Banned Games of 2008

Five games were banned in Australia in 2008.

DARK SECTOR (2008) was Refused Classification in February. This was followed by SHELLSHOCK 2: BLOOD TRAILS (2008) in June, FALLOUT 3 (2008) in July, SILENT HILL: HOMECOMING (2008) in September and F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN (2008) in November.


Dark Sector

Publisher D3Publisher / 2008 / MobyGames

In February 2008, DARK SECTOR was banned because of high-impact violence.

AFA Interactive was the applicant.

February 2008
Board Report TO8/389
Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995
Classification Board

Details of the Computer Game
File No T08/389
Processing Date: 07/02/2008

Title: DARK SECTOR
Version: ORIGINAL
Format: Multi Platform
Duration: VARIABLE
Publisher: D3PUBLISHER
Programmer: DIGITAL EXTREMES
Production Co: D3PUBLISHER
Country or Origin: USA
Language: ENGLISH
Application Type: Comp Game Assessed Level 2
Applicant: AFA INTERACTIVE

PROCEDURE:
The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines approved by the standing Committee of Attorneys-General, are followed when classifying films.
Item Viewed: YES
Viewing Date: 07/02/2008
Written submissions: NO
Oral submissions: NO

MATERIAL CONSIDERED:
In classifying this item regard was had to the following:
(i) The Application YES
(ii) A written synopsis of the item YES
(iii) The Item YES
(iv) Other NO

DECISION
(1) Classification: RC
(2) Consumer Advice:
(3) Key:
(4) Ratified By: (Senior Classifier)

SYNOPSIS:
The item DARK SECTOR is a third-person action-shooter computer game. The player takes on the role of Hayden Tenno, a covert operative sent on a dangerous mission into Lasria, an Eastern European city on the brink of ruin that hides a deadly Cold War secret. Hayden is attacked by an unknown enemy and infected by the Technocyte Virus, a brutal bio-weapon that twists its victims into mindless killing machines. Surviving this attack, Hayden finds that the Technocyte virus has granted him powerful, inhuman abilities that he must evolve to survive.

REASONS FOR THE DECISION:
When making decisions, the Classification Board (the Board) follows the procedures set out in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act). The Board also applies the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines, while taking into account the matters set out in section 11 of the Act.

In the Board’s view this game warrants an ‘RC’ classification in accordance with item 1(d) of the computer games table of the National Classification Code:
“1. Computer games that:
(d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play;” will be Refused Classification.

The game contains violence that is high in impact and the game is therefore unsuitable for persons aged under 18 years to play.

In the report, the game is described as a “violent and sometimes gruesome game with a sinister storyline and ominous outcome. The violence and aggression inflicted upon the protagonist is of a high level, naturalistic and not stylised at all”.

The finishing moves and most violent game play includes decapitation, dismembem1ent of limbs accompanied by large blood spurts, neck breaking twists and exploded bodies with post-action twitching body parts. These moves are relatively easy to accomplish and once the player has mastered the moves and is able to get close to his foes, these violent moves can be executed.

The violence takes place in the context of confrontations between the player’s character, Hayden and his opponents. Hayden is a special agent sent to Eastern Europe to defeat a scientist that has infected people with a mutant virus.

Hayden’s main weapon is a glaive which is a large circular three blade device that can be thrown at the enemy in a boomerang-like manner. Throughout the game the player is able to pick up power-ups to increase the strength of the glaive. By holding the glaive button the player is able to do a super-powered throw that can cut their foe in half, decapitate them dismember limbs or sever torsos. Hayden is also able to throw the glaive into electrical devices, open flames and nitrogen bottles and then inflict this upon the enemy.

Other conventional weapons such as knives, pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, machetes, rocket launches and grenades can be used by both Hayden and the enemy military forces. Once a civilian is infected by the mutation they will attempt to attack Hayden and the military with sledgehammers, pipes etc.

Successfully shooting an opponent results in the depiction of blood spray. When Hayden cuts off his opponent’s limb with the glaive, large amounts of blood spray forth from the stump and the injured person screams in agony which increases the impact. The opponent’s body remains on screen in a pool of blood until Hayden leaves that particular area.

Violent encounters of the type described above are frequent throughout the game and this contributes to the impact. In the unanimous view of the Board, the impact of the game exceeds strong and as such cannot be accommodated in a MAI5+ classification.

DECISION
This game is Refused Classification.

– Classification Board report

Censored for an MA15+

In July 2008, a modified version of DARK SECTOR was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence) rating.

Dark Sector (2008) - Game Cover 1
Xbox 360 Cover

Movie-Censorship has as a comparison between the censored Australian and uncut version.

Aidan reports.
The PC version has received a low-key release as a freebie with PC Powerplay magazine and the cuts are heavier than initially thought.

In this version, there is no limb severing on humans at all with simply a small blood spurt no matter what hits them. This is compared to the high-level severing seen here in this IGN review. There does not appear to be much, if any, dismemberment against infected enemies. I found the high powered throw could seemingly wither a limb, damaging it, but not visibly removing it.

The enemies heads simply vanish rather than fly off as seen in the full version.

Neither of these is very visible as the infected’s bodies disappear almost immediately after death, which appears to be in the global release as well as a lag reducer.

