Modifications made to games before classification are often done to avoid them being banned or receiving a higher than expected rating.
This has resulted in Australia receiving censored versions of PHANTASMAGORIA: A PUZZLE OF FLESH (1996), DUKE NUKEM 3D (1996), GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY (2002), SCARFACE: THE WORLD IS YOURS (2006), GRAND THEFT AUTO IV (2008), CALL OF DUTY: WWII (2017), CRYSIS 3 REMASTERED (2021) and LET’S SING 2022 (2023).
Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh
aka Phantasmagoria 2
Developed by Sierra On-Line / 1996 / MobyGames
PHANTASMAGORIA: A PUZZLE OF FLESH was never banned in Australia. It did however take three months to be classified and was viewed in several different versions.
The alpha version was initially shown to the OFLC, then the beta, the uncensored and finally the modified version. The OFLC were also shown a videotape of all the contentious scenes.
In February 1997, a censored version was passed with an MA (High level violence, Horror theme, Sexual references) rating.
Playcorp was the applicant.
What was missing?
The modified version automatically censors the three sex scenes but allows the four violent scenes to be optionally modified by the player.
See the PHANTASMAGORIA (1995) entry in the Game Censorship Database for more information about the banned and censored original.
Duke Nukem 3D
Publisher FormGen / 1996 / MobyGames
In May 1996, a shareware version of DUKE NUKE EM 3D was passed with an MA (High level animated violence) rating.
Mannacom was the applicant.
Censored version rated
In July 1996, a modified version was passed as MA (Medium level violence).
In the Board’s opinion DUKE NUKEM 3D warrants an MA15+ for Medium Level Animated Violence. DUKE NUKEM 3D is set in futuristic towns & space stations, the lighting is bright and footsteps and creature ‘roars and groans’ echo through the hallways and down the streets.
In the Australian release of DUKE NUKEM 3D the suppliers have opted to remove the images of females in cocoons, female waitresses and dancers. These are present in the US release of the game and in the Shareware version previously classified by the Board (File No C96/51).
The optional background music is fast paced and action orientated and the gaming environment is well lit. This setting produces a lighter tone which compliments the futuristic environment and reduces the games overall impact.
When the player defeats a fantasy enemy combatant, it falls to the ground with a groan followed by a small pixelated red splash that is a unrealistic representation of blood. As with most 1st person perspective shoot-em up’s DUKE NUKEM 3D suffers from increased pixelation as the alien creature draws near. The Board is of the opinion this diminishes the impact of the game considerably.
Although DUKE NUKEM 3D has a significant adventure /strategy component which is strongly developed by Duke’s monologue in the game, DUKE NUKEM 3D essentially involves shooting the onslaught of fantasy creatures.
Cumulative elements in the Board’s opinion are a well lit, futuristic environment, the larger size of fantasy characters & frequent appearances of enemy creatures. These combined with sound effects of explosions and roars produce depictions of stylised violence of medium intensity can be accommodated in the lower end of the MA15+ category, as being suited to those aged 15 years or older.
This decision is based on the understanding that should the game be found to contain contentious material (whether available through code or otherwise) that was not brought to the attention of the Board before classification was made, the game is taken never to have been classified.– Classification Board report
What was censored?
The OFLC report mentions that Mannacom had opted to remove ‘images of females in cocoons, female waitresses and dancers’ from the game.
Anthony Larme reports.
At the root of all this controversy were the depictions of scantily clad female figures that may be seen in many locations throughout the game. Duke Nukem, the player’s character, must single-handedly save the world from an invading force of evil animal-like humanoids.
A major part of the aliens’ malevolent plans – in the tradition of various B-grade science fiction films – is to kidnap much of Earth’s female population for unknown purposes.
This task takes place behind the scenes. All Duke Nukem sees are the captives while imprisoned and some similarly non-combative female dancers and prostitutes who have been left unharmed in the seedier parts of the cities.
In the case of the captives, some have been tied up while others are encased in a harmful slimy green substance reminiscent of certain scenes from the Alien trilogy movies. If they have been encased in slime, they weakly ask to be killed if Duke Nukem walks up to them. If they are bound, Duke Nukem, clearly annoyed and offended by what he sees, remarks words to the effect of, “This is really p***ing me off”. The dancers can be asked to, “Shake it baby” (whereupon they open their bikini tops and shake their breasts whose nipples are covered with tassels), but Duke Nukem cannot obtain the services of any of the prostitutes.
In short, the one and only character under the control of the player – Duke Nukem – has no motivation to harm any of the women with the possible exception of those in unbearable pain underneath the slime who ask to be put out of their misery. This just makes Duke Nukem more determined than ever to put an end to the aliens’ evil designs on his planet. Should the player elect to cause Duke Nukem to shoot any of the women, aliens appear seemingly out of nowhere and attack Duke Nukem as punishment.
Captive women are occasionally placed near explosives and normal enemy encounter areas, forcing the player to take extra special care. No women are counted as points or any other form of reward within the game. Motivations to perform in-game evil actions against them are non-existent.
Censored version hacked
It was revealed that the modified version released by Mannacom contained the uncensored game. However, in the Australian version it could not be accessed because the parental lock was permanently turned on.
Soon, hacks began to appear on the internet that disabled this lock and allowed a way to play the full version.
This came to the attention of the OFLC, who in August 1996 attempted to revoke the MA classification. By this time, 18,000 copies had already been released to the market.
OFLC demand recall
Following the OFLC warning, Manncom wrote to distributors of the game.
We have received a letter from the Office of Film and Literature Classification stating that “It has been brought to our attention that the above game contains classifiable elements that were not identified in your application for classification.” This of course is a reference to the fact that we permanently locked the game with adult mode off, but hacks have appeared on the internet.
We dispute the fact that we did not identify “classifiable elements” as the OFLC were aware at all times that the complete game was on the CD and that we had locked it using a permanent lock out of adult mode. We submitted it for classification in the form in which we intended to distribute it, in accordance with their request.
The MA15+ classification has nevertheless been revoked, despite our protestations, and we have now submitted DUKE for reclassification in the unlocked mode. With some luck the emotions have subsided a little, as it is now three months since Port Arthur, and the complete version will be classified MA15+.
