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 Saints Row IV  effectively banned under new Australian rating system
Saints Row IV effectively banned under new Australian rating system
June 25, 2013 | By Mike Rose

June 25, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    17 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Saints Row IV is the first video game to fall foul of Australia's new age rating system, as the game has been refused classification in the country, and will therefore not be permitted to release.

After a long struggle, Australia finally received an over-18 classification for video games at the start of this year, meaning that 18+ rated games could be released in the country. However, the Australian Classification Board can still choose to refuse classification for a game outright if it is deemed necessary.

The board says that Saints Row IV "includes interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context. In addition, the game includes elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards. Such depictions are prohibited by the computer games guidelines."

This is the first game to be refused classification since the new rating system began. The board's acting director Donald McDonald was keen to stress that 17 games rated 18+ have been released in Australia under the new guidelines.

The Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, an industry organization that represents video game companies in Australia and New Zealand, noted that some video games will fall outside of the scope of the R18+ guidelines.

"Whether we agree or not with this specific classification, it highlights that the classification system is functioning as it should and that R18+ was never meant to open the 'floodgates' for all types of content," the IGEA statement said.

"There will always be a 'settling in' period where all stakeholders strive to find an appropriate middle ground. Currently, we're at the 'high water' mark where there's a natural inclination to err on the side of caution."


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Comments


Dane MacMahon
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I'm open to the idea of legal restrictions on games for children, rather than voluntary regulation. The problem with introducing it in America is that it leads to things like this, where suddenly what adults can play is restricted.

There are no happy mediums in government.

E Zachary Knight
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This is precisely why we should not have legal restrictions on the production and sale of video games. Banning games for adults serves no social or moral purpose other than to force such consumers and developers into a "black market" of games. Isn't it silly that there needs to be a black market for speech?

Ramin Shokrizade
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I can see restricting this sort of content that places the worst violence into the reward mechanisms for games, as these reward mechanisms are what make interactive media so powerful as a tool for education. Applying it to adults is a rather extreme measure, but we all know that once it is on the computer of an adult it very easily propagates into the hands of children. Apparently in Australia they don't want their people to train to be better at violent crime. Of course here in the USA we have a much more permissive view of violence in our society such that it is even more acceptable than sexuality, at least in media.

I would think this action in Australia will help some people (those worried about the public costs of training people to engage in violent crime) and hurt others (those that want the personal benefit of such entertainment, and have no fear of public effects). If this is an important lifestyle issue for you, the obvious solution would be to not live in Australia. I'm all about freedom of choice :)

I don't think there is any risk of this type of regulation (as applied to adults) coming to the USA, but then the people here that don't personally benefit from this entertainment will complain that they are paying the cost for any potential public risk that is being created by those making this software and those using it. It is difficult to make everyone happy all the time.

Daniel Backteman
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@Ramin

Hm, but then the question is: What is more important - freedom of choice (I don't really think "Don't live in Australia" counts towards that. :)) or a preventive form of protection?

I think that it's an avoidable issue, the subtle changes in attitude that violent games can make. But then again, I can see this discussion also including heavier, illegal drugs, which makes it all more complicated.

E Zachary Knight
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Ramin,

At this point, the question should be "Do violent games actually train people to commit crimes or hurt others?" As far as I am aware, the research in that arena is a resounding "We don't know".

To allow for the blocking of any kind of speech under the threat of unfounded fear is not really a good result of public policy.

Ramin Shokrizade
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@Daniel: It is interesting that you make this point. Note that with all of the changes made in the USA since 9/11 (travel restrictions, domestic surveillance, etc.), the USA has chosen to give up freedom for security, which in a way is what Australia has done, just on a smaller scale. Which one is better? Is either way better? I'm not trying to advocate for one position or the other, just making a point that these systems of control can be "layered" in such a way to be almost invisible to those inside the system. ...Just like we do it in our F2P monetization models :)

Ramin Shokrizade
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Zachary,

I was waiting for someone to bring up this much often asked question. The research seems to suggest that such training does not actually increase the chance that someone will DO something violent. Just like if a person practices a flight sim, or does math practice, or a surgery simulator does not make a person more likely to use those skills. It just makes them better at those activities if they were already inclined to do them.