Lastly, in one of the early cut scenes, it appears that decapitation has been edited down to simply a cut-throat. This can be seen uncut at 1:15 in the above mentioned IGN review.

Complaints to the Classification Board

September 23, 2008
The Classification Board received 169 complaints in relation to the classification of computer games.…seven complaints were received about the RC classification of DARK SECTOR. These complaints also referred to the absence of an R 18+ classification for computer games.

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

Shellshock 2: Blood Trails

Publisher Eidos Interactive / 2008 / MobyGames

In June 2008, SHELLSHOCK 2: BLOOD TRAILS was banned by the Classification Board due to high impact violence.

Atari Australia was the applicant.

Shellshock 2: Blood Trails (2008) - Game Cover 1
PC Cover

September 23, 2008
SHELLSHOCK 2: BLOOD TRAILS…classified RC as they contained depictions of violence that exceed a strong playing impact and as such the games could not be accommodated at the MA15+ classification and must be RC.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2007-2008

Further Reading

See the SHELLSHOCK: NAM ’67 (2004) entry in the Game Censorship Database for more information about the banned original.


Fallout 3

Publisher Bethesda Softworks / 2008 / MobyGames

In July 2008, FALLOUT 3 was banned because it contained material that promoted or encouraged proscribed drug use.

Zenimax Europe was the applicant.

Classification Board report

July 2008
Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995
Classification Board

Details of the Computer Game:
FILE No T08/2707

Title: FALLOUT 3
Version: ORIGINAL
Format: Multi Platform
Duration: VARIABLE
Publisher: ZENIMAX EUROPE LTD
Programmer: BETHESDA GAME STUDIOS
Production Co: NOT SHOWN
Country of Origin: USA
Language: ENGLISH
Application Type: Comp Game Demonstrated
Applicant: ZENIMAX EUROPE Ltd.

PROCEDURE:
The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines are followed when classifying films, computer games and publications

Written submissions: NO
Oral submissions: YES

MATERIAL CONSIDERED:
In classifying this item regard was had to the following:
(i) The Application YES
(ii) A written synopsis of the item YES
(iii) The Item YES
(iv) Other NO

DECISION
(1) Classification: RC
(2) Consumer Advice:
(3) Key:

SYNOPSIS:
FALLOUT 3 is a first person shooter/ role playing game where the player has to direct their character through post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. The game involves emerging from a vault, where survivors have hidden for hundreds of years, and exploring the wasteland above.

REASONS FOR THE DECISION:
In making this decision, the Classification Board has applied the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), including the matters set out in sections 9A and 11 of the Classification Act, the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005 (the Guidelines).

In the Board’s majority view this game warrants an ‘RC’ classification in accordance with item 1 (a) of the computer games table of the National Classification Code:

“1. Computer games that:

(a) depict. express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified;” will be Refused Classification.

The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games also state that, as a general rule:

“Material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives and rewards is Refused Classification. “

The game contains the option to take a variety of drugs known as “chems” using a device which is connected to the character’s arm. Upon selection of the device a menu select screen is displayed. Upon this screen is a list of “chems” that the player’s character can take by means of selection. These “chems” have positive effects and some negative effects (lowering of intelligence, or the character may become addicted to the “chem”). The positive effects include increase in strength, stamina. resistance to damage. agility and hit points. Corresponding with the list of various “chems” are small visual representation of the drugs, these include syringes, tablets, pill bottles a crack-type pipe and blister packs. In the Board’s view these realistic visual representations of drugs and their delivery method bring the “science-fiction” drugs in line with “real-world” drugs.

The Guidelines also state that “Material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use” is Refused Classification.

The player can also select and use “Morphine” (a proscribed drug) which has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain when the character’s extremities are targeted by the enemy.

The Authorised Assessor’s report also states that “chems are an essential part of FALLOUT 3, and the player will likely use a variety of them throughout the game”.

In the Board’s view the drug use in particular the use of a proscribed drug via means of selection from a menu, is related to incentives and rewards as the incentive to take the drug is to progress through the game more easily and the reward is an increase in the character’s abilities and as such is Refused Classification.

MINORITY VIEW
In the minority view of the Board the violence throughout the game is strong in playing impact and warrants an MA 15+ level of classification with the consumer advice of strong violence.

OTHER MATTERS CONSIDERED
The Board notes that the violence throughout the game could be accommodated at an MA 15+ level of classification.

DECISION
In the Board’s view this game is Refused Classification.

– Classification Board report

MA15+ version

In August 2008, a modified version was passed as MA15+ (Strong violence, Drug references and Coarse language).

In this version of FALLOUT 3, the morphine had been changed to a fictional drug.

Fallout 3 (2008) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 3 Cover

Classification Board report

Logan Booker’s Kotaku article included extracts from the Board’s report.

August 7, 2008
SYNOPSIS
This computer game is a revised version of FALLOUT 3 which was originally classified RC on 4 July 2008. The game is a first person shooter/role playing game where the player has to direct their character through post-apocalyptic Washington. DC. The game involves emerging from a vault, where survivors have hidden for hundreds of years, and exploring the wastelands above.

REASONS FOR THE DECISION
In making this decision, the Classification Board has applied the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games: Act 1995 (the Classification Act), including the matters set out in sections 9A and 11 of the Classification Act, the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005 (the Guidelines).

