Skip

Don't Fuck With The Saints!
June 25, 2013 10:07 PM   Subscribe

The upcoming game Saints Row 4, an over-the-top open world action game that features weapons like a Dubstep Gun, has been refused classification (banned) in Australia. The new R18 classification for games was supposed to make this less common, but Saints Row 4's (trigger warning) 'alien anal probe' weapon and 'alien narcotics' have caused it to fall afoul of the new guidlines. Developer Deep Silver said they'll resubmit Saint's Row 4 to the reclassification board, while The Guardian sees this as evidence of Australia's conservative culture. Saints Row previously.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants (94 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
In other news, Australia has announced plans to ban steak. "Babies can't chew it, and we can't trust cattle ranchers not to market or sell to infants."
posted by mullingitover at 10:10 PM on June 25, 2013 [14 favorites]


To be honest, I think I'll enjoy playing this game more without having a weapon in it that lets me commit sexual violence. The drugs thing makes no sense, though; I'm playing SR2 right now and you smoke blunts to restore your health.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:12 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


It saddens me that something as awesome as a dubstep gun and something as shitty as a rape gun can exist in the same game.
posted by Sternmeyer at 10:14 PM on June 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Volition should simply refuse to change it and use the ban as marketing. "Banned in Australia" could be the new "Banned in Boston."
posted by mullingitover at 10:23 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


SILENCED ALL THEIR LIFE!!!!!!!
posted by pompomtom at 10:25 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Marketing? "Too horrible for Australia" suggests something that ought to be sealed in glass and buried in a lead crate at the bottom of an abandoned salt mine in Arizona.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:25 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Right before I moved to Australia I remember seeing a huge feature in PC Gamer about the game censorship; it was pretty terrifying.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:26 PM on June 25, 2013


A rape gun isn't a thing that I want to find in a video game.

On the other hand, we might want to consider what it means when a rape gun isn't OK, but a gun that "just" kills is.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:29 PM on June 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


OK, sincere question, because this has baffled me for a while. In a game with ungodly amounts of fictional killing and all manner of creative fictional violence, why is fictional sexual violence specifically singled out for controversy?

(Before labeling me an ignorant rape-enabling monster, please read to the end.)

So, yes, rape culture is a real, horrible thing. What about violence culture? May not "be a thing", but tell me with a straight face we're not living in one and that all violent entertainment is not perpetuating it? Also, I am aware of the triggering effect on sexual violence survivors. But what about the survivors of just plain old non-sexual violence? Families of killed people, particularly people killed with guns? There's not a stigma attached to surviving non-sexual violence, so that's one aspect of it, but both types of violence seem pretty endemic in western societies to me at least.

IMPORTANT: my intention is specifically NOT to portray fictional sexual violence as "acceptable" as other types of fictional violence. Far from it. If there was a "solution" to this, it would be to frown equally much upon non-sexual violence as sexual violence. I am merely fascinated by the seeming inconsistency of it being demonized above things like murder and (probably not present in SR4, but generally) torture in fiction.

I am quite content with this inconsistency existing, but it's a geek trait to knee-jerkily abhor inconsistency when encountering it, and to let it slide requires active mental effort. So, to anybody more versed in this than me, I would honestly appreciate being taught the reason why it exists. Perhaps afterwards I will not see it as an inconsistency at all.
posted by jklaiho at 10:39 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


There is no logic to be found in Australian censorship
posted by bhnyc at 10:42 PM on June 25, 2013


To be honest, I think I'll enjoy playing this game more without having a weapon in it that lets me commit sexual violence.

I remember when the worst you could do was run through South Central LA throwing grenades and mutilating people with a chainsaw. Those were the days!
posted by Hoopo at 10:42 PM on June 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Trigger warning for alien abductees?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:42 PM on June 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


we might want to consider what it means when a rape gun isn't OK, but a gun that "just" kills is

There are a fairly wide range of solid justifications for killing someone. Most of them involve extremely rare circumstances (few wars are just wars, retreat is often possible in apparent cases of self-defence, etc) but these circumstances are not hypothetical. Maybe we imagine ourselves in those circumstances far too frequently in fiction, but fictional weapons aren't inherently horrible.

I cannot think of any circumstances whatsoever which justify or excuse rape.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:43 PM on June 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


Having just started playing Saints Row 3 (jah bless you, free Playstation Plus games), I have to say that it makes the GTA series seem, in comparison, about as much fun as a marathon church sermon. It's ridiculously violent, but it's hilarious cartoon violence. I feel no more inclined to act out anything from the game than I would feel like dropping an anvil on someone's head after watching Road Runner cartoons.

All the talk about what is an acceptable amount of violence in video games is missing the point. If you don't like it, don't play it. It's not rocket science.
posted by mullingitover at 10:47 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe if it had just been a Casual Racism Gun, the Australians would have allowed it.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:48 PM on June 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


There is no logic to be found in Australian censorship

Thanks for expressing your ignorance! As it so happens, the classification in Australia is very well documented and well founded in law. Feel free to educate yourself.
posted by wilful at 10:49 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]



There are a fairly wide range of solid justifications for killing someone. Most of them involve extremely rare circumstances (few wars are just wars, retreat is often possible in apparent cases of self-defence, etc) but these circumstances are not hypothetical. Maybe we imagine ourselves in those circumstances far too frequently in fiction, but fictional weapons aren't inherently horrible.

I cannot think of any circumstances whatsoever which justify or excuse rape.


Here's the interesting thing about the Saints Row games: they aknowledge that the main character is a psychopath, since he or she is going to be played by players who kill random people and go on carjacking sprees. But I don't want to think that The Boss is a rapist, and she's surrounded in SR2 and 3 by both men and women that he/she respects.


