An adult can walk into any retailer across the country and purchase Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film Reservoir Dogs on DVD.
The same adult cannot walk into the same retailer and buy the 2006 Reservoir Dogsvideo game based on Tarantino’s first feature-length film.
Despite the video game following the exact same storyline as the movie, it was banned by the Australian Classification Board “because of high impact violence and torture”.
The ban is just one example of Australia’s ongoing battle with video game classifications.
Until 2013, Australia was one of the few countries with no R18+ video game rating.
Even with the introduction of an adults only rating, Australia somehow continues to stop select video games being available in the country.
Zombie survival game DayZ has been the highest profile game to be banned.
Although previously available on digital storefronts with an MA15+ rating, it was banned when developers attempted to release a physical version of the game for retail.
Its refusal had to do with the game using cannabis as a healing item to increase health.
The Australian Classification Board said “interactive illicit or prescribed drug use is not permitted”.
Liberal Democrat MP Tim Quilty labelled the ban as “absurd”, saying Australia was “the wet blanket and laughing stock of the whole world”.
DayZ has since been approved for an MA15+ rating after developers agreed to release a “modified” version of the game that removes cannabis.
“Sadly, the developers of DayZ have caved,” Mr Quilty said on the decision.
Action-adventure game We Happy Few is another title to fall victim to Australia’s classification laws, with the title refused classification for a second time.
The game was originally banned in 2018 because of drug use related to incentives and rewards, but was overturned by the Classification Review Board – an entity separate to the Australian Classification Board.
The developers successfully argued the game’s overall quest was to “avoid the use of the ‘Joy’ drug” – a fictional hallucinogenic.
Despite being overturned, the Classification Board has since banned the game for a second time after the Lightbearer DLC – additional downloadable content – was found to have infringing in-game content related to the use of drugs.
We Happy Few developer Sam Abbott said he was surprised the game was banned again, especially given the nature of the drug use in the additional content.
“For context, Lightbearer is fundamentally a story about someone coming to grips with a terrible addiction problem and breaking out of its grasp,” he told Kotaku.
“It’s a more pronounced anti-drug message than the base game was, and the arguments behind the decision reversal last time should apply even more strongly in this case.”
Other bans in recent months include action role-playing video game Kingdom Come: Deliverance and a title codenamed Bonaire – thought to be downloadable content for Red Dead Redemption 2.
ARE BANS REALLY NEEDED?
Drug use, violence and nudity can be shown and referenced in film, television and music, yet video games are the clear exception – even with the ability to restrict games to adults with an R18+ rating.
Proponents of censorship argue the difference between the mediums is the gamer is performing the act of violence or drug use, which encourages the same behaviour in real-life.
The same argument is also currently being used in America, with President Trump highlighting video games as a root cause for mass shootings earlier this month.
However, multiple studies continue to refute such claims.
A 2018 study of more than 3,000 participants found “no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent”.
Another 2017 longitudinal study from the Netherlands, which examined the behaviour of gamers over the course of a year, found “violent gaming was not associated with increases in externalising problems”.
A 2013 review by the American Psychological Association noted a link between violent video games and short-term spikes in aggressive behaviour.
However, after several reviews, the APA’s Media Psychology division advised officials and reporters to stop suggesting there was a connection between violent video games in 2017.
There has been little research done in regards to drugs in games encouraging real-life drug use, however Interactive Games and Entertainment Association’s Digital Australia (IGEA) 2020 report found “drug use is one of the least concerning elements of media content to parents and adults”.
“The DayZ decision highlights this problem even more given that cannabis has legal therapeutic value in many parts of Australia and is rapidly being legalised around the world,” IGEA explained.
“Given the drug type, the miniscule role it has in the game and the fact that the drug’s consumption has a ‘restorative’ rather than ‘boosting’ effect, we think that the applicant had a reasonable hope that the game could be legally classified even under the current Guidelines.
“The $10,000 fee to challenge classification decisions is also simply unfair for publishers and distributors selling boxed products.”
GAMES BANNED AND NEVER RELEASED IN AUSTRALIA:
• Blitz: The League: An American football game banned because of the depiction of anabolic steroid usage as a stamina booster
• Crimecraft: An online shooter banned because there was “insufficient delineation between the ‘fictional drugs’ available in game and real-world proscribed drugs”.
• Enzai: Falsely Accused: Described as a playable novel, the game follows the life of a man falsely imprisoned for murder. It was banned for showing non-consensual sexual acts inside prison.
• Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number: A top-down shooter banned because of an implied rape scene.
• Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude: An adventure game banned because of “obscured and/or implied sexual activity and obscured and partial nudity involving stylised, animated characters”.
• MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death: A dungeon crawler role-playing video game banned because of interactive sexual activity involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years.
• NARC: Banned because the game allows players to either behave angelically as a good cop, or take drugs and misbehave as a ‘bad’ narcotics officer.
• Phantasmagoria: A point-and-click adventure horror video game banned because of one scene of simulated sexual activity between consenting adults and one scene of simulated sexual activity that contains strong overtones of sexual violence.
• Reservoir Dogs: Action game based on the Quentin Tarantino movie banned because of high impact violence and torture.
• Risen: An action role-playing game banned because it contains rampant drug use and implied sex
• Shellshock 2: Blood Trails: A first-person shooter Banned because of high impact gory violence.
