Controversial Games – Page 4

Games are often the subject of sensationalist media coverage. This is often picked up by opportunistic politicians.

In the early to mid-2010s, titles subjected to this treatment include DEADLY PREMONITION (2010), WE DARE (2010), GRAND THEFT AUTO V (2013) and CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS (2015).


Deadly Premonition

Publisher Ignition Entertainment / 2010 / MobyGames

In 2010, it was rumoured that DEADLY PREMONITION had been banned by the Classification Board.

Deadly Premonition (2010) - Game Cover 1
Xbox 360 Cover

This proved not to be the case, however, the distributor was indeed reluctant to submit the game for an Australian rating.

August 13, 2010
As part of our normal procedures in submitting any game for classification, it was determined internally at Rising Star Games that the game would not satisfy the criteria for an MA15+ rating in Australia and further that any changes to the game would not be possible. It was therefore decided, with regret, the game will not be released in Australia.

– Deadly Premonition not banned, but still no Aussie release
article @ kotaku.com.au

Okay after all

In April 2013, DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT was passed with an MA15+ (Strong themes and Bloody violence) rating.

The extended classification information described,
Strong impact: themes, violence
Moderate impact: sex
Mild impact: nudity
Very mild: language

All Interactive Entertainment was the applicant.

This proves Rising Star Games were too cautious when they decided not to submit it in 2010.

The ‘Director’s Cut’ was an enhanced version of the original game.

Deadly Premonition: Director's Cut (2013) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 3 Cover

How is it working?

The R18+ rating for games was finally introduced in January 2013. However, the Australian Council on Children and the Media were unhappy and claimed that violent titles, such as DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT were still receiving MA15+ classifications.

May 29, 2013
Ms O’Brien : Perhaps the most significant change that has occurred in the classification sphere since I have been appointed director is the establishment of the new ‘adult’ category for computer games, which commenced on 1 January 2013.

The implementation of this change, the first major change to the National Classification Scheme in many years, has gone extremely well. Between 1 January and 14 May 2013 the board classified 15 computer games as R 18+. The first computer game to be classified R 18+ was NINJA GAIDEN 3: RAZOR’S EDGE. To recognise this milestone I gave a statement and an interview to the media about the game classification and outlined some of the reasons for the decision. Importantly, in the same period, games have continued to be classified in the MA 15+ category—24 and counting. Computer games will continue to be refused classification if they contain content that is very high in impact which falls outside the R 18+ category.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Thank you for that opening statement, Ms O’Brien. You mentioned in that opening statement that from the beginning of the new classification to 14 March you had classified 15 games as R 18+. Were any games submitted during that time for classification that you classified as MA 15+?

Ms O’Brien : Yes. We had 24 games classified as MA 15+.

Senator HUMPHRIES: These are obviously games in a genre that is fairly attractive to young people, often quite violent and, I assume, fall close to a borderline between MA 15+ and R 18+. Is it possible to say whether the 15 games you classified as R 18+ would likely have been refused classification under the previous regime?

Ms O’Brien : That is a difficult question. Each game is considered on its merits. The new classification guidelines for computer games certainly have more prescriptive requirements, particularly around sexual violence and some other elements of violence, that would cause a game to be classified as R 18+. It is difficult to say how those same games would have been classified under the previous guidelines. They would need to be considered under those guidelines and clearly we are not using them anymore.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Can you provide, perhaps on notice, a breakdown of, let us say for last financial year as a comparison, how many video games were submitted and how many were put into which classifications, and for the first whatever months of this year—let us say the first three months of this year—how many in those same classifications were submitted and how many were allocated to which classification.

Ms O’Brien : Just to be clear: you want to know, of the games that we have classified under the new guidelines, what the decisions where for each of those games?

Senator HUMPHRIES: Yes, please. I want to see how the R 18+ classification is affecting the trend of classification. We can see what we did for all the video games submitted and compare it with those submitted since the 1 January this year as a comparative period. How many games submitted since the first of January have been refused classification?

Ms O’Brien : No games have been refused classification in that five-month period.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Have all of the games that have been submitted since 1 January been games that are available in other parts of the world?

Ms O’Brien : I cannot say categorically that that is the case or is not the case. Our job as the classification board is to classify what comes before us. Even if classification databases overseas show games with the same name there is no guarantee that they are, in fact, the same game unmodified, so I really cannot comment on whether the games we are seeing are the same games that may be available overseas.

Senator HUMPHRIES: Since the new classifications been introduced, have any games that were already classified as MA 15+ been reclassified?

Ms O’Brien : No. No games have been reclassified.

Senator HUMPHRIES: It is possible to do that, isn’t it?

Ms O’Brien : It is possible, and there are certain provisions in the act, but no computer games has ever been reclassified under the national classification scheme. The general practice has been when there has been a major change to the national classification scheme that this is not reason, in and of itself, to reclassify content which has previously been classified. That is because classification decisions made under the classification laws of the day remain valid decisions. Changes take effect prospectively in order to provide certainty for the industry and the public alike.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I know, but the owner of a game or a title could come to OFLC and say, ‘We would like to reclassify this because we think it falls under a different category in the new rules.’

Ms O’Brien : Games can only be reclassified after two years have lapsed between the original decision and a reclassification. That is actually specified in the act. The board may act at the request of the minister or on its own initiative to reclassify—it is not possible, for example, as you in your example, for a distributor to ask for a game to be reclassified.