I remember when the worst you could do was run through South Central LA throwing grenades and mutilating people with a chainsaw. Those were the days!


I think there's an extra sense of personal violation involved in simulating rape. I'm even a bit disturbed by how you can pull a gun on people in SR2, hold them up, and mug them. Because there's that moment where they see you, they're scared of you, and they run.

Even the sexual content in the other SR games - the dildo bat, the S&M slaves - is a bit more playful.

None of this really justifies censorship, though, and I don't think the Australian government has any high-minded reasons for this. One interesting wrinkle is that SR4 was supposed to be exhibited at Penny Arcade Expo Australia, which could be very interesting, though they probably just won't be allowed there.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:50 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]



Maybe if it had just been a Casual Racism Gun, the Australians would have allowed it.


Australia actually banned the person who ran Encylopedia Dramatica from entering the country because his site was considered 'racist', and there are hate speech laws, though they're inconsistantly applied.


Thanks for expressing your ignorance! As it so happens, the classification in Australia is very well documented and well founded in law. Feel free to educate yourself.


Again, its inconsistantly applied, and has unintended effects - like the cost of submitting material to be classified means that Xbox Live Indie Games isn't offered here, or how only one or two games a year are banned and the rest are splashed across every surface. Including the government's own busses and trains - I remember huge ads for SR3, GTA4, and various other violent games on busses.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:52 PM on June 25, 2013




its inconsistantly [sic] applied

Do you have evidence for that?
posted by wilful at 10:58 PM on June 25, 2013


Here's an update on the State of Decay ban due to 'drug use being required to complete the game'.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:08 PM on June 25, 2013


There are a fairly wide range of solid justifications for killing someone.

This is true. However, SR4 and most other violent fiction doesn't have any solid justifications (especially if you don't consider vengeance a "solid justification").
posted by jklaiho at 11:08 PM on June 25, 2013


wilful- I know Australian censorship is very well documented and ... founded in law. I said it has no logic. (Or were you making a joke? I can't tell.) I'm Australian and I grew up with this censorship nonsense. The government web site sure is scary. It reminds me of this
posted by bhnyc at 11:13 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


bhnyc, I wasn't joking and I disagree, I think it has plenty of logic, and I cannot understand your comment. You may disagree with classification systems, but that does not make them illogical.
posted by wilful at 11:17 PM on June 25, 2013


its inconsistantly [sic] applied

Do you have evidence for that?


I do; it's exceedingly clear that although films and games are classified under the same system, they are not treated equally.

In part, Saints Row 4 was refused classification because it included 'visual depiction of implied sexualised violence' and drug use. But numerous films with unambiguous depictions of sexualised violence and drug use have been classified, for example Irreversible, which includes a 12 minute brutal rape scene, and Candy which includes graphic depictions of drug use.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:18 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


You may disagree with classification systems, but that does not make them illogical.

The system is very logical, its application is arguably not.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:19 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


But numerous films with unambiguous depictions of sexualised violence and drug use have been classified, for example Irreversible, which includes a 12 minute brutal rape scene, and Candy which includes graphic depictions of drug use.

Classified nothing. I bet Candy and several other similar drug dramas were FUNDED by the Australian government.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:22 PM on June 25, 2013


Not having seen either film, it occurs to me that you have missed the obvious and clear rationale provided by the Board, context. So lets jsut see what they were refusing to classify:
The game includes a weapon referred to by the Applicant as an “Alien Anal Probe”. The Applicant states that this weapon can be “shoved into enemy’s backsides”. The lower half of the weapon resembles a sword hilt and the upper part contains prong-like appendages which circle around what appears to be a large dildo which runs down the centre of the weapon. When using this weapon the player approaches a (clothed) victim from behind and thrusts the weapon between the victim’s legs and then lifts them off the ground before pulling a trigger which launches the victim into the air. After the probe has been implicitly inserted into the victim’s anus the area around their buttocks becomes pixelated highlighting that the aim of the weapon is to penetrate the victim’s anus. The weapon can be used during gameplay on enemy characters or civilians. In the Board’s opinion, a weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and as such the game should be Refused Classification.
posted by wilful at 11:23 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts is spot on. The system itself has a bunch of fairly consistent guidelines. However, the panels that apply them vary quite a bit though in their subjective decisions.

E.g. Jet Set Radio (I think, one of that series of games) was refused classification because the player-character could graffiti things. Of course, you can also do that in Counter-Strike with sprays and also in GTA: San Andreas.

And there still seems to be some level of assumption that games need to be treated more harshly than movies, because reasons.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:24 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You may disagree with classification systems, but that does not make them illogical.

Zombie game State of Decay has also been refused classification due to 'drug use'.

And yet Max Payne 3, which has Max Payne chowing down on stolen painkillers all the way through the game (when he's not slaughtering Brazilian cops and barrio punks in an incredibly bloody fashion), is classified MA15+.

The classification rules are, without a doubt, inconsistently applied.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:25 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's also the huge issue with apps and indie games. Basically, the system was set up to deal with mass market film releases, including the more popular indie films. Basically the kind of film that would get a cinema release, even if only across a few screens at Dendy and co. Technically, Australians under the law should not be able to purchase or download mobile phone games from the iTunes store etc, as they have not been submitted for review. Of course, without a staggeringly vast expansion of the Classification Board that's just not feasible.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:29 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


bhnyc, despite what CIS would have you believe, the total number of books, games, films etc refused by classification in Australia in the past two decades is vanishingly small. A number very close to zero. I really struggle to see what A Clockwork Orange (not banned) has to do with it.

