Let’s skip all the intensely crazy stuff going on in Australia right now. Let’s ignore the fact that we have two leaders who are both gunning for the top position yet are both incredibly unfit for the job, let’s ignore the recently signed asylum seeker act that is grossly inappropriate and downright racist, let’s focus on one thing that is relevant to this website: the fact that despite the implementation of the R18+ rating for games, the system remains as broken as ever.
Let’s discuss Saints Row IV. A game that was initially refused classification a couple of months ago. In a hasty change of plans, PAX were forced to abide by Australian laws and forego public demonstration of SRIV at PAX Aus, having the demo run in a discreet, behind curtained area that was strictly for people over 18. Sometime after PAX Aus, the appeal to overturn the ban has been refused. As far as we know, Saints Row IV was submitted once, rejected, and then the appeal was made to overturn the decision, which again has been rejected.
Once again, let’s fast forward to NOW, and suddenly not only is Saints Row now passed, it’s classified as an MA15+ game.
How does a game jump from refused classification (RC) to MA, completely bypassing a rating? How does one, optional, mission, make the difference between banning a game from sale and letting anyone over 15 play it?
The problem is, we seemingly have a classifications board that, despite implementing an adult 18+ rating, is still broken and refuses to treat their audience like, well, adults.
Saints Row IV represents a mindset so far from reality it’s next to impossible to literally take it seriously. You have superpowers, flying in the air, punching cars at enemies, yet one overt sexual reference and it’s then banned. The object in question that led to the FIRST refusal of classification was an apparent ‘anal probe’ that you would use to kill your enemies, by shoving it up their…well, ass. Apparently, since the realization that said probe would only be in DLC, the board then turned to drugs. For drugs are always bad, and any reference to drugs or sex should lead to an immediate ban. Said ‘drugs’ turn out to be not even references to real life drugs, but an optional mission that led to consumption of ‘alien narcotics’. Said quote from the classifications board and Deep Silver stated:
“To achieve this rating one loyalty mission featuring the character Shaundi has been removed. This mission has been widely reported on and contains the use of alien narcotics to obtain certain superpowers.”
Far be it from me to judge the state of a normal person’s conscious, but I feel that the classifications board has truly missed the point of having a rating that should accommodate adults.
In a stranger turn of events, Saints Row IV was then announced to be incompatible with other countries. Specifically, that only Australians could play with Australians. One could question how hard it would be to make OUR version more compatible with copies outside of Australia, since it’s only one mission in question that had to be ‘cut’. A perplexing state of affairs, and another indication of our classification’s board failure to respond to our concerns. Apparently complete segregation is the only solution to this.
Fallout 3, State of Decay, these are games that were forced to change their references to drugs because it’s claimed that games that CONTAIN these references therefore promote them. This is a ridiculous concept. Saints Row IV is no more promoting usage of drugs then it is promoting the use of, say, superpowers. Any sane, over 18 adult can clearly distinguish between reality and fiction. No right minded adult will play Saints Row IV, and then think to themselves ‘hey, the drugs in Saints Row IV were amazing! Why don’t I try some in real life and see if I can start throwing cars at police?’ This is a ridiculous nanny state that aims to weed out any references to sex or drugs in a gaming medium. The board clearly, despite implementing a rating for ADULTS ONLY, still regards this, and gaming, as only occupied by an audience of children and people who don’t know better for themselves. It’s shocking, and disappointing, to see that this is the case. That we are forced to act like children, to not be allowed to handle anything on a mature level.
People will say that they’re trying to protect the children. Have we forgotten the point of an R18+ classification? We need to ENFORCE these guidelines. We need stores like JB Hi-Fi and EB Games to make sure kids can’t buy these games without proper ID. When I bought The Last Of Us, the man asked me, a 21 year old male, for ID. This is good, I want more of this. We need to educate parents who may not know about these problems, who just want to buy their kids the next copy of the latest sequel, that yes, there are scenes in this game that may be harmful to a younger audience. An audience that shouldn’t be playing this game.
For all the sex and drugs and violence that pollutes our media, both interactive and non, gaming is by far still viewed as nothing more than child’s play. And at this point in time, it so clearly is much, much more. I’m glad that there is an R18 classification, but we need proper implementation, we need proper education and we need for them to place a little bit of trust in us, a mature audience, to make our own decisions.