Controversial Games – Page 1

The controversy surrounding the release of NIGHT TRAP (1992) eventually led to the introduction of an Australian games classification system.

It became operational in April 1994 with MA as the highest rating.

Night Trap

Publisher SEGA of America / 1992 / MobyGames

In 1993, NIGHT TRAP became a controversial title in America.

Night Trap (1992) - Game Cover 1
PC Cover

This YouTube clip documents the story behind its release.

The birth of games censorship

The media coverage was noticed by Australian politicians who were soon asking questions about ‘violent video games’.

May 12, 1993
Mrs SILVIA SMITH —My question is directed to the Attorney-General. There is an issue of major community concern rearing its head in the community at this time—that is, the resurgence of the violent video games which are entering the consumer market. Is the Attorney-General aware of community concerns about violent video games and, if so, what action is the Commonwealth taking to deal with violence in films, videos and computer games?

Mr LAVARCH —There are widespread concerns in the community which have come to light most recently in relation to a number of new generation video games. I have seen newspaper reports about it and, probably like most honourable members, I have received some representations from constituents. For instance, the principal of the Esk state primary school in my electorate drew my attention to a game called NIGHT TRAP which involves five actresses being drilled through the neck and mutilated by sharp electric clamps. The principal makes the point that:

In a society where we are concerned about violence against women I am concerned about such a `game’ being available to children. I am very concerned about the message this `game’ would send to the users (particularly boys) of this game.

There are some moves already afoot on this matter. I am pleased to say that Sega, which is the company involved in that particular game, has, of its own accord and in response to community concern, indicated that the game will not be released. However, that is only one game from one company.

Currently, the Office of Film and Literature Classification does not classify video games at all. The current system that applies in relation to films and videos, with which honourable members would be familiar, would not easily lend itself to video games. These matters were considered by the Australian Law Reform Commission recently in its report on censorship administration. The commission recommended that censorship legislation should be altered to recognise computer games. Some games may be subject to banning if they offend community standards and others should be subject to restriction or carry an appropriate warning. In June these recommendations will be considered by a meeting of State and Commonwealth censorship Ministers, and I am hopeful that the Commonwealth and the States will combine on this matter to devise a regime fleshing out the proposals recommended by the Law Reform Commission.

I should just add one final point, as the honourable member also raised film classification. Honourable members will recall legislation which this House has passed creating a new distinction in the old M category, that is, the problem that used to be between a CROCODILE DUNDEE movie being an M and SILENCE OF THE LAMBS also being an M. The new categories of M and MA will prohibit some movies being seen by children under the age of 15.

While the Commonwealth, South Australia and the Northern Territory have passed legislation along these lines, and Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania have currently similar legislation before them, the State of Victoria has not as yet passed any legislation. In fairness, though, it has been submitted for debate and will be passed next session. Unfortunately, at this stage Western Australia is still considering its position.

The Prime Minister is writing to all State Premiers on these issues, I understand this week, and he will be requesting them to move as quickly as possible with their legislation regarding the new M and MA classifications. He will also be raising community concerns about video games, and asking them to join with the Commonwealth in proposing a new regime.

– Sylvia Smith (Labor), Michael Lavarch (Labor)
– House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia

The debate heats up

Both Margaret Reynolds (Labor) and Judyth Watson (WA Labor) spoke in favour of games classification on the ABC’s LATELINE program.

The debate was followed by a short report on video game violence.

June 14, 1993
GEOFF PARISH: Judyth Watson is Shadow Minister for Women’s Interests, Consumer Affairs, and Disability Services in Western Australia. She’s concerned about the violence in the games.

JUDYTH WATSON: My concern is that people who play those games, play them for a reward. You’re playing for points, you pit your wits against one or two other people. You’re rewarded for being violent.

JOHN PHELAN: You know, we see more violent things on the news and in cartoons and shows like that, where, you know, the games are just a run-off from that. So, I don’t think they’re too violent. The kids enjoy them. I mean, I don’t see any harm in them at all.

