In June 2013, SAINTS ROW IV became the first game to be banned in Australia since the introduction of the R18+ rating.
The reason for the RC rating was:
...visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context.
...elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards.
Koch Media GmbH were the applicant.
25 June 2013
'Saints Row IV': first computer game classified Refused Classification
The Acting Director of the Classification Board Mr Donald McDonald announced today that Saints Row IV was the first computer game in Australia to be Refused Classification under the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games that commenced on 1 January 2013.
The Classification Board classified the game RC (Refused Classification) in accordance with item 1(a) of the National Classification Code and in accordance with the computer games guidelines.
In the Board’s opinion, Saints Row IV, includes interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context. In addition, the game includes elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards. Such depictions are prohibited by the computer games guidelines.
Mr McDonald said the Classification Board had now been applying the new computer games guidelines for almost six months and this was the first game to be refused classification.
"Apart from today’s decision, since the beginning of the year, the Board has classified 17 games R18+ under the new guidelines," Mr McDonald said.
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.
An application to classify Saints Row IV was received by the Classification Board on 13 May 2013.
Classification decisions can be viewed at the classification website at www.classification.gov.au.
Statement authorised by Donald McDonald, Acting Director, Classification Board.
IGEA’s response to the Refused Classification (RC) of Saints Row IV
igea.net, June 25, 2013
We can’t specifically comment on the Classification Board’s decision to issue Saint Row IV with a Refused Classification as we aren’t privy to the specific content of the game. Broadly speaking though, one of the key reasons an R18+ was introduced was to ensure that we strike a balance between giving adult Australians access to adult games while protecting children from inappropriate content. Under the new guidelines, we celebrate the fact that adults can now access age-appropriate games which may have otherwise been refused classification, but as we have argued, we also must accept that there will be some video games which will fall outside the scope of the R18+ guidelines. Whether we agree or not with this specific classification, it highlights that the classification system is functioning as it should and that R18+ was never meant to open the ‘floodgates’ for all types of content.
Overall, we remain confident that the Classification Board is applying the new guidelines as they see appropriate, but we also recognise that with any change to a system as subjective and complex as applying classification guidelines, there will always be a ‘settling in‘ period where all stakeholders strive to find an appropriate middle ground. Currently, we’re at the ‘high water’ mark where there’s a natural inclination to err on the side of caution.
Mark Serrels at kotaku.com.au obtained the Classification Board's report.
An 'Alien Anal Probe' Is The Reason Why Saints Row IV Was Refused
kotaku.com.au, June 26, 2013
The game includes a weapon referred to by the Applicant as an "Alien Anal Probe". The Applicant states that this weapon can be "shoved into enemy’s backsides". The lower half of the weapon resembles a sword hilt and the upper part contains prong-like appendages which circle around what appears to be a large dildo which runs down the centre of the weapon. When using this weapon the player approaches a (clothed) victim from behind and thrusts the weapon between the victim’s legs and then lifts them off the ground before pulling a trigger which launches the victim into the air. After the probe has been implicitly inserted into the victim’s anus the area around their buttocks becomes pixelated highlighting that the aim of the weapon is to penetrate the victim’s anus. The weapon can be used during gameplay on enemy characters or civilians. In the Board’s opinion, a weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and as such the game should be Refused Classification.
The game contains an optional mission which involves the player obtaining and smoking drugs referred to as "alien narcotics". Smoking the "alien narcotics" equips the player with "superpowers" which increase their in-game abilities allowing them to progress through the mission more easily.
Classification review announced for the computer game Saints
Classification Review Board
19 July 2013
The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification of the computer game Saints Row IV.
Saints Row IV was classified Refused Classification by the Classification Board on 19 June 2013.
The Classification Review Board will meet on Monday 29 July 2013 to consider the application. The decision and reasons will later be published on www.classification.gov.au.
If an individual or organisation wishes to apply for standing as an interested party to this review, please write to the Convenor of the Review Board.
The closing date to lodge your application for standing as an interested party and any submissions is Thursday 25 July 2013. Please note that the Review Board can only consider submissions about the computer game (Saints Row IV) itself and not any other matters relating to film classification policy or issues generally.
Submissions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent
Classification Review Board
Locked Bag 3
HAYMARKET NSW 1240
The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. It makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.
Saints Row IV classified Refused Classification
Classification Review Board
29 July 2013
A three-member panel of the Classification Review Board has unanimously determined that the computer game Saints Row IV is classified Refused Classification.
