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Censorship Games

Australian AvP Ban Reversed 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the people-have-spoken dept.
Earlier this month, we discussed news that Sega's new Aliens vs. Predator video game had been refused classification in Australia, effectively banning it. After a scathing response from the developer saying they wouldn't censor the game, and later news that the classification scheme may be updated to include an R18+ rating, it now seems that the Classification Board has seen fit to give the game a green light after all. Sega's Darren Macbeth told Kotaku, "We are particularly proud that the game will be released in its original entirety, with no content altered or removed whatsoever. This is a big win for Australian gamers. We applaud the Classification Review Board on making a decision that clearly considers the context of the game, and is in line with the modern expectations of reasonable Australians."
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Australian AvP Ban Reversed

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  • So what about Left 4 Dead 2? Valve might have been too quick to cater to their demands. I hope for the Australians that this ban will also be reversed, and they get to play the game as it was meant to be.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      We wont. Zombies look too much like humans. It's the doublestandards of our rating system. On the one hand a game where you kill zombies gets banhammer, but on the other hand a game you play as a terrorist (MW2) and can decapitate living humans, not zombies (AvP), get the MA15+ rating. Our country is so far behind the times with it's rating system and it's fast becoming a nanny state. Hopefully some kids get this game and parents see how violent it is and it causes some pissed off mums to get vocal. It m
      • by Hadlock (143607) on Friday December 18, 2009 @08:07AM (#30485524) Homepage Journal

        it's fast becoming a nanny state

        I'm from the US, and I was under the assumption that this was the case already, with Australia following closely behind the UK with their banning of various games and censoring of the internet. It's that sort of nanny state mentality that has me looking at places like New Zealand and Canada for studying abroad, rather than AUS or the UK. Your government's totalitarian censorship isn't just hurting your citizens; it's actively creating mental roadblocks in future businessmen/women who might consider doing business with your country in the future.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Gordonjcp (186804)

          The US is far ahead of the UK in banning games and censoring the Internet. "Hot Coffee" wasn't an issue in the UK, only in the puritanical and prudish US.

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Okay so now we're on the topic of sex vs violence. Welcome to culture 101, where the differences in nations are made. In the US you can have ridiculously violent games, movies, and TV shows without any real issue. God forbid that you show a boobie or 3/4ths of your ass. Hop across the pond and sure, boobies are A-Okay but the violence is toned down usually.

            So sure, Hot Coffee wasn't an issue in the UK. They don't have the same religious fundamentalists the US has to deal with. But that doesn't mean ot

            • by SethJohnson (112166) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:04PM (#30488188) Homepage Journal

              So sure, Hot Coffee wasn't an issue in the UK. They don't have the same religious fundamentalists the US has to deal with.

              The controversy in america was that the game was rated less than 'Mature 17+' and contained the racy content. In the UK it was rated for adults only, so the racy content didn't matter.

              BTW, the governmental reaction to Hot Coffee was not to 'ban' video games. Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman (yes, they used to be pals) tried to pass legislation that would have added governmental oversight to the voluntary rating system [wikipedia.org] in the video game industry.

              Unlike the UK, entertainment such as films, are not banned by the federal government. Check this Wikipedia explanation [wikipedia.org]:

              The United States has no federal agency charged with either permitting or restricting the exhibition of motion pictures. Most instances of films being banned are via ordinances or proclamations by city or state governments. Some are instances of films being judicially found to be of an obscene nature and subject to specific laws against such material (i.e. child pornography). Such findings are usually only legally binding in the jurisdiction of the court making such a ruling.

              The British Board of Film Classification [wikipedia.org] has the legal authority to ban films and video games in the UK. In the US, video game classification is voluntary. Clinton and Lieberman tried to create a BBFC in America as a result of Hot Coffee.

              Seth

          • Unrated content is allowed to be sold in the US.

            Can you sell unrated content in the UK or AU?

            • by Gordonjcp (186804)

              Can you sell unrated content in the UK or AU?

              You can in the UK. I don't know about Australia.

              • by harl (84412)

                That's not entirely accurate. It's illegal to sell unrated items. It's currently unenforceable due to an EU technicality. This was a recent development late in 2009 and they are working to rectify it.

