Saints Row IV is the First Game to be Refused Classification in Australia

saints-row-4-wallpaperAt the start of 2013, Australia introduced its new “Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games.” This introduced a the first mature-type rating in Australia for video games called “R 18+.” For the first time since the introduction of that new rating level, the Australian Government Classification Board has refused a rating for a game with Volition and Deep Silver’s upcoming Saints Row IV getting that distinction.

In an official statement, the Classification Board explained its rating of Saints Row IV as follows:

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.

Now, when I originally wrote this (and then scrambled to edit it with the upcoming new information), I included the following line: “If it’s the clichéd sci-fi alien anal probing, I think that the Board may have missed the point of the context of the game.”

Well, wouldn’t you know it, a report says that the reason the game was effectively banned in Australia was because of the inclusion of a weapon called the “Alien Anal Probe.” When your character is trapped in a simulation by aliens, this is likely going to be included in the game as a funny weapon, kind of like the Dubstep Gun.

According to Kotaku Australia, the Classification Board’s full report includes the following explanation for the classification refusal:

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 context is the joke of there being a clichéd alien probing gun in the game as a result of aliens being in the game. I don’t think additional context is required to justify the gun’s inclusion in the game given that it’s a tired toilet humour cliché about aliens. It’s not original but I don’t think anyone familiar with what the game is going for is going to see it as a depiction of a violent sexual act. A violent act, yes (it’s a weapon, after all), but I don’t see it as a form of sexual deviance but that might just be me putting on blinders as a sci-fi fan. If it was the interactive depiction of sexual assault or rape, I could understand the decision and would support it. In this case, I think a ban because of “sexual violence” is applying the letter of the law rather than the spirit.

I will grant the Australian Government Classification Board one point though. The interactive depiction of sexual violence is something that I don’t trust the video game industry to get right. Now, the depiction of sexual violence to further the narrative would be a very sensitive subject but as video games grow larger in scope and rival movies and novels in terms of narrative scope and quality, more mature subjects will be touched on. If it’s done in an appropriate manner (which isn’t “Press X to not get raped” like we thought Tomb Raider was at first), then it shouldn’t be an issue.

In this instance, I would think that the exclusion of an Alien Anal Probing gun won’t greatly alter the game. However, I am worried about censoring what’s supposed to be a joke about sci-fi cliches and conspiracy theories. Rape is a serious matter and shouldn’t be taken lightly but are we so concerned about a so-called “rape culture” that we aren’t allowing a fairly common joke to be included in a video game?

Deep Silver says that they will rework the game to get a R 18+ rating in Australia and re-apply for classification. In a statement, the publisher said:

Deep Silver can confirm that Saints Row IV was denied an age classification in Australia. Volition, the developer, are reworking some of the code to create a version of the game for this territory by removing the content which could cause offence without reducing the outlandish gameplay that Saints Row fans know and love. Saints Row IV has been awarded PEGI 18 and ESRB M ratings where fans can enjoy their time in Steelport as originally intended.

I think the question now has to be can Volition rework Saints Row IV so the Australian government allows the game to be commercially sold in the country without fundamentally changing the game.

Of course, the other question is why, when you have a rating that says that a game can only be legally purchased or played by people over the age of 18, no one is allowed to buy or play it? It’s excessive censorship if you ask me, especially if Australia thinks that adults can’t choose their own clearly fantasy entertainment.

Source: Australian Classification, Joystiq, Kotaku Australia


About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on June 27, 2013, in Games and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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