In the Review Board’s opinion, Saints Row IV could not be accommodated within the R 18+ classification as drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.
Computer games classified RC cannot be sold, hired, demonstrated or advertised in Australia.
The Review Board convened on Monday 29 July 2013 in response to an application from Koch Media GmbH, to review the decision made by the Classification Board on 19 June 2013 to classify Saints Row IV Refused Classification.
In reviewing the classification, the 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 Computer Games. This is the same framework used by the Classification Board.
The 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 Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.
The Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the Classification website when finalised. Statement authorised by Victoria Rubensohn AM, Chair, Classification Review Board
Classification Review Board
29 July 2013 23-33 MARY STREET
SURRY HILLS, NSW
Ms Victoria Rubensohn
Mr Peter Attard
Ms Jane Smith
APPLICANT Koch Media GmbH
To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the computer game Saints Row IV RC (Refused Classification).
DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION
The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) unanimously classified the computer game RC (Refused Classification).
2. Legislative provisions The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) (the Classification Act) governs the classification of computer games and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 provides that films are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines.
Relevantly, the Code in paragraph 1 of the Table under the heading 'Computer Games' 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; are to be classified RC.
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 film; and
(c) the general character of the film, 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 Computer Games 2012 (the Guidelines), determined under s 12 of the Act:
- the importance of context
- the assessment of impact, and
- the six classifiable elements – themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.
The Review Board met on 29 July 2013 in response to the receipt of an application from Koch Media GmbH on 17 July 2013 to conduct the review.
The Review Board engaged in extended gameplay of Saints Row IV upon the Xbox 360 platform prior to meeting with the applicant.
The applicant then took the Review Board through various aspects of gameplay and made an oral submission which was accompanied by a written submission.
The Review Board then considered the matter.
4. Evidence and other material taken into account
In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:
(i) Koch Media GmbHs’ application for review
(ii) Koch Media GmBHs’ written and oral submissions
(iii) the computer game, Saints Row IV
(iv) the relevant provisions in the Classification Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and
(v) the Classification Board’s report
(vi) six submissions from individual gamers
Saints Row IV is an Open World/Sandbox computer game for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Saints Row IV is the latest game in the Saints Row series, with the original title released in 2006.
Saints Row IV is a direct sequel to Saints Row: The Third. The game is set in a fictional Washington D.C. and simulated fictional city of Steelport, five years after the end of Saints Row: The Third. The leader of the Third Street Saints is elected President of the United States and immediately an alien invasion occurs and the protagonist (the Player) and the Saints are kidnapped by aliens known as the Zin and their leader Zinyak. The Player is transported to a virtual version of Steelport where the Player can use super powers to fight against the Zin empire. Various ‘side missions’ are options in the game.
6. Findings on material questions of fact
The Review Board found that the computer game contains aspects or scenes of importance under various classifiable elements:
The game primarily utilises violence as the human race fights the alien invasion. The violence is frequent but stylised and unrealistic. One of a range of possible DLC weapons that can be purchased is called ‘The Rectifier’. The Rectifier is a long three pronged weapon utilised by the Player to impale any characters in the game. The Rectifier is thrust from behind (implicitly via the anus, but the area is pixelated), the victim is then raised and shot projectile-like into the sky, leaving a trail of stars. It was submitted by the producers of the game that the use of this weapon represents a parody of the tradition of alien probes of humans. In the opinion of the Review Board, there is no element of sexual violence related to the use of The Rectifier.
The violence in the game, though frequent, is justified by the storyline. The impact is no higher than strong and can be accommodated at the MA15+ level.
The game contains frequent coarse language. The impact of the language is no higher than strong and can be accommodated at the MA15+ level.
The game contains no depictions of sexual activity. In the 'Romance' Option of the game there is sexual banter and brief implied sexual activity.
The impact of this element is no higher than strong and can be accommodated at the MA15+ level.
One ‘side mission’ included in the game involves the characters becoming nude, although their genitals are permanently pixelated. There are also a number of other instances where at a distance; one can see a woman’s breasts upon a poster and magazine cover.
The impact is no higher than strong, and could be accommodated at the MA15+ level.