GEOFF PARISH: The debate over violence in video games is hotting up. But for John Phelan the games have been a godsend. He’s increased his turnover by 50 per cent. If business is brisk in Chester Hill, then it’s booming worldwide. The two key industry players are Sega and Nintendo. Nintendo has the lion’s share of the $5 billion market in the US, and Sega has the majority of sales in Australia. Here the industry turned over $350 million last year. One in four homes in Australia now has a video game system. It’s a slick, fast-moving industry with new technology and new games released every couple of months. Some of the games are charming. The new hero is SONIC, THE HEDGEHOG – more popular than Mickey Mouse. And WHERE IN TIME IS CARMEN SANTIAGO takes the player through a multinational time warp, in search of Carmen.

GEOFF PARISH: But what of the games that are more realistic than SUPER MARIO. If you like, you can re-fight the Gulf War or draw blood in the ring, complete with sound effects. And if seeing and hearing someone K.O’d concerns you, wait till you see the next level, now being sold.

You choose what happens next, and video graphics have been replaced by actors. That puts you in charge of a game like Sega’s NIGHT TRAP. This sort of game is too much for Judyth Watson.

JUDYTH WATSON: As it featured torturing, mutilation and degradation of women, I got my skates on, connected with the Prime Minister’s and Federal Attorney-General’s office. We had a lot of media coverage, and within a week the company had decided that it wouldn’t be imported.

GEOFF PARISH: The NIGHT TRAP controversy prompted a Senate committee, chaired by Margaret Reynolds, to look into the issue of violent video games. The Managing Director of distributor Sega-Ozisoft, Kevin Burmeister, appeared before the committee to explain company policy. They’ve now introduced their own system of classification, but in a media statement issued earlier this month, the company says that after examining the game in complete detail, ‘…we recognise that its imagery and story-line would not even rate an M if it was a movie’. At present, video games aren’t classified, but later this month Federal and State Attorneys-General will discuss what to do about the games. According to the Chief Censor, John Dickie, the games which may take weeks to complete, would be a nightmare to classify.

JOHN DICKIE: Not only in the sort of classification of the game itself, but I suppose a mind-set difference between the stuff we do at the moment. I mean, we look at videos at the moment and we look at cinema, and it’s not interactive like these games are. So that’s another element that you have to take into account to make classification decisions.


KERRY O’BRIEN: That report from Geoff Parish. And now let me introduce our guests. Professor Eugene Provenzo teaches education and sociology at the University of Miami, in Florida. He’s the author of the book Video kids: the dangers of Nintendo, which is extremely critical of the potential impact of video games on children. He joins us from Miami. Kevin Burmeister is the Managing Director of Sega-Ozisoft, the market leader in video game systems in Australia. He co-founded the entertainment software company, Ozisoft, in 1983, and last year the Japanese video games giant, Sega, bought equity in the company, which expects to turn over $250 million this financial year. He’s in our Sydney studio.

Labor Senator Margaret Reynolds chairs a Senate Standing Committee reviewing community standards on video games. For three years until the 1990 election, Senator Reynolds was Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, during which time she established the national working party on the betrayal of women in the media and the Commonwealth State committee on violence against women. And Margaret Reynolds is in Townsville tonight.

Eugene Provenzo, if we could start with you: sexist, racist, violent – are you saying that this is actually harmful to kids or just undesirable?

EUGENE PROVENZO: Well, I think it’s certainly undesirable but the fact of the matter is that the content of these games don’t need to be what they are in terms of the social content, and we can work against that.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Okay. But what is the heart of your concerns about these things? I mean, this would not be the only exposure that children would have to sexism or racism or certainly violence.