In the Boards view this computer game warrants an MA 15+ classification as, in accordance with Item 2 of the Computer Games Table of the National Classification Code, it Is unsuitable for viewing or playing by persons under 15.

Pursuant to the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games, this computer game is classified MA 15+ as the impact of the classifiable elements is strong. Material classified MA 15+ is considered unsuitable for persons under 15 years of age. It is a legally restricted category.

The classifiable elements are violence, drug use and language that are strong in playing impact.

[snip]

The drugs depicted are fictional; drugs are depicted as stylised icons on a menu with the drug use itself not depicted. Whilst navigating a post-apocalyptic futuristic landscape, players can invoke the use of a variety of “chems” listed by fictious names which include “Buff”, “Rad-X”, “Psycho” and “Ultrajet”. Within the context of the game’s narrative, the player may choose to make use of these “chems” to alter the physiological characteristics of their character in the game.

The drug references within the revised version are justified by context and lend a strong playing impact to the game.

The drugs depicted are fictional; drugs are depicted as stylised icons on a menu with the drug use itself not depicted. Whilst navigating a post-apocalyptic futuristic landscape, players can invoke the use of a variety of “chems” listed by fictious names which include “Buff”, “Rad-X”, “Psycho” and “Ultrajet”. Within the context of the game’s narrative, the player may choose to make use of these “chems” to alter the physiological characteristics of their character in the game.

The Board noted that the “Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005” states that “as a general rule … material that contains drug use … related to incentives or rewards is Refused Classification” and found that relationship [sic] between drug use and the incentives and rewards is not such that it promotes or encourages the use of proscribed drugs. Therefore the game does not warrant to be Refused Classification and can be accommodated at MA15+ with a consumer advisory of “strong drug references”.

Minority view:

In the minority view of the Board the drug use in the game is in excess of the general rule applied under the Guidelines. The drugs are unambiguous in their visual representations, which include pills and hypodermic needles, and are related to incentives and rewards in that the incentive to take the drug is that progress through the game is achieved more easily and the reward is an increase in the character’s abilities. The game therefore warrants and ‘RC’ classification.

– Classification Board report

Classification Board comments

August 28, 2008
Kotaku AU: Regarding the use of drugs in computer games – could you elaborate on what specifically made its use in FALLOUT 3 too much for an MA15+ rating, and what was changed in the revised version to bring it in line?

Classification Board: The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games (the Guidelines) provide that at the MA 15+ classification (the highest classification for computer games) drug use may be strong in impact and should be justified by context. The Guidelines also provide a general rule that material that contains drug use and sexual violence related to incentives or rewards is RC (Refused Classification).

Accordingly, computer games may include the depiction of drug use. However, if the use of drugs provides an incentive or reward the computer game must be RC. An incentive may be the ability to progress faster through the game. A reward may be a gain in points or access to a wider choice of weapons.

In regard to the computer game FALLOUT 3, the Board is of the opinion that the use of morphine in the game has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain. This ability to progress through the game more easily is the incentive to take the drug while the reward is in the character’s abilities.

The revised version of the game has been modified to remove the incentive and reward of progressing through the game more easily from the element of drug use. The revised version has fictional drugs depicted as stylised icons which will alter the physiological characteristics of the characters in the game.

In the decision of the Board, there is no incentive or reward to select drug use.

– Australian Classification Board Speaks On Games, R18+ & Fallout 3
article @ kotaku.com.au

Australian censorship goes global

Bethesda’s Product Manager, Pete Hines, revealed that Australia’s censorship of FALLOUT 3 was going to be worldwide

All of the real-world drug references were to be removed from every version of the game.

September 2, 2008
Hines refused to talk specifically about the issues FALLOUT 3 faced with Australian censorship last month. But, on the topic of censorship in general, he told CVG: “The frustrating thing for us is that the standards and rules can be so varied across territories, that we work with five or six ratings agencies and each one has different ‘hot buttons’.”

He went on to explain: “In one place nudity is a big deal but violence is fine, and in another place drugs are a problem but nudity is fine.

“I guess that’s the way of the world – not every country is the same. You’re not aiming at one target, you’re aiming at six different ones, worrying about how each one will feel about different things,” he added.

But Hines insists that this doesn’t effect initial development decisions. “We just go through and make the game that we want to make,” he said. “We have our eyes wide open, mindful of the things that could be flagged up and how we’re going to resolve them if that becomes a problem.”

– Bethesda: Multiple censorship laws ‘frustrating’
– computerandvideogames.com

September 9, 2008
Speaking to Edge, Bethesda has explained what it calls a “misconception” regarding the classification of FALLOUT 3 in the Australian region. Edge has also learned that due to concerns and issues raised in the process of international classification, FALLOUT 3 will not contain real world drug references in any territory.

Edge has been told by Bethesda vice president of PR and marketing Peter Hines that there will be no differences between the version that releases in Australia and the versions that will release in other territories, including Europe and the US.

Calling the idea of an Australia-specific version of the game a “misconception,” Hines told us, “We want to make sure folks understand that the Australian version of FALLOUT 3 is identical to both the UK and North American versions in every way, on every platform.”

