Banned Games of 2005

Three games were banned in Australia in 2005.

NARC (2004) was Refused Classification in April. This was followed in October by POSTAL 2: SHARE THE PAIN (2003) and 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF (2005).


Narc

Publisher Midway Home Entertainment / 2004 / MobyGames

NARC was already causing controversy the month before it was submitted for a rating.

March 21, 2005
Video game classifications categories must be updated to prevent games not suitable for children being banned altogether, a civil liberties watchdog has urged.

The request coincides with the expected release later this year of NARC, a game in which players shoot rivals and take drugs such as crack cocaine and speed. The pace and ambience of the gameplay changes to reflect the effects of the drugs.

The OFLC will not comment on NARC until it receives a request for its classification, expected later in the year.

In October last year, State Attorney-General Rob Hulls pushed for the introduction of uniform classification laws, but the move was not supported by the federal government.

“As part of a national classification regime, the Federal Government needs to act to resolve a clear gap in the system whereby computer games, unlike films, are not subject to R18+ or X18+ ratings,” Mr Hulls said.

– Activists urge classification review
article @ smh.com.au

March 21, 2005
…the dangers of drug abuse, such as blackouts, addiction, arrest, job loss and death, are included in the latest version of a game called NARC, due for release by Christmas this year for PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

In the US, NARC will have an M rating, meaning it may be sold only to those over 17, which, in the real teen world, means little.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification, which rates or bans computer games in Australia, has not yet seen the latest drug culture productions.

Dr Ken Checinski, an authority on addictive behaviour, at St George’s hospital medical school in London, said: “I don’t approve of a game that has people taking drugs.”

“There is a risk that it will glamourise drug-taking and send out the wrong message to young, impressionable people. We want young people to understand the real risk of drug-taking, and games such as this don’t help.”

A spokesman for Sony defended the game, saying it was “a classic good-versus-evil game” that showed the destructive power of drugs.

– New game smacks of grim culture
article @ smh.com.au

Victorian Parliament

Two days after the news articles, Jude Perera (Labor) had this to say in the Victorian Parliament.

March 23, 2005
A video game supposedly coming into the USA market shortly will involve the taking of drugs, showing how drugs can create blackouts, drug addiction, job loss and, finally, overdose and death. These types of games glamorise drug addiction and could be triggers for psychotic behaviour.

– Classification (Publications, Films and Computer games) (Enforcement) (Amendment) Bill
– Jude Perera (Labor), VIC House of Assembly

According to Mr Perera, NARC shows how drugs can create blackouts, addiction, job loss, overdose and death. While at the same time it will glamorise drug addiction.

Banned in Australia

In April 2005, NARC was Refused Classification by the OFLC because of gameplay involving drugs being used as a reward or incentive.

Red Ant Enterprises was the applicant.

Narc (2004) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 2 Cover

Classification Board report

April 2005
NARC: Refused Classification

Reasons for decision:
This computer game contains frequent drug use. Throughout this game the player can choose to take illegal drugs to help achieve the aim of being an effective drug-squad officer fighting a major drug cartel. These drugs include, heroin, methamphetamine (speed), LSD, marijuana, ecstasy and Quaaludes. The effects of these drugs are varied but provide the player with some benefits in progressing through the game. For example, when a player takes ecstasy tablet opponents will stop attacking and allow the player’s character to escape. Similarly, taking speed allows the player’s character to run faster and catch bad guys.

The board was told by the applicant that these drugs also have a detrimental effect on the player in that they affect his/her “badge rating”, meaning that other characters lose their respect for the player’s character’s police status making the player more vulnerable to attack.

Drug taking can slow make the player’s character become addicted, blackout-which ends the game-or be thrown off the force.

However, the board also heard the badge rating can be restored if the player chooses to stop taking drugs and return and return to being a legitimate laws enforcer. Similarly, the plater can also go into drug rehabilitation, which restores their status. The board was told by the applicant that a player who takes drugs can also access better weapons & can achieve their objectives faster/

Information is also provided such details how many times a player can use a specific drug before they become addicted. For example, in the case of ecstasy it is 12 uses and for speed it is 7 uses. The board was told that the player who used strategy in which they alternated between being a good cop and bad cop would progress faster than a cop who simply played by the rules and did not use drugs.

In the board’s majority view, in which drugs are used as a reward or incentive, has an impact that is higher than strong and/or exceeds the general rule “except in material restricted to adults, nudity and sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards and material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives or rewards is refused classification.”

Other matters considered

This computer game contains violence and language that could be accommodated at a lower classification.

Minority view-

In the boards minority view the impact of this game is no higher than strong and is justified in context of a game based on busting drug dealers. This view holds that drug use as an incentive is equal to, if not outweighed, by such disincentives as losing a badge rating or becoming addicted. This view also holds that an exception can be made to the general rule, allowing this game to be accommodated at the MA15+ classification.