During the course of the game, there is an option for a ‘side mission’ where the Player can achieve an unlimited sprinting power or superpower. Having acquired alien narcotics, the Player then has to inhale the drugs to gain the necessary superpower. The game directly links drug use to incentives and rewards. The fact that at another point in the game, these superpowers can be acquired in a different manner is irrelevant to the fact that in this option the drug use directly achieves the incentive of acquiring superpowers. Though the drugs are referred to as ‘alien’ their usage is represented in a realistic manner using realistic drug taking methods. The means by which the drugs are obtained from a street dealer parallels reality. The dialogue of the Player and other characters underlines the link between the drug use and the achievement of superpowers e.g. “This alien shit should give us an edge" (spoken by a female character).
7. Reasons for the decision
Drug use related to incentives or rewards is not permitted. The game Saints Row IV is therefore classified Refused Classification.
The Review Board decided that the computer game should be classified RC – Refused Classification.
Classification Board Annual Report 2012-2013
RC - Refused Classification
In the computer game Saints Row IV, the player controls the leader of the gang called the Third Street Saints. Players navigate open world environments and complete missions with the main objective being to destroy the Zin alien empire. In the view of the Classification Board, the game contains a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context. The game also contains an optional mission which involves the player obtaining and smoking drugs referred to as ‘alien narcotics’ which has the effect of increasing the player’s in-game abilities.
In the Classification Board’s opinion, there is insufficient delineation between the ‘alien narcotics’ available in the game and real-world proscribed drugs. At the R 18+ classification, the guidelines state:
‘Implied sexual violence that is visually depicted, interactive, not justified by context or related to incentives or rewards is not permitted’; and
‘Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted’.
As such, the Classification Board classified this computer game RC.
Classification Board Annual Report 2012-2013
The Classification Board received 795 complaints about computer games. The Classification Board made 695 classification decisions for computer games in 2012–13. Seven hundred and seventy-seven of the complaints were about the RC classifications of the two computer games Saints Row IV and State of Decay.
There were 507 complaints about the classification of Saints Row IV. The Classification Board classified the game RC due to a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and depictions of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards. The overwhelming majority of the complainants did not want the computer game to be refused classification.
On August 2 2013, a modified version of SAINTS ROW 4 was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, gaming experience may change online) rating.
The extended classification information describes,
Strong impact: Violence
Moderate impact: Themes, language, nudity, sex
Mild impact: Drug use
All Interactive Entertainment were the applicant.
August 3, 2013
To our fans in Australia and New Zealand:
After Saints Row IV was refused a classification in Australia, we appealed this decision. Despite our appeal, that decision was eventually upheld at the start of this week. The Australian Classification Board has now finally approved our slightly edited version with an MA 15+ rating.
For this version, we had to cut one optional Loyalty Mission from the game. Loyalty Missions are optional side missions that you can do with your homies. This mission in particular involves alien narcotics in the simulation, which eventually have a positive effect in terms of gameplay. As you cannnot depict any positive effect for using narcotics in video games in Australia, this was the reason the game was refused a classification.
While we are very proud of all our different missions, we do feel that Saints Row IV on the whole remains largely the same without this single optional mission, and we also feel that you deserve to know what you are getting in Australia. Due to the changes we were forced to make, this version is different than the version rated by rating boards like the ESRB, USK, and PEGI, which is why it will be incompatible with those versions in co-op.
As for the "Rectifier" weapon that was mentioned as an "alien anal probe" weapon recently -- it launches enemies into the sky -- this is and always has been a bonus weapon for the Season Pass. At this point in time we are still awaiting details on whether we can include it in the Season Pass in Australia or not. Of course we would have very much preferred to have been able to offer our Australian community everything as planned, but we also still want to offer the option to get Saints Row IV in their home country; alas without the single side mission.
New Zealand will still get the "uncut" version like the rest of the world, and the Rectifier weapon in the Season Pass.
For our fans in New Zealand, EB Games has the "Presidential Edition"
with a bonus Uncle Sam hat and Saints flag:
Xbox 360: http://bit.ly/16okiH4 - $108.00
PS3: http://bit.ly/1b0EuzM - $108.00
PC: http://bit.ly/137eflW - $88.00
Deep Silver Statement
"Deep Silver and [distributor] AIE are pleased to report that the Australian Classification Board has now approved Saints Row IV for sale. They have granted the game a MA15+ rating. To achieve this rating one loyalty mission featuring the character Shaundi has been removed. This mission has been widely reported on and contains the use of alien narcotics to obtain certain superpowers. This mission represents approximately 20 minutes of gameplay out of the hours available to purchasers. The removal of this mission has no negative impact on the story or the superpowers and will not detract from the enjoyment players will get from their Saints Row IV experience."