He continued, “An issue was raised concerning references to real world, proscribed drugs in the game, and we subsequently removed those references and replaced them with fictional names. To avoid confusion among people in different territories, we decided to make those substitutions in all versions of the game, in all territories.”

Hines stated, “I didn’t want people continuing to assume the version in Australia was some altered version when it’s not.” Finally, he explained that, “There are no references to real world drugs in any version of FALLOUT 3.”

– Censors force Fallout 3 changes
gamesradar.com/edge

No R18+ games on my watch

In South Australia, Isobel Redmond (Liberal) taunted the Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson (Labor) about his opposition to R18+ games.

October 16, 2008
Mrs REDMOND: I know that the Attorney loves computer games. It is because of computer games and their classification that the Attorney has recently made it to No. 6 on the most hated people in Australia list, in fact I think he was the highest ranked South Australian on the list by a long way. So, it is good that he likes being so hated by the people who like computer games.

No doubt the Attorney will be pleased to know that at least one of the games [FALLOUT 3] for which there was no classification available in South Australia, largely because the use of the substance of morphine as a painkiller was referred to in the game, so the game makers changed the name to a fictitious name. They did not change the game at all, but having changed the term ‘morphine’ to a fictitious name they were able to get the game classified and, in fact, they have had that name changed all around the world.

– Isobel Redmond (Liberal), SA Legislative Assembly

Violence in games compared

Mick reports.
The gore content in FALLOUT 3 is a lot more graphic and detailed than what DARK SECTOR (2008) was banned for. I was quite astounded that the Classification Board had issues only with the drugs. Hey kids, did you know it is fine to decapitate and eat innocent people but just don’t ever ask for morphine if you happen to land yourself in the ER.

Both games contain slow-motion death scenes, close-up blood sprays, dismemberment and decapitation. This is done using the VATS system or during real-time gameplay. There is a plethora of weaponry to be used and the gore ranges from your run of the mill dismemberment right through to heads flying off in slow-motion and bodies exploding into pieces after using a grenade or rocket launcher. There are ‘perks’ that one can acquire to bump up the graphic violence even further by allowing bodies to explode into a bloody mess via just one bullet. There is even a cannibalism perk that allows you to regain health by munching on dead bodies!

The Classification Board also did not seem to have a problem with the fact that you can even assist a guy commit suicide during the game….But okay, drugs are MUCH worse. I mean come on, you’re even rewarded for killing innocent people as you can then regain health by eating them, gain experience points to level up and steal whatever is in their pocket.

I really cannot get my head around the fact that DARK SECTOR (2008) was banned for much less than this. If this incidence does not display a 40,000 ft. high sign flashing ‘HYPOCRISY’ I don’t know what does.

Drugs in games compared

Tim from R18games reports.
The board notes that the game [VELVET ASSASSIN (2009)] contains drug references that can be accommodated within a lower classification. However, the presence of the drug references warrants the additional consumer advice of drug references for the following reasons:

1) The drug references consist of references to morphine and the presence of syringes that can be collected by the players within each mission. The syringes allow the player to have morphine implicitly administered to them a limited number of times. The morphine links back to the reality of Violette being administered the drug in hospital. Although the use of morphine enables the player to better complete difficult parts of the mission, this does not lead to killings being more violent, to the demise of more enemies or a better outcome for the player or the character of Violette.

2) While the general rule in the Classification Guidelines state that “material that contains drug use (…) related to incentives or rewards is Refused Classification”, the Board is of the opinion that the incentives in the game are very nuanced and mitigated by the historical and medical context of the references to the drug. The drug references are no higher than moderate in playing impact. They can therefore be accommodated within a lower classification, but warrant the additional consumer advice of drug references.

The use of Morphine in the original version of FALLOUT 3 was refused classification for the following reasons:

1) The Guidelines state that “Material promoting or encouraging a proscribed drug use” is Refused Classification. The player can also select and use “Morphine” (a proscribed drug) which has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain when the character’s extremities are targeted by the enemy.

2) In the Board’s view the drug use, in particular the use of a proscribed drug, via means of selection from a menu, is related to incentives and rewards as the incentive to take the drug is to progress through the game more easily and the reward is an increase in the character’s abilities and as such is Refused Classification.

The Board notes that the revised version of FALLOUT 3 which was classified MA15+ on 7 August 2008 has been modified to remove the incentive and reward of progressing through the game more easily from the element of drug use. The revised version has fictional drugs depicted as stylised icons which will not alter the physiological characteristics of the characters in the game. In the decision of the Board, there is no incentive or reward to select drug use, however the Board considers these drug references to be strong in impact

September 21, 2009
The computer game VELVET ASSASSIN was classified MA 15+ with the consumer advice ‘Strong violence and drug references’. The Classification Board noted that the game contains violence that is strong in impact and justified by context.

Whilst the Classification Board noted that the game contains drug references that can be accommodated within a lower classification, consumer advice for drug references was included due to the use of morphine in the game. The use of the drug was not, however, related to incentives or rewards.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2008-2009

Complaints to the Classification Board

September 21, 2009
The Classification Board received 725 complaints in relation to the classification of computer games. The Board made 1068 classification decisions for computer games in 2008-09. Some titles received a large number of complaints while other titles received single complaints but overall, the complaints were about a small number of titles.

