game is a first person shooter game that is set in the trenches of World War II and includes German Soldiers, zombies and vampires as enemy combatants. A number of weapons are available to the player including hand guns, machine guns, barbed wire, explosives and knives. When the player shoots an enemy combatant, a large volume of blood spray results and the enemy may be dismembered or decapitated. Injury detail is high with pieces of flesh seen flying from bodies when shot or a high level of wound detail visible on bodies. Post mortem damage occurs when bodies are shot resulting in blood spray, dismemberment and decapitation.

This level of blood and injury detail occurs frequently and throughout the game and in the Board's view, exceeds a strong playing impact and therefore cannot be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification level.

DECISION
This game is Refused Classification.

 

 

M-rating for censored version

In May 2009, 505 Games SRL Games were awarded an M (Violence and coarse language) rating for a modified version of NECROVISION.

Full details of what was removed can be found here.

Necrovision Comparison
Movie-censorship.com
Censored Version - Rating: M, Region: Australia
Uncensored Version - Rating: BBFC 18, Region: UK

 

NECROVISION: M-rating report

Thanks again to Scott for this report.

Board Report

Classification (Publications , Films and Computer Games) Act 1995

DETAILS OF THE COMPUTER GAME;
FILE No T09/750
Title: NECROVISION
Version: ORIGINAL
Format: Multi Platform
Duration: VARIABLE
Publisher: 505 GAMES
Programmer: THE FARM 5 1
Production Co: 505 GAMES
Country Of Origin: POLAND
Language: ENGLISH
Application Type: Comp Game Standard Level 2
Applicant: 505 GAMES SRL

PROCEDURE:
The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1 995, the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines are followed when classifying films, computer games and publications

Written submissions: NO
Oral submissions: NO

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 gameplay examples

DECISION
(1) Classification: M
(2) Consumer Advice: Violence and coarse language
(3) Key:

SYNOPSIS;
This computer game is a revised version of Necrovision which was originally classified RC on 7 April 2009. This game is a first person shooter game set in World War II and includes German Soldiers as well as zombies, vampires and other monsters as enemy combatants.

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 computer game warrants an M classification as, in accordance with item 5 of the computer games table of the National Classification Code, it cannot be recommended for viewing by persons who are under 15.

Pursuant to the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games, this computer game is classified M as the impact of the classifiable elements is moderate. Material classified M is not recommended for persons under 15 years of age. There are no legal restrictions on access.

The classifiable elements are violence and language that are moderate in playing impact.

The Board notes that the original version of this computer game was classified RC on the 7 April 2009.

VIOLENCE
This revised version of the game contains violence that is moderate in playing impact and justified by context.

Players frequently kill zombie enemies with gunfire or by employing dynamite or hand-to-hand, "melee-style" combat. Some of the violence includes shooting with a nailgun, implied stabbing or slashing with bayonets and entrapment using barbed wire.

The Board notes that (as per the applicant's statement regarding modifications to the game's blood detail, wound detail and post-mortem damage) the blood detail appears throughout the game as a grey "dust" effect when enemies are hit. Zombies fly into the air or their bodies jerk when bullets impact. However no further injury or wound detail is visible. These modifications substantially reduce the playing impact of the game and it can therefore be accommodated at M.

LANGUAGE
The game contains use of strong coarse language in the form of "fuck" language which is used occasionally in a non-aggressive tone.

DECISION
This computer game is classified M with consumer advice of violence and coarse language.

The Board notes that section 21A of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 states that 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.

 

 

NECROVISION RC-rating complaints

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.

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.

 

 

Possible unidentified ACMA submission

In September 2010, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) had a computer game banned by the Classification Board. ACMA submissions are never identified. In this case, it was known only as ACMA 2010001752 ITEM 1 ACMA (LAPTOP).

We believe that this item was either NECROVISION (2009) or LEFT 4 DEAD 2 (2009). See the separate Games Censorship Database entry for ACMA 2010001752 ITEM 1 ACMA (LAPTOP) to see how we arrived at this conclusion.

 

Necrovision - 1C Company [us] PC


 

 

 

 

New Fantasia

Developed by Comad / 1994 / IAM

In August 1996, an arcade version of NEW FANTASIA was Refused Classification by the OFLC. The Victorian police were the applicant.

It was most likely banned because of nudity, which was used as an incentive or reward.


 

 

 

 

Night Trap

Developed by Digital Pictures / 1992 / MobyGames

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

 

In 1992, Sega's NIGHT TRAP game was a controversial title. The media coverage resulted in Australia adopting a games rating system in 1994.

 

 

NIGHT TRAP in Parliament

Here is the ALP's Sylvia Smith asking the ALP's Michael Lavarch about violent video games.

 

QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: Violence: Video Games
Date: 12-05-1993
Source: House of Reps

Mrs SILVIA SMITH —My question is directed to the Attorney-General. There is an issue of major community concern rearing its head in the community at this time—that is, the resurgence of the violent video games which are entering the consumer market. Is the Attorney-General aware of community concerns about violent video games and, if so, what action is the Commonwealth taking to deal with violence in films, videos and computer games?

Mr LAVARCH —There are widespread concerns in the community which have come to light most recently in relation to a number of new generation video games. I have seen newspaper reports about it and, probably like most honourable members, I have received some representations from constituents. For instance, the principal of the Esk state primary school in my electorate drew my attention to a game called Night Trap which involves five actresses being drilled through the neck and mutilated by sharp electric clamps. The principal makes the point that:

In a society where we are concerned about violence against women I am concerned about such a `game' being available to children. I am very concerned about the message this `game' would send to the users (particularly boys) of this game.

There are some moves already afoot on this matter. I am pleased to say that Sega, which is the company involved in that particular game, has, of its own accord and in response to community concern, indicated that the game will not be released. However, that is only one game from one company.

Currently, the Office of Film and Literature Classification does not classify video games at all. The current system that applies in relation to films and videos, with which honourable members would be familiar, would not easily lend itself to video games. These matters were considered by the Australian Law Reform Commission recently in its report on censorship administration. The commission recommended that censorship legislation should be altered to recognise computer games. Some games may be subject to banning if they offend community standards and others should be subject to restriction or carry an appropriate warning. In June these recommendations will be considered by a meeting of State and Commonwealth censorship Ministers, and I am hopeful that the Commonwealth and the States will combine on this matter to devise a regime fleshing out the proposals recommended by the Law Reform Commission.