Dave McGahan, I received a free copy of Jetset Radio Future (inclusive of grafitti) with my new xbox.
posted by wilful at 11:29 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]



Dave McGahan, I received a free copy of Jetset Radio Future (inclusive of grafitti) with my new xbox.


However, the thought its correct, it was just referring to the game Mark Ecko's Getting Up.

I was looking forward to playing State of Decay after the Eurogamer review, and since its downloadable only it'll be impossible to play if its banned.



There's also the huge issue with apps and indie games. Basically, the system was set up to deal with mass market film releases, including the more popular indie films. Basically the kind of film that would get a cinema release, even if only across a few screens at Dendy and co. Technically, Australians under the law should not be able to purchase or download mobile phone games from the iTunes store etc, as they have not been submitted for review. Of course, without a staggeringly vast expansion of the Classification Board that's just not feasible.


This does prevent the Xbox Live Indie games store from existing here.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:31 PM on June 25, 2013


[Derail deleted; if you have a problem with the OP or the post, contact us or take it to Metatalk.]
posted by taz at 11:31 PM on June 25, 2013


the total number of books, games, films etc refused by classification in Australia in the past two decades is vanishingly small

I have no data about this one way or the other, but I want to point out that it's precisely the media that skirts the limits of acceptability (a relatively small number of works to begin with) where the classification system needs to be consistent. The examples presented in this thread so far make me doubt that this is the case.
posted by jklaiho at 11:36 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Classification systems are great tools for people to make their own adult decisions, but the whole idea of outright state censorship of art (and whether you enjoy this particular kind or art or not, video games in this day and age are art, period) is pretty loathsome.
posted by mullingitover at 11:40 PM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Damnit Wilful, I've just finished marking my umpteenth million and last for the semester essay on Australian new media policy, and now you've got me looking up Australian Classification Board decisions. Could have sworn that Jet Set Radio was at one point RC. Mea Culpa, I'll blame having to read to many essays about Facebook and privacy this week
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:44 PM on June 25, 2013


A dildo with a sword hilt that rockets victims into the air is about as analogous to rape as Elmer Fudd blowing Daffy Duck's beak off with a shotgun is violent assault.

Ha ha, 'analogous'.
posted by rifflesby at 11:50 PM on June 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Enormous upbeat cartoon Wallaby-on-Lion rape culture ad greets international arrivals at Melbourne airport

(Wallabies = Aussie rugby team; Lions = British/Irish team)
posted by Bwithh at 11:52 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


the total number of books, games, films etc refused by classification in Australia in the past two decades is vanishingly small. A number very close to zero.

Looks like no books as far as I can tell. I might be wrong about that,
about 3 films banned with a few more only allowing censored versions,
and 25 video games.

That does seem like one type of media is getting a bit more attention then others.
posted by St. Sorryass at 11:54 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Apparently if you want to get a computer game classified you need to pay a fee of between $890 and $2460 with an 'optional' priority processing fee of $420. [Insert your own witty quip about free speech here]
posted by Pyry at 11:54 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


St. Sorryass, there's a data problem there, in that there was no R rating until recently, so many games that should have been R rated (according to the classification board) had to be RC'd, there being no other option. This game is the first to be RC'd under the new scheme, many get through with an R rating now.
posted by wilful at 12:06 AM on June 26, 2013


Looks like no books as far as I can tell. I might be wrong about that,
about 3 films banned with a few more only allowing censored versions,
and 25 video games.


Games refused classification in Australia.

Films refused classification in Australia.

The Classification Board doesn't deal with books.

However, wilful is correct that the R18+ classification for games only came in recently.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:11 AM on June 26, 2013


Why doesn't the R18 rating include drug use? It looks like introducing R18 hasn't changed anything, including the absurdity of having a government censorship board.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:12 AM on June 26, 2013


Posted by St. Sorryass

Eponysterical for the entire thread?
posted by ShutterBun at 12:12 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why doesn't the R18 rating include drug use?

It does. So does the MA15+ classification.

Given that this is your FPP, you should probably do some basic research on the classification system.

It looks like introducing R18 hasn't changed anything...

It does look that way.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:17 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bwithh: "Enormous upbeat cartoon Wallaby-on-Lion rape culture ad greets international arrivals at Melbourne airport."

Yeah, they were forced to get rid of that by the government. What cunts hey, censoring art like that?

I mean, video games aren't just art are they, they're commercial entities that may comment some way on society but are also designed by an enormous number of people and are primarily concerned with making money? And looking at, or reading, or seeing, a rape scene is different to actively participating in it in some way.

But hey, "after the probe has been implicitly inserted into the victim’s anus the area around their buttocks becomes pixelated highlighting that the aim of the weapon is to penetrate the victim’s anus" is totally unlike rape, right? It's just a funny artistic joke about aliens, right?

I do agree with the introduction of a R18 classification for games. And I agree with the censorship board concept - I think their rulings can be stupid, but I tend to agree with the concept. Because for every free speech crusader (reminder: we don't have that in our constitution, since we're not the US) there is a fucking dumbshit parent buying a R18 game/manga then bitching because 'oh no, cartoons and games have sex now?' - the rating is actually a fairly neat tool for turning that back on the person, and as a warning for what is in the game because chances of you playing, say, SR4 throuh prior to the kid? Slim, unless you're a gamer too. And whether we like it or not, the interactive nature of games makes them different to passive consumption.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:01 AM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think that the 'insufficient context' rationalization provided by the Board is rather thin. Saints Row 4 has a bizzare premise; the head of a street gang is somehow US President. Also aliens have invaded the Earth and stuck the entire gang in a virtual environment where physics only barely applies. The protagonist must fight back, Matrix style, for reasons. It's deliberately whimsical, cartoonish and nonsensical. Arguably, there is context for everything and nothing.