There were 629 complaints about FALLOUT 3.

Many of the complaints about the decisions for the RC computer games also complained about the lack of an R 18+ classification for computer games.

The Classification Board also received 509 complaints that were specifically about the absence of an R 18+ classification for computer games. These complaints were referred to the Attorney-General’s Department as the issue of an R 18+ classification is a policy matter for Censorship Ministers.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2008-2009

MA15+ expansion packs

Several of the FALLOUT 3 expansion packs were passed by the Classification Board in 2009.

THE PIT AND OPERATION: ANCHORAGE, BROKEN STEEL AND POINT LOOKOUT and MOTHERSHIP ZETA were rated MA15+ (Strong violence, Drug references and Coarse language).

All were combined in the FALLOUT 3: GAME OF THE YEAR release.


Silent Hill: Homecoming

Publisher Konami Digital Entertainment / 2008 / MobyGames

In September 2008, SILENT HILL: HOMECOMING was banned by the Classification Board because of high impact violence.

Atari Australia was the applicant.

All previous entries in the series had been rated MA15+.

Reasons for the Refused Classification

September 2008
SYNOPSIS
This computer game is a third-person perspective horror-fantasy game in which the player assumes the identity of Alex Shepherd who embarks on a quest to find his younger brother. Alex comes into contact with a wide range of fantastic and grotesque creatures.

REASONS FOR THE DECISION:
In making this decision, the Classification Board has applied the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, including the matters set out in sections 9A and 1l of the Classification Act, the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2005 (the Guidelines).

In the Board’s view this game warrants an ‘RC’ classification in accordance with item 1(d) of the computer games table of the National Classification Code:
“1. Computer games that:
(d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play;” will be Refused Classification.

The game contains violence that is high in impact and the game is therefore unsuitable for persons aged under 18 years to play.

The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games state that: “Impact may be higher where a scene encourages interactivity”.

Under the Guidelines “Computer games that exceed the MA15+ classification category will be Refused Classification”.

In the Board’s view the violence in this game has a high impact. As such it warrants an RC classification.

Some examples of this high-impact violence, but are not limited to, the following examples.

During his quest Alex comes into contact with a wide range of fantastic and grotesque creatures which he must kill in self-defence to progress through the game. There are also a small number of human creatures which he must also interact, including killing them. Alex must go through abandoned buildings such as a prison and a hospital, encountering these creatures and zombie-like humans. In the battles with creatures and humans, weapons such as guns, metal bars, daggers, electric drills and saws are used.

The violence is considered highly impactful in such scenes as where an electric drill is explicitly forced through Alex’s right eye socket, remaining there for an extended period as Alex screams and blood sprays from the wound. There are several scenarios in which this means of death is used, on one occasion the drill being wielded by a zombie-nurse and on another by a woman named Margaret. In an alternative scenario, Alex turns the drill on his attacker and the drill is explicitly forced up through the woman’s chin until she falls to the floor with the drill embedded in her skull.

The monsters Alex encounters are a strange mélange of human and monster. In one scene Alex encounters a creature with a human body shape and a long, barbed, spade shaped head. Using his head as a weapon, the creature explicitly bisects Alex, the two parts of the body lying separately on the ground, with copious blood spray.

There are also a number of explicit decapitations involving both human and non human creatures. There are frequent attacks, fights, wounding, torture and death.

All violence results in blood spray: there are blood-stained interiors and blood sprays onto objects, including the camera lens. Although the sprays of blood disappear, the scenes often have blood soaked walls and floors.

There are also images of dead bodies and partially dismembered corpses – all with significant blood detail – that from part of the scenery of the game.

The Board considers that the cumulative effect of this type of violence is high and as such cannot be accommodated at the MA 15+ classification.

DECISION
This game is Refused Classification

– Classification Board report

The RC violence

Matt reports.
These YouTube clips show some of the violent scenes mentioned in the RC report.

YouTube No. 1 ‘…an electric drill is explicitly forced through Alex’s right eye socket, remaining there for an extended period as Alex screams and blood sprays from the wound’.

YouTube No. 2 ‘…Alex turns the drill on his attacker and the drill is explicitly forced up through the woman’s chin until she falls to the floor with the drill embedded in her skull’.

YouTube No. 3 ‘…Alex encounters a creature with a human body shape and a long, barbed, spade shaped head. Using his head as a weapon, the creature explicitly bisects Alex, the two parts of the body lying separately on the ground, with copious blood spray.’

Censored for MA15+

In January 2009, a censored version of SILENT HILL: HOMECOMING was passed with an MA15+ (Strong horror violence and Themes) rating.

Movie-Censorship has as a comparison between the censored Australian version and the uncut version.

Silent Hill: Homecoming (2008) - Game Cover 1
Xbox 360 Cover

January 1, 2009
Atari has since explained to Edge that the amendments made to SILENT HILL: HOMECOMING will, largely, not be related to gameplay. “The major changes to the Australian release of SILENT HILL: HOMECOMING will be made to its cut scenes,” the publisher said, “where new camera angles and techniques will be used to reduce the impact of the unclassifiable material.”

Atari adds that such changes have “only been made to some scenes, while the original storyline remains unchanged.”