EUGENE PROVENZO: No, it’s certainly prevalent in the culture but this is another level of it, and the potential involvement through video games can be much more intense than other forms of media, such as television.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But what is your evidence of that intensity? Is it simply anecdotal? Is it simply by looking at kids as they play?

EUGENE PROVENZO: Looking at kids and how they play, but also at the actual content of the games. What we’re doing is we’re emerging into a new form of medium, new form of media that is much more intense than previous things, such as television.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And your book warns of worse to come, and I assume you’re talking about ‘Virtual Reality’.

EUGENE PROVENZO: Yes. What we have is the potential for kids to participate in television for the first time. This previously passive medium is one now that they can participate in and be part of. That’s something very different from….

KERRY O’BRIEN: But that could be quite an exciting thing, of course; but again, what broadly are your concerns there?

EUGENE PROVENZO: Well, it could be very exciting but what happens is that as the new systems come in, for example, the Sega CD-ROM systems, what happens is that the video game suddenly becomes increasingly interactive and videolike, filmlike, and so what happens is that we have something close to film rather than a traditional video game of space invaders or even the recent Nintendo games.

KERRY O’BRIEN: So that the violence becomes more real?

EUGENE PROVENZO: Much more real and you end up having the question of: is the video game now something close to film, video, or is it in point of fact a new type of interactive television?

KERRY O’BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister, what can you say about these games that’s positive, apart from the fact that they make you a lot of money?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think as long as there’s a balance of material that keeps on flowing into the marketplace, violent material, sexist material, and romantic material, comical and comedian-based material, fun video games, as long as there is a balance then that impact that is talked about will be balanced across the whole range of products in the marketplace.

KERRY O’BRIEN: So, you’re saying that a certain amount of sexism and a certain amount of racism and a certain amount of violence is all right?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: As long as it’s with a balance and with community standards in mind.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And you think there’s a balance there now?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think that there has been a balance up until now. If you look at the games that have been popular across the marketplace over the last couple of years, there tends to be in some cases violent games that are popular, but SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, which was certainly our most popular game and Sega’s most popular game to date, has no violence in it at all. It’s not gender specific. It’s a game with animals involved and fantasy characters, and it clearly outsold all other games in the marketplace.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Okay. So provided .. when you produce something like NIGHT TRAP where you have women with a real actress, having her neck drilled, it’s all right if you balance that with something friendly, like SONIC THE HEDGEHOG?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think it’s unfortunate that a game like NIGHT TRAP was one of the first games to be released in the marketplace, because as people are getting accustomed to this new technology, it’s quite a shock to see this level of graphic and this level of game play introduced as one of the earlier releases. So in time, as more and more material comes into the marketplace, then there will appear to be a balance, and as there are ratings and guidelines introduced that balance will continue to remain in place, in line with community standards.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Eugene Provenzo, do you believe that there is a reasonable balance in the United States, across the range of games, that provided you actually have a harmless game or a friendly game like SONIC THE HEDGEHOG that it doesn’t matter?

EUGENE PROVENZO: No, that very much hasn’t been the case. Historically in the United States, for example, in the case of the Nintendo games and the research that I did looking at the most popular games in America, the 10 most popular games were all on what I would consider to be extremely violent and not of the sort of balance that the person in Australia is talking about.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And even when you’d widen that out to the .. I think you widen it out to the top 40 games, to the top 45 games.

EUGENE PROVENZO: That very much isn’t the case. I think if you go and you count the games historically and you look at what their content is, that there are very few. They are there but they are very few in number, and one of my arguments is that I think we ought to be achieving some sort of a balance and having some sort of reasonable range of games with various types of themes. We don’t have that now.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Margaret Reynolds, what’s your reaction been to the kinds of video games that you’ve seen in your committee review?