I would also contend that there is more context than there is for the sexualised violence in shows like True Blood (in one graphic vampire hate-fuck, a male vampire snaps the neck of the female vampire and twists her head around, mid-coitus) or Game of Thrones (sexposition, castration torture, child brides, torture and murder of sex workers). Or, since TV shows are outside the Board's jurisdiction, how about the numerous graphic and arguably highly sexualised deaths of naked and nearly naked women in quality movie offerings like Piranha 3D, which wasn't refused classification.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:12 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if a game is RC, does that mean I can't have it, or import it, or is it just that I can't sell it?
posted by pompomtom at 1:18 AM on June 26, 2013


The thing with saints row is that they have set up this beautiful universe that is simultaneously Grand Theft Auto and Tex Avery (as is mentioned up thread), and then 50% of what they put in it is totally sophomoric shit. E.G. one of my favorite bits from the last game is the human horse cart chase, which is sadly marred by the homophobia that is spinning through the entire scene. Same with everyone calling everyone bitches all the time, or the fact that the pimp is huggy bear rather than some 10 dimensional space being (and why is he a pimp at all?).

So yeah, good on australia not giving out a rating to this. Unfortunate that it can't be sold unrated in that country, or that they don't have an infinity-x rating or something for just really vile shit. Having something that serves as a trigger warning is a fine function for a ratings board, defacto censorship isn't.
posted by jonbro at 3:22 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


why is he a pimp at all?

Having just played this part recently, he was kept in the pony stables by the Dewinter sisters as punishment as he was competing with them for their prostitution business. I didn't notice any homophobia in the scene but that may be because I wasn't paying attention or had recently switched gender to a female.

A far more disturbing mission comes later when you raid a ship that has containers of women being trafficked only to choose which type of slavery they're sold into at the end.
posted by MrCynical at 3:54 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


E.g. Jet Set Radio (I think, one of that series of games) was refused classification because the player-character could graffiti things.

You're thinking of Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:04 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


A lot of the same people who decry the trivialization of sexual violence actually are against the trivialization of violence in general, but elect to focus on the sexualized kind because that's at the intersection of rape culture and violence culture, and more problematic therefore.

Personally, I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with any particular form of trash fantasy in or out of video games, but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what fantasy you are or aren't getting when you buy a particular game. The Saint's Row games have gotten a lot of props for the character creator and varied mission selection enabling power fantasies that don't fit the usual Dr. Heteronormative mode, which is probably the reason why they also get extra flack for such things as anal probes--apparently the developer gives a shit; maybe they'll listen.

I note that the use of any particular weapon is usually not required in this kind of game, but completing a mission like the one mentioned by Mr. Cynical often is. I kind of want to interpret that as some kind of artistic statement, like the way Hotline Miami occasonally took away your control of your character to make you react badly to the next act of violence that wasn't particularly worse than anything you did yourself. But I haven't played any of the Saint's Rows, so perhaps I'm overcharitable.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:22 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the Board’s opinion, a weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and as such the game should be Refused Classification.

I actually think this is a pretty intelligent argument for the Board to make about why having the option to freely go around raping people might be problematic. I am hesitant about the censorship of any fictional depiction of anything, no matter how amoral, but I do wonder about the morality of giving a player options which they can take at any time and for which there was no punishment.

I've always wanted a sandbox game that's part fantasy and which, over time, gives you "poetic justice" punishments for all the crimes you've committed. Rape a bunch of people? Fine, but two hours from now a hoard of demons will come after you and rip you to pieces, and anything you did for the last two hours is moot by comparison. What's that? You did things that weren't rape during those two hours and it's unfair that you're losing that? Too bad! Stop raping people!

(To be extra nasty, the delay would actually be "fifty hours OR when you've a few seconds away from beating that incredibly hard boss you've spent all week trying to get past." Kickstart me!)
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:02 AM on June 26, 2013


As the SR series has grown it's gone from GTA clone to a sort of ridiculous commentary on America's fascination with outlaws and violence. The Saints are an institution in SR3, complete with their own merchandise and an adoring fan base who love love them because of the mayhem they cause, not in spite of it. It's inviting you to ponder why there's a market for blacklight Scarface posters, while also inviting you to beat people to death with a dildo. (Full disclosure: I have a friend who's working on SR4).
posted by dortmunder at 6:03 AM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I lived in Australia this would be a law I'd break.
posted by Skorgu at 6:17 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that people have shown up in this thread to defend - with complete sincerity - government censorship laws is mind boggling to me.
posted by Gin and Comics at 6:26 AM on June 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Nothing mind-boggling about it. This time, the government is censoring something they don't like.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:37 AM on June 26, 2013 [13 favorites]


I've always wanted a sandbox game that's part fantasy and which, over time, gives you "poetic justice" punishments for all the crimes you've committed. Rape a bunch of people? Fine, but two hours from now a hoard of demons will come after you and rip you to pieces. [...] Kickstart me!

I do not think your rape and demonic dismemberment simulator will attract an audience you want to attract.
posted by Pyry at 6:44 AM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Can anyone comment on how effective Australia's ban is? Does this prevent import of the game? I imagine it keeps it off of store shelves. That certainly will matter, but isn't much of a deterrent. Does it prevent online sales? Mail order import?

I've always wanted a sandbox game that's part fantasy and which, over time, gives you "poetic justice" punishments for all the crimes you've committed.

Dishonored does this. It's a stealth game, the levels are set up so you can puzzle your way through without killing anyone. Or you can just murder everything. But if you kill a lot, then the environment gets more difficult later in the game. There are more guards, more traps, and more dangerous demon rats.
posted by Nelson at 7:00 AM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Destroy All Humans is available Australia. The anal probe seems like a clear inspiration for the SR4 weapon.