Atari added that SILENT HILL: HOMECOMING will be given an R rating in the neighbouring nation of New Zealand, and it will “remain unedited.”

– Atari explains Silent Hill content cuts
gamesradar.com/edge

Complaints to the censor

September 21, 2009
The Classification Board received 725 complaints in relation to the classification of computer games.

There were …. 52 complaints about SILENT HILL: HOMECOMING…

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2008-2009

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment / 2008 / MobyGames

In November 2008, F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN was banned because it contained high-impact violence.

Warner Bros Entertainment Australia was the applicant.

The original F.E.A.R. (2005) and two expansion packs were all passed with MA15+ ratings.

Classification Board report

November 27, 2008
The classification report lists examples of high-impact violence such as the game’s hero Michael Beckett using his sub-machine gun to bisect an enemy, with the “two parts of the body lying separately on the ground, with copious blood spray”.

The report says “there are also a number of explicit close range decapitations involving both human and mutant creatures. The decapitations are the result of close-up throat slashing from behind and close-up gunshots to the throat.

“All violence results in large blood spray: there are blood-stained interiors and blood sprays onto objects, including the camera lens. With weapons such as sniper rifles, bodies can be torn apart at close range, limbs are seen flying off and the wounded flesh is reduced to a bloody pulp.”

The report explicitly details the game’s weapons, which include hand guns, sniper rifles and rocket launchers, and there is particular emphasis on the nail gun.

“The use of nail-guns pins victims to a wall before they fall to the ground in a bloody mass,” the report says. “The scenes often have blood soaked walls and floors and the victims’ bodies do not always disappear.”

The report describes the game’s third mission, set in a hospital, with “civilian victims, doctors and nurses, lying dead on the ground in pools of blood”.

“There are also post-action images of partially dismembered corpses and severed heads – all with significant blood detail – that form part of the scenery of the game.”

The report concludes that the game’s “enhanced graphics and the realistic behaviour of human and mutant foes increase the playing impact of the violence to a high level”.

“The Board considers that the cumulative effect of this type of violence is high and as such cannot be accommodated at the MA 15+ classification and the game must therefore be refused classification.”

– No F.E.A.R.
theage.com.au

Warner Bros appeal the RC-rating

November 27, 2008
The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification of the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN.

F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN was classified RC (Refused Classification) by the Classification Board on 26 November 2008. Computer games classified RC cannot be legally sold, hired, advertised or demonstrated in Australia.

The Classification Review Board will meet on Monday 15 December 2008 to consider the application.

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

– Review announced for the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin
– Classification Review Board

RC-rating dropped to MA15

In December 2008, the ban was overturned by the Classification Review Board, who passed it as MA15+ (Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language).

F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin (2008) - Game Cover 1
Xbox 360 Cover

December 15, 2008
A 4-member panel of the Classification Review Board convened today to review the RC (Refused Classification) classification given to the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN.

The Classification Review Board has determined, in a unanimous decision, that F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN warrants an MA 15+ (Mature Accompanied) classification with the consumer advice ‘Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language’.

“After considering extensive submissions and demonstrations of game play across all levels, the Review Board concluded that the level of violence in the computer game, whilst strong, could be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification”, acting Classification Review Board Convenor, Trevor Griffin said.

Computer games classified MA 15+ are not suitable for persons under 15 years of age. MA 15+ computer games are legally restricted.

The Classification Review Board convened today in response to an application received from Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment to review the decision made by the Classification Board on 26 November 2008 to classify the computer game RC.

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. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

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

– F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin classified MA 15+ upon review
– Classification Review Board

Review Board report

December 15, 2008
23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, NSW

MEMBERS:
The Hon Trevor Griffin (Acting Convenor)
Ms Ann Stark
Ms Irina Kolodizner
Mr Brook Hely

APPLICANT
Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment (WB)

INTERESTED PARTIES
None

BUSINESS
To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN RC (Refused Classification).

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Decision The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) unanimously classified the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN MA 15+ with the consumer advice ‘Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language’.

2. Legislative provisions

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

(a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or

(b) describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not); or

(c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence; or

(d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play,

are to be classified RC.

The Code also provides that ‘Computer games (except RC computer games) that depict, express or otherwise deal with sex, violence or coarse language hi such a manner as to be unsuitable for viewing or playing by persons under 15’, are to be classified MA 15+.

The Code also sets out various principles to which classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible.

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:

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

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

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

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

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

– the importance of context

– the assessment of impact, and

– the six classifiable elements – themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

3. Procedure

Four members of the Review Board met on 15 December 2008 in response to an application from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, received on 27 November 2008, to review the Classification Board’s classification of the computer game.

The Review Board determined that the application was a valid application and was assured that the subject of the review application was the same computer game which had been classified by the Classification Board.

The Applicant provided a written submission and pre-recorded gameplay of the computer game before the hearing. The Review Board viewed the recorded gameplay on 15 December 2008.

The Review Board also heard oral submissions from the following representatives of the Applicant:

– Mr Roger Clarke (Managing Director, WB)

– Mr Paul Hunt (Consultant)

– Mr Mark Aubrey (Marketing Manager, WB), and

– Ms Melissa Faustmann (Pre-Production Manager, WB).

Parts of the computer game were demonstrated by Mr Andrew Hurford (WB).