So here I think the research is asking the wrong questions and this is why the results we are getting back are inconclusive.

Also note that while we consider interactive media "speech", that does not mean that Australians do. If I make a joke involving the word "bomb" at a US airport, just watch how fast my speech will be blocked under threat of an unfounded fear (no real terrorist is going to make jokes about bombs before getting on a plane).

Daniel Backteman
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@Zachary Knight

If I'd play the devil's advocate for a bit (as in, for the side I do not support), how would people commit violence if they do not know how? Violent games help reinforce the framework in which to relate to (this goes for anything you wouldn't normally do IRL). Though this argument can't just discriminate against games, if we are to use this logic, then all forms of violent media/culture would have to be prohibited.

Hm, guess that turned out to be an argument against you, Ramin. Visual or "interactive media" (press B to drop kick) isn't the only formats that can train people to be better at violence.

@Ramin

Indeed, with both being bad if you ask me, with the invisible protection only being slightly okay until you bump into it and realise that the walls isn't just protecting against attackers, but also keeping you prisoner.

Of course it's easy to point the finger and say "you're doing it wrong", especially in hind-sight. I cannot for certain say that disaster would not happen if the more important protections (important being decided by the eventual damage a consequence might cause) were not there.

That said, I think that banning games like this is silly and ineffective unless you do it properly. Ban everything or nothing, not just certain violent medias like they are now.

E Zachary Knight
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I agree that the research is asking the wrong question. That is one of the core problems with it. Until we get better research on the issue, it will be an open question.

As the speech portion of your comment, while yes you will get in trouble for talking about bombs in an airport, in or out of context, that has often been defined under the "fire in a crowded theater" exception to free speech. So even though you must restrain your verbal speech, and often written speech, in an airport, it is still legal to play Bomber Man in an airport.

Daniel Backteman
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Sad. I can't imagine that Volition expected anything else though.

Luke Quinn
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Great, so this guy is pissed off that his parents named him Donald McDonald and he grows up to take his revenge on the world by depriving me of my video games. What a cliché.

Pierre Xavier
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lmao

Hugo Cardoso
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So essentially a small group of people decided that everyone in Australia would be offended by seeing pixelated junk.
I cannot understand the need to block some piece of entertainment from the adult population.

Terry Matthes
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Can't you just import the games and play them anyways? Would this prevent someone from digitally downloading the game through a PSN or XBox marketplace?

Chris Ramirez
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Yes they can be imported from other countries. I previously did this with Mortal Kombat before the R18+ system was introduced, although I did run the risk of being caught and fined a few hundred dollars but luckily that didn't happen. However to your next question, yes it does block the game being downloaded on PSN or Xbox Marketplace, it even gets block on services such as Steam. So the only ways are either to have a physical copy shipped over or pirated from torrent sites.

Although it was interesting to me that even though Mortal Kombat was banned I was still able to go online with it (I bought it on a xbox 360) but I was unable to receive any dlc for it.

Matthew Calderaz
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I believe you could just purchase online through a proxy digitally anyway, or import (for consoles). Sad that consenting adults have to circumvent the normal channels in Australia though.

Ken Williamson
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The same type of people censored Duke Nukem 3D here. The day I got the game, I downloaded the "uncensoring" patch, and played the full game as it was designed.

The people doing this in Australia are fossils from another time, and think their 1950's worldview and draconian authoritarianism is actually enforceable in a world with internet and international ordering. They are singularly uninformed about the same technology they are attempting to control. It's laughable for those of us here - infuriating, but laughable. These are the same types of people who recently tried to enforce a black list of internet sites to be filtered and blocked governmentally. Honestly, they are so out of touch with the modern world it's embarrassing - and not representative of Australians as a whole at all.

I'm personally ambivalent about censorship, but I'm fairly clear on the point that a self-important board of middle-class conservative ludites has no place rating a medium they neither understand nor like. The only question about Saints Row that matters is, is it a good game? Now if we had boards that could effectively censor mediocrity...


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