Probably all they're missing is the context of harvesting human brain stems. If they had that it would be straight to approval as M.
posted by squinty at 7:11 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Japan, this was good fun, you know, for the kids. Ugh, was the lucky recipient of a few of these when I was teaching English.
posted by Hoopo at 7:42 AM on June 26, 2013


It saddens me that something as awesome as a dubstep gun and something as shitty as a rape gun can exist in the same game.

That's how I felt about Saint's Row 3. Lots of really great, progressive stuff (being able to wear any clothing or use any voice regardless of your character's gender is awesome) mixed together with lots of really embarrassing, regressive stuff (normalization of misogyny and violence is not awesome). That mixture of great-with-awful left me with a weird feeling; both the progressive and regressive elements seemed to be there because the developers and players find them "fun" and I think that ends up saying a lot more about gamer culture and wider US culture than intended.

Most mainstream games are now too violent/misogynistic/something for me, anyway, though, so I don't have trouble shelving things and deciding they're just not for me.
posted by byanyothername at 10:18 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can anyone comment on how effective Australia's ban is?

Totally, utterly ineffective. You can just order the RC games from an overseas based online retailer like Amazon.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:41 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gin and Comics: "The fact that people have shown up in this thread to defend - with complete sincerity - government censorship laws is mind boggling to me."

Not every country has a free speech fetish manifest by capitalism. The game has still been made, is still in existence. People are not being prevented from purchasing it online, or playing it. I am actually okay with the government saying "for these reasons, this is not going to be classified as per our guidelines and therefore is not available to be retailed in our country". Yes, I agree with the decision, if I didn't I would do the exact same thing I did pre-R18 ratings and protest. For instance, I think the graffiti ban stuff is dumb as shit, same with a lot of the drug use stuff. But an alien probe gun that has no narrative meaning beyond 'hurhurhur rape' is not something I am going to fight for. Yes, I know, first they came for the alien probe gun and I said nothing, so on and so forth, but I think the transposition of that quote from genocide to free speech (as so often happens on mefi) irritates me. I can, with a clear conscience, say yes I do not wish SR4 to be sold on the shelves here AND protest if, say, that female masturbation game got banned.

I can draw my own lines here, I can have standards.

I immensely dislike absolutism in conversations about censorship and free speech, particularly with a mostly American audience. Things don't work the same way here, we don't have the same rules and we certainly don't have the same industry clout.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:23 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]



I immensely dislike absolutism in conversations about censorship and free speech, particularly with a mostly American audience. Things don't work the same way here, we don't have the same rules and we certainly don't have the same industry clout.


But why do Australians act like this is a good thing? "Oh, we don't protect free speech here, unlike you silly Americans!". And it ignores the vast majority of Australians who think this sort of censorship is bizarre and stupid and ineffective. And it seems like this sort of gross humor is MORE in line with Australian values than anything else.

You're also ignoring that State of Decay was banned, even though it has no rape, just drug use. I think your views are in a minority in Australia.

Not every country has a free speech fetish manifest by capitalism.

What does that even mean? Australia is still mostly a capitalist country, and people still want to buy and sell this.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:48 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


But why do Australians act like this is a good thing? "Oh, we don't protect free speech here, unlike you silly Americans!".

Are you seriously asking that?

(and the argument is "we don't protect free speech absolutely". Political speech is quite protected, thank you for your concern.)
posted by pompomtom at 4:53 PM on June 26, 2013


But why do Australians act like this is a good thing? "Oh, we don't protect free speech here, unlike you silly Americans!".

Citation needed. Also, you're wrong, as I and many others have explained before.

And it ignores the vast majority of Australians who think this sort of censorship is bizarre and stupid and ineffective.

Citation needed. You're projecting.

And it seems like this sort of gross humor is MORE in line with Australian values than anything else.

You don't know what you're talking about.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:54 PM on June 26, 2013


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "And it ignores the vast majority of Australians who think this sort of censorship is bizarre and stupid and ineffective. And it seems like this sort of gross humor is MORE in line with Australian values than anything else.

You're also ignoring that State of Decay was banned, even though it has no rape, just drug use. I think your views are in a minority in Australia.


Like I said, I'm not actually keen on those bans for drug use - but please, tell me more about how gross humour is in line with Australian values...

"What does that even mean? Australia is still mostly a capitalist country, and people still want to buy and sell this."

What I am saying is that we have not enshrined 'free speech' as a concept within either our national mission statement (so to speak) or within our psyche. It is not a thing for Australians the way it is for the US. We sure as fuck do protect it, and rail against it (I live in Queensland, so I've got a whole lot of community history about what censorship really is) and it isn't manifest primarily in "but I wanna play a game where I can rape people with a specially designed gun".

Free speech isn't about buying and selling. Just as a thing. It isn't about making money, or banning a product. That's what I mean about a free speech fetish manifesting in capitalism - as if the money to classify a video game is about free speech, as if not being able to sell something is about free speech.

That said, I do wonder about how the classification board would deal with something that isn't actually for sale, is made freely available. Because it is, by necessity, about the product as opposed to speech.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:00 PM on June 26, 2013



Like I said, I'm not actually keen on those bans for drug use - but please, tell me more about how gross humour is in line with Australian values...


The Footy Show? Kevin Bloody Wilson? The idea of larriken humor? Streakers? "Lighten up, mate?" The casual use of the c-word? I live in a hipster bubble and I noticed it.