We believe that the problem with DUKE is the fact that women are bound and can be shot. We have pointed out that these figures are only two dimensional, pixelate if viewed close up, and that shooting them is part of the game as the spawned aliens make game play more difficult.
In the meantime the complete version of the game should not be sold. If you choose to sell copies of DUKE that you have in stock you may be committing an offence as the game is deemed to be no longer classified. We do not believe that this situation applies to the shareware version in any way – it remains rated MA15+.
Please hold any stock you may have until the reclassification process has been completed – that is likely to be a week or so. To the best of our knowledge this situation has not arisen previously with computer software but we intend to implement our normal sale or exchange should it be necessary to recall the stock.
Once again, please hold your stock until the situation is clarified. We will contact you again as soon as we know more.
I should also mention that we have had our solicitor write to the OFLC and inquire as to what action they intend to take on direct mail imports, unclassified imported copies, pirate copies (sold in shops, at flea markets and available on the internet) and the fact that the hack is on the internet. There has been no response from the OFLC! We hope that they do at least take some notice of the issues and when it comes to review the situation in six months or so, they at least are aware of the situation in the real world.
We are giving a thought to starting a petition to be available for signature at our reseller’s stores urging legislators to introduce an “R” classification for computer games. it seems that the legislators think only kids play games! We’ll reserve our decision until we see if the full version of DUKE gets through the classification process this time.
Thanks for your support in the past and your understanding at this time. Remember, please hold on to any stock on hand until we are able to advise the final outcome.– Manncom statement
Classification not withdrawn
The OFLC decided against revoking the classification of DUKE NUKEM 3D.
Mannacom again wrote to games distributors.
August 30, 1996
We have today received a letter from the Australian Government solicitor, on behalf of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, stating that they have reviewed the situation and now agree that “the existence of the contentious material….was in fact brought to the Classification Board’s attention before the classification of the game was made.”
This means that the OFLC does not have the power to revoke the classification which was given to the modified version of DUKE NUKEM 3D.
The classification of the parental locked version has now been confirmed MA15+ and in short this means that the modified version can be sold again.
The US version of the game has not been classified and sale of imported copies of this version are against the law.
Out of stock?
Shipments will re-commence immediately – get in early so that you are one of the first to have stock available again. You can either contact your rep or simply fax us your requirements .
We have had an encouraging response to our idea of a petition to prove that not all game players are kids. We will proceed with this shortly.
Thanks for your patience – now it’s full speed ahead again.– Mannacom statement
In April 1997, the uncut ‘USA version’ of DUKE NUKEM 3D was passed with an MA (High level animated violence, Sexual references) rating.
See Dangerous Games for more information on the DUKE NUKEM 3D classification.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Publisher Rockstar Games / 2002 / MobyGames
In November 2002, GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY was passed with an MA (Medium level animated violence) rating.
Take 2 Interactive Software modified the game to remove a reported seven seconds of footage involving sex with prostitutes.
A similar scene had caused the company major problems when it was included in GRAND THEFT AUTO III (2001).
Two cut scenes were also modified.
The cut scenes for two of the four FILM STUDIO missions have been censored on the Australian PlayStation 2 version.
Both are the same as the Japanese version found in this YouTube clip.
The first, MARTHA’S MUG SHOT, removes Candy’s moans and the views of her on the right of the screen.
The second, G-SPOTLIGHT, removes the start where Steve talks to Candy as well as the sex scene and moans. Unlike the Japanese version, the promotional spotlight at the end, featuring a pair of breasts and the word ‘Suxx,’ is complete on the Australian PS2.
Can anyone confirm if the PC and Xbox releases were similarly cut?
October 10, 2003– Classification Board, Annual Report 2002-2003
…48 complaints from persons objecting to the distributor’s modification of the computer game GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY to achieve a lower classification for sale in Australia. The Board classified this game MA15+.
In July 2010, GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence) rating.
The original consumer advice from 2002 was ‘Medium level animated violence’. It is unclear if this new classification was for an uncensored version.
GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY – THE DEFINITIVE EDITION was upgraded to R18+ (Sexual activity related to incentives and rewards) in August 2021.
The classification matrix described:
High impact: sex
Strong impact: themes, violence
Moderate impact: drug use
Mild impact: language, nudity
In this release, the interactions with prostitutes are reportedly intact.
Rockstar Games made both submissions.
Scarface: The World is Yours
Publisher Sierra Entertainment / 2006 / MobyGames
In September 2006, SCARFACE: THE WORLD IS YOURS was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, Strong coarse language, Strong drug themes) rating.
The same month saw a bonus disc passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, Coarse language) rating.
According to Vivendi Universal, this DVD contained a making-of, a behind-the-scenes documentary, game walk-through with producer commentary, cast videos and interviews, hints and tips videos and game concept art.
The full game and the bonus disc were released in a Collector’s Edition.
Missing film clips
It was soon revealed that the Australian SCARFACE: THE WORLD IS YOURS was different to other versions.
No gameplay was changed, but it was missing an advertisement for the DVD of the film SCARFACE (1983) and the prologue of the game that contained violent clips from the film. Both were removed to reduce the risk of it falling outside the MA15+ category.
At the time the game was classified, the film SCARFACE (1983) held an R18+ (Medium level violence).
The PC game SCARFACE: THE WORLD IS YOURS is somewhat censored. I have the retail Australian version and also the net version.
I have not played it for too long but as far as the game goes in the very beginning there is blood, gore, swearing and general mayhem. I was going to delete the net version since I now have the retail one, however, after examining some files I noticed a larger size on some of them. Specifically the movies.rcf file. The net version is 335.348.468mb vs. the Australian one at 34.085.620mb. By a simple look, I noticed that the bigger one has the following files: dolby_51.bik, dvd.bik, prologue_51.bik, radical_51.bik, sierra.bik and thx_51.bik. The Australian version has two of these missing, the DVD and prologue.
These files load during the start of the game and the prologue one when you begin a game. Most are company logo clips. The DVD file is a regular video that promotes the SCARFACE (1983) DVD. In fact, it looks just like one of those short clips found on the apple movie trailers website. The clip is nothing special and I have seen much worse MA15+ rated stuff.
