In July 1998, TENDER LOVING CARE was banned by the OFLC. Playcorp was the applicant.
In their 1998 to 1999 Annual Report, the OFLC explained the RC-rating.
...TLC was also classified 'RC' on the basis of depictions of simulated sexual activity.
In April 2000, a DVD of TENDER LOVING CARE was passed with an MA15+ (Adult themes) rating. Wild Releasing was the applicant. Despite the interactive nature, the film was classified as a DVD, and not as a game.
In 2003, Anthony Larme questioned the OFLC about the new computer guidelines. He also asked how TENDER LOVING CARE happened to be passed as a DVD, but not as a game
On 19 May, I sent an email message to the OFLC to ask them a few important questions re: their new combined Film and Games Guidelines.
This was the most important part of my email:
Anthony Larme to the OFLC
I am intrigued by the possibilities of your revised computer games guidelines.
They now allow for the presence of nudity and simulated sex in non-medical education situations (providing such scenes are not "rewards").
Previously, such material was rated RC and various games were banned to everyone as a result.
So, does that mean games banned for such reasons are now able to be sold/imported?
If not, then why are these games still banned when newer games with identical content would be permitted? Why such a contradiction for games containing exactly the same material?
What are some factors that would lead the OFLC to believe a particular nudity/sex scene in a game was a "reward"?
And what about interactive DVDs? Some of these contain interactive storylines. Are these now "games" or "movies" to you? eg : "Tender Loving Care" (in 1999 banned as a cd-rom game but allowed as MA as an interactive DVD despite the fact it contained exactly the same interactive scenes).
I received this response from Des Clark, the Director, on the 25th of this month:
The OFLC to Anthony Larme
Mr Anthony Larme
Dear Mr Larme
I refer to your email of 19 May 2003 regarding the classification of computer games under the combined Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (the Combined Guidelines). I apologise on the delay in my reply.
The national classification scheme is a cooperative scheme between the Commonwealth, States and Territories. The Classification Board classifies films (including videos and DVDs), computer games and certain publications. When making decisions, the Board applies criteria in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the classification guidelines. Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers with censorship responsibilities agree to the Code and the guidelines.
The Combined Guidelines, which came into operation on 30 March 2003, are the product of a review of the classification guidelines for films and computer games to ensure that they continue to reflect community standards. In the course of the review process, the Office of Film and Literature Classification received 372 submissions from the public, the film and computer games industries, and community and professional organisations. Censorship Ministers noted the sentiment expressed in many of the submissions that both the previous guidelines, and the draft combined guidelines which were distributed with the review discussion paper, lacked simplicity, transparency and clarity.
The Combined Guidelines have consequently been simplified and streamlined so that they can be more workable and transparent. A language consultant, Professor Peter Butt of the Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, has confirmed confirmed that the Combined Guidelines were simpler, clearer and easier to use. I have included a link to the Combined Guidelines for your information.
I note your understanding that the Combined Guidelines now allow for the presence of nudity and simulated sex in non-medical situations. This is not correct. I would like to emphasise that the standards from the previous guidelines have not changed. The Combined Guidelines provide a clearer hierarchy for decision-making by the Classification Board.
Under the Combined Guidelines, the MA classification provides that sexual activity may be implied and that nudity should be justified by context. The impact of depictions of both sexual activity and nudity within the MA classification should be no higher than strong. Computer games including material which exceeds the MA category will continue to be refused classification (RC).
In the previous guidelines, nudity including genital detail was permissible within the MA classification but only if there was a ‘bona fide' educational, medical or community health purpose. While this qualification is no longer specifically listed in the Combined Guidelines, the Board must still consider whether depictions of nudity are justified by context. Interactivity may restrict the circumstances in which nudity and sexual activity is justified by context, for example, if depictions of nudity and sexual activity are related to incentives or rewards.
In your email, you ask about the status of games classified under the previous guidelines. Existing classification decisions stand unless the Board determines a need for reclassification. Reclassification can be undertaken at the initiative of the Board or by the request of the Attorney-General two years after the original classification decision was made.