Heck, there's an Australian government page on it:

"Mocking the wowser is another common element in Australian humour. Wowser is a term that refers to a person who is highly moral or politically correct. In 2002, a lawyer called O'Sullivan expertly demonstrated this aspect of Australian humour in the courtroom. Defending his client, who was charged with baring his buttocks, or 'mooning', at a policeman, O'Sullivan argued that 'mooning was accepted Australian behaviour and should be seen as a national icon'. The prosecutor, Michael Purcell, responded in wowser fashion by asking 'whether bare buttocks should replace the emu and kangaroo on Australia's coat of arms.'


We sure as fuck do protect it, and rail against it (I live in Queensland, so I've got a whole lot of community history about what censorship really is) and it isn't manifest primarily in "but I wanna play a game where I can rape people with a specially designed gun".


Again, I don't, and I'd prefer if the devs removed it. I do want to be able to make that choice for myself as a rational adult who's a fan of the series. I'd also like some consistancy, since things like the Dead Island Riptide Bikini Torso were allowed, and the alien anal probe in Dead Rising 2 and Destroy All Humans. I'd like to be able to purchase this game from an Australian retailer without having to order it from overseas.

And just because 'free speech' isn't commonly thought of as an Australian value doesn't mean it shouldn't be. There are lots of values that Australia lacks.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:12 PM on June 26, 2013


That said, I do wonder about how the classification board would deal with something that isn't actually for sale, is made freely available. Because it is, by necessity, about the product as opposed to speech.

The relevant state enforcement legislation (NSW example) only covers sale or public demonstration.

You could demonstrate it privately, ie play it at home. Or you could gift it; if you weren't selling it, it would be out of the jurisdiction of law enforcement.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:14 PM on June 26, 2013


There are lots of values that Australia lacks.

Do tell us how we may better emulate the land of your birth.
posted by pompomtom at 6:33 PM on June 26, 2013


pompomtom: "Do tell us how we may better emulate the land of your birth."

"If you weren't born in this country, we don't want your input. What value could an outside perspective ever possibly have?"
posted by Bugbread at 6:55 PM on June 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


What value could an outside perspective ever possibly have?

When it is totally misinformed and/or hopelessly swayed by unexamined personal assumptions and prejudices? None at all.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:26 PM on June 26, 2013


an outside perspective

Not 'an' outside perspective. This particular ill-informed, repetitive, axe-grindy perspective, but thanks for the putting-words-into-my-mouth approach. Love that.
posted by pompomtom at 7:45 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


His thoughts were red thoughts: "When it is totally misinformed and/or hopelessly swayed by unexamined personal assumptions and prejudices? None at all."

Then discuss that, don't just reflexively lash out with a sarcastic barb insinuating that any opinion from a non-native-born person is worthless.

pompomtom: "thanks for the putting-words-into-my-mouth approach. Love that."

I have to put words into your mouth, because you're just filling it with sarcasm. I mean, literally, you've said that you want Charlemagne to tell you how to be more like America, and that you love people to put words in your mouth. If you're going to express your opinion exclusively by sarcastically saying things you don't believe, don't be surprised when people have to reform your statements into words you do believe.
posted by Bugbread at 7:58 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Folks, you can choose to not make this the CiS show, please be decent to each other or you know where MeTa is. CiS, you're not doing so great at that reading the room thing again, please try harder.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 PM on June 26, 2013


Okay, in a more measured tone, then: I've lived over half my life outside my country of residency and upbringing, America. I've heard non-Americans criticize aspects of America, and very rightly so, only to be told that they shouldn't criticize America because they weren't born there. And, living here in Japan, I've heard people criticize aspects of Japan, and very rightly so, only to be told that they shouldn't criticize Japan because they weren't born here.

I can recall only a minute number of times where those folks had a point, that the person making the criticism didn't understand the background/history of the country in question, so their critiques were incorrect. I can recall many, many, many more times when the criticism was valid, but the person being criticized told the person issuing the criticism that their opinion was invalid or worthless because they weren't born in the country.

Maybe CiS's criticism is wrong. Maybe there are only a few values that Australia lacks. Maybe none at all. But argue those points, then, don't just jump out with sarcastic barbs indicating that someone's opinion is invalid because of their birthplace.
posted by Bugbread at 8:08 PM on June 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


%n: "Maybe CiS's criticism is wrong. Maybe there are only a few values that Australia lacks. Maybe none at all. But argue those points, then, don't just jump out with sarcastic barbs indicating that someone's opinion is invalid because of their birthplace."

Criticising Australia for not having the very America-specific valuation of 'free speech' as a commercial entity is...well, daft. I really don't get the very US-specific ideal around 'all speech is free and sacred' and to a certain extent, I don't think Australians (or many other non-US places) do because it is part of a national psyche borne out of very specific conditions and rules. It's a little like the gun thing, and the food thing, and so on.

Australia does, however, have a deeply entrenched dislike of patronising attempts to tell us what to do and why we should be more like the US.

That said, I really fail to see how larrikin humour translates to the alien probe gun, I really do. It's not actually on the same level. Or even the dropping of the c-bomb. I mean, that's kind of a classic example - it has a different impact on the audience between cultures and classes. Censorship, in the very limited way that the Classification board does it, is not the same as political free speech.

The absolute necessity of some bright line ethics for this is not how Australia tends to do things - there is a line which can be crossed, but it isn't a blanket rule. And there are things one can do to get around it, just like the bleeping and the cutting of scenes. I think there are valid arguments to be made around the paternalising and infantilising banning of games for drug use or graffiti, but no, I'm not going to apply that to rape out of some misguided idealising of 'free speech'.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:19 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you.
posted by Bugbread at 8:25 PM on June 26, 2013


I really don't get the very US-specific ideal around 'all speech is free and sacred'

If I may try to articulate: the US has always been an extremely polarized country. From the very early days, when it was settled by a bunch of mutually incompatible religious sects, to the great North/South divide of the founding, to the urban/rural divide of today, the country has always been made of multiple polities, each of whom regards the other as barking mad.