Senator HUMPHRIES: You may have seen an article that appeared in the Herald Sun on Friday, 10 May, in which the views of Professor Elizabeth Handsley of Flinders University, President of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, were reported. According to this report, which apparently relates a study by the Australian Council on Children and the Media, there has been an increase in the number of supposedly violent games that are being classified MA 15+ that would have been classified with the R 18+ based on what has happened to those same games overseas. I do not know how the study actually undertook that work of assessing whether the equivalent R 18+ type game overseas is actually the same as the MA 15+ game that was classified here. Have you seen that report and do you have a view on the report?

Ms O’Brien : Yes, I did see that media article. I think the first important point to make in relation to schemes that operate overseas is that the board classifies material that comes before it using our own classification laws, so the classification act, the National Classification Code and the classification guidelines. Different countries have different classification outcomes for different games based on different classification standards, laws and cultural norms. Computer games classified overseas operate under different systems to ours. Nor can you assume that the games that they are classifying are actually the same games that we are receiving to classify, because sometimes distributors and publishers will modify, change a game when it submits it to the Australian Classification Board. So I offer up those points in relation to some of the arguments put forward in relation to those overseas schemes.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I assume most of the games we are talking about would be manufactured or at least originate in the United States of America?

Ms O’Brien : The United States, parts of Europe. Japan is another leading country in computer games development.

Senator HUMPHRIES: And there are significant differences between their classification schemes for video games and ours, or are they essentially aligned pretty closely?

Ms O’Brien : There are significant differences. There are differences in terms of their classifiable elements. We have six classifiable elements: things like violence, nudity, sex and coarse language. They have a completely different range of classifiable elements under which they make their decisions. They also have different classification categories themselves. Their age brackets are different. Also, our scheme is different because the categories that we have at the MA15+ and R18+ level are legally enforceable, whereas the schemes you have mentioned overseas are voluntary schemes. So even though something may be classified overseas the equivalent of R18+, there are no laws to prevent a child from walking into a store and purchasing an R18+ equivalent game. So there are some significant differences.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So you would reject Professor Handsley’s comment that it would appear that the new system has not resulted in a tightening up of the classification system at all?

Ms O’Brien : What I would say is that the board is applying the guidelines that have been given to us to apply. The fact that we have made decisions in both the MA15+ category and the R18+ category is evidence that we are using the guidelines as they are intended to be used, that both categories are legitimate categories and we are making the appropriate decisions against those guidelines.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I understand that once a game is approved and in the marketplace it is possible to get add-ons and updates over the internet to those games. So a person who is online can put their game onto their computer and they can get the online updates and add-ons to those games. I assume that, because that material is coming in over the internet, it is not classified by the Classification Board?

Ms O’Brien : Currently, strictly speaking, whether computer games are sold in a box, downloaded onto a console, on an app that is a computer game designed for a mobile phone, or played wholly online, they are subject to the National Classification Scheme. But, as censorship ministers have publicly acknowledged, most mobile and online games that are currently sold in Australia without an Australian classification are potentially in breach of state and territory enforcement laws. Thus, in 2011, censorship ministers decided on an interim solution to exempt mobile phone and online games from classification for two years, except games that are likely to be refused classification. This interim plan means that these computer games will continue to be available while longer term reforms are developed. The bill was introduced into parliament on 12 October 2012 and has been passed by the House of Representatives and is awaiting debate in the Senate.

Senator HUMPHRIES: So the games could be MA15+ but they could get beefed up, as it were, with online content at the moment and become effectively worthy of classification as R18+ or even possibly refused classification. And there is nothing really about our system as presently designed that could do anything about that.

Ms O’Brien : The department are looking at measures at the moment to address online and mobile games. The department may be able to assist more with information on that.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I know this is being looked at, so I do not really want to know what is being planned. I just want to be clear that, at the moment, it is possible that that can happen, is it not? You can get the online updates, which effectively raise the classification of what you are looking at and what you are playing with, and we do not have a way of stopping that at the moment. That is essentially right, is it not?

Ms O’Brien : Certainly add-ons and modifications are possible and, technically speaking, they are subject to the National Classification Scheme.

Senator HUMPHRIES: I will leave it there. Thank you.

CHAIR: Ms O’Brien, I thank you and your colleagues.

– Lesley O’Brien, Director of the Classification Board
– Gary Humphries (Liberal)
– Senate estimates, Parliament of Australia

12 game challenge

At the end of 2013, DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT became one of twelve titles to have their MA15+ ratings reviewed.

The complaint was made by the Australian Family Association and the aforementioned Australian Council on Children and the Media.

The South Australian Attorney-General, John Rau (Labor) requested Michael Keenan (Liberal) have the games reviewed.

The result proved to be a huge waste of money. In every case, the Classification Review Board confirmed the MA15+ rating and consumer advice.

The full list of titles were:

  • ALIEN RAGE (2013)
  • BORDERLANDS 2: ADD-ON CONTENT PACK (2013)
  • COMPANY OF HEROES 2 (2013)
  • DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (2013)
  • DEADPOOL (2013)
  • FUSE (2013)
  • GEARS OF WAR: JUDGMENT (2013)
  • GOD MODE (2013)
  • KILLER IS DEAD (2013)
  • THE WALKING DEAD (2013)
  • THE WALKING DEAD: SURVIVAL INSTINCT (2013)
  • TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL BLACKLIST (2013)

MA15+ review

November 19, 2013
23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, NSW

MEMBERS:
Ms Victoria Rubensohn (Convenor)
Ms Jane Smith
Mr Peter Attard
Dr Melissa de Zwart
Ms Fiona Jolly

APPLICANT
Minister for Justice as requested by the South Australian Attorney-General

INTERESTED PARTIES
IGEA, ACCM and Australian Family Association (WA Branch) (AFA)

BUSINESS
To review the Classification Board’s (the Board) decision to classify the computer game DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT with the classification MA 15+ and consumer advice ‘Strong themes and bloody violence’.