• Singles: Flirt up your life: A life simulation game banned because of sexuality and nudity in relation to incentives and rewards.
• Syndicate: A science fiction video game banned because of high impact gory violence.
•Valkyrie Drive: Bhikkhuni: A beat ’em up game banned because it promotes elements that offend standards of morality and because of its use of sexuality as an incentive and reward.
GAMES BANNED BUT LATER RELEASED IN AUSTRALIA:
• 50 Cent: Bulletproof: A third-person shooter based on rapper 50 Cent’s search for vengeance against the hitmen who attempted to murder him. The game was originally banned because of high impact gory violence; however, a censored version was later released under an MA 15+ rating.
• Alien vs Predator: A first-person shooter banned because of high impact bloody violence. The rating was later appealed and overturned without changes.
• BMX XXX: While primarily a BMX-based action sports title, the game was banned for containing nudity. It was later released under an MA15+ rating.
• The Bug Butcher: A 2D shooter banned because it used the term ‘Speed Power up’ and had a syringe for a health icon. It was later released under an M rating.
• Dark Sector: A third-person shooter set in the fictional Eastern Bloc country of Lasria banned because of high impact bloody violence. It was later released under a MA 15+ rating.
• Dreamweb: A point-and-click cyberpunk top-down adventure game banned because of a scene of sexual violence. A censored edition was later released under an M rating.
• Duke Nukem 3D: Third-person shooter originally banned because of sexual violence. It was later released uncensored with an MA15+ rating.
• Fallout 3: Game was initially refused classification because you could inject yourself with morphine to negate the effects of injuries, but was approved when the developers changed the name from “morphine” to “Med-X”.
• F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin: A first-person shooter horror video game banned because of high impact bloody violence. The ban was appealed and reserved on the basis the violence was unrealistic.
• Grand Theft Auto III: Originally released uncut, it was later banned due to sexual violence involving prostitutes. A censored version was later released with an MA15+ rating.
• Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Had its classification revoked after the discovery a minigame where the main character was seen having sex with his in-game girlfriend. The game was censored worldwide and re-released under an MA15+ rating.
• The House of the Dead: Overkill Extended Cut: A first-person rail shooter gun game banned due to high impact bloody violence. Sega successfully appealed ban on the basis that the over the top violence mitigated the impact. It was released under an MA15+ rating.
• Left 4 Dead 2: Cooperative first-person shooter video game banned due to high impact bloody violence. It was later censored and released under an R18+ rating.
• Mortal Kombat: Fighting game banned because of high impact bloody violence. Was later released in 2013 when Australia introduced an R18+ rating for games.
• Outlast 2: A first-person horror game banned because of a ritualistic orgy between supernatural creatures. The game was resubmitted without the scene and received an R18+ rating.
• NecroVisioN: A World War I alternate history first-person shooter banned because of high impact bloody violence. A censored version was later released with an M rating.
• Postal: An isometric top-down shooter video game banned because of high impact themes involving depictions of revolting and abhorrent content. While never approved, the game can be downloaded on Steam without classification.
• Postal 2: The sequel to Postal, also banned for high impact themes involving depictions of revolting and abhorrent content. While never approved, the game can be downloaded on Steam without classification.
• Saints Row IV: Action game originally banned for drug use and visual depictions of implied sexual violence. A censored version was later released under an MA15+ rating.
• State of Decay: Denied for its use of illicit drugs. The game was later resubmitted with “stimulants” described as “supplements” and was approved under an R18+ rating.
• Sexy Poker: A strip poker video game banned because of nudity in relation to incentives and rewards. It was edited worldwide and re-released with an M rating.
• Shellshock: Nam ’67: A third-person shooter banned because of high impact themes and violence. An appeal saw the game approved under an MA15+ rating.
• Silent Hill: Homecoming: A third-person survival horror game banned because of a high impact torture scene involving drilling into body parts. A censored version, which changed the angle of the scene, was released under an MA 15+ rating.
• Silverball: Product version 8: A pinball game banned because of sexuality and nudity in relation to incentives and rewards. An appeal successfully argued the nude static images were incidental to play rather than as a reward. The game was released with an M rating.
• Soldier of Fortune: Payback: A first-person shooter banned because of high impact bloody violence. A censored version was later released under an MA15+ rating after developers disabled the ability to mutilate enemies
• South Park: The Stick of Truth: Denied release until developers submitted an altered version that removed five anal probing scenes and two abortion scenes. The creators agreed, but poked fun at the censorship board by including a picture of crying koala in place of the deleted scenes.
• The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings: An RPG banned because a side quest gave the player a choice to accept sex as a reward. This was removed and the game was released under an MA15+ rating.
• Tender Loving Care: An interactive movie banned because of high impact sexual references and nudity. It was submitted again as a DVD instead of video game and given a MA15+ rating.
• The Punisher: A third-person shooter video game based on the Marvel character. Originally banned because of high impact violence involving torture, but later given an MA15+ rating after being edited worldwide.
GAMES RELEASED BUT LATER BANNED IN AUSTRALIA:
• Manhunt: A stealth-based survival horror game released in Australia before it was banned one year later because of extreme violence.
• Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure: A beat ’em up, action-adventure game originally released with an MA15 + rating but later banned for high impact themes involving the glorification of graffiti.
• Voyuer: An interactive movie video game originally rated MA15+ but later banned because of a scene of high impact sexual dialogue involving incest.