The Review Board then considered the application for review.

4. Evidence and other material taken into account

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

(i) Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment’s application for review

(ii) Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment’s written and oral submissions, including Mr Hurford’s demonstration of the computer game

(iii) The computer game, F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN

(iv) Three discs of gameplay footage (provided by the Applicant)

(v) The relevant provisions in the Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and

(vi) The Classification Board’s report.

5. Synopsis

A sequel to the computer game FEAR, F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN is a first person shooter game set in the ruined city of Auburn. Starting moments before the ending of the original game FEAR, F.E.A.R. 2 involves the player taking on the role of Michael Beckett, a soldier who is part of an elite military team sent to detain the CEO of Armacham, an ‘evil’ corporation engaging in psychic experimentation. At the start of the game, Beckett undergoes an operation enhancing his reflexes, after being rendered unconscious in a nuclear type explosion of psychic energy. Throughout the course of the game, Beckett and his squad combat both human enemy forces and mutant beings as they struggle to complete their mission and stop Alma, a young woman with unnatural psychic abilities that is the catalyst for the chaos which the world is experiencing, as well as combat the mysterious forces which she has released.

6. Findings on material questions of fact

A number of classifiable elements were present in the game.

(a) Themes – Pervading the game were themes of challenge and reward and good conquering evil, as well as human experimentation and psychic mutation. The player is rewarded by being able to progress to the next level or interval upon killing various enemies, which in turn enables the player to get closer to completing the set mission. The context for the game is the issue of human experimentation and exploitation of psychic abilities by Armacham. The Review Board took the view that the themes in the game are justified by context and can be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification.

(b) Violence – The purpose of the game is the killing of human, mutated and supernatural enemies utilising a variety of weaponry. Killing of enemies is often accompanied by significant blood and gore, including blood spatter, decapitation or dismemberment. The scenery of the game is at times gory, particularly the second interval where the walls and floor of an abandoned hospital are splattered with blood and other gory imagery. At times the ‘camera lens’ of the game is momentarily splattered with blood when the player kills opponents at close range.

The Review Board considered that the impact of these violent elements could be accommodated at the upper limit of the MA 15+ classification, as such impact was justified by context and mitigated by a number of factors:

– First, the violence in this game primarily occurs in a military or quasi-military context rather than a civilian context, with the enemies portrayed as enemy soldiers or mutants bent on conquering the world. The context is very much the ‘good saving the world’.

– Second, in many instances the victims are either masked, heavily armoured or ethereal which tends to de-personalize the shooting. Some of the victims are either mutant or ethereal beings of a stylised nature which further detracts from the reality of some scenes. The depiction of the characters hi the game generally also appears stylised hi parts, which further detracts from realism.

– Third, whilst post-mortem damage can be inflicted on enemy opponents, it is limited to causing blood spatter and ‘rag doll* motions of the body without causing body dismemberment. There are no rewards for inflicting post mortem damage and once a player leaves a scene, the dead body is no longer present should the player return to that spot hi the game.

– Fourth, the violence is not sadistic or cruel hi nature. For example, the violence is limited to killing enemy soldiers or mutants in the context of military style combat rather than the gratuitous infliction of excessive pain.

– Fifth, the game falls clearly into the horror genre, in which large amounts of blood and gore are common and, to a certain extent, likely to be expected by the likely audience for the game.

– Sixth, whilst shooting of opponents can result in decapitation or dismemberment, such outcomes occur randomly. Accordingly, a player cannot develop special skills in dismembering or decapitating opponents.

The game contains three particular violent scenes of note, which are more impactful than other aspects of the game.

One scene involves the player struggling with the commander of the Armacham army in an attempt to control the gun between them. If the player is successful in the struggle, the scene climaxes with a gunshot that beheads the commander. In this scene, however, the beheading is heavily obscured and darkened so that visibility is limited, with blood spatter to the lens further obscuring the imagery. In addition, the gunshot occurs very quickly and unexpectedly, with the more bloodied aspect of the imagery disappearing quickly from view.

The second scene involves the beheading of SnakeFist, a friendly character, by a psychic assassin sent by Alma. This scene, however, is mitigated by the non-interactive mode in which it is carried out – the player has no control over the beheading but rather it occurs as an animated ‘cut scene’..It is also an isolated scene that is not representative of the remainder of the game and is the sole scene of its kind in the entire game. It is justified by context as it reflects the extent of Alma’s psychic abilities and is a prelude to subsequent events in the game. Once again, the beheading occurs relatively quickly and unexpectedly and the bloodied imagery quickly disappears from view.

The third impactful scene involves the implied sexual assault by Alma of the principal character, Michael Beckett. The scene is a one-off implied event that is very brief and obscured. The scene is also a non-interactive animated cut scene in which the player exercises no control.

Finally, the Review Board notes that on one of the three discs provided by the Applicant to the Classification Board there was footage of a player in a room of motionless opponents in which the player proceeded to provide a demonstration of the effect of each type of available weapon in the game on these opponents. The Applicant has, however, confirmed in its written and oral submissions that this scene did not form part of the game. Rather, it was provided to the Review Board as an additional aid for understanding the visual elements of the gameplay in the computer game. According to the Applicant’s submission:

‘This simulation was made specifically to show the effects of weapons on other game characters, but is set in a completely different context to the gameplay. It should be viewed as a visual and interpretive aid and not as an example of gameplay’.