Decision

In the boards majority view this game warrants an RC classification.

– Classification Board report

Mick reports.
This is extremely stupid, PLAYBOY: THE MANSION (2004), GTA SAN ANDREAS (2004), GOD OF WAR (2005) etc, all use sex and nudity as a reward.

SHELLSHOCK NAM 67 (2004) even uses drugs and nudity as a reward. It is so inconsistent! Also why is it not okay to use drugs and sex as a reward, but it is okay to use extreme violence as a reward?

Red Ant on the ban

Four days after the RC-rating, Red Ant Enterprises issued a media release confirming they would not be appealing or modifying the game.

April 12, 2005
NARC is an in-depth, 3rd-person action/shooter video game set against a stylised modern-day backdrop of the War on Drugs. Playing in the elite NARC squad, players must rid the world of the powerful international K.R.A.K. drug cartel. Using deadly firepower and police authority, players will make the choice to play it straight or use and abuse narcotics to get that extra edge and quick cash. Players decide whether to play as a good or bad cop as they face the mean streets and criminal underworld that rules it.

The OFLC classified NARC with an RC in accordance with Part 1(d) of the computer games table of the national classification code, which states, in part, that “1. Computer games that; (d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play”*.

A seven-member panel of the Classification Board determined, in a majority 6 to 1 decision that NARC be refused classification.

The minority view of the board believes the impact of the game is justified in the context of a game based on busting drug dealers. Unfortunately the majority of the board did not agree that NARC was justified within the current highest classification rating of MA15+.

There is no R classification for computer games. MA15+ is the highest possible rating given to a game. Those games, which are unsuitable for a minor to see or play, are refused.

Classification decisions are to be given effect on a list of principles from the National Classification Code, including:
– Adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want, and
– Minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them

An Adult, means a person who is 18 or older. The Restricted (R) rating does not exist in the world of gaming. Because of this, it appears that adults are not able to read, hear and see what they want.

Gaming is fast growing in the entertainment industry. With the average gamer being of an age around 25, the demand is high for a restricted (R) rating to be introduced.

Midway’s upcoming release NARC will not be released in Australia. The line was crossed.

– The OFLC have refused classification (RC) on Midway Games’ NARC
– Red Ant Enterprises

Postal 2: Share the Pain

Publisher Hell Tech – Zoo Digital Publishing / 2003 / MobyGames

POSTAL 2: SHARE THE PAIN took a while to be picked up for distribution in Australia.

The delay meant that many fans imported the game themselves.

February 23, 2005
One publisher that confirmed it will ship unclassified games to Australia is Running with Scissors, a small US game publisher whose game POSTAL was banned in Australia in 1997. The sequel, POSTAL 2, was not picked up by any local publishers and thus it was not submitted for a rating through the OFLC.

Commenting on the copies of POSTAL 2 that were being sold at retail in Australia, company managing director Vince Desi confirmed Running with Scissors does not have a licensed publishing partner in Australia. ‘I’m glad to hear at least one retailer is selling it, even if they are counterfeit copies.

‘Yes, we do sell [POSTAL 2] online and receive many orders from Australia, so we’re happy to ship there. It’s quite expensive and a real show of support when someone pays more for shipping than the actual cost of the product they’re buying.’

– The games conundrum
crn.com.au

Banned in Australia

In October 2005, POSTAL 2: SHARE THE PAIN was banned by the OFLC because of high-impact violence.

Zoo Digital Publishing was the applicant.

Postal 2: Share the Pain (2003) - Game Cover 1
PC Cover

Classification Board report

October 2005
Title: POSTAL 2 SHARE THE PAIN
Board Report T05/4947

SYNOPSIS:

First person shooter in which the central male character carries out errands in the fictional town of Paradise, Arizona and engages in violence with the inhabitants using a variety of weapons and behaviours.

REASONS FOR THE DECISION:

When making classification decisions the Classification Board (“the Board”) is required to follow the procedure set out in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (“the Act”). The Board is required to apply the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines, while taking into account the matters set out in Section 11 of the Act.

Majority View:

In the Board’s majority view, the computer game warrants an RC classification as it contains violence that is high in impact and cannot be accommodated at the MA15+ classification.

The player controls a character who must carry out a series of tasks on each day in order to advance through the game. Along the way the character is able to initiate or be drawn into conflict between various groups in the town where he lives.

Weapons include shotguns, handguns, ordinary items like a spade and baton, molotov cocktails and the ability to douse people with petrol and set them alight. The game requires a number of shots to kill a person and the body can be repeatedly shot and kicked around on the ground. The player can also shoot dogs and cats that appear periodically.