The idea of absolute free speech was never "all speech is valuable and important." It was "If we establish that the government has a right to prevent some speech from being heard, it will be used by Those Bastards to shut down something I like."

To a US observer, your flat statement that the alien probe gun ("rape gun" is rather a misnomer, given that aliens have never raped anyone) doesn't map to "the c-bomb" seems overconfident. You think it doesn't map, others will think it does, and then what? Similarly your conivction that there's no absolute necessity of some bright line ethics seems like an invitation to corruption---if the government can prevent things you think are bad from being sold, it will inevitably prevent things you think are valuable from being sold. Today you ban Saints Row 4, tomorrow you ban the rape-filled novels of Andrea Dworkin. Given that Australia has no shortage of populations it has cut off from government power (and any democracy will inevitably make decisions that don't reflect the will of minorities), I don't think one can assume that the government's decision to ban things flow directly from the will of the people.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:44 AM on June 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


And the other thing, Bugbread, is that this debate has been hashed out with CIS/LIB a number of times, and each time many people have put in reasoned, non-sarcastic contributions (just like in this thread, before you asked for it), and they have gone in one ear and out the other.

Most Australians seem to believe (and certainly most Aussie mefites) in free speech, fettered by a fairly light touch regulatory framework that is independently monitored. We do not believe in unfettered free speech (and nor do Americans, actually, it is a matter of where the line is drawn) and our political debates are just as vigorous and healthy as in the USA. We don’t like being patronised by people who don’t actually put in the intellectual effort, their sole contribution to point to one other particular country that doesn’t have a very appealing political culture and suggest that that is a model to be used.
posted by wilful at 4:24 PM on June 27, 2013


ThatFuzzyBastard, you are again projecting US political views about the role of government, and I ask you, what knowledge of Australian society and government do you have to do that?
posted by wilful at 4:29 PM on June 27, 2013


TheFuzzyBastard To a US observer, your flat statement that the alien probe gun ("rape gun" is rather a misnomer, given that aliens have never raped anyone) doesn't map to "the c-bomb" seems overconfident. You think it doesn't map, others will think it does, and then what?

The 'rape' part of the rape gun is how the player uses it. Noin-consensual penetration via force. 'Cunt' is a word and it can be used in a gendered form of vilification and as such does invite some sort of censure (usually social but I think possibly legal in some circumstances). A rape gun is a virtual act, which is different. And so far, nothing has been banned for language in Australia, although it does get differing ratings depending on frequency and the intent of the use.

TheFuzzyBastard Today you ban Saints Row 4, tomorrow you ban the rape-filled novels of Andrea Dworkin. Given that Australia has no shortage of populations it has cut off from government power (and any democracy will inevitably make decisions that don't reflect the will of minorities), I don't think one can assume that the government's decision to ban things flow directly from the will of the people.

I have a huge issue with the slippery slope argument when it comes to this kind of thing. It's not about the will of the people as such, but that there is an entrenched framework that is scrutinised. It isn't just one person, or a few people, banning it and that's that. Done. It's a board, with transparent rulings, that you can appeal if you think they are wrong. And, oddly enough, that does happen. The system works! Banning any novel would be heavily scrutinised because that isn't how the system has worked. It would require a significant change in the board, the rules, the legislation and the community for that to work. The point of the Classification board is to effectively say "this far, no further" - it's not a cultural winnowing process, or politically minded (I mean, it's a government body, so it is political, but not the way that it seems US bodies tend to be).

If Abbott does get in next round, it will be interesting to see how/if rulings change to accommodate the socially conservative government.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:44 PM on June 27, 2013


But again, this isn't some nuanced political discussion. This is around whether the government should catagorically say that certain media are unaccetable to be brought into the country due to criteria that would exclude similar depictions in other media - again, Saints Row 4 and the other game are being censured for drug use, and there are many Australian movies and books that portray drug use in a neutral or positive light.

Banning any novel would be heavily scrutinised because that isn't how the system has worked. It would require a significant change in the board, the rules, the legislation and the community for that to work.

But why? Why would 'banning a novel' be more scrutinzed than a videogame? And should novels be held to that privleged position? I, and many of my generation, spend more time playing videogames than reading novels and to assume that a novel is somehow instantly more worthy than a game is, again, that prejudice. The 'community standards' that the ACB are upholding do not apply to the whole community, but only to the small part of the community that is on the classification board. And they seem to apply those standards dispoprotiantly toward games.

I also wonder when this will start to have economic impacts. PAX Australia has sold out months ago, and I imagine it's bringing some decent money to Melbourne, just like the 'Game Masters' exchibit at the ACMI in Melbourne did. If the culture becomes hostile to games, perhaps these sort of events will be less common. What if GTA5 is RCed? That's a major release, and all the money that would be going toward Australian retailers for that would then go overseas.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:53 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: But again, this isn't some nuanced political discussion. This is around whether the government should catagorically say that certain media are unaccetable to be brought into the country due to criteria that would exclude similar depictions in other media - again, Saints Row 4 and the other game are being censured for drug use, and there are many Australian movies and books that portray drug use in a neutral or positive light.

Video games are different in that they require participation - that's the non-nuanced, straightforward part of it. Seriously, that's part and parcel of the artform and part and parcel of the rulings around the rating they get. If a film showed a first-person rape scene played for laughs using an alien probe gun, it would come under some scrutiny. And films that depict drug use do get scrutinised and rated accordingly. As of yet I don't know any film or book that depicts drug use the same way as games do - it's kind of impossible anyway, but the player controlled aspect, and the almost glorified aspect (I'm uncomfortable with that as a term/issue, but there's a difference between Hard Candy and Fallout in the depictions and the intent).

