Banned Games of 1996-1998

Excluding police submissions, six games were banned in Australia between 1996 and 1998.

BILLIARDLIST (199?) and POCKET GAL 2 (1988) were Refused Classification in 1996.

They were followed in 1997 by THE ROBERTA WILLIAMS ANTHOLOGY (1997) and POSTAL (1997) and in 1998 by TENDER LOVING CARE (1998) and PRO SURF EXECUTIVE (1998).


Billiardlist

Publisher DGRM / 199?

In December 1996, a CD-ROM of the adult pool game BILLIARDLIST was banned by the OFLC.

Chien Thon Yuen Pty Ltd was the applicant.


Pocket Gal 2

Publisher Data East Corp / 1988 / Arcade Museum

In December 1996, a CD-ROM of POCKET GAL 2 was banned by the OFLC.

Chien Thon Yuen Pty Ltd was the applicant.

This is the oldest game to have ever been Refused Classification in Australia.


The Roberta Williams Anthology

Publisher Sierra On-Line / 1997 / MobyGames

In April 1997, THE ROBERTA WILLIAMS ANTHOLOGY was banned by the OFLC.

Playcorp was the applicant.

The Roberta Williams Anthology (1997) - Game Cover 1
PC Cover

What caused it to be banned?

This compilation by games designer Roberta Williams’s included the first chapter from her controversial PHANTASMAGORIA (1995). That game was Refused Classification in 1995.

Further reading

See the PHANTASMAGORIA (1995) entry in the Game Censorship Database for more information.


Postal

aka Loose Cannon

Publisher Ripcord / 1997 / MobyGames

In October 1997, POSTAL was banned by the OFLC.

The game was described as being the ‘Modified Australian version’.

Sega Ozisoft was the applicant.

Postal (1997) - Game Cover 1
PC Cover

October 1997
The Classification Board (the Board) at the Office of Film and Literature Classification has viewed the computer game POSTAL and classified the game RC (Refused Classification). This means the game cannot be legally sold, demonstrated, or advertised in Australia.

In the Board’s view the game offends against community standards to the extent that it should not be classified.

The game play is based around a central character who uses a variety of weapons to kill armed ‘hostiles’ and unarmed civilians in a number of different locations. The aim is to kill a pre-determined percentage of the population on each level. Locations for gameplay included suburban city streets and parks. The player can exit the game at any time by committing suicide.

The Board noted that killing opponents, and unarmed civilians, is the basic feature and purpose of gameplay.

In the Board’s view, the neighbourhood context in which violence occurs is the source of much of the impact of the game. The Board noted that although the characters in the game are small animated figures, the soundtrack emphasises the fear and suffering of the victims.

The Board noted community concerns about massacres and other acts of random violence in such locations.

Although some of the more extreme material in the full American version of POSTAL has been removed from the version submitted for classification in Australia, the Board was of the view that Australian community standards preclude the modified version being available for sale in Australia.

In reaching its decision the Board took into account the National Classification Code, a schedule to the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, and the Classification Guidelines for Computer Games.

– John Dickie, Director
– Classification Board report

This YouTube clip provides a look at the gameplay.

MA15+ under IARC

A remake of the game, titled POSTAL REDUX, was released on PC in 2016.

MD Games ported it to Nintendo Switch in 2020. In April, it was passed with an MA15+ (Strong Violence, Strong Nudity, Strong Horror Themes) under the automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system.

Further reading

See POSTAL 2: SHARE THE PAIN (2003) entry in the Game Censorship Database for more information about the banned sequel.


Tender Loving Care

aka TLC: Tender Loving Care

Publisher Softgold / 1998 / MobyGames / IMDb

In July 1998, TENDER LOVING CARE was banned by the OFLC.

Playcorp was the applicant.

Tender Loving Care (1998) - Game Cover 1
PC Cover

September 1999
…TLC was also classified ‘RC’ on the basis of depictions of simulated sexual activity.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 1998-1999

MA15+ for the interactive DVD

In April 2000, a DVD of TENDER LOVING CARE was passed with an MA15+ (Adult themes) rating.

Wild Releasing was the applicant.

Despite being interactive, it was classified as a DVD and not as a game.

Film vs. Game: The OFLC explain

Anthony Larme reports.
On 19 May, I sent an email message to the OFLC to ask them a few important questions regarding their new combined Film and Games Guidelines. This was the most important part of my email.

May 19, 2003
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?

Also,
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? E.g. 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).

– To: Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC)
– From: Anthony Larme

July 25, 2003
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 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.

– To: Anthony Larme
– From, Des Clark, Director, OFLC

Anthony Larme comments.
So, presumably, interactive movies on DVD such as TENDER LOVING CARE or POINT OF VIEW (2001) are ‘interactive films’ while inevitably controversial games such as POSTAL 2 (2003) are still ‘games’?

Perhaps the OFLC could reclassify RC games like CD-ROM TENDER LOVING CARE and PHANTASMAGORIA (1995) 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!


Pro Surf Executive

aka Surf Pro Executive

Publisher MC Board / 1998

In October 1998, a 3.5″ disc of PRO SURF EXECUTIVE was banned by the OFLC due to a scene of simulated intercourse.

Electronic Arts was the applicant.

September 20, 1999
The computer game SURF PRO EXECUTIVE was classified ‘RC (Refused Classification)’ by the Board in July 1998. The game uses low quality graphic animation and revolves around the player manoeuvring a surf-board over the face of waves with points awarded for tricks and successful riding. The game includes a depiction of simulated intercourse.

Despite the low graphic quality and lack of detail in the depiction the Board considered this scene warranted ‘RC’ in accordance with the computer games classification guidelines which do not permit “simulated or explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adults”.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 1998-1999

back to top of page arrow