Another feature of the game is the character’s ability to urinate on people with a seemingly endless supply of urine. The majority of the gameplay involves combat and killing in a variety of ways as well as degrading other characters. The impact of this is compounded by the main character uttering deadpan, trite statements such as “I bet you didn’t think you were going to die today”. It appears the tasks the character is required to carry out are merely a means and a reason for him to travel through the town.

Another feature of the game is the player’s ability to have the central character commit suicide. The game allows the player to take this option “when things get too much”. The visuals depict the character taking an object, apparently a grenade, from his pocket and placing it in his mouth. The grenade then detonates blowing his head off with resulting blood spray. The result of this action means the game then returns to the beginning of the level.

In making its’ decision, the Board noted that the game contained very little in the way of a linear storyline, developed characters or missions with a purpose. Unlike other games at the MA15+ classification, there does not appear to be anything to inhibit or deter the player from engaging in violent behaviour against any character, rather the game’s design encourages them to do so.

Minority View:

In the Board’s minority view this game warrants an MA 15+ classification in accordance with Part 2 of the Computer Games Table of the National Classification Code.

A minority of the Board considered that the impact of the game was not unlike that found in other games at the MA 15+ classification and that the violence was mitigated by the black humour accompanying the action.

Decision:

In the Board’s majority view, the game warrants an RC classification as the violence and themes exceed strong and cannot be accommodated at the MA 15+ classification.

– Classification Board report

Running with Scissors vs. The OFLC

November 23, 2005
No country is safe Running With Scissors offers Softwrap’s online delivery system.

After dealing with censorship at virtually every level of the game industry for nearly a decade, the world’s most blacklisted and banned software company Running With Scissors has discovered the means by which to cure the entire world’s need to go POSTAL.

Through a partnership with Softwrap, Running With Scissors is now making available for the first time in many countries it’s POSTAL games. Actually because Softwraps service allows you to download these games, there isn’t a country or place on earth that can stop you from getting these hard to find game titles. The original cult favorite POSTAL: Classic & Uncut, the sequel POSTAL 2: Share the Pain and the recent all too insane add-on Apocalypse Weekend are currently available from the RWS store.

“Softwrap gives Running With Scissors the ability to deliver POSTAL games to every human being regardless of their state of freedom.” explained the company’s devious spokesman, potential Bond villain and CEO, Vince Desi. “Governments, customs agents or other traditional barriers to going POSTAL will become irrelevant as the Softwrap system sidesteps distributors, retailers and other would-be gate keepers to deliver the game anywhere and everywhere. From the land Down Under to the mountains of Korea, the world can now go POSTAL in peace and privacy, as God intended.”

As for Softwrap, they are of course delighted to use their knee breaking software solutions to elude the wannabe game busters. As Dylan Solomon, Softwrap COO explained: “Softwrap has worked closely with Running With Scissors to provide a customized solution that utilizes Softwrap’s leading encryption and ecommerce technology, which has to date successfully been employed to secure more than 21,000 individual software games, utilities and applications.” Softwrap employs a system whereby the user can purchase, download, install and play games without having to enter an activation code.

Gamers anywhere in the world with Internet access simply visit the RWS gift shop and access the link to electronic delivery. This will transport them to a page hosted by Softwrap where they can make their purchases. Following the transaction, a link is provided that allows the user to download, install and activate the game(s).

“We’re just glad that at last responsible kids and irresponsible adults the world over can now get their paws on the most blacklisted and banned game of all time!” horned Vince Desi.

For information on POSTAL2: APOCALYPSE WEEKEND expansion pack and other cool POSTAL products and gear, visit our new expanded site www.gopostal.com.

Running With Scissors develops and publishes outrageous software just for the hell of it.

– Postal games now available via download
– gopostal.com

ACMA & OFLC on the download option

PC World published this informative article that examined the consequences of banned games such as POSTAL 2 being available for download.

February 13, 2006
OFLC director Des Clark said that the online distribution of POSTAL does not present a loophole for consumers to bypass illegal distribution and is a matter for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

However, ACMA’s hotline manager of content assessment, Mike Barnard, conceded that preventing distribution was not conclusive and the only fullproof method of stopping people downloading banned content was “if they chose not to”.

If prohibited material is hosted in Australia, ACMA can issue take-down notices or inform relevant law enforcement agencies to take action but its powers dramatically wane when faced with overseas hosting, as is the case with POSTAL.

“With overseas hosting, ACMA can refer the content from the downloadable source to manufacturers of content filters so ISPs can block the offending URLs,” Barnard said.

Under the Internet content codes of practice, ISPs are required to offer subscribers filters. However end-user implementation is completely voluntary, which makes the system ineffectual for those who wish to download the software.

ACMA’s only other course of action is to notify overseas law enforcement agencies of sufficiently serious material, but this only extends to child pornography or sexually violent scenes, neither of which feature in POSTAL.