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Decision

The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) unanimously classified the computer game MA 15+, with the consumer advice ‘Strong themes and bloody violence’.

2. Legislative provisions

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (Cth) (the Classification Act) governs the classification of computer games and the review of classification decisions.

The Review Board

Part 5 of the Classification Act outlines the provisions relevant to the Review Board and its procedures.

Section 42(1) of the Classification Act sets out the persons who may apply for review of a decision:2

(a) the Minister

(b) the applicant for classification of the computer game, or the likely classification of the computer game under section 33

(c) the publisher of the computer game, or

(d) a person aggrieved by the decision.

Section 42(2) provides that if a participating Minister asks the Minister, in writing, to apply for a review of a decision, the Minister must do so.

Section 43 sets out the conditions regarding the manner and form of applications for review, including time limits. Under section 44, the Review Board must deal with an application for review in the same way that the Board deals with an application for classification of a computer game.

Classification of Computer Games under the Classification Act

Section 9, subject to Section 9A, provides that computer games are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines. Section 9A states that a computer game that advocates the doing of a terrorist act must be classified RC.

Section 11 of the Classification 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.

The National Classification Code

Relevantly, the Computer Games Table of the Code under paragraph 3 provides that:

Computer games (except RC and R 18+ 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 MA 15+.

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

(a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want;

(b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;

(c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive;

(d) the need to take account of community concerns about: (i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and

(ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

The Guidelines

Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 (the Guidelines), determined under section 12 of the Classification Act:

• the importance of context

• the assessment of impact, and

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

A further consideration in classifying computer games is interactivity. Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.

3. Procedure

Five members of the Review Board met on Tuesday 19 November 2013 in response to the receipt of an application from the Minister on 7 November 2013 to conduct the review of the computer game DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT, which had previously been classified MA 15+ by the Classification Board. The Review Board determined that the application was a valid application.

The Review Board was provided a written submission from IGEA, ACCM and AFA.

The Review Board received an oral submission from Ron Curry and Joshua Cavaleri from IGEA.

The Review Board received an oral submission by telephone from Professor Elizabeth Handsley, Chair of the ACCM, on behalf of the ACCM and a subsequent supplementary written submission from Professor Handsley on behalf of ACCM.

The Review Board viewed a live demonstration of gameplay and viewed recorded gameplay footage.

The Review Board then considered the matter.

4. Evidence and other material taken into account

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

(i) the Minister’s application for review

(ii) IGEA’s written and oral submissions

(iii) ACCM’s written and oral submissions

(iv) AFA’s written submission

(v) the computer game, DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT

(vi) the relevant provisions in the Classification Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and

(vii) the Classification Board’s report.

5. Background

The Review Board noted the Board’s decision report of Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut.

6. Synopsis

DEADLY PREMONITION: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT title is third person puzzle/shooter/ horror game, where the player controls a number of characters, particularly Detective York, an FBI Agent who is investigating a number of strange murders in a small town. During his investigations he encounters zombies, murderers and other strange characters.

7. Findings on material questions of fact

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

(a) Themes – The game contains a limited theme involving the suicide of Detective York’s father, and ultimately York himself. The scenes depicting both suicides are strong in themes and justified in the context of the horror game storyline.

(b) Violence – The game contains violence primarily involving the killing of zombies but also including the killing of some non zombie characters (both villains and civilians). Scenes involving violent deaths of non zombie characters include: York and other local police discover a bloodied female strung up in a wire trap over a bathtub. She appears to be dead; her blood is shown running down the drain. However, she regains consciousness and tries to speak. When George cuts a wire she screams and an elaborate trap is activated, whereby she is strangled by the trap. This scene is strong and realistic in the sense of being a depiction of a woman being killed.

A lengthy, staged sequence takes place in a clock tower as the player controls Emily. At the conclusion of this sequence, Thomas is attacked by a dog, which causes him to toss his knife in the air. The knife falls and lodges implicitly in Thomas’ chest, which causes him to fall. He is explicitly impaled on a large hook, which creates a burst of blood spray. This occurs in mid-distance view and lacks detail.

The final scene shows Emily with a sapling protruding from her abdomen. She has blood on her abdomen and flowing down her legs. Emily begs York to kill her. This scene includes a flashback to York’s own childhood, where York witnesses the death of his mother who had also been implanted with a red sapling by Keysan. York’s father shoots himself in the head. This flashback is followed by York shooting himself in the head. This scene is strong but limited in the level of detail of the suicides.

The impact of this element is no higher than strong and can be accommodated at the MA 15+ level.

(c) Sex – There is no sex in the game.

(d) Language – There is no coarse language in the game.

(e) Drug Use – There is no drug use in the game.

(f) Nudity – There is no nudity in the game.

8. Reasons for the decision

The Review Board unanimously decided that the impact of the classifiable elements is no higher than strong and can be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification.

The Review Board considered that as a horror themed game, the violence is justified by context.