MARGARET REYNOLDS: Well, Kerry, we’re just at the beginning of our hearing and we haven’t seen a lot yet, but of course we saw NIGHT TRAP or parts of NIGHT TRAP, and it was very much because of NIGHT TRAP that our committee decided to look at this in more detail. Of course, NIGHT TRAP itself has been withdrawn from the market, but I think it’s enough for us to really be very concerned about some of the other material that might be available, and clearly we’ve got to get some form of regulation. Kevin Burmeister talks of self-regulation, but he then says it’s apparently okay to have some racist and some sexist material, that this is all right if you balance it with more friendly material. But I think that many parents and teachers would query the need to have racist and sexist material.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister, at first glance, it would certainly seem that your programmers, the people who actually come up with these things, concentrate quite blatantly on the boys’ market. Don’t they have enough imagination to find girls that will .. find games that would appeal to both sexes?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think that as games are being produced more and more appealing to both sexes, and that is a developing process. Many of the programmers around the world are in fact boys, and so tend to write games to suit themselves and to suit their own likes.

KERRY O’BRIEN: And that’s why you end up with so much violence, so much emphasis on violence?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think the games are really a product of our own society. Those programmers are people aged 18 to 30 years old, generally speaking, around the world. They’re based in countries like Australia, Japan, United States, Europe, the UK, and they really are representing and reflecting what they see is a part of society.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But hang on, we’re talking about a children’s world here. We’re not talking about an adult’s world in a number of these things. I mean, if there’s rape in society, is it automatic that we should show rape in video games?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: No, not necessarily. That’s where we believe that a line needs to be drawn and there needs to be a – once again, we go back to this word – balance. But there has to be some kind of mechanism to monitor the material that is being released into the marketplace, and if rape is not suitable to be seen by kids below a certain age, well then that’s the way it needs to be. Rape is currently seen in video movies and movies around the world today, and it’s a part of society. We can’t hide it away from kids. It’s a fact of life.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But it’s dressed up as a form of competition, and the word ‘game’ – to call these things games.

KEVIN BURMEISTER: I think that the children playing these games, to a large degree, are clearly able to separate fantasy from reality and, you know, what is important to understand is that in the past there have been video games using computer-generated animation, and clearly these are fantasy-based products. Now rape has not been a part of those video games in the past. Here is a video game called NIGHT TRAP which doesn’t involve a rape scene, but…

EUGENE PROVENZO: Kerry, can I break in here for a moment?

KERRY O’BRIEN: Yes, sorry. Eugene Provenzo, yes.

EUGENE PROVENZO: Yes, one of the things that companies such as Sega are currently doing, is coming out with devices that allow people to interact with the computer in a much more intense level than ever has been possible before, various types of virtual reality devices. There’ll be a device coming under the American market in the fall called the ‘activator’. And one of the things about that device is that it allows children to actually participate in throwing punches and kicking and being involved in the violence of the game, and as this game is increasingly visual cinematic because of the crossover of the computer from these relatively crude graphics that we’ve had up until this time, into a very, very powerful visual cinematic film media on the computer, what we suddenly have is a new type of involvement on the part of kids.

Now, we don’t know what the effect of that is yet. We don’t have any idea. The research has not been done. There has been previous research on video games but not on these types of new games with these new virtual reality devices. And the fact is we need to understand exactly how they affect our children. We don’t know yet, and I think we need to be very, very cautious before we start saying that children aren’t going to respond or behave in particular ways to these sorts of things. We simply don’t know.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister.

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, I think that there’s an important need for research to be conducted in the markets and amongst kids, and that research is already taking place. Sega, Nintendo are already involved in that process.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But I wonder whether….

EUGENE PROVENZO: Do you think that they’re the appropriate people to be doing that research?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, not necessarily. Perhaps a person like yourself is an appropriate person to do that, but that research needs to be conducted and to find the solutions and to find the answers to these issues. However, kids are aware of technology….

KERRY O’BRIEN: Sorry, Eugene Provenzo, I’ll come back to you in a second.