I should just add one final point, as the honourable member also raised film classification. Honourable members will recall legislation which this House has passed creating a new distinction in the old M category, that is, the problem that used to be between a Crocodile Dundee movie being an M and Silence of the Lambs also being an M. The new categories of M and MA will prohibit some movies being seen by children under the age of 15.

While the Commonwealth, South Australia and the Northern Territory have passed legislation along these lines, and Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania have currently similar legislation before them, the State of Victoria has not as yet passed any legislation. In fairness, though, it has been submitted for debate and will be passed next session. Unfortunately, at this stage Western Australia is still considering its position.

The Prime Minister is writing to all State Premiers on these issues, I understand this week, and he will be requesting them to move as quickly as possible with their legislation regarding the new M and MA classifications. He will also be raising community concerns about video games, and asking them to join with the Commonwealth in proposing a new regime.

 

 

Senator Margaret Reynolds debates NIGHT TRAP

In June 1993, the following debate took place on the ABC's LATELINE program after a short report on video game violence.

 

Violence in video games available to children prompts calls for some form of censorship
abc.net.au, June 14, 1993

SNIP

GEOFF PARISH: Judyth Watson is Shadow Minister for Women's Interests, Consumer Affairs, and Disability Services in Western Australia. She's concerned about the violence in the games.

JUDYTH WATSON: My concern is that people who play those games, play them for a reward. You're playing for points, you pit your wits against one or two other people. You're rewarded for being violent.

JOHN PHELAN: You know, we see more violent things on the news and in cartoons and shows like that, where, you know, the games are just a run-off from that. So, I don't think they're too violent. The kids enjoy them. I mean, I don't see any harm in them at all.

GEOFF PARISH: The debate over violence in video games is hotting up. But for John Phelan the games have been a godsend. He's increased his turnover by 50 per cent. If business is brisk in Chester Hill, then it's booming worldwide. The two key industry players are Sega and Nintendo. Nintendo has the lion's share of the $5 billion market in the US, and Sega has the majority of sales in Australia. Here the industry turned over $350 million last year. One in four homes in Australia now has a video game system. It's a slick, fast-moving industry with new technology and new games released every couple of months. Some of the games are charming. The new hero is Sonic, the Hedgehog - more popular than Mickey Mouse. And `Where in time is Carmen Santiago' takes the player through a multinational time warp, in search of Carmen.

GEOFF PARISH: But what of the games that are more realistic than 'Super Mario'. If you like, you can re-fight the Gulf War or draw blood in the ring, complete with sound effects. And if seeing and hearing someone K.O'd concerns you, wait till you see the next level, now being sold.

You choose what happens next, and video graphics have been replaced by actors. That puts you in charge of a game like Sega's 'Night Trap'. This sort of game is too much for Judyth Watson.

JUDYTH WATSON: As it featured torturing, mutilation and degradation of women, I got my skates on, connected with the Prime Minister's and Federal Attorney-General's office. We had a lot of media coverage, and within a week the company had decided that it wouldn't be imported.

GEOFF PARISH: The Night Trap' controversy prompted a Senate committee, chaired by Margaret Reynolds, to look into the issue of violent video games. The Managing Director of distributor Sega-Ozisoft, Kevin Burmeister, appeared before the committee to explain company policy. They've now introduced their own system of classification, but in a media statement issued earlier this month, the company says that after examining the game in complete detail, '...we recognise that its imagery and story-line would not even rate an M if it was a movie'. At present, video games aren't classified, but later this month Federal and State Attorneys-General will discuss what to do about the games. According to the Chief Censor, John Dickie, the games which may take weeks to complete, would be a nightmare to classify.

JOHN DICKIE: Not only in the sort of classification of the game itself, but I suppose a mind-set difference between the stuff we do at the moment. I mean, we look at videos at the moment and we look at cinema, and it's not interactive like these games are. So that's another element that you have to take into account to make classification decisions.

SNIP

 

KERRY O'BRIEN: That report from Geoff Parish. And now let me introduce our guests. Professor Eugene Provenzo teaches education and sociology at the University of Miami, in Florida. He's the author of the book Video kids: the dangers of Nintendo, which is extremely critical of the potential impact of video games on children. He joins us from Miami. Kevin Burmeister is the Managing Director of Sega-Ozisoft, the market leader in video game systems in Australia. He co-founded the entertainment software company, Ozisoft, in 1983, and last year the Japanese video games giant, Sega, bought equity in the company, which expects to turn over $250 million this financial year. He's in our Sydney studio.

Labor Senator Margaret Reynolds chairs a Senate Standing Committee reviewing community standards on video games. For three years until the 1990 election, Senator Reynolds was Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, during which time she established the national working party on the betrayal of women in the media and the Commonwealth State committee on violence against women. And Margaret Reynolds is in Townsville tonight.

Eugene Provenzo, if we could start with you: sexist, racist, violent - are you saying that this is actually harmful to kids or just undesirable?

EUGENE PROVENZO: Well, I think it's certainly undesirable but the fact of the matter is that the content of these games don't need to be what they are in terms of the social content, and we can work against that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Okay. But what is the heart of your concerns about these things? I mean, this would not be the only exposure that children would have to sexism or racism or certainly violence.

EUGENE PROVENZO: No, it's certainly prevalent in the culture but this is another level of it, and the potential involvement through video games can be much more intense than other forms of media, such as television.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But what is your evidence of that intensity? Is it simply anecdotal? Is it simply by looking at kids as they play?

EUGENE PROVENZO: Looking at kids and how they play, but also at the actual content of the games. What we're doing is we're emerging into a new form of medium, new form of media that is much more intense than previous things, such as television.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And your book warns of worse to come, and I assume you're talking about 'Virtual Reality'.

EUGENE PROVENZO: Yes. What we have is the potential for kids to participate in television for the first time. This previously passive medium is one now that they can participate in and be part of. That's something very different from....