The Review Board considered that the violence is strong in that it involves frequent depictions of killing but is unrealistic in its depiction of zombies. The Review Board considered that the three scenes of violence towards non zombie characters were strong and realistic but in the context of the game were not frequent and not repetitive.

The Review Board therefore considered that the impact of the violence is no higher than strong.

9. Summary

The Review Board decided that the computer game should be classified MA 15+.

– Classification Review Board report

We Dare

aka We Dare: Flirty Fun For All

Publisher Ubisoft / 2010 / MobyGames

In September 2010, WE DARE was passed with a PG (Mild sexual references) rating.

The game was released by Ubisoft in March 2011.

We Dare (2010) - Game Cover 1
Wii Cover

The Classification Board’s report revealed that Ubisoft had recommended an M-rating, but was awarded a PG.

September 2010
Classification decisions are made in accordance with the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act), the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines.

Production Details:

Title: WE DARE
Alternate titles: WE LOVE / VII DARE / WE LOVE WII
Publisher: UBISOFT
Programmer: UBISOFT
Production Company: NOT SHOWN
Year of Production: 2010
Duration: VARIABLE
Version: ORIGINAL
Format: MULTI PLATFORM
Country/les of origin:
Language/s: ENGLISH
Application type: CGS
Applicant: UBISOFT

Dates:
Date application received by the Classification Board: 02 September 2010
Date of decision: 08 September 2010

Decision:
Classification: PG
Consumer advice: Mild sexual references

Synopsis:
WE DARE is a party game for the Nintendo Wii that can be played in single player or multi-player modes. Players begin by customising their appearance and personality and then select a number of mini-games to play, based on their personality types. At the end of each mini-game each player receives a score based on how closely their gameplay matched their chosen personality type.

The graphics are highly stylised and cartoon like and the background scenery changes with each mini-game. Examples of mini-games include “love Storm” – where players must hold the Wii remote in between their chests while hugging and swaying In the same direction as the driving rain on the screen; “Quick Escape” – where players have to mimic the movements of their avatar to implicitly release themselves from being chained to a wall and ‘The More You Dare” -where players are weighed on the Wii balance board then they have to strip off as much of their clothes/adornments as possible In fifteen seconds and they are then weighed again. The player who has “lost” the most weight receives the most points.

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), 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 computer game warrants a PG classification as, in accordance with item 4 of the computer games table of the National Classification Code, It cannot be recommended for playing by persons who are under 15 without the guidance of their parents or guardians.

Pursuant to the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games, this computer game Is classified PG as the impact of the classifiable elements is mild material classified PG may contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance Of parents or guardians. It is not recommended for playing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians.

The classifiable element is sex that is mild in playing impact.

SEX
The game contains mild sexual references that are discreetly implied and justified by context. There is a sexual tone to the game, as suggested via some of the gameplay, song lyrics and text bubbles that appear at the beginning of each mini-game. Examples of note Include but are not limited to:

In the mini-game “The More You Dare players are encouraged to remove as many clothes as possible in fifteen seconds as the aim is to lose weight. During this fifteen second period, the avatars on screen perform a suggestive pole dance behind a screen, shown in silhouette.

One of the mini-games involves players imitating the dance moves of their avatar while dancing to songs such as, ‘I’m Too Sexy”, “You Sexy Thing”, “Super Freak” and “Sex Bomb”, all of which contain mild sexual references within the context of the song lyrics.

At the beginning of each mini-game, text bubbles appear stating information about relationships or physiological detail. Examples include but are not limited to: “many women prefer men who look like their fathers. This is called sexual Imprinting” and “married women tend to have affairs when they’re unhappy in their relationship. Married men are just as likely to have affairs when they are happy”.

It is the Board’s view that the sexual references in this game result in a mild playing impact.

OTHER MATTERS CONSIDERED OR NOTED
The Board notes that in making this decision consideration was given to information supplied under section 17(3) of the Classification Act. This section allows for an applicant who is of the opinion that a game would be classified G, PG or M to supply a recommendation of the classification and consumer advice for the game. The person who prepares the assessment must be an authorised person under section 17(5) of the Classification Act.

The Board disagrees with the recommended classification of M. Given the reasons noted above, the Board is of the opinion the game warrants a PG classification with consumer advice of mild sexual references.

Decision:
This computer game is classified PG with consumer advice of mild sexual references.

– Classification Board report

The controversy begins

February 28, 2011
Ubisoft will not release the game in the United States, but it has already received condemnation in Europe for encouraging underage sex with the game.

Some Australian retailers do not have the title listed on their websites, suggesting they will not stock the product.

But at least one major video game retail chain in Australia will stock WE DARE, which is available from Thursday. Many online outlets are also selling the game.

– Sex game to hit Australian stores
article @ smh.com.au

February 28, 2011
A spokeswoman for publisher Ubisoft said WE DARE would be sold with a “parental discretion advised” sticker. The spokeswoman would not be drawn into a debate on why WE DARE was given such a low PG rating when games like Mortal Kombat were banned.

In its decision to give WE DARE a PG rating the Classification Board acknowledged the “sexual tone” of the game but said its sexual references were “mild”, “discreetly implied and justified by context”.

It appears that Ubisoft has exploited a loophole in classification guidelines as although the game encourages players to undertake risque behaviour in their living rooms, graphic sexual depictions and nudity are not shown on the screen in the game itself.

“There’s lots and lots of loopholes,” said the former classification board censor who spoke to this website on condition of anonymity.

