Saints Row 4: Has censorship gone too far?
My Twitter timeline was going crazy last night with the news that the Australian Classification Board has refused to classify Saints Row IV.
This means the game can't be sold in Australia in its current state and I understand that developer Volition is tweaking things for a "special" version for Australia.
But is this a case of censorship gone too far in a society where often some movies have worse graphic content than video games yet happily receive an R18 classification?
In a media release from the Australian Classification Board, acting director Donald McDonald said: "In the board's opinion, 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."
McDonald said Saints Row IV was the first game to be refused classification since new video game classification guidelines came into force in Australia on January 1 this year. He said the board had rated 17 games as R18 under the new classifications guidelines.
Now, I'm not a particular fan of the Saints Row series (though I did chuckle at the opening sequences in Saints Row the third) and don't believe that video games should have gratuitous sexual content - if that's what implied sexual violence means - just for the sake of it, but wasn't the point of Australia getting an R18 rating recently so that games like this could get classified as such?
R18 means that it's adult content and perhaps the Australian classification board should have treated Australian consumers like adults and slapped an R18 label on it, giving them the choice to buy it or not. And if the content isn't safe for those under 18 - and knowing Saints Row, it wouldn't be - it's up to retail to be more vigilant on who they sell it to and ill-informed parents to be more aware about what games they buy their 14-year-olds (I know: that's harder said than done).
I haven't played any of Saints Row IV so have no idea what content will be in it, but I've seen the latest trailer and frankly, it's the over-the-top content gamers have come to expect from the series, but according to VG247, the Australia Classifiation Board refused to classify the game because of an "alien anal probe" weapon. You can read what VG247 know here but if that's the case, I'm not sure it's something I'd want in a video game.
I contacted the Australian PR crowd responsible for dealing with Saints Row IV about the issue and this was the official word: "Deep Silver can confirm that Saints Row IV was denied an age classification in Australia. Volition, the developer, are reworking some of the code to create a version of the game for this territory by removing the content which could cause offence without reducing the outlandish gameplay that Saints Row fans know and love. Saints Row IV has been awarded PEGI 18 and ESRB M ratings where fans can enjoy their time in Steelport as originally intended."
So, ending another blog with a question (actually two questions): Has the Australian classifications board gone loco in refusing Saints Row IV classification? Or has it done the right thing and is taking a stand against extreme content? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Other stuff you might be interested in: Game Junkie is on Twitter and you can email him here. He'll even answer your emails, not get some smart robot to do it. He also has another gaming blog here, which was actually updated recently. You should check it out.