KERRY O'BRIEN: But that could be quite an exciting thing, of course; but again, what broadly are your concerns there?

EUGENE PROVENZO: Well, it could be very exciting but what happens is that as the new systems come in, for example, the Sega CD-ROM systems, what happens is that the video game suddenly becomes increasingly interactive and videolike, filmlike, and so what happens is that we have something close to film rather than a traditional video game of space invaders or even the recent Nintendo games.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So that the violence becomes more real?

EUGENE PROVENZO: Much more real and you end up having the question of: is the video game now something close to film, video, or is it in point of fact a new type of interactive television?

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister, what can you say about these games that's positive, apart from the fact that they make you a lot of money?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think as long as there's a balance of material that keeps on flowing into the marketplace, violent material, sexist material, and romantic material, comical and comedian-based material, fun video games, as long as there is a balance then that impact that is talked about will be balanced across the whole range of products in the marketplace.

KERRY O'BRIEN: So, you're saying that a certain amount of sexism and a certain amount of racism and a certain amount of violence is all right?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: As long as it's with a balance and with community standards in mind.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And you think there's a balance there now?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think that there has been a balance up until now. If you look at the games that have been popular across the marketplace over the last couple of years, there tends to be in some cases violent games that are popular, but 'Sonic the Hedgehog', which was certainly our most popular game and Sega's most popular game to date, has no violence in it at all. It's not gender specific. It's a game with animals involved and fantasy characters, and it clearly outsold all other games in the marketplace.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Okay. So provided .. when you produce something like 'Night Trap' where you have women with a real actress, having her neck drilled, it's all right if you balance that with something friendly, like 'Sonic the Hedgehog'?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think it's unfortunate that a game like 'Night Trap' was one of the first games to be released in the marketplace, because as people are getting accustomed to this new technology, it's quite a shock to see this level of graphic and this level of game play introduced as one of the earlier releases. So in time, as more and more material comes into the marketplace, then there will appear to be a balance, and as there are ratings and guidelines introduced that balance will continue to remain in place, in line with community standards.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Eugene Provenzo, do you believe that there is a reasonable balance in the United States, across the range of games, that provided you actually have a harmless game or a friendly game like 'Sonic the Hedgehog' that it doesn't matter?

EUGENE PROVENZO: No, that very much hasn't been the case. Historically in the United States, for example, in the case of the Nintendo games and the research that I did looking at the most popular games in America, the 10 most popular games were all on what I would consider to be extremely violent and not of the sort of balance that the person in Australia is talking about.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And even when you'd widen that out to the .. I think you widen it out to the top 40 games, to the top 45 games.

EUGENE PROVENZO: That very much isn't the case. I think if you go and you count the games historically and you look at what their content is, that there are very few. They are there but they are very few in number, and one of my arguments is that I think we ought to be achieving some sort of a balance and having some sort of reasonable range of games with various types of themes. We don't have that now.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Margaret Reynolds, what's your reaction been to the kinds of video games that you've seen in your committee review?

MARGARET REYNOLDS: Well, Kerry, we're just at the beginning of our hearing and we haven't seen a lot yet, but of course we saw Night Trap' or parts of 'Night Trap', and it was very much because of «'Night» «Trap'» that our committee decided to look at this in more detail. Of course, 'Night Trap' itself has been withdrawn from the market, but I think it's enough for us to really be very concerned about some of the other material that might be available, and clearly we've got to get some form of regulation. Kevin Burmeister talks of self-regulation, but he then says it's apparently okay to have some racist and some sexist material, that this is all right if you balance it with more friendly material. But I think that many parents and teachers would query the need to have racist and sexist material.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister, at first glance, it would certainly seem that your programmers, the people who actually come up with these things, concentrate quite blatantly on the boys' market. Don't they have enough imagination to find girls that will .. find games that would appeal to both sexes?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think that as games are being produced more and more appealing to both sexes, and that is a developing process. Many of the programmers around the world are in fact boys, and so tend to write games to suit themselves and to suit their own likes.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And that's why you end up with so much violence, so much emphasis on violence?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think the games are really a product of our own society. Those programmers are people aged 18 to 30 years old, generally speaking, around the world. They're based in countries like Australia, Japan, United States, Europe, the UK, and they really are representing and reflecting what they see is a part of society.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But hang on, we're talking about a children's world here. We're not talking about an adult's world in a number of these things. I mean, if there's rape in society, is it automatic that we should show rape in video games?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: No, not necessarily. That's where we believe that a line needs to be drawn and there needs to be a - once again, we go back to this word - balance. But there has to be some kind of mechanism to monitor the material that is being released into the marketplace, and if rape is not suitable to be seen by kids below a certain age, well then that's the way it needs to be. Rape is currently seen in video movies and movies around the world today, and it's a part of society. We can't hide it away from kids. It's a fact of life.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But it's dressed up as a form of competition, and the word 'game' - to call these things games.

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think that the children playing these games, to a large degree, are clearly able to separate fantasy from reality and, you know, what is important to understand is that in the past there have been video games using computer-generated animation, and clearly these are fantasy-based products. Now rape has not been a part of those video games in the past. Here is a video game called «'Night» «Trap'» which doesn't involve a rape scene, but....

EUGENE PROVENZO: Kerry, can I break in here for a moment?

KERRY O'BRIEN: Yes, sorry. Eugene Provenzo, yes.

EUGENE PROVENZO: Yes, one of the things that companies such as Sega are currently doing, is coming out with devices that allow people to interact with the computer in a much more intense level than ever has been possible before, various types of virtual reality devices. There'll be a device coming under the American market in the fall called the 'activator'. And one of the things about that device is that it allows children to actually participate in throwing punches and kicking and being involved in the violence of the game, and as this game is increasingly visual cinematic because of the crossover of the computer from these relatively crude graphics that we've had up until this time, into a very, very powerful visual cinematic film media on the computer, what we suddenly have is a new type of involvement on the part of kids.

Now, we don't know what the effect of that is yet. We don't have any idea. The research has not been done. There has been previous research on video games but not on these types of new games with these new virtual reality devices. And the fact is we need to understand exactly how they affect our children. We don't know yet, and I think we need to be very, very cautious before we start saying that children aren't going to respond or behave in particular ways to these sorts of things. We simply don't know.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister.