“I don’t think it is them being lenient on sex and being hardcore on violence, I just think that the way the title has been done is very very smart on Ubisoft’s part.”

The former censor said the game’s developers ensured any sexual behaviour happened in people’s living rooms, not on the screen.

“They can’t classify what people are going to do in their homes, they can only classify what’s actually in the game and what’s in the game is very very cartoony, maybe a little bit of sexual inuendo but that’s about it.”

Furthermore, the censor said the Classification Board rarely actually played the games they were classifying, and instead relied on game publishers to be upfront about the content of their games.

“Very rarely do people actually play the game when these titles get rated … what happens is [game publishers] fill in a report and then that goes and gets rubber stamped by the Classification Board,” he said.

– A Wii bit kinky: sexy spanking game rated PG but Mortal Kombat banned
article @ smh.com.au

Think of the children

In March 2011, Melinda Tankard Reist’s Collective Shout launched a campaign to prevent WE DARE from being sold in stores.

March 3, 2011
Take Action

To object to the potential sale of this game in our large retail chains, please use these links to write to: Kmart, BigW and Target.

Target and Kmart have both advised us that they do not and will not be selling WE DARE. Well done Target and Kmart!

[Update] To clarify, these retailers may not actually be selling WE DARE at the moment and they may not intend to. The purpose of writing to them is to let them know about the issues surrounding WE DARE as outlined in the article and to urge them not to sell the game now or in future.

[Update] EB games is selling WE DARE. Contact them here. We suggest clicking on ‘General and Corporate information’ on the left hand menu and then click on ‘I have a general question about your company.’

To object to the classification of this game, please fill in the online enquiry form for the Australian Classification Review Board here. Their policy states that a fee waiver occurs, if the material:

(a) involves a matter of interest to the public at large, or to a significant
portion of the public; or
(b) provides a public benefit; or
(c) encourages or contributes to a desirable public purpose.

Also,
Write directly to the Attorney General’s Classification branch on attorney@ag.gov.au.
Att: Jane Fitzgerald (Assistant Secretary)

– New video game encourages players to strip and spank each other
– Collective Shout

The ear of government

The campaign resulted in Brendan O’Connor (Labor), Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, referring the game for review.

June 6, 2011
The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification of the computer game, WE DARE.

WE DARE was classified PG with the consumer advice ‘Mild sexual references’ on 8 September 2010.

The Classification review Board will meet on 17 June 2011 to consider the application. The decision and reasons will later be published on www.classification.gov.au

If an individual or organisation wishes to apply for standing as an interested party to this review, please write to the Convenor of the Review Board.

The closing date to lodge your application as an interested party and any submission is 5.00pm on Friday 10 June 2011. Please note that the Review Board can only consider submission about the game WE DARE itself and not any other matters relating to classification policy or issues generally.

Submissions should be emailed to crb@classification.gov.au or sent to:

The Convenor
Classification Review Board, Locked Bag 3, Haymarket NSW 1240

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. It makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

– Classification review announced for the computer game We Dare
– Classification Review Board

PG confirmed

June 17, 2011
A three-member panel of the Classification Review Board (the Review Board) has by unanimous decision determined that the computer game WE DARE is classified PG (Parental Guidance) with the consumer advice ‘mild sexual references’.

Material classified PG may contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance of parents or guardians. For this reason, PG games are not recommended for viewing or playing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians. Consumer advice is additional information about the main content of the game which is intended to help consumers decide if they want to view of play this type of material.

This game contains a series of mini games which provide a single player (or a multiple of players up to four) with a variety of tasks. These mini games, which are randomly available to players based on a choice of ‘moods’, include dance moves and activities, which may require interaction with other players. There are no sexual references in actual game play. Text boxes, which contain miscellaneous facts about gender differences and interactions, randomly appear whilst a mini game is loading. Some of those text boxes contain mild sexual references. The text boxes contain no interactive elements.

In the Review Board’s opinion the overall impact of this element does not exceed mild.

The Classification Review Board convened today in response to an application from the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, to review the decision made by the Classification Board on 8 September 2010 on the computer game WE DARE. The Board classified the game PG (Parental Guidance) with the consumer advice ‘mild sexual references’.

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. This is the same framework used by the Classification Board.

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.

– We Dare classified PG upon review
– Classification Review Board

Full Review Board report

June 17, 2011
23-33 Mary Street, Surry Hills, NSW

MEMBERS:
Ms Victoria Rubensohn AM (Convenor)
Ms Helena Blundell
Dr Melissa de Zwart

APPLICANT
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, the Hon Brendan O’Connor MP

INTERESTED PARTIES
Ubisoft

BUSINESS
To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the computer game WE DARE PG (Parental Guidance) with consumer advice ‘mild sexual references’.

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Decision
The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) by unanimous decision determined that the game WE DARE should be classified PG (Parental Guidance) with the consumer advice ‘mild sexual references’.

2. Legislative provisions

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

Section 11 of the Classification 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, determined under
section 12 of the Classification Act:
• the importance of context
• the assessment of impact, and
• the six classifiable elements – themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

3. Procedure

A three member panel of the Review Board met on 17 June 2011 in response to the receipt of an application from the Minister dated 2 May 2011 to review the PG classification of the computer game, determined by the Classification Board. Those three members had previously determined that the application was a valid application.

The Review Board was assured that the computer game, the subject of the review application, was the same game as had been classified by the Classification Board.