                What exactly do the states ban that UK and AU don't. What makes the states more ban happy?

          • by Toonol (1057698)
            "Hot Coffee" wasn't banned. Despite posturing by politicians, the government had nothing to do with how it was resolved. It was primarily a dispute between Rockstar, the ESRB, and the retailers carrying the game.
          • by mog007 (677810)

            GTA: San Andreas would never have been banned by our government. The ESRB is a private organization, and getting a game rated by them is optional. All three console makers require a game to be rated by the ESRB before they'll let you publish it on their console, and if it's rated at AO, they won't allow publication at all. But PC games, since nobody owns exclusivity over the hardware, have no such constraints. Retailers might refuse to stock games without an ESRB rating, but that's all volunteer, the go

        • by mjwx (966435)

          I'm from the US,

          Well there's your problem.

          Australia is just taking a more mature way of dealing with our problems.

          Your government's totalitarian censorship

          Right, Australia's warrantless wiretapping and "rights free" zones around our airports where TSA^H^H^H AQIS can operate with carte blanc and detain anyone for any reason is absolutely the act of a totalitarian government.

          No...
          Wait...

          That isn't my (Australian) government.

          Posts like these are a few seppo's over reacting to soundbites from s

          • I agree that the U.S. has its own issues when it comes to respecting the rights of its citizens. Unlike the poster to whom you are responding, I won't take a 'my country is better than yours' stance. I do, however, take issue with the fact that you seem to think that it is acceptable for a government to restrict free speech as long as it is done via civil action and proper diplomatic channels. That, in my opinion, sets a dangerous precedent; one where expression can be restricted based largely upon its p
            • by mjwx (966435)

              you seem to think that it is acceptable for a government to restrict free speech as long as it is done via civil action and proper diplomatic channels.

              I don't actually see where speech is being restricted here?

              As I said most USian's are responding based on soundbites heard on uninformed news channels. First off, refusing classification is not banning, banning is banning and that happens to relatively few films/games like Baise Moi and Ken Park. RC can be overturned easily (like what happened here), ban

          • by Toonol (1057698)
            Australia is just taking a more mature way of dealing with our problems.

            The US doesn't ban games. Australia does. At least in this matter, the US behaves in a far more civilized way. The US has problems, many problems, but I don't think there's anywhere on Earth with better free speech protections.
            • by mjwx (966435)

              The US doesn't ban games. Australia does

              Australia doesn't ban nipples on TV, the US does.

              Pot, Kettle, Black.

              At the very least we are doing something about our problems instead of just accepting and/or ignoring them, is that the more civilised way.

        • by radish (98371)

          Whilst the UK has some serious problems with internet monitoring and privacy (_not_ censorship, at least not by the government at the moment) they're pretty hands off w.r.t. games, and are generally the same as the US. Games are rated, that rating is legally binding, but very, very few games are "banned" or otherwise restricted from sale. Other countries in Europe (e.g. Germany) are much more restrictive, typically around violence and Nazi imagery.

          See this page [gamesradar.com] for a summary.

        • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:37PM (#30488694) Journal

          Get of your high horse yank. At least in other parts of the world you can show a nipple without the entire country throwing a hissy fit.

          Rather typical you make no mention of that. A country where the word fuck is not just bleeped but the mouth of the person saying it hidden behind a mosaic, lecturing the rest of the world on censorship.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Darkness404 (1287218)
            Yeah, but the difference is in the US, the ESRB has no legal authority to ban games, neither does our film ratings association.

            The rating system is strictly voluntary, however nearly all video games are submitted for rating due to the fact that many retail stores prohibit the sale of unrated video games and the major console manufacturers will not license games for their systems unless they carry ESRB ratings.

            Theres a bit of a difference between Wal-Mart saying they won't sell your game if it doesn't have a rating and the government saying the game cannot be sold.

            The Office of Film and Literature Classification is a statutory censorship and classification body overseen by the Australian Government which included: the Classification Board which classified films, video games and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in Australia; the Classification Review Board which reviewed previously classified films, computer games and publications on appeal; and administrative staff who provided day to day support for the two Boards under the control of the Director of the Classification Board.

            In Australia though if the government doesn't like your game its banned for sale in Australia.