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, I think that there's an important need for research to be conducted in the markets and amongst kids, and that research is already taking place. Sega, Nintendo are already involved in that process.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But I wonder whether....

EUGENE PROVENZO: Do you think that they're the appropriate people to be doing that research?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, not necessarily. Perhaps a person like yourself is an appropriate person to do that, but that research needs to be conducted and to find the solutions and to find the answers to these issues. However, kids are aware of technology....

KERRY O'BRIEN: Sorry, Eugene Provenzo, I'll come back to you in a second.

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Kids are aware of technology. They've grown up with this technology. It's part of their lives and part of their lifestyles, and they are not afraid of the technology; they're not afraid of the game products.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Yes. It's not the technology we're talking about though, is it?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: No, but the technology is a part of their lifestyles. For us, for older generation people, perhaps, there's a barrier between themselves and the technology and the products of that technology, whereas kids are much more familiar with it.

EUGENE PROVENZO: It's the content of the technology that's the issue.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Sorry, Eugene Provenzo.

EUGENE PROVENZO: Kerry, it's the content of the technology that's the issue.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Okay.

EUGENE PROVENZO: It's not the technology.

KERRY O'BRIEN: All right. Well, talking about the content and talking about virtual reality, Margaret Reynolds, what about the so-called 'dildonics' - the push for video sex, pornography, that's expected as part of the push into virtual reality?

MARGARET REYNOLDS: Well, again, I think we have to apply the national censorship standards that we already have for other media and, clearly, until the Attorneys-General meet this month, these issues haven't really been put on the agenda. I believe that any of this new material has to comply with the normal censorship provisions that we already have and, at the moment, there is nothing to stop that material coming in and being freely available.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister, I assume it's a reasonable guess that dildonics is on the way, and how comfortable would you feel about distributing that? Would you have anything to do with that?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, we probably wouldn't but it's true that there is a much broader type of material on the way, depicting sex and violence and other video games in a much more impactful manner. And there is going to be a requirement for guidelines to be issued under the censorship and film review people, and we will obviously comply by those guidelines.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Eugene Provenzo, you're concerned to see the positive elements of the video game craze developed, education programs, and so on. I mean, what programmers will basically respond to is demand. So what do you do, other than have parents and educators try to encourage a market and the demand for those kinds of beneficial programs?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, I can't conceive of the notion of 10 year olds wanting pornography that you should give it to them simply because they're demanding it, nor do I think you need to give them large amounts of violent material. I think we can do wonderful things with these games, I think with this technology, which is remarkable. And I think we ought to be developing types of entertainment, types of learning, or types of instruction, and types of fun that really provide opportunities for children that expand their capability and their understanding of the world. We can do that. We just haven't been doing that very much.

KERRY O'BRIEN: But the question really is where does the responsibility lie?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, I don't think it's with the people who produce the new media. I can't imagine if someone starts putting out pornography on computers and on video games that we should be asking them also to rate their materials, as essentially as is happening in the case of Sega. Sega is rating the violence of their own games. I think it ought to be done by some external group.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister, you've put up a proposition on this, haven't you? You're prepared to have a role for the chief government censor.

KEVIN BURMEISTER: That's right. We've requested that a self-regulatory role takes place and, simply, video games are very difficult to rate. They can take up to three months to play through a single video game, so it would be unreasonable to expect the censor to employ hundreds of people to play through each one of these products to review the material and the content of the whole products.

EUGENE PROVENZO: Not a problem.

KERRY O'BRIEN: It depends what the implications are. Who's going to do it? I mean, who's going to....

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Simply what we're recommending is that a guideline be established for each of the censorship issues and that the individual video game distributors or publishers rate their own systems, and if they fail to meet the guidelines, perhaps penalties would be put into place, or if they fail to understand what those guidelines mean, they could submit a game for further review, prior to release, but that it remains a self-regulatory system. It would be far more commercially beneficial for all companies involved, and certainly for the government and the authorities.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Eugene Provenzo, do you see anything wrong with that; in other words, a partnership between the government, via its censor, and the industry?

EUGENE PROVENZO: It seems to me if that were entered into in good faith, that might have some possibilities. I would like to point out the fact, however, that these video games are scripted the same way a film is scripted, and that in point of fact, the companies, if they want to, could turn over to the reviewers the content of the games scripts and they would not have to be played through from beginning to end.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Okay. Margaret Reynolds, I know that you've long been opposed to censorship, but do the dubious joys of virtual reality cause you to rethink or do you think that the Burmeister recipe for self-regulation based on government guidelines might be enough?

MARGARET REYNOLDS: Well, certainly I think many of us who fought against censorship in the '60s are having very serious second thoughts in the '90s, because of the new technology. Basically, I think there has to be some level of government regulation if you can't rely on industry to self-regulate, and from what Kevin says, I think the problem goes deeper than his solution. I think we probably should be looking at registering the writers of these games, and I'd be offering licences to educators rather than these young men of 18 to 30, whose thoughts seem to revolve totally around violence and presumably sex. I don't think that they're perhaps the best people to be put in charge of writing these programs, and maybe it's a question of licensing the people who write the programs.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, that sounds like a whole new world to enter into. I can see all kinds of potential problems there, too - I mean, to start licensing writers for anything.

EUGENE PROVENZO: You know, Kerry, I have a serious problem in terms of the notion of licensing writers and the sort of nightmares that could create; however, I think the notion that the Senator brings up, which is the need to basically turn the production of these games out of the hands of, strictly, the programmers and the industry and into some of our educational groups and maybe some of our people involved with the creation of children's literature and other similar types of things, and the culture might be very valuable.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Yes, we're just about out of time, but one brief word from Kevin Burmeister. Let me put the question to you: why should the community trust the people who would distribute, who would actually make and distribute something like 'Night Trap' which is then only withdrawn after an outcry from the community, then regulate its own product in any way, shape or form?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, we're simply saying that those guidelines need to be issued by the relevant authorities, the censorship people in this country, and that those guidelines would be followed by companies like ourselves, and others in this marketplace. So, we wouldn't actually be generating those guidelines in our own right. We've currently introduced censorship teams within our own organisation, but that's as an interim measure. We're hoping to work with the censorship authorities to make sure that we do develop that action that we're taking, but we are crying out and looking for some guideline.