The Review Board viewed the recorded gameplay and a demonstration of the game on 17 June 2011.

Ben Smith and Jane Dignam, who appeared on behalf of Ubisoft, attended the Review Board to answer any questions that the Board had and to demonstrate live play.

The Review Board then considered the matter.

4. Evidence and other material taken into account

In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:
(i) The application for review
(ii) the computer game, WE DARE
(iii) a disc of material provided by the Applicant which depicted the full range of mini games
(iv) the relevant provisions in the Classification Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and
(v) the Classification Board’s report.

5. Synopsis

WE DARE is a party game for the Nintendo Wii.

The game consists of a series of mini games which provide a single player (or a multiple of players up to four) with a variety of tasks. These mini games, which are randomly available to players based on a choice of ‘moods’ (being Enchanting, Naughty, Persuasive, Brainy and Adventurous), include dance moves and activities, which may require interaction with other players. Players accumulate points based upon their success in performing the set tasks. Interspersed in the game are ‘binary’ questions designed to match-make personality types between players.

Players are represented by highly stylised cartoon-like avatars. The mini games cover a range of situations, including:

• ‘Who Dares Wins’, which requires a player to ‘weigh in’ on the balance board, the player then has fifteen seconds to shed as much weight as possible. The avatar reflects the loss of weight by shedding clothes. The player who has lost the most weight wins the game;

• ‘Big Apple’, where two players cooperate hands free, to press the remote with their faces, to simulate eating an apple on screen; and

• ‘Never Let Me Down’, where one player must lie across the knees/legs of another player, and be tilted to achieve a flying effect on the screen, while the remote is pressed to alter speed.

Each mini game has a different theme song or music.

Text boxes, which contain miscellaneous facts about gender differences and interactions, randomly appear whilst a mini game is loading.

6. Findings on material questions of fact

(a) Themes –
There are no classifiable themes in the computer game.

(b) Violence –
There is no violence in the computer game.

(c) Language –
There is no classifiable language in the computer game.

(d) Sex –
The game contains mild sexual references which are discreetly implied and justified by context. There are no sexual references in the interactive game play. There are some sexual references in text boxes which randomly appear while the mini games are loading. Text boxes contain miscellaneous facts about gender differences and interaction. Text boxes contain no interactive elements. There are some sexual references in some of the song lyrics. The impact of the sexual references in both the text boxes and the song lyrics is no higher than mild.

(e)Drug Use –
There is no drug use in the computer game.

(f) Nudity –
There is no nudity in the computer game.

7. Reasons for the decision

Pursuant to the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games, this computer game is classified PG as the impact of the classifiable elements is mild. Material classified PG may contain material which some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance of parents or guardians. It is not recommended for playing by persons under 15 without guidance from parents or guardians.

8. Summary

The Review Board determined that the computer game WE DARE is classified PG, with the consumer advice of ‘mild sexual references’, as a game where the classifiable element is sex that is mild in impact.

– Classification Review Board report

30 complaints

September 1, 2011
There were a number of media reports suggesting that the PG rating for WE DARE may be inappropriate.

The Minister for Justice referred the Board’s classification decision for WE DARE to the Classification Review Board which, on review, also classified the game PG with consumer advice of ‘Mild sexual references’.

The Classification Board received 674 complaints in 2010–11. The Board had received 1,090 complaints in 2009–10.

Thirty complaints were received about the classification of the computer game WE DARE which the Board classified PG with consumer advice of ‘Mild sexual references’. Complainants considered the PG classification to be too low. On appeal from the Minister for Justice, the Classification Review Board reviewed the decision and also classified the game PG with consumer advice of ‘Mild sexual references’.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2010-2011

Grand Theft Auto V

Publisher Rockstar Games / 2013 / MobyGames

In July 2013, GRAND THEFT AUTO V became the first of the series to be passed with the newly introduced adults-only classification.

The R18+ (Drug use) rating included extended rating information that described:
High impact: drug use
Moderate impact: themes, violence, language, nudity, sex

Rockstar Games was the applicant.

Grand Theft Auto V (2013) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 3 Cover

It was released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

Rating complaints

August 8, 2014
There were seven complaints about the computer game GRAND THEFT AUTO V which is classified R 18+ with consumer advice of ‘Drug use’.

Four of the complaints were that that the classification was too low, one that it was too high, and two that there should have been additional consumer advice.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2013-2014

Extra consumer advice

A new version of GRAND THEFT AUTO V was submitted to the Classification Board following the release of the next generation Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

In October 2014, it was rated R18+ (High level themes, Drug use).

The classification information now described:
High impact: themes, drug use
Moderate impact: violence, language, nudity, sex

Grand Theft Auto V (2013) - Game Cover 2
PlayStation 4 Cover

All R18 media dropped

Two days after its rerelease, a New Zealand newspaper reprinted an article from the UK’s Daily Mail.

November 20, 2014
Previous to this new version, which launched in New Zealand on Tuesday with an R18 rating, prostitutes did exist in the game, but the player’s sexual encounters with them was not explicitly visible.

…with players’ new ability to watch from behind the wheel of their stolen car as a prostitute performs oral sex on them.

The player may then experience in first-person the act of having sex with that prostitute as she moans and says very X-rated things.

The icing on this controversial cake is the ability players have to then gruesomely murder their prostitute and take back their money.

– Outrage over graphic sex scenes in GTA V
article @ nzherald.co.nz

Following the report, a feminist group called Stop Demand pressured New Zealand’s The Warehouse Group to remove the game from sale.