            While the US does have some strange and stupid restrictions on what you can put on on-air TV or radio, so long as its on a di

          • by Hatta (162192)

            I think it's fair to say that there's not a country on Earth where a free man may live.

    • The game is as it was meant to be. All that is missing is jibs and corpses.

      If that's what the game is all about, I'm glad I've not bought it.
      • I'm not saying that the game is not enjoyable now it's missing gibs/corpses, but to defend that it -is- as it's meant to be is bullshit.
        They censored it, and as such it's -not- as the developers made it, and wanted the public to play it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thanshin (1188877)

        I gather you wouldn't mind watching a movie where people disappear when shot to avoid showing corpses.

        A action movie. With much shooting.

        Or a CSI episode. All gathered around an invisible corpse, talking about an invisible footprint on the invisible blood.

        • Books contain some pretty graphic descriptions of scenes without showing them, and they're just as emotive. My point is that the game doesn't change; It's still a mad zombie-fest survival piece. It's not like they turned the zombies into marionettes and had the words "YOU ARE NOT SHOOTING REAL PEOPLE." emblazoned across the screen. Nor did they make it into Barbie Fun House of Horse Riding Escapades.

          It's the same game, with the same mechanics, the same plot. Gore shouldn't even be an issue.
          • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            It's the same game, with the same mechanics, the same plot. Gore shouldn't even be an issue.

            It shouldn't be, but it is. Having played both, I can definitely say the uncut version provides a better experience. The full version is more immersive, it's a far better example of the whole wading-knee-deep-through-zombie-corpses experience that the genre is all about. In comparison, the censored version feels... sterile, and bland. And it's not even the gore, to be honest - the #1 problem for me is the disappearing corpses. It's not quite a flashing sign saying "YOU ARE NOT SHOOTING REAL PEOPLE", bu

          • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday December 18, 2009 @08:15AM (#30485592)

            Books contain some pretty graphic descriptions of scenes without showing them, and they're just as emotive.

            And you wouldn't mind reading a book knowing that the graphic descriptions have been censored?

            My point is that the game doesn't change; It's still a mad zombie-fest survival piece. It's not like they turned the zombies into marionettes and had the words "YOU ARE NOT SHOOTING REAL PEOPLE." emblazoned across the screen. Nor did they make it into Barbie Fun House of Horse Riding Escapades.

            It's the same game, with the same mechanics, the same plot. Gore shouldn't even be an issue.

            It's not the same game. It's the censored version of the game.

            If I remove all references to violence from a book, it's not the same book. If I censor all violence on a movie, it's not the same movie. If I censor any part of a work, it's not the same work.

            You can argue you like the censored version as much as the complete game, but that doesn't make them equal.

            It has nothing to do with whether you consider the censored part to be important or not. If I censor away all references to death in a zombie book, it can still be an interesting book, but it won't be the same book.

          • by Nathrael (1251426)

            Books contain some pretty graphic descriptions of scenes without showing them, and they're just as emotive.

            Bad analogy. The book still gives you an image of said scene, just in a different way - the text equivalent to L4D2's censorship would be taking out every sentence describing the corpse from a murder mystery novel.

            It's not like they turned the zombies into marionettes and had the words "YOU ARE NOT SHOOTING REAL PEOPLE." emblazoned across the screen.

            Having played the uncensored and seen the censored version - that's pretty much how it looks like though. Heck, they even removed one Special Infected from the game because he was clad in riot gear, and eviscerating something looking alike a police officer (he wasn't even one, but an agent of C

            • Having played the uncensored and seen the censored version - that's pretty much how it looks like though. Heck, they even removed one Special Infected from the game because he was clad in riot gear, and eviscerating something looking alike a police officer (he wasn't even one, but an agent of CEDA, the company that made the virus turning everybody into mindless zeds, meh) is evil(tm).

              What? They dreamt up some ubiquitous evil corporation to be responsible for the zombies? They chalked it up to a virus? Their lack of storyline or conclusive evidence of much of anything was one of the main reasons L4D was a neat game, I'm glad I didn't buy this revamped crap.

              This is a Zombie game we're talking about here. It's sole point is surviving and killing zombies in hilarious ways.