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Kids are aware of technology. They’ve grown up with this technology. It’s part of their lives and part of their lifestyles, and they are not afraid of the technology; they’re not afraid of the game products.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Yes. It’s not the technology we’re talking about though, is it?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: No, but the technology is a part of their lifestyles. For us, for older generation people, perhaps, there’s a barrier between themselves and the technology and the products of that technology, whereas kids are much more familiar with it.

EUGENE PROVENZO: It’s the content of the technology that’s the issue.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Sorry, Eugene Provenzo.

EUGENE PROVENZO: Kerry, it’s the content of the technology that’s the issue.


EUGENE PROVENZO: It’s not the technology.

KERRY O’BRIEN: All right. Well, talking about the content and talking about virtual reality, Margaret Reynolds, what about the so-called ‘dildonics’ – the push for video sex, pornography, that’s expected as part of the push into virtual reality?

MARGARET REYNOLDS: Well, again, I think we have to apply the national censorship standards that we already have for other media and, clearly, until the Attorneys-General meet this month, these issues haven’t really been put on the agenda. I believe that any of this new material has to comply with the normal censorship provisions that we already have and, at the moment, there is nothing to stop that material coming in and being freely available.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister, I assume it’s a reasonable guess that dildonics is on the way, and how comfortable would you feel about distributing that? Would you have anything to do with that?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, we probably wouldn’t but it’s true that there is a much broader type of material on the way, depicting sex and violence and other video games in a much more impactful manner. And there is going to be a requirement for guidelines to be issued under the censorship and film review people, and we will obviously comply by those guidelines.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Eugene Provenzo, you’re concerned to see the positive elements of the video game craze developed, education programs, and so on. I mean, what programmers will basically respond to is demand. So what do you do, other than have parents and educators try to encourage a market and the demand for those kinds of beneficial programs?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, I can’t conceive of the notion of 10 year olds wanting pornography that you should give it to them simply because they’re demanding it, nor do I think you need to give them large amounts of violent material. I think we can do wonderful things with these games, I think with this technology, which is remarkable. And I think we ought to be developing types of entertainment, types of learning, or types of instruction, and types of fun that really provide opportunities for children that expand their capability and their understanding of the world. We can do that. We just haven’t been doing that very much.

KERRY O’BRIEN: But the question really is where does the responsibility lie?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, I don’t think it’s with the people who produce the new media. I can’t imagine if someone starts putting out pornography on computers and on video games that we should be asking them also to rate their materials, as essentially as is happening in the case of Sega. Sega is rating the violence of their own games. I think it ought to be done by some external group.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Kevin Burmeister, you’ve put up a proposition on this, haven’t you? You’re prepared to have a role for the chief government censor.

KEVIN BURMEISTER: That’s right. We’ve requested that a self-regulatory role takes place and, simply, video games are very difficult to rate. They can take up to three months to play through a single video game, so it would be unreasonable to expect the censor to employ hundreds of people to play through each one of these products to review the material and the content of the whole products.

EUGENE PROVENZO: Not a problem.

KERRY O’BRIEN: It depends what the implications are. Who’s going to do it? I mean, who’s going to….

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Simply what we’re recommending is that a guideline be established for each of the censorship issues and that the individual video game distributors or publishers rate their own systems, and if they fail to meet the guidelines, perhaps penalties would be put into place, or if they fail to understand what those guidelines mean, they could submit a game for further review, prior to release, but that it remains a self-regulatory system. It would be far more commercially beneficial for all companies involved, and certainly for the government and the authorities.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Eugene Provenzo, do you see anything wrong with that; in other words, a partnership between the government, via its censor, and the industry?

EUGENE PROVENZO: It seems to me if that were entered into in good faith, that might have some possibilities. I would like to point out the fact, however, that these video games are scripted the same way a film is scripted, and that in point of fact, the companies, if they want to, could turn over to the reviewers the content of the games scripts and they would not have to be played through from beginning to end.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Okay. Margaret Reynolds, I know that you’ve long been opposed to censorship, but do the dubious joys of virtual reality cause you to rethink or do you think that the Burmeister recipe for self-regulation based on government guidelines might be enough?