The prologue.bik is a video montage from the SCARFACE (1983) movie with some extra computer type graphics thrown over it. I suppose they had to remove this because some of the scenes shown, which were taken from the movie which is rated R18+, whilst the game is MA15+. Amongst other things, it shows the hotel scene where the guy runs down the street before Tony shoots him in the head. Both of these movie clips have been removed completely from the Australian version.
To get to the bottom of this, I emailed Radical Entertainment in Canada, the producer of the game. Here is what they had to say.
November 2006– To: Mario
I checked with someone who worked on the SCARFACE title, and he said for the Australian version, all or most of the sequences that came directly from the SCARFACE (1983) movie have been edited out. Most of it is from the intro movie sequence, the prologue, which is probably why you see the reduction in file sizes for these movies. There were no game play edits taken out.
– From: Radical Entertainment
I also noticed that some of the sound files were different, so I contacted them again to find out if any profanity had been removed.
November 21, 2006– To: Radical Entertainment
…what is different or removed from the sound files? Was ANY of the profanity removed? And if yes what was the spoken dialog?
because the AU version sound files are:
sound1.rcf = 478.984.443 MB
sound2.rcf = 488.308.896 MB
and the US version:
sound1.rcf = 486.235.919 MB
sound2.rcf = 498.833.568 MB
So why would they also be smaller? Because the movies are in the movies.rcf file
– From: Mario
November 2006– To: Mario
The reason the files may be different is because the Australian version was not made from the US version, but from the UK version (the sound files are slightly different). There was no game play features removed in the Australian version, except the removal of the SCARFACE movie recap at the beginning.
– From: Radical Entertainment
September 28, 2007
The OFLC received 57 complaints about computer games. Of the total, 32 complaints were about the absence of an R18+ classification for computer games.
One complaint..was received about the violence in…SCARFACE: THE WORLD IS YOURS (MA 15+).– Classification Board, Annual Report 2006-2007
In 2007, an advertisement that Telstra ran for SCARFACE: THE WORLD IS YOURS was reported to the Advertising Standards Bureau (ABS).
The complaint was dismissed in September of that year.
September 11, 2007
Complaint reference number 296/07
Advertiser Telstra Corporation Ltd (SCARFACE)
Product Toys & Games
Type of advertisement Outdoor
Nature of complaint Violence Other – section 2.2
Date of determination Tuesday, 11 September 2007
DESCRIPTION OF THE ADVERTISEMENT
This outdoor advertisement announces the release of the new SCARFACE home video game from Telstra. An image of Al Pacino holding a machine gun from the movie SCARFACE is depicted, with the words “Live the high life without getting wasted. Buy now on Bigpond games”
A sample of comments which the complainant/s made regarding this advertisement included the following:
Ad depicts violence and tries to sell by depicting it.
I am appalled that Telstra and Bigpond think that billboards in prominent public places are an appropriate avenue to exploit a game that is fundamentally about death and killing. Senseless violence has no place in a public advertising campaign. It desensitises children to, and in effect condones, violence for those too young to interpret this image as an advertisement for a video game.
THE ADVERTISER’S RESPONSE
Comments which the advertiser made in response to the complaint/s regarding this advertisement included the following:
I understand that Section 2.2 of the AANA Advertiser Code of Ethics states that advertisements shall not portray violence “unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised”.
The image used in the advertisement is taken directly from the movie that the game is based on and therefore Telstra believes that the context is self-explanatory and justifiable. The imagery used in the advertisement is the official key art from the SCARFACE franchise and has already been used extensively in many mediums, for a number of years and by a number of companies, to promote the SCARFACE film and DVD, in addition to promoting the game since it was originally released by Vivendi Games last year. All of the key art from the franchise is based around the renown image of Al Pacino standing with a gun in his hand.
This Al Pacino image is an iconic image from a well-known, classic film that has been well publicised over decades. The movie’s dialogue and imagery have passed into the vernacular and are instantly recognisable to generations of fans. This image is seen in many places, not just in Telstra advertisements. Indeed, if it were not so instantly recognisable it would not have been selected by Universal as the key image to promote the game in the first place. It would be an odd and restrictive result if retailers did not have the freedom to use such a recognised and commonly accepted image to promote the film and its associated products and paraphernalia.
It should also be noted that the black and white version of the key art as used in the advertising for the game has been designed to be more atmospheric and far less visceral than the colour version used for the movie. There is no visible blood in the black and white version and while Al Pacino is holding a gun it is not at all clear that he is actually firing this.
I note that there appears only to be a single customer complaint about this advertisement despite it having been used by BigPond for several weeks which could be taken to illustrate that the image is widely recognised and generally accepted by the public as simply reflective of a classic iconic movie.
For these reasons, Telstra does not consider the relevant advertisement to be in breach of the Code of Ethics. Further, as the advertisement is clearly not one which, having regard to the theme, visuals and language used, is directed primarily to children, in Telstra’s view the code of Advertising to Children also does not apply.
The Advertising Standards Board (“Board”) considered whether this advertisement breaches Section 2 of the Advertiser Code of Ethics (the “Code”).
The Board noted the complainants’ concern about the violence used in this billboard advertisement and its effect on children.
The Board noted that Section 2.2 of the Code provides that ‘advertisements shall not present or portray violence unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service advertised.’ The Board noted that the advertisement is for a game that is for mature audiences. In the context of the particular game the Board considered that the image of Al Pacino holding the gun was justified.
The Board noted that, as a billboard, the advertisement is visible by children. The Board considered that the advertisement was not overtly violent with no depictions of blood or people being injured by the gun. The Board considered that the image of a gun was not per se a breach of the Code.
The Board determined that the advertisement did not breach Section 2.2 of the Code. Finding that the advertisement did not breach the Code on other grounds, the Board dismissed the complaint.– Advertising Standards Bureau report
Grand Theft Auto IV
Publisher Rockstar Games / 2008 / MobyGames
In December 2007, GRAND THEFT AUTO IV was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, Strong coarse language, Drug and sexual references) rating.
Take 2 Interactive Software was the applicant.