People found in possession of refused classification material or those distributing it can face a variety of penalties as outlined under relevant State and Territory classification enforcement legislation. However as OFLC restrictions act purely as a guideline for consumers and law enforcement and ACMA only regulates the conduct of ISPs, a grey area exists between the two bodies, allowing end users to receive downloadable banned content unchecked.

Although Clark said that the relevant Australian review agencies were aware of the issues presented, no complaints or action had been lodged with either body to address the distribution into Australian states and territories.

Clark would not comment on the possibility of online distribution spreading to all banned games, or the prospect of including an R18+ rating in the classification system for computer games, which could potentially eliminate the need for online downloads.

He said any re-evaluation of the classification system would require state, territory and federal review.

– Banned games find unchecked entry into Australia
article @ pcworld.idg.com.au

Complaint to the OFLC

October 6, 2006
The Classification Board classified the computer game POSTAL 2: SHARE THE PAIN RC because it contains violence and themes that exceed strong impact and therefore cannot be accommodated at the MA 15+ classification. The decision reflected the player’s ability to acquire various weapons, the requirement to repeatedly shoot or kick human and animal victims in order to kill them, to copiously urinate on them and to be able to commit suicide by placing a grenade in their mouth.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2005-2006

September 23, 2008
Single complaints were received about other titles. These include that POSTAL 2: SHARE THE PAIN was classified RC…

The Classification Board also received 553 complaints that were specifically in regard to an R 18+ classification for computer games. 550 complaints were concerned about the absence of an R 18+ classification for computer games in Australia and called for its introduction. Three complaints did not support the introduction of this classification category for computer games.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2007-2008

Further reading

See the POSTAL (1997) entry in the Game Censorship Database for more information about the banned original.


50 Cent: Bulletproof

Publisher Sierra / 2005 / MobyGames

In October 2005, 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF was banned by the OFLC because of high impact violence.

Vivendi Universal Games was the applicant.

OFLC on the RC-rating

November 8, 2005
I refer to your email of 26 October 2005 regarding the classification of the computer game 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF.

The national classification scheme is a cooperative scheme involving 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 section 11 of 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. I have provided a link to the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games for your information.

As you are already aware, on 24 October 2005 the Classification Board classified the computer game 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF RC (Refused Classification). In the Board’s majority view 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF contains depictions of violence that have a high impact and as such the computer game cannot be accommodated at the MA 15+ classification. Computer games that exceed the criteria for MA 15+ must be classified RC and cannot be sold, hired, demonstrated or advertised in Australia.

The Board report notes that the highest classifiable element in this computer game is violence. In the opinion of the Board the following factors contributed to increasing the impact of the violence above strong:

· Many violent sequences are rendered in slow-motion with some zooming in on the action and the moment of death;

· Some of these sequences also include blood spray onto the screen;

· Some victims scream, moan or beg before they are killed; and

· A victim who is injured can be shot and killed as they crawl away.

You may be interested to know that the Classification Review Board has received an application to review the RC classification for this game. The Review Board is scheduled to meet on 9 November 2005 to consider the application. The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body which makes a fresh classification decision that takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board. When making a classification decision, the Classification Review Board will apply the same criteria as the Classification Board – the Classification Act, the Code and the classification guidelines.

The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website once the review has been finalised.

I note your comments regarding the average age of computer game players. I am aware of research and public commentary claiming that increasing numbers of computer game players are over 18 years of age.

As mentioned previously, the matter of whether there should be an R 18+ classification for computer games is one for Censorship Ministers. At their November 2002 meeting, Censorship Ministers declined to introduce a new classification for computer games that would be restricted to adults.

Owing to the widely differing views held by people in our community it is not always possible to make decisions which satisfy everyone. I assure you that the Board takes its responsibilities seriously and tries to reflect current community standards when making decisions.

I hope this information assists you.

– To: Mick M.
– From: Des Clark, Director, OFLC

Review Board confirms the ban

An appeal by Vivendi Universal against the RC-rating proved to be unsuccessful.

November 23, 2005
A 3-member panel of the Classification Review Board has, after playing the game for a cumulative 42 hours determined, in a unanimous decision, that the computer game entitled 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF be refused classification.

Refused Classification means the game cannot be legally sold, hired, advertised or exhibited in Australia.

The game’s central character is rap star 50 Cent. The play is situated in New York where 50 Cent seeks revenge for the killing of his former cellmate K-Dog. Whilst the violence, coarse language and drug use in the main narrative and game play is justified by context, this cannot be said of that in “arcade mode”. This mode allows players to perform counter kills unremittingly without the benefit of context.

Maureen Shelley, convenor of the Classification Review Board said, “The counter kills are enacted in detail, they are prolonged and take place in close up and slow motion. The most impactful of the counter kills involve knives and on-screen blood splatter. The Review Board determined that the impact of this mode was high and could not be accommodated at MA15+ classification. Therefore the game must be refused classification”

The Classification Review Board convened today in response to an application from the distributor, Vivendi Universal Games. The Classification Board refused classification for the computer game on 24 October 2005.