 

 

John Dickie on NIGHT TRAP

The following interview with the Chief Censor, John Dickie, took place in August 1993 on Radio National's AM program.

 

Chief censor comments on the classification of video games based on their levels of violence and sexual explicitness
abc.net.au, August 6, 1993

PETER THOMPSON: Video games will soon be rated like television and movies and the most sexually explicit and violent ones will be rated for adults only. From today, the Chief Censor, John Dickie, will begin consulting industry and community groups on the issue and report back to State and Federal governments later this year. The classification will affect games at video parlours and those sold and hired at retail outlets. Four categories are likely to guide parents on the suitability of games. Kevin Wilde asked John Dickie how the classification of video games will be made law.

JOHN DICKIE: Well, I think eventually there will be legislation, and what I hope will be the end result of that will be that there will be a regime where people who are buying or hiring these games will know that the product they are buying has at least been vetted through an organisation that can deal with these things, that it will be clearly labelled for the suggested age groups for children who are playing them, and that there will be information on the games so that parents will have some idea of what the content of the game is. I think that's the end result that we're heading for.

KEVIN WILDE: How many games, currently on the market, do you believe would be marked specifically not for use for children under the age of eighteen?

JOHN DICKIE: I don't know, at the moment. We're still talking with industry about that, we're still making our own inquiries about what kind of games are out there. We have been told that in the arcade parlours, for instance, that they are family centres, that they're not interested in those types of games.

KEVIN WILDE: Not all the games are available through video parlours. Some are available through video outlets, the hire of movies as well. Will that be one of the main areas of concern, that when games that can be hired in those type of outlets, that they are clearly marked because there would not be parental supervision necessarily in that case?

JOHN DICKIE: No, that's what we will be doing, in the same way that there are restricted videos for hire now which can't be let out to people under the age of eighteen. There's already an established practice there in relation to the hire and sale of videos. Are you aware of any specific video games which have been drawn to your attention as being particularly violent or having sexually explicit material?

JOHN DICKIE: No, not at the moment. There's been a lot of talk about a game called Night Trap.

KEVIN WILDE: What is the aim of Night Trap in terms of being a successful player?

JOHN DICKIE: The purpose of the game of Night Trap is to save a whole family of people from invaders from outer space. I think a lot of the concern that has arisen about the game of Night Trap is some of the methods that the intruders from outer space use in capturing members of the family - there's suggestions of a drill being held at people's neck and things like that - but from what I've seen of the game the purpose is to prevent this happening.

KEVIN WILDE: How do you believe your office and governments, in a sense, can respond to the other issue as a result of these type of games, the computer to computer link and the difficulty there in terms of classifying and limiting sexually explicit or violent games in that way?

JOHN DICKIE: Well, that's certainly a difficult problem and that's one that we're still coming to grips with, and we will be reporting to Ministers on that when we get enough information, but at the moment we're concentrating on the major market which is the hire and sale of the video games

 

 

The OFLC on NIGHT TRAP

The following is taken from the 1993 to 1993 Annual Report of the OFLC.

 

The Office has also been asked to develop proposals for the regulation of computer games and computer generated images.

Public concern about these games has been kept under review by the Standing Committee of Censorship Ministers.

The Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that these games should be included in the definition of publications in its Report on Censorship Procedure.

Because of this recommendation and widespread public concern about a computer game called Night Trap, Censorship Ministers decided that these games should be regulated and have asked that proposals be brought before them in November 1993. They also have asked that draft instructions for legislation be ready for consideration at their scheduled meeting in February next year.

These games, some of which can take up to three weeks to play are now being replaced, by more sophisticated technology which on some estimates will take up to three months! to play if all of the levels of the game are to be examined.

The principal industry bodies have indicated publicly that they are seeking guidance for classification guidelines so that they can, in the interim, classify material themselves.

While Ministers have ruled out full self regulation, the Office is exploring with the industry, and with community groups, alternatives which will allow for as much self regulation as possible. Such a process would be supervised by a body which will safeguard the community's interests, and regulate the sale and hire of the material in as simple and effective a way as possible.

Industry and community groups are being consulted before the proposals are submitted to Ministers. It is the intention that representatives of these groups will be given every opportunity to comment and make suggestions about the proposals.

 

 

1994: NIGHT TRAP and Australian games censorship

NIGHT TRAP was mentioned in Parliament in June 1994, during the introduction of the games classification bill.

 

Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Bill 1994
Date: 29-06-1994

House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Attorney- General
Commencement: Commencement is as follows:

In 1990, a reference was given to the Law Reform Commission to investigate the feasibility of a national scheme covering films and publications, given the broad agreement of the Commonwealth, States and Territories as to the desirability of restricting the availability of certain material, the difficulties in administering a complex set of non- uniform laws, and the agreement that there should be a principal Federal censorship agency 23 . The Commission consulted State and Territory Governments, consumer groups such as the Video Industry Distributors Association, and received numerous written submissions from the public before reporting in June 1991 24 . The report examined aspects of classification policy, including the classification process, enforcement of classifications, and customs and advertising related issues. The Report recommended that:

The present legislation dealing with the classification of films and publications should be rationalised into a national legislative scheme consisting of

State and Territory laws adopting the classifications made under the Federal Act and restricting the dissemination of films and publications. 25

Other major recommendations included:

The Report also contained draft legislation, model enforcement provisions, and an explanatory memorandum 26 . The Bill has been prepared on the basis of this report.