DETAILS OF THE COMPUTER GAME:
FILE No T07/6147
Processing Date: 06/12/07
Title: GRAND THEFT AUTO IV
Format: Multi Platform
Publisher: ROCKSTAR GAMES
Programmer: ROCKSTAR NORTH
Production Co: ROCKSTAR GAMES
Country Of Origin: UK
Application Type: Camp Game Demonstrated
Applicant: TAKE 2 INTERACTIVE SOFTWARE
The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines approved by the standing Committee of Attorneys-General, are followed when classifying films.
Item Viewed: YES
Viewing Date: 06/12107
Written submissions: NO
Oral submissions: NO
In classifying this item regard was had to the following:
(i) The Application YES
(ii) A written synopsis of the item YES
(iii) The item YES
(iv) Other NO
(1) Classification: MA 15+
(2) Consumer Advice: Strong violence Strong coarse language Drug and sexual references
(4) Ratified By: (Senior Classifier)
GRAND THEFT AUTO IV is a third person action/shooter game where the player takes on the role of Niko Bellic, an immigrant who has found his way to Liberty City. Meeting up with his cousin Roman, Niko must undertake various missions in order to survive and protect his friends, his cousin and himself.
REASONS FOR THE DECISION:
When making decisions the Classification Board (the Board) follows the procedures set out in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act). The Board also applies the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines, while takng into account the matters set out in section 11 of the Act.
In the Board’s view this computer game warrants an MA 15+ classification as, in accordance with Item 2 of the Computer Games Table of the National Classification Code, it is unsuitable for viewing or playing by persons under 15.
Pursuant to the Guidelines for thee Classification of Films and Computer Games, this computer game is classified MA 15+ as the impact of the classifiable elements is strong. Material classified MA 15+ is considered unsuitable for persons under 15 years of age. It is a legally restricted category.
The classifiable elements are violence and language which are strong in playing impact.
Violence is relatively frequent and strong in playing impact.
During the game, the player (as lead character Niko Bellic) is required to undertake various missions, mostly involving criminal activity, in order to develop contacts, make money and protect his cousin Roman. These include pick-ups and drop-offs, killing/protecting various people, stealing, racing, chasing, eating, drinking, going out and dating. A number of tasks involve drugs (for example retrieving a stash of cocaine for a dealer) and violence (for example, rescuing Roman from a kidnapper).
Violence includes hand to hand combat (basic punching and kicking) and more regularly involves use of various weapons. These include knives, baseball bats, a nightstick, pistols, machine guns, shot guns, rifles, grenades and rocket launchers. The player is able to use these weapons to inflict injury on other participants which results in frequent blood spray. Blood spray occurs as victims are attacked and is also depicted on objects such as floors and walls. Blood pooling occurs under bodies that are shot at after death however no post mortem damage (such as decapitation or dismemberment) is possible. There is also infrequent blood spatter on the camera lens as the player manoeuvres their way through missions involving killing.
A less frequent example of violence includes the ability of the player to set an enemy alight causing them to burn. The victim is shown flailing and on fire before they fall to the ground. Bodies remain as long as the player lingers in a particular scene, however after this, they disappear.
As the violence is relatively frequent, causing blood spray and injury detail, the impact is strong.
Coarse language is frequent.
Aggressive and/or strong coarse language is infrequent. During the game play the characters are heard to use “fuck” language, primarily in a naturalistic tone but occasionally in an aggressive manner. This, coupled with the infrequent use of the word “cunt” (as well as some visual use – written on a strip club wall) creates an impact which is strong.
OTHER MATTERS CONSIDERED
In the majority view of the Board, the game contains drug and sexual references, which although moderate in impact, warrant flagging at the MA 15+ classification.
These include a cut scene (with no player interaction) where a drug dealer is depicted implicitly, then explicitly, snorting lines of white powder (implied to be cocaine) from a table and the involvement of Niko in various missions dealing with drugs.
Further, there are sexual references which require flagging at the MA 15+ classification. These include a cut scene at the beginning of the game depicting a woman in lingerie whipping a man in his underwear, tied to a bed and the general ability of the player to go on ‘dates’ and have sex with a ‘girlfriend’, to pick up a prostitute and have sex with her and the ability to attend a strip club and pay for a lap dance.
While these elements present themselves randomly during the game, they mostly involve only audio cues rather than visuals (with the exception of the strip club) and sexual activity is discreetly implied. During the ‘dates’, the player is depicted walking into a house with his ‘girlfriend’ at which point the camera view will switch to a window. Audio cues denote moaning and groaning however no visuals of sexual activity are shown. When picking up a prostitute, the player is depicted in a car where he parks and honks the horn. The woman enters the car and the camera angle switches to a view of the number plate. While the car is visibly moving up and down, only audio cues are heard.
When the player chooses to attend the strip club, a woman in lingerie (no nudity is visible) approaches the player and asks if he would like a lap dance. If the player accepts, he is shown in a private room sitting on a couch as a woman dances in front of him. When the dance is over, the man leaves.
No actual sexual activity or nudity is depicted.
In a minority view of the Board, the impact of several scenarios within the game exceed strong in impact. These include a cut scene at the beginning of the game depicting a woman in lingerie whipping a man in underwear, tied to a bed; and later in the game, a cut scene depicting a drug dealer implicitly, then explicitly, snorting lines of white powder (implied to be cocaine) from a table. The latter scene then depicts the dealer shooting two men in the head causing blood spray. In the minority view, the impact of the cut scenes described above coupled with the ability during game play to kill innocent bystanders, pick up prostitutes and carry out missions involving drugs, exceeds strong.
In the minority view, the game is high in impact and warrants a refused classification.
In a majority view of the Board, the film contains violence and coarse language which is strong in playing impact. The game therefore warrants an MA 15+ classification for strong violence and strong coarse language with additional consumer advice of drug and sexual references.– Classification Board report
Rockstar claims MA15+ is uncut
Gamers were rightly suspicious about the completeness of the Australian version of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV. Rockstar attempted to address those concerns.