MARGARET REYNOLDS: Well, certainly I think many of us who fought against censorship in the ’60s are having very serious second thoughts in the ’90s, because of the new technology. Basically, I think there has to be some level of government regulation if you can’t rely on industry to self-regulate, and from what Kevin says, I think the problem goes deeper than his solution. I think we probably should be looking at registering the writers of these games, and I’d be offering licences to educators rather than these young men of 18 to 30, whose thoughts seem to revolve totally around violence and presumably sex. I don’t think that they’re perhaps the best people to be put in charge of writing these programs, and maybe it’s a question of licensing the people who write the programs.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Well, that sounds like a whole new world to enter into. I can see all kinds of potential problems there, too – I mean, to start licensing writers for anything.

EUGENE PROVENZO: You know, Kerry, I have a serious problem in terms of the notion of licensing writers and the sort of nightmares that could create; however, I think the notion that the Senator brings up, which is the need to basically turn the production of these games out of the hands of, strictly, the programmers and the industry and into some of our educational groups and maybe some of our people involved with the creation of children’s literature and other similar types of things, and the culture might be very valuable.

KERRY O’BRIEN: Yes, we’re just about out of time, but one brief word from Kevin Burmeister. Let me put the question to you: why should the community trust the people who would distribute, who would actually make and distribute something like NIGHT TRAP which is then only withdrawn after an outcry from the community, then regulate its own product in any way, shape or form?

KEVIN BURMEISTER: Well, we’re simply saying that those guidelines need to be issued by the relevant authorities, the censorship people in this country, and that those guidelines would be followed by companies like ourselves, and others in this marketplace. So, we wouldn’t actually be generating those guidelines in our own right. We’ve currently introduced censorship teams within our own organisation, but that’s as an interim measure. We’re hoping to work with the censorship authorities to make sure that we do develop that action that we’re taking, but we are crying out and looking for some guideline.

– Violence in video games available to children prompts calls for some form of censorship

The Chief Censor speaks

John Dickie, from the Office of Films and Literature Classification, spoke about the controversy on Radio National’s AM program.

August 6, 1993
PETER THOMPSON: Video games will soon be rated like television and movies and the most sexually explicit and violent ones will be rated for adults only. From today, the Chief Censor, John Dickie, will begin consulting industry and community groups on the issue and report back to State and Federal governments later this year. The classification will affect games at video parlours and those sold and hired at retail outlets. Four categories are likely to guide parents on the suitability of games. Kevin Wilde asked John Dickie how the classification of video games will be made law.

JOHN DICKIE: Well, I think eventually there will be legislation, and what I hope will be the end result of that will be that there will be a regime where people who are buying or hiring these games will know that the product they are buying has at least been vetted through an organisation that can deal with these things, that it will be clearly labelled for the suggested age groups for children who are playing them, and that there will be information on the games so that parents will have some idea of what the content of the game is. I think that’s the end result that we’re heading for.

KEVIN WILDE: How many games, currently on the market, do you believe would be marked specifically not for use for children under the age of eighteen?

JOHN DICKIE: I don’t know, at the moment. We’re still talking with industry about that, we’re still making our own inquiries about what kind of games are out there. We have been told that in the arcade parlours, for instance, that they are family centres, that they’re not interested in those types of games.

KEVIN WILDE: Not all the games are available through video parlours. Some are available through video outlets, the hire of movies as well. Will that be one of the main areas of concern, that when games that can be hired in those type of outlets, that they are clearly marked because there would not be parental supervision necessarily in that case?

JOHN DICKIE: No, that’s what we will be doing, in the same way that there are restricted videos for hire now which can’t be let out to people under the age of eighteen. There’s already an established practice there in relation to the hire and sale of videos. Are you aware of any specific video games which have been drawn to your attention as being particularly violent or having sexually explicit material?