              Seriously? How much emphasis is put on "killing zombies in hilarious ways?" Are there achievements related to it? This all sounds incredibly stupid, suddenly.

          • Books contain some pretty graphic descriptions of scenes without showing them, and they're just as emotive. My point is that the game doesn't change; It's still a mad zombie-fest survival piece. It's not like they turned the zombies into marionettes and had the words "YOU ARE NOT SHOOTING REAL PEOPLE." emblazoned across the screen. Nor did they make it into Barbie Fun House of Horse Riding Escapades.

            It's the same game, with the same mechanics, the same plot. Gore shouldn't even be an issue.

            Books get the reader to feel things through text - words, sentences, verbs, nouns, paragraphs. Claiming that they have graphic scenes without showing them just doesn't make sense. Are you suggesting that authors start drawing pictures in the margins of the text? Authors do show those graphic scenes - with text.

            Games and movies are largely visual, not textual, mediums. Sure, there's dialogue and soundtracks and all that stuff... But most of the impact comes from the visuals. You don't have some charact

      • by swedd (795861)

        No, it is also missing an entire type of special infected that looks like a police officer (or so I am reliably told. I personally have managed to work around the censorship in question).

        So the changes are not just superficial.

        Having said that, I don't buy into the logic of "if it is just gore that is missing then the game should be unaffected, otherwise it must suck". Remember, this is a _zombie_ shooter. In terms of generating an appropriate atmosphere for the game, like it or not, blood and gore are crit

    • So what about Left 4 Dead 2? Valve might have been too quick to cater to their demands. I hope for the Australians that this ban will also be reversed, and they get to play the game as it was meant to be.

      I doubt it.

      Zombies are basically human. Rotting, ugly, shambling humans... But humans anyway.

      There's a world of difference between dismembering some kind of disgusting Alien that bleeds acid, and dismembering a human being. Yes, I know that there's some graphic dismemberment of human beings in the new AVP game... But that dismemberment is being done by aliens and monsters, not other human beings.

      I have a hard time seeing Australia change their mind about L4D2.

  • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Friday December 18, 2009 @06:21AM (#30485110)

    First of all, this is just an example of the standard system in action, and not some amazing backflip. Any ratings decision is subject to an appeal by the publisher or any third party.

    This is also an example of how misguided the people are who think that they are protecting the children by not having an R18+ rating. Nobody would have raised an eyebrow if this had been rated R, and it would have prevented kids from buying the game. But because we have forced the Classification Board to choose between two moronic choices (give it to kids or treat everyone like kids) for a popular, mainstream title then they have to end up letting kids see things that they arguably shouldn't.

    The Classification Board would collectively jump for joy if an R18+ rating for games was finally added, as it would take enormous pressure off them.

    • by X0563511 (793323) on Friday December 18, 2009 @09:10AM (#30485928) Homepage Journal

      From my understanding, the lack of an F18+ rating is entirely the fault of a single legislator.

      • by mjwx (966435) on Friday December 18, 2009 @10:32AM (#30486918)

        From my understanding, the lack of an F18+ rating is entirely the fault of a single legislator.

        Absolutely, one attorney general has stopped the F18 Hornet from being made available in Australia.

        Jokes aside (The RAAF now consist of 70 odd F18 strike fighters) yes, one state attorney general prevents the "Restricted" (R18+) rating that exists for movies and literature from being legislated for video games. The system evolved from each state wanting control over the ratings system, so it was made that each vote had to be unanimous. Right now the South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson (the "legislator" in question) is being dragged through the mud buy almost everyone (media, internet, his own party) over allegations of corruption. It seems unlikely Mr Atkinson will survive but will keep his* views to the bitter end.

        * I'm certain that I don't have to explain politics to /. but when a politician becomes as powerful as Mr Atkinson then he has done so with the support of certain smaller groups, occasionally these groups call in favours. Atkinson is known to have a lot of support from extremist Christian groups in SA, whether it is or isn't Mr Atkinson's view he has to obey his masters.