"The rectifier weapon will be available as part of a DLC package as originally intended. Deep Silver respects this decision and thanks the Australian Classification Board for their assistance with this matter."
Classification Board Annual Report 2013-2014
Out of the total of 458 computer games classified in 2013–14, 47 computer games were classified MA 15+.
Saints Row IV is an open-world action-adventure game in which the player assumes the role of The Protagonist, leader of the Third Street Saints who has been elected President of the United States and whose objective is to liberate Steelport and free humanity from an alien invasion led by Zinyak, Supreme Overlord of the Zin Empire. The game contains violence that is strong in impact and justified by context. The game allows the playable character, The Protagonist, to fight humans in a ‘real world’ setting as well as simulated humans in a (matrix-like) virtual reality. Players frequently engage in battle against aliens, cyborgs, humans and, at certain times, strange creatures such as a monstrous soft drink can or a mutant man-cat using a variety of weapons including pistols, rifles, machine guns as well as ‘alien weapons’ which can be used to suck victims into black holes or set them on fire. The player also uses hand-to-hand combat moves (including punches, kicks and head-stomps) and can also employ a range of super powers that can freeze, levitate, electrocute, shrink and ram their enemies.
The violence within the game has a strong playing impact owing to its frequency and emphasis on blood effects. However, in the opinion of the Board, the depictions of violence were mitigated by the stylised and unrealistic attacks that occur within a futuristic science-fiction setting against (predominantly) non-human characters. As such, the game was able to be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification with consumer advice of ‘Strong violence, gaming experience may change online’. The Board notes that an earlier version of this game was submitted for classification during the previous reporting period and the Board classified.
Classification Board Annual Report 2013-2014
Computer Games The Board received 355 complaints about computer games.
Two hundred and sixty two of the complaints were about the Refused Classification (RC) decisions for the computer games Saints Row IV and State of Decay which were classified in the previous reporting period.
Classification Review Board Annual Report 2013-2014
The Review Board received 78 complaints about its decisions in the reporting period.
There were 77 complaints that the computer game Saints Row IV should not be Refused Classification.
Details of what was removed can be found at Movie-censorship.
Saints Row IV
Censored Version - Rating: MA15+, Region: Australia
Uncensored Version - Rating: PEGI 18+, Region: Austria
The following youtube clip contains the depictions of drug use to which the Classification Board and Review Board objected. They were removed from the Australian MA15+ version of the game. Thanks to Richard S. for identifying these scenes.
Just before 1:00 is the line quoted by the Review Board - "this alien shit should give us an edge."
Drug use scene 1 from 2:23
Drug use scene 2 from 4:50
Then incentive/reward after scene 2.
Saints Row IV Walkthrough - Loyalty Quest: Shaundi
The following youtube clip contains depictions of 'sexual violence' that the Classification Board gave as a reason for an RC-rating. The Classification Review Board had a different idea, and found that:
...there is no element of sexual violence related to the use of The Rectifier.
It was therefore passed in the MA15+ version.
Saints Row IV DLC!!! THE RECTIFIER PROBE!
On January 20 2015, SAINTS ROW IV: RE-ELECTED + GAT OUT OF HELL was released in Australia. This double-pack contained a high-definition makeover of the original game called SAINTS ROW IV: RE-ELECTED, as well as a new stand-alone expansion pack called GAT OUT OF HELL.
It soon became clear that the Play Station 4 version of SAINTS ROW IV: RE-ELECTED was uncut, and contained the gameplay that led to it being banned in June 2013.
QVS, the Australian distributor, issued a statement requesting a recall of the game.
Saints Row IV: Re-Elected - Recall
26 January, 2015
Unfortunately over the weekend, it has come to light that the PlayStation 4 retail release of Saints Row IV: Re-Elected has a serious manufacturing issue and a nationwide recall is now underway in Australia.
A manufacturing issue has caused an incorrectly classified version of Saints Row IV: Re-Elected for our territory to be released. This strictly affects PlayStation 4 retail versions.
All customers who have purchased the PlayStation 4 version of Saints Row IV: Re-Elected are encouraged to return to their retailer for a full refund.
Replacement copies with the correct content are on order and will arrive with retailers soon.
Other games that have been recalled in Australia include, GRAND THEFT AUTO 3 in 2001, MANHUNT in 2004, and DRAGON BALL: ORIGINS in 2009.