JOHN DICKIE: No, not at the moment. There’s been a lot of talk about a game called NIGHT TRAP.

KEVIN WILDE: What is the aim of NIGHT TRAP in terms of being a successful player?

JOHN DICKIE: The purpose of the game of NIGHT TRAP is to save a whole family of people from invaders from outer space. I think a lot of the concern that has arisen about the game of NIGHT TRAP is some of the methods that the intruders from outer space use in capturing members of the family – there’s suggestions of a drill being held at people’s neck and things like that – but from what I’ve seen of the game the purpose is to prevent this happening.

KEVIN WILDE: How do you believe your office and governments, in a sense, can respond to the other issue as a result of these type of games, the computer to computer link and the difficulty there in terms of classifying and limiting sexually explicit or violent games in that way?

JOHN DICKIE: Well, that’s certainly a difficult problem and that’s one that we’re still coming to grips with, and we will be reporting to Ministers on that when we get enough information, but at the moment we’re concentrating on the major market which is the hire and sale of the video games

– Chief censor comments on the classification of video games based on their levels of violence and sexual explicitness

Games ratings are here

Although the initial classification scheme began on April 11, the new legislation was not introduced into Parliament until June 29.

June 29, 1994
… the Senate resolved in May 1993 to include the video games issue into the ongoing work of the Senate Select Committee on Community Standards Relevant to the Supply of Services Utilising Electronic Technologies.

This was primarily a result of concern about a lack of regulation in the industry, highlighted by games such as NIGHT TRAP, MORTAL KOMBAT and MORTAL KOMBAT II. All of these games depict graphic violence which is easily accessible to the young. NIGHT TRAP, which was the subject of criticism in the report of the committee included the depiction of zombies drilling through women’s necks, while MORTAL KOMBAT contains characters who can be ritually electrocuted, decapitated or impaled on a spike by the player. This game was described as “questionable” by the eventual report.

The sequel to MORTAL KOMBAT, MORTAL KOMBAT II continued the depiction of ‘questionable’ violence, by introducing new characters and new forms of violence including characters who can be attacked with knives, or subjected to bolts of fire or electricity.

– Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Bill 1994
– House of Representatives, Parliament of Australia

The OFLC comment

August 25, 1994
The Office has also been asked to develop proposals for the regulation of computer games and computer generated images.

Public concern about these games has been kept under review by the Standing Committee of Censorship Ministers.

The Australian Law Reform Commission recommended that these games should be included in the definition of publications in its Report on Censorship Procedure.

Because of this recommendation and widespread public concern about a computer game called NIGHT TRAP, Censorship Ministers decided that these games should be regulated and have asked that proposals be brought before them in November 1993. They also have asked that draft instructions for legislation be ready for consideration at their scheduled meeting in February next year.

These games, some of which can take up to three weeks to play are now being replaced, by more sophisticated technology which on some estimates will take up to three months! to play if all of the levels of the game are to be examined.

The principal industry bodies have indicated publicly that they are seeking guidance for classification guidelines so that they can, in the interim, classify material themselves.

While Ministers have ruled out full self regulation, the Office is exploring with the industry, and with community groups, alternatives which will allow for as much self regulation as possible. Such a process would be supervised by a body which will safeguard the community’s interests, and regulate the sale and hire of the material in as simple and effective a way as possible.

Industry and community groups are being consulted before the proposals are submitted to Ministers. It is the intention that representatives of these groups will be given every opportunity to comment and make suggestions about the proposals.

– Office of Film and Literature Classification
– Reports on Activities, 1993 to 1994

Not even MA!

NIGHT TRAP received only an M (Medium level violence) rating when it finally came to be classified.

This was awarded to Sega Ozisoft in June 1995.

Further reading

See Dangerous Games for more information on NIGHT TRAP in Australia.