In reviewing the classification, the Classification Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. It meets in camera to make a fresh classification decision when applications to review classification matters previously determined by the Classification Board are made.

The Classification Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the OFLC website when finalised.

– 50 Cent Bulletproof refused classification upon review
– Classification Review Board

Classification Review Board report

November 9 & 23, 2005
23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, NSW

MEMBERS:
Ms Maureen Shelley (Convenor)
Mr Rob Shilkin
Mr Anthony Hetrih

APPLICANT: Vivendi Universal Games, the original applicant for classification, represented by: Ms Sarah Frare, Product Marketing Manager, Mr Bennett Ring, Media Relations Manager, Mr Colin Brown, Marketing Director, and Ms Raena Lea-Shannon, Partner, Michael Frankel Lawyers.

BUSINESS: To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the computer game 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF (the game) RC (Refused Classification).

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Decision

The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) in a unanimous decision classified the game RC (Refused Classification).

2. Legislative provisions

The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of computer games and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 of the Act provides that computer games are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines.

Relevantly, the Code in paragraph 1(d) of the Table under the heading ‘Computer Games’ provides that computer games that are unsuitable for a minor to see or play, are to be RC (refused classification).

Clause 1 of the Code also states various principles for classifications, including that ‘adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want’ and that ‘minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them’.

Three essential principles underlie the use of the 2005 Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (the Guidelines), determined under s.12 of the Act:

• The importance of context

• Assessing impact (which includes making an assessment regarding whether the material encourages interactivity)

• Six classifiable elements – themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

Section 11 of the Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a computer game include the:

(a) standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and

(b) literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the computer game; and

(c) general character of the computer game, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and

(d) persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

3. Procedure

A three member panel of the Review Board convened on 9 November 2005 to determine the validity of an application for review of a classification decision from Vivendi Universal Games, received on 27 October 2005. The application related to the game 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF.

At their meeting on 9 November 2005 the Review Board watched four videos of what the original applicant stated was the contentious material contained in the game 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF. The Review Board then observed a demonstration of the game through the interactive game play of the applicant’s Media Relations Manager Mr Bennett Ring. The original applicant’s representatives made oral and written submission to the Review Board. The Review Board then met in camera to begin considering the application.

Finding that it had viewed insufficient game play to reach a decision, the Review Board obtained copies of the game in Play Station 2 and X-Box console format. Individual members then played the game over some several days, totalling over 42 hours of game play, with Mr Anthony Hetrih playing the game through to completion.

The Review Board then reconvened on 23 November 2005 and heard evidence from Mr Jeremy Parker, an expert in child psychology, on the likely impact of such a game on minors. Mr Jeremy Parker is a registered psychologist in Queensland and is a member of the Australian Psychological Society. Jeremy Parker is also a member of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, and a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management Foundation Australia.

Mr Jeremy Parker holds the following qualifications:

(i) Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Griffith University, 1993)
(ii) Graduate Diploma of Psychology (Griffith University, 1994)
(iii) Master of Psychology (Edith Cowan University, 1997)
(iv) Graduate Diploma of Law (Southern Cross University, 1999)
(v) Bachelor of Laws (University of New England, 2005)

Jeremy regularly attends, as an expert witness, in the Family Court of Australia, Federal Magistrates Court, Children’s Services Tribunal and the Children’s Magistrates Court.

At their meeting on 23 November 2005 the Review Board heard further oral submissions from the applicant and, after consideration of the issues, determined in a unanimous decision that the game should be refused classification as it contained material that was unsuitable for minors to play.

4. Evidence and other material taken into account

In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:

(i) Vivendi’s application for review;
(ii) Vivendi’s written and oral submissions;
(iii) The game;
(iv) The relevant provisions in the Act;
(v) The relevant provisions in the Code, as amended in accordance with s.6 of the Act;
(vi) The Classification Board’s report; and
(vii) The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005.

5 Synopsis

50 CENT: BULLETPROOF is a 3rd person player game set in an environment based on a fictional New York City gangland. In 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF, the player’s character is based on the rapper known as 50 Cent. In the game 50 Cent and his “gang”, being animated representations of the real life rap group known as “G-Unit”, are concerned with avenging the death of their friend K-dog.

To track down K-dog’s killer 50 Cent has to find and kill rival drug dealers, crime king-pins and corrupt DEA agents to get to the supplier behind an Afghani Opium deal which K-dog was involved in before he died.

The Review Board noted that the game is divided into:

• “Main Mode” – the normal gameplay mode involving several gameplay levels, featuring an ongoing, continuous narrative of 50 Cent working through different challenges, attempting to avenge his friend’s death. Main Mode contains “Cut Scenes”, which are short cinematic-style scenes between different gameplay levels over which the player has no control, which advance the narrative and put the gameplay into context. Main Mode also gives players the ability to watch “Music Videos”, containing video clips of 50 Cent’s songs.