February 4, 2008– Aussie version of GTA IV completely uncensored
A Rockstar spokesperson provided the following response to the question of whether GTA IV has been censored “No GTA has been censored since VICE CITY. (GRAND THEFT AUTO) IV has been rated in its entirety, the rating is on the OFLC website”
– PAL Gaming Network [dead link]
MA15+ was censored
Two months later, Rockstar contradicted their previous statement.
April 4, 2008
Rockstar has produced an edited version of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV for Australia in order to obtain an MA15+ rating.
A Rockstar spokesperson confirmed to Screen Play [Jason Hill’s blog] yesterday that the company had produced a special version of GTA IV to comply with the Australian classification system, which does not currently contain an R18+ rating, but declined to reveal what material had been cut.– GTA IV edited for Australia
The following week, they confirmed that GRAND THEFT AUTO IV had been toned down for the Australian market.
April 10, 2008
The Australian version of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV was rated by the OFLC in December 2007 as MA15+.
Unlike the US and Europe, Australia still lacks an R18+ rating for video games and as a result many games are edited for release in Australia, including most previous GRAND THEFT AUTO releases.
While there are some minor differences between the Australian and US/EU versions, they are not significant and we do not believe they take away from the level of scope and detail that make GTA IV such an incredible experience.
We would not release the game in Australia if we believed these differences compromised the quality of the game in any way.
We strongly support the OFLC and will continue to work within their guidelines; however we believe the government needs to bring games in line with other media by introducing an R18+ rating, or edits to games will continue to be necessary.
We encourage consumers to let their politicians know that they support an R18+ rating for games.– Rockstar statement
This was a case of hidden censorship that commonly occurs with adult X-rated DVDs. Like GRAND THEFT AUTO IV, many are precut before submission and the public are kept in the dark.
Even though they have been modified, the National Classification Database lists such titles as ‘Original Versions’ because they have never previously been rated. Had GRAND THEFT AUTO IV not been such a high profile title then the censorship may have gone unnoticed.
Australia censors & others suffer
When it was revealed that the Australian version was modified, many gamers vowed to import it from New Zealand.
Unfortunately, their Chief Censor. Bill Hastings, revealed that they too would be receiving the Australian game.
April 17, 2008
GP: Did Rockstar submit to you the Australian edited version of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV to be rated in New Zealand, or did they submit to you the full, unedited version?
Mr Hastings: Rockstar submitted a game called GRAND THEFT AUTO IV to us for classification. They did not tell us which version of the game they submitted, or even that there were other versions. All we know is that the version they submitted for classification was the version they intended to market in New Zealand. Because we only got one version for classification, we cannot compare it to any other version.
GP: If they submitted the edited Australian version, why was it rated R18 here instead of a rating more in line with Australia?
Mr Hastings: The game was classified R18 in New Zealand because the version we examined was sufficiently violent to warrant an R18 classification. We noted little, if any, difference between GTA IV and any of the other games in the series. Rockstar itself says in its press release that there are only “minor differences” that are “not significant” between the Australian and US/EU versions. This makes me think that if indeed there is a US/EU version and if it was to be submitted to us for classification, it too would likely attract an R18 classification.
You should also consider that Rockstar says it edited the game to comply with Australian law, not New Zealand law. In the past, US/EU versions of the Grand Theft Auto series have complied with New Zealand law without the editing required to comply with Australian law. This is because, unlike Australia, New Zealand has always had R16 and R18 classifications available for games.
I leave it to you to surmise what pressure there must be on the Australian MA15+ classification to absorb games that would otherwise have to be banned in Australia because they have no R classifications. I also leave it to you to ponder (because I have no answer) why Take-Two Interactive appears to have submitted the Australian version to us for classification instead of the usual US/EU version of the GTA games that have always passed muster here in the past.– GTA IV: Chief Censor talks to Gameplanet
– article @ gameplanet.co.nz
Uncut vs. Modified version
GRAND THEFT AUTO IV was released on 29 April 2008.
Firstly, when picking up a hooker in the Australian version you’ll notice that you’re unable to select your sexual services (i.e. hand job, fellatio or standard intercourse) and the animations for these services have been completely removed. You’ll merely see the car bounce from a locked rear-view.
Although there are glitches one can perform to get a front view of the action the animations are still non-existent. Therefore as in previous GTA games you’re only able to see the hooker and Niko sitting side by side doing absolutely nothing.
In the uncut version you’re able to select your services after driving a hooker to a secluded location by cycling through the three different services. For which ever you choose the hooker will begin performing the act on Niko and you’re able to rotate the camera to see the action.
Secondly, in the Australian version no blood pools appear beneath a dead person after shooting or stabbing them to death. Although there are blood splatters, there are no blood pools.
In the uncut version blood will slowly ooze out from under a body and you’re able to create bloody footprints by walking through it or bloody tyre-tracks by driving through it. In the censored version I was not able to get this to happen contrary to what others have reported. I can only conclude that I may have been experiencing a glitch or perhaps these elements maybe more difficult to initiate in the Australian release. However, I have put over 80 hours into the game since its release so it’s highly likely I would have encountered these elements by now in the Australian version. So for now bloody tyre tracks and footprints remain unconfirmed in the Australian version. Whether or not it differs between the Xbox360 and PS3 versions is also unconfirmed.
Finally, when Niko or other NPCs are injured in the uncut version light blood patches appear on their bodies which broadly represent bruises/bullet wounds. After having played through both versions of the game I can confirm that no other alterations have been made. Although the changes to the sex scenes come as no surprise one must wonder why Rockstar censored blood pools and body injuries. These elements are present in numerous other games which have been released totally uncut in Australia.
It’s also worth noting that there is absolutely no dismemberment in any version of the game despite what some have reported. Rumours such as the alleged “anal insertion scene” were also never in the game.
Mick’s list of cuts is documented in this YouTube clip.
Movie-Censorship also has as a comparison between the Australian and uncut version.
Classification Board respond
May 6, 2008
A spokesperson for the board of Classification said GTA 4 was edited and modified by the makers before it was offered for a censorship rating in Australia.
“The board did not make any changes,” the spokesperson said.
“There’s always debate on whether there should be an R 18+ category and the way it’s (GTA) has been linked is because the makers admitted they modified it for Australia.”– Grand Theft Auto 4 prompts call for adults-only game rating
This is what you’ll get!
