The Australian Censorship Board is at it again

Not one but two sandbox games - Saints Row 4 and State of Decay - were refused classification because these morons think it’s so fucking important to prevent adults being exposed to fictional characters using drugs (gasp!). Clearly, if you’re stuck in a post apocalyptic wasteland with a broken arm, it is better to suffer in agony than to use any kind of painkiller.

Both games have been resubmitted with bowdlerised versions, and the State of Decay example is particularly stupid: instead of telling people that taking painkillers is okay if you’ve been mangled by a zombie, it now tells you that dietary supplements are an effective medical treatment for serious injuries. The only way this could be more offensively stupid is if they’d been made homeopathic supplements.

Disappointing, particularly considering that this is the same Australia that has had such good work with anti-vaxxers and magic bracelets. The dietary supplement one is particularly ironic.

Maybe the dietary supplements are for the zombies.

Note that Saints Row 4 was refused classification not because “drugs are bad”, but because there’s a weapon included in it that’s a giant dildo on a stick which you use to forcibly sodomise people. For some reason that was deemed to be a positive depiction of sexual assault. Can’t imagine why.

Classification gets refused for drugs if there’s a depiction of a banned drug that’s used either wholly positively or as a reward. If you use morphine which recovers health without side-effects, it’ll be refused classification. If you use morphine and there are realistic side-effects, it can be categorised as Restricted to ages 18+. If you retitle the drug Med-X (as in Fallout 3), it can be classified down to MA, which is recommended for ages 15+ but isn’t restricted.

The laws aren’t as stupid as they’re often categorised to be, the enforcement rarely is and workarounds aren’t usually hard to find and implement unless the game’s just trying to pander to 14-year-olds who think they’re “edgy”.

That may be the case now, but they didn’t even have an 18+ rating in Australia back when Fallout 3 came out. It was rename (or remove) morphine or not get released there at all.

Does Steam disallow such games in Australia?

Why do you think the Australian board tends to be so strict?

If the workarounds are as easy as you claim, then the laws are as stupid as they’re purported to be.

The R-rating doesn’t matter for that one. Giving real-world drugs to the player as a reward or using them without appropriate consequence shifts it up to Refused Classification.

Renaming them means that the rating becomes an MA.

It’s not the board - the guidelines are set out in regulation, which is controlled by the relevant state attorney-general. In order not to have things that are legal in some places but not others, there’s an agreement between the states not to change the rules until all of them agree to do so. The reason that an R-rating took so long to agree to was because the A-G of South Australia wouldn’t come on board.

Steam is considered to have a local presence (and they discriminate on pricing if you’re in Australia, so it’d be hard to argue that they don’t customise their store for this country), so they have to include a rating on all games that they sell.

As I understand it, Saints Row 4 will be releasing a version without the anal rape weapon included for release in Australia.

It’s hard to be the one saying that everyone should have the right to simulate shooting yourself up with awesome drugs (that don’t have any side effects) and raping everyone you can find; man, child or animal. So kudos to you for that.

In all honesty, the current laws aren’t that bad - there’s certainly room for debate about how the board applies the guidelines, such as whether or not something “encourages criminal activity”, and that’s in no small part because the reviewer pool is pretty big and not everyone applies the standards evenly.

If you don’t accept that any restriction is O.K., then that’s a principle issue that doesn’t truck much room for debate. If you accept that there’s a level of restriction that’s appropriate, the current set is pretty reasonable and if you want to work with them you can.

Not difficult at all. But you missed my point.

My point is this: Fallout 3 still simulates shooting yourself up with awesome drugs with (few) side effects. So what if it’s called Med-X instead of morphine? You still inject it, it still has the same properties, and the only consequence is that you might feel a little under the weather for a day or so. Not to mention that anyone at all familiar with the game knows that it’s “supposed” to be morphine, and is still called that in some versions.

Imagine you had a video game filled with racist hate speech, and it was banned on those grounds. Would it change anything at all if the developers were simply required to replace “n*****” with “black”? Has the fact that I blocked out n***** with stars changed my meaning at all?

Of course they should, just as they should be legally permitted to read a book or watch a movie about somebody who uses drugs. Censorship is inherently bad, and an imaginary person using imaginary painkillers to treat an imaginary injury is nowhere near bad enough to make censorship the lesser of two evils. And it’s flat-out retarded that playing said game carries a maximum fine of $10,000 when actually using real, illegal drugs in real life carries a maximum fine of $2,000.

What other versions are available? My understanding was that the world wide release of Fallout was changed to comply with the Australian censor. There is no simulation of shooting yourself up with awesome drugs. The original Fallout 3 submitted to the Australian censor had a visual representation of injecting yourself with morphine but this was removed along with changing the name of morphine to Med-X. I played the game recently and although I’m aware of the back story regarding the classification in Australia I didn’t get the impression I was injecting myself with drugs, the delivery method was left to your imagination and the impression I got was no different than when “consuming” a med pack in any generic shooter game. Your point doesn’t stand up.

My information is from here. They claim that the Japanese and Czech versions still use “morphine”, and that in all versions it is still called that within the game editor. The in-game objects are clearly a syringe.

In some games, the “health packs” are clearly bandages and non-drug items. In others, health comes from pills, syringes, etc. I would agree that these latter types of games all convey the same basic idea.