The Review Board is satisfied that this scene does not form part of the game and has therefore disregarded this scene in its classification of the game.

(c) Language – Coarse language, primarily ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’, is used throughout the game, typically as exclamations when unexpected events occur, when an enemy is shot or by non-player characters for the purpose of context. The Review Board took the view that the coarse language in the game is moderate in impact and justified by context.

(d) Sex – The sexual content of the game is limited to the single instance of implied sexual intercourse referred to in sub-paragraph (b).

(e) Drug use-None.

(f) Nudity – There is some discreet nudity, primarily when Alma appears nude at certain intervals hi the game. These instances are rare and at no point is Alma entirely nude, as her breasts and other genitalia are obscured by her long hair, hand, camera angles or other visual devices. The nudity in the game can be accommodated in a lower classification.

7. Reasons for the decision The Review Board determined that due to the impact of certain scenes and the combination particularly of strong themes and violence contained in the computer game, it was not suitable for persons under 15 years of age.

The Review Board unanimously took the view that violence was the sole contentious classifiable element, as the themes, language, nudity and sex contained in the computer game could all comfortably be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification. In relation to violence, while the game contained impactful violence throughout which was at the upper limit of the MA 15+ classification, the violence was justified by context and could be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification. While there were three particularly impactful violent scenes of note, each of those scenes was justified by context and was highly stylised and obscured. Two of the scenes were also animated cut scenes with no element of interactivity. Consequently, the Review Board was of the view that F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN could be accommodated within the range of the MA 15+ classification.

8. Summary

The Review Board determined that the computer game F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN, though containing impactful violence throughout and several particularly impactful violent scenes, sits at the higher end of the MA 15+ classification rather than within the range of the RC classification. The Review Board therefore determined that F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN should be classified MA 15+ with the consumer advice ‘Strong violence, blood and gore. Moderate coarse language’.

– Classification Review Board report

Warner Bros. comment

February 2009
Interactive Entertainment’s Mark Aubrey tells STACK how they had no fear.

When you initially played the game F.E.A.R 2, were you immediately concerned that classification issues might arise in Australia?

Not really. We felt as though the game probably sat at the higher end of the spectrum in terms of violence, blood, gore and the like, but there are plenty of examples of games in the Australian market with similar levels of blood and violence.

As such, our feedback to Monolith during the development process was always that we felt as though we sat within the parameters of what was an acceptable level of violence for an MA15+ rating. To be honest, in the initial stages there were elements of the storyline that had me more concerned than the violence.

When did you submit the game to the classifications board?

I don’t remember the exact date but it would have been around November last year.

Were you surprised at the decision?

Absolutely, it came as a huge surprise to both Warner Bros and Monolith. As soon as we read through the Board report we immediately decided to appeal the decision.

What exactly were the problems that the Classification Board cited to legitimise the ban?

The vast majority of the initial concerns of the Australian Classification Board related to the strong levels of violence, blood and gore in the game. They also felt that the enhanced graphics and the realistic AI behaviour of the enemies increased the impact of the violence.

How exactly did you counter this ban?

I won’t bore you with all the details as it was quite a lengthy process, but we have a number of authorised games assessors on the team here at WBIE and we believed we had a strong case to appeal the original decision.

We also hired a consultant to help us with the classification review. Long story short – the classification review process allowed us to provide a lot more detail about the game. We were able to present our case to the Australian Classification Review Board and do a comprehensive game demonstration.

The Board were then able to ask us questions about the game. It was a much more collaborative process and it allowed us to provide a lot more detail on the story and the violence that was taking place.

Did you have to change or edit any of the game content?

No changes were made to the game. As I mentioned, we always felt the game sat within the parameters of a MA15+ title in the Australian market so we wanted to appeal the game as it was.

In addition to this we wanted to do our best to give Australian fans of the F.E.A.R franchise the best game experience we could. This is a bloody scary FPS game and that’s how Monolith expected the game to be played. It would have been a real shame for fans if we had to change or dilute this experience.

At any time did you consider the possibility that the game wouldn’t receive an Australian release?

Of course, we were forced to. There was no guarantee that our classification review would be successful and this is a key release for Warner Bros. Had we been unsuccessful we would have had to discuss our next steps with Monolith to see how we would then approach F.E.A.R 2 in the Australian market.

I am just really pleased that Australian gamers will get to experience F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN the way the guys at Monolith intended. Be afraid… be very afraid.

– Beating the ban: A Win for FEAR 2 and Aussie gamers
– JB Hi-Fi Stack Magazine

Complaints to the Board

September 21, 2009
The Classification Board received 725 complaints in relation to the classification of computer games.

There were ….19 complaints about F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2008-2009

Public reaction to violence in games

In October and November 2011, the Australian Law Reform Commission conducted a study to gauge community attitudes to ‘high-level material’. It was carried out as part of their research for the ‘Classification: Content Regulation and Convergent Media Final Report’ that was released in March 2012.

The groups were asked to give their opinion on the lift well sequence from F.E.A.R. 2: PROJECT ORIGIN.

See our Game Censorship Database entry for CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 (2009) for the results of this study.


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