• “Arcade Mode” – a separate mode, featuring no narrative, in which 50 Cent is confined to a particular area and has to kill all his attackers.

6 Findings on material questions of fact

The Review Board found that the game contains aspects or scenes of importance, under various classifiable elements:

(a) Themes –

The game contains strong themes. Some of the themes in 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF are crime, drugs, revenge, police corruption and survival on the streets for young black men from low socio-economic backgrounds.

(b) Violence –

There is a significant amount of violence in the game. 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF.

The more relevant aspects of the gameplay and Cut Scenes are as follows:

Main Mode:

• COUNTER KILLS – These special moves can be used in Main Mode game. However a player can only undertake them if he or she has enough stamina (which is depicted in a special bar). After performing a counter kill it takes a minute or so to replenish the player’s stamina. The counter kills are short cinematic clips of 50 Cent killing an opponent. Once the relevant button is pressed to perform a Counter Kill, the player has no actual control over the action. Counter Kills are shown in close up, slow motion and contain strong depictions of violence. The “Counter Kill” depicted is randomly generated and is dependent on the weapons that the player and the opponent is using. Players can control the camera during a “Counter Kill” to view it from different angles.

LIST OF COUNTER KILLS – Players can purchase “Counter Kills” from a character called Popcorn (located in the cinema) during the course of the game. There are 25 “Counter Kills” in all and they depict the use of unarmed combat, knives and guns. Once unlocked these “Counter Kills” can also be used in Arcade Mode.

The Counter Kills are: DEAD CAN’T TALK, STAY DOWN, GUNS COME OUT, SKI MASK WAY, UNDERCUT, HEAT, STUNTING, WANKSTA, LIKE MY STYLE, GUILLOTINE, BAD NEWS, STOMP, BEG FOR MERCY, GETTING’ MINE, GANGSTA SHIT, G’D UP, BLOOD HOUND, CLOSED CASKET, BACK DOWN, THE HIT, REPERCUSSIONS, GRAND SLAM, EMPTY ‘N CLIPS, GETTING LOW, OPEN WIDE.

Some examples of what is depicted in “Counter Kills” are slashing and stabbing attacks with a hunting knife, close range gunshot, and stomping on a victim’s head. The aftermath usually involves liberal blood spray and splatter. In some instances that have more impact a victim’s head may vaporise and/or the blood-spray gushes onto the screen and runs down it for a couple of seconds. The Review Board noted that the graphics and blood spray in the Counter Kills are generally unrealistic looking and somewhat grainy.

• PERFECT SHOT – This is when the player aims at an enemy’s head and pulls off an exact shot. The camera follows the bullet in slow motion until it hits the target’s head and the head vaporises. This is difficult to perform, however later in the game it becomes easier when the player has more precise weapons such as various rifles. The Review Board considered that the graphics of the Perfect Shot are somewhat grainy and unrealistic.

• STEALTH KILL – This occurs when the player silently kills an enemy without being noticed. The Review Board considered that these were not as impactful as “Counter Kills” or “Perfect Shots”.

• GENERAL NOTES – During the main game mode, the main focus of the missions is to kill all the enemies on each level. When a player kills an enemy he or she can steal money, credit cards etc. from the body. This cash can be used to purchase weapons, painkillers, “Counter Kills”, music and video clips from the main hub. Additionally, players can also grab an enemy and use them as a human shield, interrogate them and when finished with them blow their head off at point blank range. It should also be noted that dead bodies disappear (preventing the player from continuously shooting or otherwise interacting with the body), however the length of time that this takes seems to be random.

• CUT SCENES – The most impactful cut scene in the game is where 50 Cent and a friend awake hanging from a ceiling by a rope. They have been captured by an underworld figure and there is a large, blood splattered henchman wielding a chainsaw in the background. There is also a box of body parts in the foreground, adding to the menace. After threatening words between the underworld figure and 50 Cent, the henchman (Sam the Butcher) starts up the chainsaw cuts up 50 Cent’s friend. While the chainsaw cutting flesh is not visible, blood spray is visible and screams and blood and viscera hitting the floor are audible. There is also a shot of 50 Cent’s agonised face. There is a significant sense of menace and impact in this scene.

Immediately after the chainsaw scene, the player can explore this room. The player can see what happened to 50 Cent’s friend who has a large gash over the chest/abdomen area. The player can also kick around the box of body parts that was seen in the foreground in the previous scene. Additionally, the player can fire at 50 Cent’s dead friend or the box of body parts and blood splatter will occur.

There is a scene of violence against women, which is depicted in one of the later cut scenes. This scene was not made available to the Review Board by the applicant and was only found after playing the whole game through. The scene depicts the kidnap of Alexa (Booker’s daughter) by Spinoza. During the scene a gun is held to Alexa’s head in a threatening manner and ends with her being hit across the face by Spinoza and her falling down.