In your email, you also ask what would lead to a determination that depictions of sexual activity or nudity constitute a reward. This is a matter for the Board to determine on a case-by-case basis. This issue has not yet arisen under the Combined Guidelines.
You also question the difference between an interactive DVD and a computer game and how they are classified. The Classification Act provides a definition of "interactive film" and "interactive game". An interactive game is "a game in which the way the game proceeds and the result achieved at various stages of the game is determined in response to the decisions, inputs and direct involvement of the player". An interactive film "enables a person using it to choose from 2 or more visual images, the image that will be viewed". Both interactive films and interactive games are classified in accordance with the Combined Guidelines.
I note you refer to the game Tender Loving Care. On 30 July 1998 the Board considered a computer game sale/hire application for the interactive thriller. In applying the previous Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games, the Board was of the opinion that the game warranted an RC classification due to the depictions of sexual activity. The previous computer game guidelines provided that material including gratuitous nudity and sexual activity must be refused classification.
On 3 April 2000, the Board considered a film sale/hire application for a DVD version of Tender Loving Care. Under the previous Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Videotapes, the Board was of the opinion that the game warranted an MA classification due to adult themes of a high intensity. The Guidelines provided that within the MA classification, sexual activity may be implied, nudity should not be exploitative and the treatment of themes with a high degree of intensity should be discreet. The content of the DVD falls within the MA classification for films and videotapes.
I hope this information assists you.
15 July 2003
Anthony Larme comments:
So, presumably, interactive movies on DVD such as TENDER LOVING CARE or POINT OF VIEW are "interactive films" while inevitably controversial games such as POSTAL 2 are still "games"?
Perhaps the OFLC could reclassify RC games like cd-rom TENDER LOVING CARE and PHANTASMORIA and the censored version of its sequel on its own initiative? Surely, they would pass under the present guidelines? Apparently, the original distributor need not reapply. But, that's still a "limbo" area in that these games are still, strictly speaking, illegal to sell/import even if they would likely be allowed these days.
These new guidelines are indeed largely untested when it comes to games and similar products. Let's see how they deal with "rewards" and the issue of the same game being released on different formats..... At least they will be forced to consider contextual issues for games - something not permitted under the older guidelines!
I thank Des Clark for his response!
For more information about the censorship of TENDER LOVING CARE, see Anthony's Games Censorship Collection.
In July 1996, a 3.5" disc of TERESA: HOUSE GUEST was banned by the OFLC. It was most likely refused because of nudity being used as an incentive or reward.
The Victorian Police were the applicant.
In June 1997, a CD-ROM of TEXAS TABLE DANCE was banned by the OFLC. It was most likely refused because of nudity being used as an incentive or reward.
The Victorian Police were the applicant.
It was described as:
Your personal Gentlemans Club. The sexiest dancers in the state of Texas! This much live action would cost you hundreds of dollars! And it does, in cyberdollars! But be careful with you dough! You know who wants it and they know how to get it! Play it smart and you'll get to see it all! But watch out for the manager and don't go over your credit limit or you're outta there! Over an hour of original Quicktime movies plus sexy photos!
This game has never had problems with the Australian censors. It is included as an example of classification policy.
In March 2000, THOMAS AND TIM was passed with an MA15+ (Sexual References) rating. Jack Of All Games was the applicant.
In their 1999 to 2000 Annual Report, the OFLC explained how nudity nearly caused it to be banned.
Thomas and Tim was the game that perhaps received the most intense discussion by the Board. The debate centred on the interaction of a pirate character and a breast nude mermaid.
A minority opinion was that this element depicted sex and violence in such a way that it warranted RC, and a further minority considered it to be a mild sexual reference that could be accommodated at an M15+ classification.
The majority opinion of the Board was that this part of the game was a strong sexual reference, and the game was classified MA15+ with the consumer advice Sexual References.