It worked better than expected, with the store dropping all R18 games and DVDs.

November 25, 2014
“With the increasing amount of feedback we get from customers, team members and the wider community around R18 material, we believe that our exit from R18 games and DVDs will be positively received by parents and families around the country,” said Warehouse Group chief executive Mark Powell.

“It’s simply the right thing to do for our brand.”

– Warehouse pulls R18 titles
article @ nzherald.co.nz

Meanwhile, back in Australia

Inspired by the success in New Zealand, three women launched a petition to pressure Target Australia to stop stocking the game.

November 29, 2014
It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual against against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking.

GRAND THEFT AUTO 5 largely reduces women to strippers and prostitutes. After various sex acts that give players health points – player options are to kill women by punching her unconscious, killing with a machete, bat or guns to get their money returned.

Please Target – we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw GRAND THEFT AUTO V from sale.

One of many fan clips on YouTube shows the woman being run down, run over, set alight and, still screaming, repeatedly shot. This misogynistic GTA 5 literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women.

We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we’ve been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.

This game spreads the idea that certain women exist as scapegoats for male violence. Women in the industry are 40 times more likely to be murdered by a man than any other group of women. It also links sexual arousal and violence. Games like this are grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women. It is fuelling the epidemic of violence experienced by so many girls and women in Australia – and globally.

Target, you pride yourself on being a family company, caring for local communities, and have a strong ethical sourcing policy. How can you do this while contributing to hostile and callous attitudes toward victims of violence and, more broadly, to all women?

We urge you to follow the example set by the New Zealand’s largest retailer, NZ Warehouse Group, in upholding Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical corporate leadership, by removing these games. This would also set an example to other stockists of GTA V.

Please put ethics before profits and make a strong statement that you do not condone sexual violence, sexual exploitation or the abuse of women as ‘entertainment’.

Nicole, Claire and Kat

– This sickening game encourages players to commit sexual violence and kill women
– Letter to Target Australia – Withdraw Grand Theft Auto 5
– change.org

All too easy

December 3, 2014
Target Australia will stop selling the R-rated video game GRAND THEFT AUTO 5 (GTA5) following feedback from customers about the game’s depictions of violence against women.

Target General Manager Corporate Affairs Jim Cooper said the decision was made following extensive community and customer concern about the game.

“We’ve been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game’s content,” Mr Cooper said.

“We’ve also had customer feedback in support of us selling the game, and we respect their perspective on the issue.

“However, we feel the decision to stop selling GTA5 is in line with the majority view of our customers.”

Mr Cooper said Target would continue to sell other R-rated DVDs and games.

“While these products often contain imagery that some customers find offensive, in the vast majority of cases, we believe they are appropriate products for us to sell to adult customers.

“However, in the case of GTA5, we have listened to the strong feedback from customers that this is not a product they want us to sell.”

– Target Removes Grand Theft Auto 5 from shelves
– Target Australia statement

December 3, 2014
MCV has received a comment from Take-Two chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick.

“We are disappointed that an Australian retailer has chosen no longer to sell GRAND THEFT AUTO V – a title that has won extraordinary critical acclaim and has been enjoyed by tens of millions of consumers around the world,” he said.

“GRAND THEFT AUTO V explores mature themes and content similar to those found in many other popular and groundbreaking entertainment properties. Interactive entertainment is today’s most compelling art form and shares the same creative freedom as books, television, and movies. I stand behind our products, the people who create them, and the consumers who play them.”

– Target pulls GTA V from sale due to its ‘depictions of violence against women’
article @ mcvuk.com

December 4, 2014
An official from Kmart Australia confirmed the news to Kotaku over the phone.

“Following a significant review of all content in GRAND THEFT AUTO Games Kmart has taken the decision to remove this product immediately,” read a statement. ”Kmart apologises for not being closer to the content of this game.”

It’s worth noting that both Kmart and Target are owned by the same retail group, Wesfarmers. It could be that the group itself is simply covering all possible bases after the petition.

– Kmart has now pulled Grand Theft Auto V in Australia
article @ kotaku.com.au

The original authors of the petition celebrated their victory with a new push against BigW and Woolworths.

December 4, 2014
Great news – we’ve won! Target (and breaking news: Kmart now too!) have pulled GRAND THEFT AUTO 5 from shelves across the country in response to our 40,000-strong change.org petition.

This is a huge win. For years, games like GRAND THEFT AUTO have got away with this in-game misogyny and sexual violence. It’s games like this that normalise rape and sexual violence. You’ve helped send a message to family retailers and brands that their consumers have had enough, and they’ve started listening.

We’re now asking outlets like Big W and Woolworths whether they’re going to stand up against GRAND THEFT AUTO’S violence against women as well.

– We won! Target, Kmart withdraw Grand Theft Auto from shelves
– change.org

Australian gamers fight back

A rival petition was launched to persuade Target and Kmart to again sell the game.

December 3, 2014
A game made for adults is being taken off the shelves by Target following of a bunch of misinformed feminists that made a petition because it apparently encourages players to cause violence against women. I fear the other retailers will follow this trend, soon this game won’t be sold anywhere in Australia.

The R18+ rating is there for a reason! This game may allow you to kill, hurt, bash and shoot anyone not just females and this game should be on the shelves all over the country. It’s made for adults not children, we have the right to buy games despite their content.