An issue which came to some prominence after the Report, is the classification of computer games. The Report stated that:

The development of so- called 'adult' computer games, and the easy access to some programs over telephone lines, have prompted concern. Several State governments have received complaints about computer games, as has the Office of Film and Literature Classification. There has not yet been a decision by governments that computer programs need to be regulated but several jurisdictions have indicated that they would like this issue to be addressed by the Commission. For this reason, and because of the accepted principle that children should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them, the Commission has given consideration to the question whether computer programs can be regulated effectively within the framework of the classification system. 27

The Report considered that there would also be some physical difficulty in classifying computer programs, especially given their interactive nature, which gives scope to the viewer/player to determine how much of the program is viewed/played. The practice of computer program classification would also be resource intensive, although the Report stated that:

The principles behind the classification of publications- the prohibition of material that offends against community standards to the extent it should be banned, restricting the access of children to material which may harm them and providing a warning as to contents- apply equally to computer programs. 28

As part of this process, the Senate resolved in May 1993 to include the video games issue into the ongoing work of the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies. This was primarily a result of concern about a lack of regulation in the industry, highlighted by games such as 'Night Trap', 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Mortal Kombat II'. All of these games depict graphic violence which is easily accessible to the young. «Night Trap', which was the subject of criticism in the report of the committee included the depiction of zombies drilling through women's necks, while 'Mortal Kombat' contains characters who can be ritually electrocuted, decapitated or impaled on a spike by the player. This game was described as "questionable" by the eventual report. The sequel to 'Mortal Kombat', 'Mortal Kombat II' continued the depiction of 'questionable' violence, by introducing new characters and new forms of violence including characters who can be attacked with knives, or subjected to bolts of fire or electricity.

The Committee handed down its report in October 1993, but in June 1993, governments decided to act on the video games issue. At the meeting of the Standing Committee of Censorship Ministers in Darwin on 24 June 1993, it was resolved that video and computer games would be brought under the national censorship system. The Committee noted the difficulty of regulating certain aspects of computer technology and attempted to ensure an interim self- regulatory code would be brought in by the industry in the meantime. The Ministers also agreed that:

...the proposals by the Law Reform Commission for a single censorship code should be presented to them in the form of drafting instructions for legislation. They would consider these drafting instructions at their next meeting. 29

The Report of the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies on Video and Computer Games and Classification Issues was handed down in October 1993. The rapid growth in both the computer software industry, and the telecommunications industry had led to a situation when legislative action regarding classification was not keeping pace with technological change. The Committee was told that the video games industry had grown to a market of around $7 billion worldwide 30 .

The Committee recommended that:

 

 

NIGHT TRAP: M-rated

In June 1995, NIGHT TRAP was passed with a relatively mild M15+ (Medium level violence) rating. Sega Ozisoft was the applicant.

 

 

Further NIGHT TRAP information

For more information on NIGHT TRAP in Australia, see Anthony Larme's Dangerous Games? page, and Games Censorship Collection site.

This YouTube clip includes all of the controversial content.

 

Night Trap - Sega [us] CD


 

 

 

 

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge

Developed by Team Ninja / 2012 / MobyGames

This game has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included as an example of classification policy

 

The R18+ rating for games was introduced in Australia on January 1st 2013.

The first title passed with the new rating was NINJA GAIDEN 3: RAZOR'S EDGE. It was awarded an R18+ (High impact bloody violence) on January 11 2013.

Nintendo Australia was the applicant.

 

‘Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge’ first R 18+ computer game in Australia
Australian Government
Classification Board
11 January 2013
Media Release

The Director of the Classification Board, Ms Lesley O’Brien announced today that Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was the first computer game in Australia to be classified R 18+ in the newly created adult category.

The Classification Board classified the game R 18+ (Restricted) with consumer advice of ‘High impact bloody violence’.

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is an action adventure game for the Nintendo Wii U console in which players assume the role of Ryu Hayabusa, a cursed ninja battling a terrorist organisation.

Ms O’Brien said computer games classified R 18+ are legally restricted to adults.

“Under the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games, R 18+ computer games will have a high impact and it is for this reason that these games are not suitable for under 18s," Ms O’Brien said.

“Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge contains violence that is high in impact because of its frequency, high definition graphics, and emphasis on blood effects."

When making decisions about computer games, the Classification Board must use the criteria set out in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games Act) 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games.

The new Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games came into effect on 1 January 2013. Prior to then, Australia did not have an adult category for computer games.

Under state and territory laws it is illegal to sell R 18+ computer games to people under 18.

An application to classify Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was received by the Classification Board on 3 January 2013 from Nintendo Australia Pty Ltd and the decision was finalised today (11 January). It was classified M (for ages 17 and over) by the Entertainment Rating Software Board (ESRB) in the United States and 18+ by the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) Scheme which covers most of Europe and the United Kingdom.

‘I encourage consumers to use the National Classification Database to find out about the classifications of computer games,’ Ms O’Brien said.

The database is on the classification website at www.classification.gov.au. Statement authorised by Lesley O’Brien, Director, Classification Board.

 

 

R18+ And The Awkward Space On The Wall
kotaku.com.au, March 5, 2013

...Australian distributor Mindscape presented Ron with a framed edition of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2+, Australia’s first R18+ game, alongside a copy of its Classification Certificate. Finally Ron has something to put on his wall.

It represents a job well done but, for Ron, this is just the beginning.

“I’m really glad that we have R18+, so we can stop talking about it and focus on other classification issues," says Ron. “Like how do we classify content online, how do we classify online games and mobile games and indie games? Stuff that’s really important.

“For us it always got in the way of any conversation about anything. It was always in the way. I’ll be happy to not have it dominate.

“It’ll be nice when it’s normal to have an R18+ rating."

 

 

The new R18+ games rating

The first ten R18+ games were as follows.

 

1. NINJA GAIDEN 3: RAZOR’S EDGE - January 11

 

2. SPARTACUS LEGENDS - January 17

Classification Board Annual Report 2012-2013
R18+ Games
Spartacus Legends is a third-person combat game where the player controls and customises gladiators who fight in pitched arena-style battles to achieve fame and power. The player engages in one-on-one gladiator battles in a variety of arenas and uses fists, swords, shields, tridents, hammers, daggers and spears to maim and kill opponents. Combat results in graphic and realistically depicted wounding, dismemberment and decapitations accompanied by copious blood effects, flesh and bone detail. The Classification Board classified this computer game R 18+ with consumer advice of ‘high impact bloody violence’.