TV Trope: Aerith and Bob. I agree with the change to Med-X. You can’t have Buffout and Psycho and… Morphine. It’s either Buffout/Psycho/Med-X, or Steroids/PCP/Morphine. And the former has lore history, although Med-X was new in Fallout 3.

Uh-huh. And have you played the game? You trade damage resistance with a chance of addiction, losing agility and intelligence. That is quite a detriment. True, you can save scum it, although there is a mechanic where the % chance of addiction increases with multiple doses in X hours. Nice strawman, too.

I feel like I’ve heard that NZ doesn’t really have any censorship, and so Australians just buy that version (because NA is likely to have NTSC/PAL or region issues). Any truth? Germany also censors or censored blood (and of course swastikas etc.), making it white, green etc.

Not that I’m aware of. I’d have thought that NZ would be too small a market to get their own version of a game and would just get the Australian release.

[quote=“thelurkinghorror, post:15, topic:663296”]

Uh-huh. And have you played the game? You trade damage resistance with a chance of addiction, losing agility and intelligence. That is quite a detriment. True, you can save scum it, although there is a mechanic where the % chance of addiction increases with multiple doses in X hours. Nice strawman, too.


Yeah - I have. But I’ll point out that the Board never did. They don’t have to. The way it works is that the publisher (Zenimax Europe, in this case) puts together a half-hour video showing the highest-grade content in the game and it’s judged on that. It’s up to them how much context they want to provide, so if someone says that the Board was taking something out of context it’s the publisher’s fault. If they include something in the game that didn’t get run past the Board and is later deemed to be above the rating, the publisher can be subject to all sorts of penalties.

In the case of Fallout 3, the video was taken from a pre-alpha build and showed the PC’s avatar in first-person view injecting morphine. I don’t know whether the addiction, etc. wasn’t present in that build or wasn’t built into the system yet, but it was actually a recommendation of the Board that a simulation of addiction should be included (unfortunately the detail of the report is no longer easily available - I read it at the time, so my commentary is from memory and I’m happy to be corrected).

Based on that, it was a pretty clear breach of the guidelines. I’m somewhat more surprised that they didn’t comment on the human-detonation scenes. I would have thought they’d pass those through as “cartoon violence” but they didn’t refer to them at all implying that they thought that it was more realistic than that but not enough to push it beyond a MA-rating.

It’s not a strawman - the detailed guidelines are pretty clear about what’s allowable and what’s not. And they’re really not all that contentious. Most of the argument is over judgement calls as to how they’re applied, as per Grand Theft Auto 3 - specifically, if you rent a prostitute to regain health (fine) and then shoot her in order to steal her money (also fine, but probably a judgement call that might be case-by-case), do the two acts consecutively combine to make an act of “sexual violence”? According to the Board, the answer was yes and the game was pulled in order to remove prostitutes as the manufacturer’s preferred solution.

NZ has censorship, but F3 wasn’t lodged there until it had been through the Australian Board. That’s not uncommon. Australians usually import that sort of thing from the UK, because their rules are more lax and - more importantly - the games retail for about $60, shipping included, when the local RRP has been somewhere between $100 and $120.

While I’m here, Grumman, there’s no penalty for owning or playing the game. There are penalties under the Acts for selling it, for keeping it in a shop without separating it from other games, for publicly screening it and for allowing minors to play it. Gamespot made a fuss about imports being prohibited a couple of years ago, and technically that’s correct but it’s generally recognised as unenforceable except in retail quantities. If it was to be found, it would be highly unlikely to be prosecuted for a single copy for personal use. Talking to a friend who worked in Customs I was told that if it was found - and by someone who knew what it was, which meant, effectively, a guy called Ray - it’d end up being binned and the recipient would be sent a card in its place which, translated from the legalese, says “naughty, naughty”.

If I was importing a dozen copies? Different story.

I’ve played and I own games that are RC. I just can’t sell them to anyone or let a kid play them.

In Europe, particularly the North-Central bit, it’s a different story, but I don’t really know the details there.

I just checked that - while you may well find a lawyer to argue otherwise, under Steam’s distribution model they’d be expected to be considered a publisher rather than a retailer, ‘publishing’ a copy of the game each time it’s downloaded.

So yes, they need to be dealing with the ratings system or they’d find themselves very liable, very quickly.

This is also the reason that Microsoft doesn’t make available the XBLA independent games in Australia - they’d have far too much liability.

Not much. Visiting any doctor will instantly cure you of your addiction for a small amount of money. Fallout 2 was much more interesting from this point of view. Addiction was a very serious problem and there wasn’t any easy way out. Once you had become addicted you basically had to keep injecting yourself with whatever crap you were addicted to. Much more interesting IMO and the very minimal negative consequences of drugs in Fallout 3 was one of the elements of the game I found dissapointing.

Germany also censored (don’t know if it’s still the case) games where you could kill children. As a result, in the European version of fallout 2, they plainly had removed all children from the game. A couple of missions couldn’t be finished as a result, and, more annoying, you had to use a very long work around to enter one of the main cities of the game (which was a mandatory passage) because a little girl was normally involved in the scenario at this point. Without her, you needed to pick some unobvious item in some random other city that you would normally have found only later in the game.

Of course a non-official patch was created, restoring children in the European version.

And indeed, a lot of games (including wargames) have swastikas replaced by WWI syle crosses as a result of German censorship.