        • by jgtg32a (1173373)

          You have ratings on literature?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mjwx (966435)
            You don't? (I suggest you look into that, you might find out why Hustler must be kept behind the counter)

            You know that literature is another word for books, magazines, newspapers, comics and printed material. Kind of easier then saying books, magazines, newspapers, comics and printed material, Shiva knows that legal codes are long enough as they are.
  • I love the Alien franchise, I love the Predator franchise, I love the AvP comics... however while watching the first AvP movie I almost got myself and my friend arrested for my increasingly irate fuming and snide comments made in the theatre at the totally valueless (and obviously made with marketing concerns in mind) story that was presented on screen before me. I suffered through AvP2 and begrudgingly admitted that they had made something that vaguely lived up to the rich universe that was the combined fr
    • by RogueyWon (735973) *

      The second AvP movie is actually pretty good if you fast-forward past all the scenes with bad, hammy acting and stilted, unconvincing dialogue. In other words, any of the scenes where the humans are the focus.

      While I'm not a massive fan of how they chose to play the Predalien, the sequences with the Aliens over-running the town, the National Guard response being wiped out and so on are enjoyable. Not only that, but they're also surprisingly "hardcore", given that the first AvP movie tried to lock itself so

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by drb_chimaera (879110)

      Bear in mind this is the third PC iteration of Alien Vs Predator. The first was a good few years ago but (despite relatively primitive graphics by the standards of the day) was a superb FPS game. Piss scary and bastard hard in places too.

      The sequel was a bit more mainstream, so not as hard but had a few innovations in too, such as the Alien game starting you out as a facehugger looking for an appropriate victim, then giving it the chestburster bit and so on.

      Anyway, the first game came from the same dev hous

  • Reversed? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday December 18, 2009 @07:15AM (#30485318)

    Australian AvP Ban Reversed on Friday December 18, @10:51AM

    Now they've banned Predator vs Alien.

  • Anyone who's seen screenshots from this game would probably agree that this should be rated MA15+. The lack of the R18+ rating for videogames has forced an unsuitable game to be given a lower rating than the rest of the would (everywhere else it's rated 17+ or 18+).

    The fact that this game has been given a lower rating than what I think any reasonable person (gamer or not) would think it should have just goes to serve Atkinson (the one politician in AUS standing in the way of an R18+ rating) more ammunition
  • The banners were quoted as saying, "Game over, man. GAME OVER!"
  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Friday December 18, 2009 @12:38PM (#30488710)
    In the great documentary on the United States' MPAA film review board, This Film is Not Yet Rated [wikipedia.org], one of the talking heads makes the argument that - in a fully functional democracy at least - government review boards may actually be preferable to private industry review boards (which are usually created to preempt the creation of government review boards in the first place.)
    The argument is that although government review boards have the law on their side, they are at least accountable, either to the will of the people (legislative) or the country's constitution (judicial). You could in theory force the review board to make or alter their decisions or decision-making process through legislation or judicial review. Government review boards can be required to have a certain level of openess on the review process, who does the reviews, and so on.
    Private review boards, on the other hand, are accountable to no one, aside from the industry that sponsors them. They can have byzantine rules, secretive and subjective review processes, anonymous review boards, and no one can say boo about it. You can go unrated of course, but your product can effectively be stonewalled by the industry or the third parties that support it. In the case of films, unrated or NC-17 films have trouble getting into theaters, getting newspaper or TV ads, and may not get the full backing of the studio that produced it.
    Regarding video games, can you even legitimately release a game in the US for any of the the big consoles without an ESRB rating?
    • I do know that when a game gets the Adult Only rating, it's effectively been banned because none of the major retailers will carry an AO rated game. I'm not too sure, but I think that the big 3 consoles won't even license a game for their system if it gets rated AO. So I would imagine they have a similar policy about games not being rated.

  • Congrats AU censors. You've helped sell the game by generating lots of press. Isn't that counter productive to your goals?

  • This is a great example of one of the points I made when I contributed to the public consultation - that games that would have gotten a R18+ rating may be squeezed into the MA15+ category. Because MA15+ is effectively the highest rating, you have to treat it like the R18+ since lots of games that would get R18+ otherwise are pushed (either through censorship or political pressure) into MA15+.

  • "Better let that game in or they will use it to demonstrate just how right wing Christian the internet censorship will be."

    It's just a stunt to make people feel comfortable and nothing more.

If A = B and B = C, then A = C, except where void or prohibited by law. -- Roy Santoro

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