 

3. ARMY OF TWO: THE DEVILS CARTEL - January 21

 

4. NINJA GAIDEN SIGMA 2 PLUS - January 23

 

5. CHIVALRY: MEDIEVAL WARFARE - February 6

Classification Board Annual Report 2012-2013
R18+ Games
Another computer game classified R 18+ by the Classification Board was Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Set in a fictional Middle Ages kingdom, the game contains violence that is high in impact in the view of the Classification Board. The violence in the game is seen from both a first-person and third-person perspective as the player engages in relentless and realistic combat scenarios against realistically depicted human opponents using a wide array of medieval weaponry that results in graphic and detailed injuries. Consumer advice of ‘high impact violence’ was assigned to this game.

 

6. GOD OF WAR ASCENSION - February 7

 

7. RIDE TO HELL: RETRIBUTION - February 7

 

8. MORTAL KOMBAT KOMPLETE EDITION - February 12

See separate database entry.

 

9. ATELIER TOTORI PLUS: THE ADVENTURER OF ARLAND - February 14

Classification Board Annual Report 2012-2013
Complaints
There were eight complaints about the computer game Atelier
Totori Plus: The Adventurer of Arland which is classified R 18+ with consumer advice of ‘references to sexual violence’. Some of the complainants questioned why this game was classified R 18+ while another computer game in the Atelier Totori series was classified PG.

 

10. DEAD ISLAND: RIPTIDE - March 5

Classification Board Annual Report 2012-2013
R18+ Games
In Dead Island Riptide, characters find themselves trapped on an island which has been overrun with zombies. In single or online multiplayer modes, players navigate their way across a jungle environment battling against hordes of attacking zombies with the main objective being to survive and flee the island as a group. The highest impact violence contained in the game occurs during attacks on enemy zombie characters which are frequent throughout. As well as hand-to-hand combat, players have a range of weapons at their disposal including firearms, explosives and blunt and bladed weapons, which all have a range of possible upgrades and modifications. Injury to enemy characters is accompanied with generous blood effects and dismemberment. The game does contain violence against human characters however damage to a human enemy character is only accompanied by blood effects and does not include dismemberment. The Classification Board classified this computer game R 18+ with consumer advice of ‘high impact violence’.

 

 

May 2013: Senate Estimates and the introduction of R18+

Lesley O’Brien, the Director of the Classification Board
ACT Liberal Senator, Gary Humphries

Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Date: 29/05/2013
Senate Estimates
Attorney-General Portfolio
Classification Board

Ms O'Brien : I will give you an overview of the Classification Board's work since I took over at the beginning of the year. To 30 April 2013 the board has made 3,801 classification decisions for film, computer games and publications. All decisions this year have been made within this statutory time frame of 20 business days. Perhaps the most significant change that has occurred in the classification sphere since I have been appointed director is the establishment of the new 'adult' category for computer games, which commenced on 1 January 2013.

The implementation of this change, the first major change to the National Classification Scheme in many years, has gone extremely well. Between 1 January and 14 May 2013 the board classified 15 computer games as R 18+. The first computer game to be classified R 18+ was Ninja gaiden 3: razor's edge. To recognise this milestone I gave a statement and an interview to the media about the game classification and outlined some of the reasons for the decision. Importantly, in the same period, games have continued to be classified in the MA 15+ category—24 and counting. Computer games will continue to be refused classification if they contain content that is very high in impact which falls outside the R 18+ category.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Thank you for that opening statement, Ms O'Brien. You mentioned in that opening statement that from the beginning of the new classification to 14 March you had classified 15 games as R 18+. Were any games submitted during that time for classification that you classified as MA 15+?

Ms O'Brien : Yes. We had 24 games classified as MA 15+.

Senator HUMPHRIES: These are obviously games in a genre that is fairly attractive to young people, often quite violent and, I assume, fall close to a borderline between MA 15+ and R 18+. Is it possible to say whether the 15 games you classified as R 18+ would likely have been refused classification under the previous regime?

Ms O'Brien : That is a difficult question. Each game is considered on its merits. The new classification guidelines for computer games certainly have more prescriptive requirements, particularly around sexual violence and some other elements of violence, that would cause a game to be classified as R 18+. It is difficult to say how those same games would have been classified under the previous guidelines. They would need to be considered under those guidelines and clearly we are not using them anymore.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can you provide, perhaps on notice, a breakdown of, let us say for last financial year as a comparison, how many video games were submitted and how many were put into which classifications, and for the first whatever months of this year—let us say the first three months of this year—how many in those same classifications were submitted and how many were allocated to which classification.

Ms O’Brien : Just to be clear: you want to know, of the games that we have classified under the new guidelines, what the decisions where for each of those games?

Senator HUMPHRIES: Yes, please. I want to see how the R 18+ classification is affecting the trend of classification. We can see what we did for all the video games submitted and compare it with those submitted since the 1 January this year as a comparative period. How many games submitted since the first of January have been refused classification?

Ms O’Brien : No games have been refused classification in that five-month period.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Have all of the games that have been submitted since 1 January been games that are available in other parts of the world?

Ms O’Brien : I cannot say categorically that that is the case or is not the case. Our job as the classification board is to classify what comes before us. Even if classification databases overseas show games with the same name there is no guarantee that they are, in fact, the same game unmodified, so I really cannot comment on whether the games we are seeing are the same games that may be available overseas.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Since the new classifications been introduced, have any games that were already classified as MA 15+ been reclassified?

Ms O’Brien : No. No games have been reclassified.

Senator HUMPHRIES: It is possible to do that, isn't it?

Ms O’Brien : It is possible, and there are certain provisions in the act, but no computer games has ever been reclassified under the national classification scheme. The general practice has been when there has been a major change to the national classification scheme that this is not reason, in and of itself, to reclassify content which has previously been classified. That is because classification decisions made under the classification laws of the day remain valid decisions. Changes take effect prospectively in order to provide certainty for the industry and the public alike.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I know, but the owner of a game or a title could come to OFLC and say, 'We would like to reclassify this because we think it falls under a different category in the new rules.'