It's not about worthiness, but about medium. If you want to hold games up as something different to books/film because of the interactive nature then there is a flipside to it, in that when certain things are done it is not the same as reading/watching because you are doing it as a character. It seems pretty straightforward to me, and the board put that nuance into the report.

Games aren't some beautiful cinematic scene - you have to act, to choose. That affects the judgements made.

As to the effects on industry, I do hope we get more games up and through the board and that they reel back on the graffiti stuff particularly, but also the drug use stuff because I do think within the context of a game that there are conventions that don't apply the same way as to other media, that are being applied unfairly (the aforementioned glorification). But that change isn't going to happen because people whine about not being able to play the rape gun game, or start in on the right to free speech that doesn't exist in this country. More is being done for the scene by the indie gamer companies, the imaginative crews, the esports managers with backbone, than by SR4 and the majority of gamers, who want to scream 'free speech' any time anyone says "no, this is unacceptable".
posted by geek anachronism at 5:32 PM on June 27, 2013


More is being done for the scene by the indie gamer companies, the imaginative crews, the esports managers with backbone, than by SR4 and the majority of gamers, who want to scream 'free speech' any time anyone says "no, this is unacceptable".

I think you're drawing too firm a distinction. My previous SR thread talked about how the game's character creation system permitted the kind of gender-bending seen in games like Anna Anthropy's. And the ACB hurts indie gamers even more than mainstream games, since it costs so much to get games classified that systems like the Xbox Live Indie Game Store simply don't exist here.

Also, if you read the Eurogamer review for the banned State of Decay, it talks about sensative gay relationships in that game. Are you okay with that being banned?

More is being done for the scene by the indie gamer companies, the imaginative crews, the esports managers with backbone, than by SR4 and the majority of gamers, who want to scream 'free speech' any time anyone says "no, this is unacceptable".


The thing is, the COMMUNITY didn't say 'this is unacceptable'. I've posted about sexism in games before, and if the community as a whole came out against the rape sword than I'd be happy about that. I'd love for company to listen to community presure and remove it. But this isn't what happened. An unelected board arbitrarily decided to ban it, so the community didn't even have the oppurtunity to register their disgust. Now anyone in the mainstream gaming community who speaks out against it looks like they're supporting censorship.

Again, its also banned because of drug use, which isn't considered that bad by most of the community. And just because the legal right to free speech does not exist in Australia, doesn't mean the values don't exist. I don't think Australians are happy about censorship, and to suggest that being against it makes you some odd American does a disservice to Australian organizations that do fight for free speech and press freedom.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


R18+: Drugs, Dildos And The Unwinnable War

The odd thing about the Kotaku article is it talks about how 'rights' and 'consumer choice' aren't compelling arguments, which does illustrate a cultural gap.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:07 PM on June 27, 2013


Again, its also banned because of drug use, which isn't considered that bad by most of the community.

Seriously? Now you are just making crap up. You have no clearly have no idea what 'most of the community' thinks. Check your assumptions.

From this 2010 study by the Australian Institute of health and Welfare:
Most people in Australia did not support the regular use or legalisation of illicit drugs in 2010. Three in five (60.2%) people aged 14 years or older had never tried an illicit drug.
...
In 2010, one in four people aged 14 years or over in Australia (24.8%) supported legalising the personal use of cannabis. This was an increase from 2007 when about one in five people supported this (21.2%), but not as high as the level of support in 2004 (27.0%) (AIHW 2011a).
...
Very few people in Australia approve of regular, adult use of illicit drugs [other than cannabis], with most types of drugs approved of by less than 2% of people aged 14 years or over.
And just because the legal right to free speech does not exist in Australia, doesn't mean the values don't exist.

You are. Not. Listening. Free speech as a concept exists and is protected in law in Australia.

The only person claiming that it doesn't is you.

The concept and the protections are simply constructed differently that they are in the US.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:37 PM on June 27, 2013


If a film showed a first-person rape scene played for laughs using an alien probe gun, it would come under some scrutiny

But if a film showed a first-person rape scene, it would likely involve a human actor, emoting. Video games are cartoons, not films, and that changes how the violence is received. SR4 is *very much* a cartoon---as per the comment above, the probe gun has as much to do with rape as Elmer Fudd shooting Daffy's beak around has to do with gun violence.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:59 PM on June 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


...so the community didn't even have the oppurtunity to register their disgust.

FYI, the Classification Board is looking for participants for research focus-groups about a range of media classification matters.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:03 AM on June 28, 2013


Maybe if it had just been a Casual Racism Gun, the Australians would have allowed it.

The Casual Racism Gun would be hilarious, and perfect for the Saints Row games, actually. Shoot the rainbow beam at someone, they say something stupid about some fictional nationality or racial group, and a flashmob of sign-wielding protesters instantly surrounds them and harangues them into submission.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:30 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "But if a film showed a first-person rape scene, it would likely involve a human actor, emoting. Video games are cartoons, not films, and that changes how the violence is received. SR4 is *very much* a cartoon---as per the comment above, the probe gun has as much to do with rape as Elmer Fudd shooting Daffy's beak around has to do with gun violence."

As opposed to a team of designers and programmers working out exactly how to depict a dildo gun? And the reactions of those who are apparently not actually 'raped' according to your standards, because it's comedic/cartoonish?
posted by geek anachronism at 3:19 AM on June 28, 2013


And the reactions of those who are apparently not actually 'raped' according to your standards,

Again, no one is "not actually 'raped'". These are animated models, not people. That's a really important distinction.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:11 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


« Older The Ruins of Nan Madol   |   We're gonna need some bigger smoke Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post