THIS GAME HAS BEEN OUT FOR OVER A YEAR…

– Continue to sell Grand Theft Auto 5 in Australia
– change.org

Gamers protest

Target’s social media sites were soon flooded with critical comments, forcing the company to justify its decision.

December 3, 2014
Target Australia ‏@Targetaus
twitter.com After considering customer feedback, we have decided to remove GRAND THEFT AUTO 5 from sale. See full press release

Darji ‏@Darji
@Targetaus This is ridiculous. This is Censorship. And your press release is just slandering a game nothing of it is true.

Target Australia ‏@Targetaus
@Darji Thanks for your feedback, our decision was made based after extensive community & customer concern.

Darji ‏@Darji
@Targetaus You know that you are getting totally destroyed right now on tiwtter [sic] and facebook or?

– Twitter @targetaus

December 4, 2014
Target Australia @targetaus
Hi Jack and Skye, we will continue to sell R18+ classified DVDs and will continue to range other games with varying classifications in a responsible manner. In the case of GTA5, we felt the customer concern did reflect the views of the vast majority of our customer base and made the decision to no longer sell the game.

Hi Chris, we considered extensive community and customer concern, from both people in support of and against the game, in line with the majority view of our customers made the decision to stop selling GTA5.

– Facebook @targetaus

Ban it we say!

October 14, 2015
The Classification Board received 14 complaints about the computer game GRAND THEFT AUTO 5 (modified) which is classified R 18+ with consumer advice of “High impact themes and drug use”. The complainants expressed the view that the R 18+ classification was too low due to the depictions of sexualised violence and drug use in the game.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2014-2015

R18+ No. 3

In July 2015, a PC version of GRAND THEFT AUTO V was passed with an R18+ (High impact themes, Drug use, Violence and Sex, Online interactivity) rating.

The extended classification information described:
High impact: Themes, violence, drug use, sex
Strong impact: language, nudity

September 21, 2016
A modified version of the previously classified game, GRAND THEFT AUTO V, was also classified R 18+. It is an open world action-adventure game set in the fictional US city of Los Santos. It follows three protagonists who plan and execute a number of high-stake heists as well as engage in a range of leisure activities.

An earlier version of this game had been classified R18+ (with consumer advice of ‘High impact themes and drug use’) in 2014.

In the Board’s opinion, the Rockstar Editor/ Director’s Mode, which enables the player to create customised video footage by recording gameplay then utilising a variety of editing tools, extends the player’s interactivity with the gaming experience which heightens the impact of violence depicted in the game. This can be accomplished, for example, by altering context, by repetitive depictions of violence, by employing multiple camera angles and by zooming in on injury and blood effects.

The game’s consumer advice is ‘High impact themes, drug use, violence and sex, online interactivity’.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2015-2016

R18+ No. 4

In February 2022, GRAND THEFT AUTO ONLINE [the online mode of GTA V] was passed with an R18+ rating.

The consumer advice and extended classification information were the same as the July 2015 submission.


Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors

Publisher NIS America / 2015 / MobyGames

In August 2016, Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) America announced that they would not be submitting CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS to the Australian Classification Board.

It came after the game was banned in Germany and a week before the Classification Board refused another Japanese title, VALKYRIE DRIVE BHIKKHUNI (2015).

Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors (2015) - Game Cover 1
PS Vita Cover

August 5, 2016
Today we are disappointed to announce that the Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK), Germany’s video game ratings board, has refused to provide a rating for CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS. This is an unfortunate blow to the game, and for fans of the series, and means that the title will not be advertised or sold at retail in Germany.

We have filed an official objection requesting a rating for the game, but the USK has stood firm in their refusal citing the potential for the game to qualify as “content severely harmful to minors” which could violate certain clauses of the German penal law. German Penal Law dictates that a game cannot be rated if the panel of experts suspects that the content would fall within the purview of these laws. (More information from Germany’s Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors)

We will still be releasing CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS in other regions for Europe carrying a PEGI 16 rating on September 23, and in North America with an M rating on September 20. There will be no release of CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS in Australia or with an OFLC rating. For more information about the game, please visit our official game website, www.CriminalGirls2.com.

– Criminal Girls 2 will only carry ESRB and PEGI ratings
article @ nisamerica.com

Censored in the USA

The version that NIS America declined to submit to the Classification Board, had already been modified to remove sexual content.

June 1, 2016
1 – Redrawn art.
We had a bit more time to work on this title. We didn’t want to make any alterations to the game that would be jarring to the experience or feel “off,” so we worked with the original artist of the game who redrew the art for the Motivation scenes that might have caused issues due to their explicit nature. We didn’t want the game experience to change though, so we are also investing the extra effort into incorporating CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS’S unique Live 2D effect into the new art.

2 – Terminology changes.
As with the first in the series, CRIMINAL GIRLS: INVITE ONLY, “Punishment” will be framed as “Motivation,” and other terminology changes from the first game will also apply here. There may be a few other translation changes as well. This reduces the power distance between the player character and the girls in the Reformation Program and makes the activities of the game more consensual.

FAQ
5. Why was the terminology changed?
Two of the main concerns that ratings boards had in regards to CRIMINAL GIRLS: INVITE ONLY were power imbalance and consent. To avoid this, we decided to change some of the terminology to reframe the situations to be accepted by the ratings boards. CRIMINAL GIRLS 2: PARTY FAVORS follows the same trend for consistency.

– Four changes to Criminal Girls 2: Party Favors
article @ nisamerica.com

The Japanese release was uncut.


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