In July 2008, GRAND THEFT AUTO IV was discussed in the Parliament of South Australia as part of an anti-R18+ game speech.
July 22, 2008
The Hon. A. BRESSINGTON (17:15): In April this year, and with much fanfare, GRAND THEFT AUTO IV, the latest instalment of Rockstar Games’ popular console games was officially released world wide on the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3. In Adelaide, and right across the world, games shops were packed with excited gamers, and many shops sold out within hours. In this game, players control the actions of Niko Bellic, a war veteran from Eastern Europe who comes to the US in search of the American dream.
However, Niko turns to crime to survive on the mean streets of Liberty City, a thinly-veiled copy of New York. They are able to make him steal vehicles, commit violent crimes and engage in high-speed chases with police, running over pedestrians and crashing into other vehicles in order to escape police. Despite condemnation from ‘morals campaigners’, GRAND THEFT AUTO IV has been a major commercial success. It broke sales records by selling about 3.6 million units world wide on its first day of release and grossing more than $500 million worldwide in its first week. The game received overwhelmingly positive reviews, becoming the number one rated video game of all time on numerous websites shortly after it was released.
I would just like to make the point too that, based on years in drug rehab, we all know that methamphetamine users tweak, which means that they get caught in a particular cycle of action, and that tweak can last days. The feedback that I have received from drug users in rehab who play these games continuously for days and days is that they then become quite confused as to whether it really happened or whether it was a dream or whether they were actually playing a video game. They do express concerns that, over a period of time, they actually were quite tempted to act out what they were playing on these games.
Now, I know that maybe most average older teenage kids would be able to tell the difference, but we are talking about people who are already in an altered state anyway. If they are confessing that these games were so real to them and that they played them for days on end to the point where they could not tell the difference between reality and a video game, then that is anecdotal evidence that there is a serious problem that we need to consider.
The version of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV that was released in Australia was slightly different to other versions as it was edited to remove content to allow the game to meet the requirements of the Australian classification system, which is stricter than in many other jurisdictions. The game had to be modified to meet Australia’s classification standards because South Australia’s Attorney-General thwarted attempts to create a national R-rating for video games.
The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification gave GRAND THEFT AUTO IV an MA 15+ rating. Despite the adjustments made (which many gamers attacked), GRAND THEFT AUTO IV remains an extremely violent game, and I can actually back up that statement because my oldest son who is 28 now has a copy of this. I sat down and watched him play this game the first time that he put it on his Xbox about 18 months ago and I was absolutely horrified.
There are actually extra points for running over pedestrians, and the graphics on it are amazing. Although my son is older than 18, I took the liberty of taking the game and stepping on it because it was really quite disturbing to see that somebody could sit there and play this game for hours with the realistic graphics and the fact that purposely aiming for pedestrians and hitting them in a high-speed chase for more points was the aim of the game.
This includes hand-to-hand combat, the use of various weapons including knives, baseball bats, a night stick, pistols, machineguns, shotguns, rifles, grenades, and rocket launchers. Enthusiasts can buy cocaine, visit strip clubs, beat up prostitutes, shoot police, fire rocket launchers, create widespread carnage and set fire to enemies. The question is, then: how much more sex and gratuitous violence do these gamers need? I think that if this kind of game is classified as MA 15+, then our laws are certainly not too tight. On the contrary, one could say that they do not go far enough. We live in a dynamic society, critics say, and our laws should reflect changes in technology. If books, films, music and so on are classified under an 18+ classification, they say, why should video games be exempt? Because, as the act currently recognises, computer games are in a class of their own. They are not passive but are highly interactive. Indeed, this is the view taken by ministers responsible for classification 10 years ago, and it has increased dramatically in that time.
As I said earlier, gaming has progressed to the level of virtually stabbing someone via the technology of the Wii, and that interactivity is likely to exacerbate the impact of extreme violence, sexual aggression and cruelty on game players. Above all, the point is that technology is progressing at such a rate that, although at present you can still tell it is a game, what is to say that in 18 months it may look and seem totally realistic. Already games such as GRAND THEFT AUTO IV are amazingly realistic, as I have said. What does the future hold? As these games become cheaper to produce and it is reasonably foreseeable that manufacturers will start to produce games for niche audiences rather than the broad market as it does at present, this could lead to games targeting those with particular sexual deviances or specific violent fantasies, for example.– Ann Bressington (Independent), SA Legislative Council
Not for the first time, the Christian Family First Party also called for increased censorship.
July 29, 2008
The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (17:10): As computer games become more realistic and immersive, then, no doubt, they would have an equal or even greater effect than indicated by these studies that dealt with television and movies—somewhat simple media of the past. A lot of people have told me in the past that BIG BROTHER or sexualised music videos, for example, during children’s TV times, THE GORDON RAMSAY SHOW, GRAND THEFT AUTO IV etc., all cause no harm. Family First disagrees, and will continue to be vocal opponents of any inappropriate content that finds a way into the media, especially where viewed and undertaken by children.
I was one of the most vocal critics in this place against the GRAND THEFT AUTO IV game when it was released earlier this year. The game includes blood and gore, drug-running, assassinations—this is a game, remember—and the ability to choose body parts of enemies that you want to shoot at or shoot off. One version of the game enabled the player to pick up a prostitute and then run her over after he had sex with her. As one reviewer of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV put it:
“…in-game sex [is] offered up and drunk down like flavoured water”
Another reviewer said:
“If you grow tired of running around town executing fellow crooks, you can spend some much-needed R&R bashing cars into pedestrians.”
The terrible shooting massacre at Virginia Tech in the US in which 32 people died involved a mentally ill student who, by his own admission, was obsessed with violent computer games like Counter-Strike. I think my concerns in this regard are well justified.– Dennis Hood (Family First), SA Legislative Council
Confiscated by customs
Despite the worries of gamers, it appears everyone was receiving their imported uncut version of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV with no issues.
Only one person in Perth reported, on 29 July 2008, that customs had taken their copy for the following reasons.
…the following goods were seized under subsection 203B (2) of the Customs Act 1901 by an authorised person being goods suspected on reasonable grounds to be special forfeited goods.