Arcade Mode:

In Arcade mode, the Review Board felt that the impact of the violence was higher than in Main Mode. While the violence in Main Mode is somewhat justified by context by virtue of the narrative and plot, and contains stamina limits on the use of “Counter Kills”, this is not the case in Arcade Mode.

Arcade Mode allows players to perform “Counter Kills” unremittingly. The stamina meter is not a consideration in this mode, so the player can continually press the “Counter Kill” button and perform multiple strings of “Counter Kills”.

The fact that the “Counter Kills” can be performed in rapid succession on a large number opponents, led the Review Board to unanimously agree that the impact of the violence in Arcade Mode was high.

(c) Sex –

There are no explicit depictions of sex in 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF, however there are numerous references to it at various points in the storyline and in the lyrics of the game’s Music Videos and soundtrack. Most of these references are verbal.

There is a Cut Scene in which 50 Cent awakes in bed with two sex workers and it is implied that he has had sex with them. The voice-over says “Okay, so I didn’t sleep, but I did stay in bed.” There is no nudity or sexual contact in this scene. The Review Board considered that the sexual reference can be accommodated by a MA15+ rating.

(d) Drug use –

There are numerous verbal references to drugs within 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF, and a couple of Cut Scenes which depict the use / testing of what is a narcotic substance. For example:

• Cut Scenes: After 50 Cent is shot early in the game, he awakes at an illegal medical centre. We see the character of Doc Friday holding his hand to his nose and snorting what is implied to be narcotics and says “we all need our medicine sometimes”. Additionally, Doc gives 50 Cent pain killers (which become part of the health system in the game) and when asked if they’re addictive he replies no, but in future 50 Cent “will have to pay for them”, with the implication being that 50 Cent will want them in future.

After recovering a balloon of narcotics from the stomach of a cadaver, 50 Cent visits Popcorn who views and tastes the substance. Popcorn replies “Houston we have a problem. That ain’t heroin, that’s pure Afghani opium”.

• Game Play: When visiting 50’s Cent’s apartment, there is a bong (a device used for smoking marijuana) located on one of the tables. Players cannot interact with this item.

It should be noted that throughout the game the character 50 Cent must replenish his health whenever he is injured during the missions. This can be done by purchasing First Aid packs, Vitaminwater and Painkiller Pills. The latter is implied to be prescription drugs. The taking of the painkillers boosts the health of players.

Some of the gameplay levels contain objectives that involve Doc Friday and imply that he is a drug dealer. Side missions included locating “special ingredients” and a “cookbook” that Doc needs for his business. The player is rewarded for successfully completing such objectives.

Within the context of the storyline the Review Board considered that these drug references and scenes were justified by the context of the underground urban narrative and could be accommodated by an MA15+ rating.

(e) Language –

There are approximately 762 instances of coarse language in the story/script and 606 instances in the song lyrics from the soundtrack (as per the applicant’s original submission).

Much of the coarse language involves the word “fuck”, “muthafucker” and their variants. This language generally occurs in the context of gangland, hip hop and rap culture. There is also some aggressive coarse language that is randomly generated during the 10 to 15 hours of actual gameplay. The Review Board concluded that the coarse language was aggressive when it was used as punctuation to the on-screen violence.

While noting the context of the hip hop/rap culture, which provided the context of the game and the character 50 Cent, the majority of the Review Board expressed concerns about the extensive use of coarse language.

(f) Nudity –

There are no explicit depictions of nudity, however in the Music Videos some of the outfits are suggestive and there is some fleeting blurred female nudity in the background.

7 Reasons for the decision

Relevantly, the Code in paragraph 1(d) of the Table under the heading ‘Computer Games’ provides that computer games that are unsuitable for a minor to see or play, are to be RC (refused classification).

Paragraph 2 of the Table states further that computer games (except RC computer games) that depict, express or otherwise deal with sex, violence or coarse language in such a manner as to be unsuitable for viewing or playing by persons under 15, are to be classified MA15+.

Clause 1(b) of the Code also states relevantly that classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible, to the principle that minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them. Clause 1(a) states that, as far as possible “adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want”.

To assist it in determining which classification was appropriate, the Review Board had regard to the Guidelines (as required under section 9 of the Act), and gave consideration to, and balanced, the various principles in Clause 1 of the Code (including clauses 1(a) 1(b)) and the factors under section 11 of the Act. Of particular relevance under section 11 were the standards of morality, decency and propriety accepted by reasonable adults, and the persons or class of persons, being teenagers and other young fans of 50 Cent, amongst whom the computer game is likely to be published.

While there were strong themes, drug use, nudity, sexual references and coarse language (including some aggressive coarse language) in the game, the Review Board’s decision was based on the classifiable element of violence.