Ms O’Brien : Games can only be reclassified after two years have lapsed between the original decision and a reclassification. That is actually specified in the act. The board may act at the request of the minister or on its own initiative to reclassify—it is not possible, for example, as you in your example, for a distributor to ask for a game to be reclassified.

Senator HUMPHRIES: You may have seen an article that appeared in the Herald Sun on Friday, 10 May, in which the views of Professor Elizabeth Handsley of Flinders University, President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, were reported. According to this report, which apparently relates a study by the Australian Council on Children and the Media, there has been an increase in the number of supposedly violent games that are being classified MA 15+ that would have been classified with the R 18+ based on what has happened to those same games overseas. I do not know how the study actually undertook that work of assessing whether the equivalent R 18+ type game overseas is actually the same as the MA 15+ game that was classified here. Have you seen that report and do you have a view on the report?

Ms O'Brien : Yes, I did see that media article. I think the first important point to make in relation to schemes that operate overseas is that the board classifies material that comes before it using our own classification laws, so the classification act, the National Classification Code and the classification guidelines. Different countries have different classification outcomes for different games based on different classification standards, laws and cultural norms. Computer games classified overseas operate under different systems to ours. Nor can you assume that the games that they are classifying are actually the same games that we are receiving to classify, because sometimes distributors and publishers will modify, change a game when it submits it to the Australian Classification Board. So I offer up those points in relation to some of the arguments put forward in relation to those overseas schemes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I assume most of the games we are talking about would be manufactured or at least originate in the United States of America?

Ms O'Brien : The United States, parts of Europe. Japan is another leading country in computer games development.

Senator HUMPHRIES: And there are significant differences between their classification schemes for video games and ours, or are they essentially aligned pretty closely?

Ms O'Brien : There are significant differences. There are differences in terms of their classifiable elements. We have six classifiable elements: things like violence, nudity, sex and coarse language. They have a completely different range of classifiable elements under which they make their decisions. They also have different classification categories themselves. Their age brackets are different. Also, our scheme is different because the categories that we have at the MA15+ and R18+ level are legally enforceable, whereas the schemes you have mentioned overseas are voluntary schemes. So even though something may be classified overseas the equivalent of R18+, there are no laws to prevent a child from walking into a store and purchasing an R18+ equivalent game. So there are some significant differences.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So you would reject Professor Handsley's comment that it would appear that the new system has not resulted in a tightening up of the classification system at all?

Ms O'Brien : What I would say is that the board is applying the guidelines that have been given to us to apply. The fact that we have made decisions in both the MA15+ category and the R18+ category is evidence that we are using the guidelines as they are intended to be used, that both categories are legitimate categories and we are making the appropriate decisions against those guidelines.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I understand that once a game is approved and in the marketplace it is possible to get add-ons and updates over the internet to those games. So a person who is online can put their game onto their computer and they can get the online updates and add-ons to those games. I assume that, because that material is coming in over the internet, it is not classified by the Classification Board?

Ms O'Brien : Currently, strictly speaking, whether computer games are sold in a box, downloaded onto a console, on an app that is a computer game designed for a mobile phone, or played wholly online, they are subject to the National Classification Scheme. But, as censorship ministers have publicly acknowledged, most mobile and online games that are currently sold in Australia without an Australian classification are potentially in breach of state and territory enforcement laws. Thus, in 2011, censorship ministers decided on an interim solution to exempt mobile phone and online games from classification for two years, except games that are likely to be refused classification. This interim plan means that these computer games will continue to be available while longer term reforms are developed. The bill was introduced into parliament on 12 October 2012 and has been passed by the House of Representatives and is awaiting debate in the Senate.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So the games could be MA15+ but they could get beefed up, as it were, with online content at the moment and become effectively worthy of classification as R18+ or even possibly refused classification. And there is nothing really about our system as presently designed that could do anything about that.

Ms O’Brien : The department are looking at measures at the moment to address online and mobile games. The department may be able to assist more with information on that.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I know this is being looked at, so I do not really want to know what is being planned. I just want to be clear that, at the moment, it is possible that that can happen, is it not? You can get the online updates, which effectively raise the classification of what you are looking at and what you are playing with, and we do not have a way of stopping that at the moment. That is essentially right, is it not?

Ms O’Brien : Certainly add-ons and modifications are possible and, technically speaking, they are subject to the National Classification Scheme.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I will leave it there. Thank you.

CHAIR: Ms O'Brien, I thank you and your colleagues.

 

 

The Classification Board on NINJA GAIDEN 3 and the Games R18+

Classification Board Annual Report 2012-2013
Director’s Overview

One of the most significant developments during 2012–13 was the implementation of an R 18+ category for computer games. The R 18+ category for computer games took effect on 1 January 2013, with the introduction of new, separate Computer Games Guidelines, which were reviewed and agreed to by all state and territory ministers who have responsibility for classification matters. The first computer game to receive an R 18+ classification was Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. This game was classified by the Classification Board on 11 January 2013. Computer games that are classified R 18+ are legally restricted to adults and cannot be sold to minors

I would like to congratulate the Board on its seamless transition to the new Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games on 1 January 2013, and the reasoned judgement it has exercised in its decision-making. I would also like to acknowledge the Attorney-General’s Department for the initiatives it undertook in support of the new Computer Games Guidelines, including targeted education, training and communication at both industry and retail level.

Lesley O’Brien
Director
Classification Board

 

Classification Board Annual Report 2012-2013
R18+ Games

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge was the first computer game to be classified R 18+ in Australia. The computer game is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of Ryu Hayabusa, a cursed ninja, battling a terrorist organisation. Players engage in repetitive hack-and-slash style gameplay, using katanas, bows, shurikens, and special attacks to kill demon creatures and human enemies. The melee-style combat is highlighted by slow-motion effects and exaggerated blood splashes as enemies are frequently impaled, decapitated and dismembered, and some attacks end with close-up camera angles on bloodied foes.

In the Classification Board’s view, the violence in the game is high in playing impact due to its frequency, high definition resolution and emphasis on blood effects. The Classification Board therefore classified the computer game R 18+ with consumer advice of ‘high impact bloody violence’.

 

Ninja Gaiden 3: Razors Edge (2012) - Nintendo Australia [au] Wii 


 

 

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