GRAND THEFT AUTO 4 (containing images that describe, depict, express or otherwise deal with matter of sex, crime, cruelty and violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults)
Items were forfeited pursuant to Sub Regulation 4(A) of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations the items are prohibited imports and are therefore forfeited under Section 229(1)(b) of the Customs Act 1901– Australian Customs Service
136 gamers complain
September 23, 2008
In December 2007, the Board classified GRAND THEFT AUTO IV MA 15+ with the consumer advice ‘Strong violence, strong coarse language, drug and sexual references’. The Board can only classify a computer game in the form in which it is submitted. The Classification Act does not give the Board the power to direct a distributor to modify computer games.
The issue attracting the highest number of complaints to the Board related to the publishers of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV reportedly modifying the game to ensure an MA 15+ classification in Australia. The complainants about GRAND THEFT AUTO IV also requested the introduction of an R 18+ for computer games.
The Classification Board received 169 complaints in relation to the classification of computer games. 136 complaints were received in response to reports that the publisher of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV modified the game for classification in Australia in order to gain an MA 15+ classification. These complaints also referred to the absence of an R 18+ classification for computer games.– Classification Board, Annual Report 2007-2008
Uncut & MA15+
In November 2008, the uncut PC version of GRAND THEFT AUTO IV was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, Sex scenes, Coarse language and Drug references) rating.
Rockstar Games was the applicant.
This compares with the MA15+ (Strong violence, Strong coarse language, Drug and Sexual references) rating that the censored console version received in December 2007.
December 2, 2008
We’re not quite sure what happened in the twelve months since the initial submission, but it appears that somehow, Rockstar Games changed their mind and submitted an ‘uncut’ version of the game to the Australian censors – with the report going into some detail on the twenty, fifty and seventy dollar services that are available in the game. The camera is no longer stuck outside for these interactions, but even staying inside the car, you won’t get to see too much excitement.
Classification Board’s report,
“This revised version of the game for the PC contains additional scenes related to the classifiable element of sex.”
“The Board notes that the player can change the angles of the scenes and can zoom in. However, the player does not interact with the sexual activity other than choosing which service from a menu. The characters also remained fully clothed and no depictions of genitals are visible.”
A simple, official statement from Rockstar Games reiterates that:
“GRAND THEFT AUTO IV PC has been rated MA15+ Strong Violence, Sex Scenes, Coarse Language and Drug References by the Australian Classification Office. The PC game is unedited in any way and identical in content to the international version.”– Grand Theft Auto IV for PC – Uncut version heading Down Under
The Board explains
September 21, 2009
The Classification Board also classified the original version of the computer game GRAND THEFT AUTO IV . The Classification Board noted that this version of the game contained more sexual content than the modified version, however this content could still be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification.
The computer game was classified MA 15+ with the consumer advice ‘Strong violence, sex scenes, coarse language and drug references’.– Classification Board, Annual Report 2008-2009
Shortly after the PC version passed uncut, Rockstar released a patch for the initially censored Australian console (PlayStation3, Xbox 360) versions that made them uncensored.
MA15+ expansion pack
In January 2009, an expansion pack titled GRAND THEFT AUTO IV: THE LOST AND DAMNED (2009) was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, Sex scenes, Coarse language, Nudity and Drug references) rating.
This consumer advice was the same as the uncut version of the game.
February 17. 2009– Lost & Damned reverts Australian GTAIV censorship
If you boot up your [Australian] 360 copy of GTAIV and play GTAIV, it’s censored. But if you boot up your 360 copy of GTAIV and play L&D, you’ll get the full, uncensored experience.
– article @ kotaku.com
March 18, 2014
… THE LOST AND THE DAMNED actually had the reverse effect on uncut [overseas] PAL copies of the game, and actually censored the game.
Rockstars fix was to uncensor the game everywhere. Both the PS3 and Xbox versions of the game were patched so that they are uncensored both in AU and NZ/EU/etc., although the PS3 release wasn’t unpatched until over a year after the 360 (due to the year-exclusivity THE LOST AND DAMNED enjoyed on 360).
Unless you are playing the initial unpatched release (e.g. offline), GTA5 [GTAIV] has been uncensored in Australia for years.– Steve Buscemi comment
– article @ movie-censorship.com
Australian attitudes to sex in video games
In October 2009, a second expansion pack, GRAND THEFT AUTO: THE BALLAD OF GAY TONY (2009), was passed with an MA15+ (Strong violence, Sex scenes, Drug use and Coarse language) rating.
In October and November 2011, the Australian Law Reform Commission conducted a study to gauge community attitudes to ‘high-level material. It was carried out as part of their research for the ‘Classification: Content Regulation and Convergent Media Final Report’ that was released in March 2012.
The study, which includes an explanation of the methodology and the final report, can be found at the Australian Law Reform Commission’s site. One of the topics examined was sex in video games in which a scene from GRAND THEFT AUTO: THE BALLAD OF GAY TONY (2009) was shown.
December 7, 2011
CG = Community Groups
RG = Reference Groups
Sexual Activity in a Computer Game
In this game, GRAND THEFT AUTO: THE BALLAD OF GAY TONY the player is a bodyguard who protects a nightclub owner. The footage, depicting sexual activity, is a non-interactive part of the game, included to develop the plot. Participants were shown one minute of footage.
Each participant’s immediate personal response was indicated by raising one of three cards immediately after the viewing of the footage and then recording this response in the questionnaire. Based on the metaphor of the traffic light, a red card implies ‘yes, this content is offensive to me’, a yellow card implies ‘I’m unsure whether the content is offensive or not to me’ and a green card implies ‘no, the content is not offensive to me’.
Night club – body guard
5: Yes, offensive
16: No, not offensive
6: Yes, offensive
18: No, not offensive
Sexual Activity in a Computer Game– Detailed Analysis
Was the material offensive?
There was a wide spread of responses as to the offensiveness of the material, but with a trend amongst CG and RG respondents for it to be regarded as not offensive.
Some CG participants commented that they were not expecting to see sexual acts in the game.
Some RG participants felt the idea of ‘powerful men versus women as sex objects and gratuitous sex’ was offensive.