While the Review Board appreciated the comments of Dr Parker in relation to the potential short term and long term impact of the game on minors, and whether the game was likely to harm or disturb minors, it regarded his comments as equivocal on the potential impact of the game on minors aged 15, 16 or 17. Accordingly, the Review Board did not have regard to Dr Parker’s evidence in determining the classification of the game.

After independently playing the game 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF for a cumulative 42 hours – with Mr Hetrih playing through all levels to completion – the Review Board concluded that the violence in the Main Mode was justified by context. It was an integral part of the narrative and challenge for the gameplayer. Further, the Review Board considered that the impact of material in Main Mode, cumulatively or in relation to any individual scene, was no higher than strong.

In forming its conclusion on impact, the Review Board had regard to the following:

• The strongest element of Main Mode was the Counter Kills. Although the player could still undertake the Counter Kills in Main Mode, there was a limit to the number of Counter Kills that could be performed due to the stamina meter. This significantly reduced the frequency of the Counter Kills. Together with the grainy and unrealistic graphics and the fact that the player could not control the actual Counter Kill undertaken, the cumulative impact of Counter Kills in Main Mode did not exceed strong.

• The Perfect Shot was extremely difficult to perform and therefore very rare. It featured grainy graphics.

• The impact of other aspects of the gameplay, including the stealth kills and use of human shields, did not exceed strong.

• Dead bodies disappear, preventing gameplayers from continuously shooting or interacting with them.

• There is no opportunity for the gameplayer to engage in cruel or prolonged violence, or to shoot civilians or bystanders unrelated to the narrative of the game.

The Cut Scenes, in particular the scene involving the chainsaw and the scene of Alexa being hit, were of strong impact, but featured infrequent actual macabre detail or depictions of actual violence. Similar or greater levels of violence and gore as contained in these Cut Scenes are regularly seen in MA15+ movies and other computer games. The Review Board concluded that the community would, as a whole, anticipate scenes of violence of the strength depicted in the Cut Scenes in a computer game or film at an MA15+ classification.

However, the Review Board formed a different view in relation to Arcade Mode. The Review Board formed the view that the violence in this mode was not justified by context as there was no narrative or plot in this mode.

Further, players are able to perform “Counter Kills” unremittingly in this mode. As a result, it was possible, depending on how the gameplayer played the game, for this mode to feature near-continuous depictions of 50 Cent performing “Counter Kills”, in detailed close up and in slow motion, involving a variety of weapons and methods of execution. As there was liberal blood splatter and on screen blood drips, it was possible to engage in a new Counter Kill against a new assailant, while blood was still dripping down the screen from the previous victim.

In light of the potential frequency of the Counter Kills and the lack of mitigating context, the Review Board determined that the impact of the potentially continuous, gory executions depicted in Arcade Mode exceeded strong and was therefore unsuitable for a minor to see or play.

As a result, the Review Board unanimously determined that 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF could not be accommodated within the MA15+ classification.

8 Summary

The Review Board in a unanimous decision determined that the high level impact of the violence depicted in the Arcade Mode of 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF exceeded that which could be accommodated within the MA15+ classification and the computer game is Refused Classification.

– Classification Review Board report

Censored MA15+

In January 2006, a modified version of 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, Strong coarse language) rating.

It was released in Australia in April 2006.

50 Cent: Bulletproof (2005) - Game Cover 1
Xbox Cover

2006
The arcade mode has been removed from the game and a few minor adjustments have had to be made. The game contains more than a dozen 50 Cent videos, as well as four CDs worth of the man’s music. A few other minor changes have also been made to fit the game into an MA15+ rating.

– PAL Gaming Network [dead link]

Classification Board complaints

October 6, 2006
The computer games RESERVOIR DOGS and 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF were classified RC by the Classification Board because they contain frequent depictions of violence that have a high impact. As the impact test for MA 15+ is ‘no higher than strong’, the computer games could not be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification. The Classification Review Board also subsequently classified 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF RC.

Complaints
The OFLC received 261 complaints about computer games. The computer games 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF and RESERVOIR DOGS received four complaints each protesting the RC decisions.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2005-2006

Review Board complaints

September 26, 2006
During the year, the Review Board refused classification to two computer games, namely 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF and MARK ECKO’S GETTING UP: CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE, with both of these decisions exciting considerable media coverage in Australia and internationally.

Much of the commentary has related to the lack of an R 18+ classification for computer games with the perception being that if such had been available, the games would not have been refused classification. Whilst this is not something that the Review Board considered, it should be noted that matters relating to promotion of crime are not related to the age of the likely audience.

Complaints
The OFLC also received four complaints about 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF which generally addressed the decisions of both the Classification Board and Classification Review Board.

– Maureen Shelley, Convenor
– Classification Review Board, Annual Report 2005-2006

back to top of page arrow