Was the material impactful?
The material was generally regarded as not impactful.
Should the material be banned or restricted?
Most would not ban, but restrict the games to18+ with a few indicating a 15+ would be appropriate.
There was the concern about ‘what happens once a game leaves a shop – it can go anywhere – it’s an unrealistic boundary’.
Discussion by CG participants on this footage ranged widely on issues such as whether the woman had given her consent to the sexual activity, possible racial stereotyping, that the footage was “a non-event”, and that it was badly animated.
The view was expressed that there was possibly not enough concrete evidence regarding the impact of computer games on children to draw firm conclusions around what to do with material such as this.– Community attitudes to higher level media content: Final report
– Community and Reference Group Forums
– Conducted for the Australian Law Reform Commission
Call of Duty: WWII
Publisher Activision Games / 2017 / MobyGames
In August 2017, CALL OF DUTY WWII was passed with an R18+ (High impact violence and threat of sexual violence, online interactivity) rating.
The classification matrix described,
High impact: violence
Strong impact: themes
Moderate impact: language
In October 2017, Activision Publishing resubmitted CALL OF DUTY WWII and again received an R18+ rating with the same classification matrix.
Only the consumer advice had changed. It went from the original ‘High impact violence and threat of sexual violence, online interactivity’ to ‘High impact violence, online interactivity’.
The removal of the ‘threat of sexual violence’ warning revealed it had been modified.
Kotaku published extracts from both reports, the first of which described why there was consumer advice of ‘threat of sexual violence’.
In one section of the game, the player controls Rosseau, a female spy, as she infiltrates a German building. While inside, she witnesses a woman as she is dragged by a Nazi soldier into a closet, against her will, screaming, “You’re all pigs!”
Rosseau opes the closet door, as the soldier says, “Leave. This is none of your business.” The player is then given the option to kill the soldier or leave.
If the player chooses to leave, the player closes the door, as the soldier is heard unziping his fly and viewed advancing towards the woman. She screams, “Ah! Get away from me!” as Rosseau leaves.
It is implied that the soldier is going to sexually assault the woman, but at no time is the assault depicted.– Classification Board report
The second shows the changes that were made for the ‘threat of sexual violence’ to be dropped.
In the Board’s opinion, the modifications to this game – which include the change of dress for the female prisoner (was in a skirt and top, now in a pants and top) and the removal of audio that implies a soldier is unzipping his pants – do not contain any classifiable elements that alter this classification or exceed a R18+ impact level.
In the Board’s opinion, the removal of the audio track means that consumer advice of threat of sexual violence is not required. Therefore, this modified computer game warrants an R18+ classification with consumer advice of high impact violence [and] online interactivity.– Classification Board report
October 25, 2017– An implied Call Of Duty sexual assault scene was modified
Activision has provided a statement to Kotaku Australia, saying that the version of CALL OF DUTY WWII released in Australia will be the same one released worldwide:
– article @ kotaku.com.au
Crysis 3 Remastered
Publisher Crytek GmbH / 2021 / MobyGames
On 1 July 2021, CRYSIS 3 REMASTERED was passed with an R18+ (Interactive drug use) rating.
The classification matrix described,
High impact: drug use
Strong impact: violence
Moderate impact: themes, language
None: nudity, sex
Censored drug use
The applicant, Crytek GmbH, then submitted a modified version and received an MA15+ (Strong violence) on 5 August 2021.
The classification matrix now described,
Strong impact: violence
Moderate impact: themes, language
None: drug use, nudity, sex
This censored version appears to have been released worldwide.
Let’s Sing 2023
aka Let’s Sing 2023 with Hits from Australia & NZ
Publisher Koch Media / 2022
On 24 June 2022, a multi-platform version of LET’S SING 2023 was passed with an M (Coarse language and sexual references, online interactivity and in-game purchases) rating.
The classification matrix described,
Moderate impact: language, sex
Mild impact: themes, violence
None: drug use, nudity
The applicant was Plaion GmbH.
A second submission, titled LETS SING 2023 MODIFIED, received a PG (Mild themes and coarse language, online interactivity and in-game purchases) rating on July 14.
The violence had changed from ‘Mild impact’ to ‘Very mild impact’, the language from ‘Moderate impact’ to ‘Mild impact’ and the sex from ‘Moderate impact’ to ‘Very mild impact’.
In this case, the applicant was Koch Media ANZ.
The censored PG-rated version was released on PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch on November 15.
What was censored?
The Classification Board lists the following differences between the two versions.
M-rated – Not documented.
PG rated – ‘A woman slaps a man in a film clip.’
M-rated – ‘The game contains the words “f**k”, “shit”,”ass”, “screwed”, and “damn” in song lyrics.’
PG-rated – ‘The game contains the words “ass”, “shit” and “screwed”.’
M-rated – ‘The film contains lyrics including “I wanna f***” The text and audio are bleeped but the singer looks directly to camera and the word is clearly discernable. The line is sung several times.’
PG-rated: ‘There are some dancers in a film clip dressed in skimpy costumes.’
The international version has thirty songs, nine of which are missing Australia.
- DRAGOSTEA DIN TEI by O-ZONE
- KUNG FU FIGHTING by CARL DOUGLAS
- MY UNIVERSE by COLDPLAY X BTS
- NEVER GOING HOME by KUNGS
- PIECE OF YOUR HEART by MEDUZA FT. GOODBOYS
- SOLO by CLEAN BANDIT FT DEMI LOVATO
- SHALLOW by LADY GAGA & BRADLEY COOPER
- WASTED LOVE by OFENBACH FT. LAGIQUE
- YOUR LOVE (9 PM) by ATB X TOPIC X A7S
Presumably, the majority were removed to make way for fourteen ‘Hits from Australia & NZ’. The absence of SOLO by CLEAN BANDIT FT DEMI LOVATO is down to censorship as it was the source of the lyric ‘I wanna fuck’.
On June 23, LETS SING 2023 was passed as PG (Mild sexual references, Sexualised imagery, Mild coarse language, Mild crude humour, Online interactivity).
This was under the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system. It may have been the uncut version, incorrectly classified by the global ratings tool.