"Drug use related to incentives or rewards" is the reason behind the banning of MMO Crimecraft.
According to the report obtained by Koktau Crimecraft “contains the option to manufacture, trade and self-administer legal “medicines” and illegal “boosts”… Boosts are sometimes referred to as “drugs” both in the game and in the Applicant’s submissions to the Board.
"Boost parallels the names, chemical elements, administration, treatment, and addictive elements of real-world proscribed drugs, and when used provide quantifiable benefits to a player's character. The game therefore contains drug use related to incentives or rewards and should be refused classification."
It is also worth noting that there is a character class named Bio-Forger who creates illegal boost from "real-world items such as base chemicals, nucleotides, hormones and enzymes as well as tools and objects associated with the production or use of drugs including syringes, disposable rubber tubes and silkscreen filters."
Little known MMO Crimecraft was refused classification last week.
The Classification website doesn't list why it was banned, so we'll have to wait until the report is available. According to Refused Classification the ESRB report on the other hand reads as such:
Entertainment Software Rating Board
Platform: Windows PC
Content descriptors: Blood, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
This is a third-person shooter in which players can select a character and gain experience points through completion of various missions/quests. Players can roam around the fictional setting of Sunrise City and engage in several types of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games: team deathmatch, capture the flag, robbery, and free-for-all.
Players are able to shoot and kill other characters by using a wide variety of guns (handguns, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers) and thrown weapons (grenades, Molotov cocktails, etc.). Small splashes of red blood indicate successful hits, and bloodstains are depicted on the ground under some defeated characters.
Achievements and mission titles sometimes contain profanity (e.g., achievement called "F**king Ridiculous"; missions called "I Ain't Movin' B*tch," and "Poppin' a Cap in Yo A*s"). Players can customize female avatars so that they only wear a bra and thong-style panties or outfits that expose deep cleavage; players can also trigger a brief dance in which an avatar caresses her body.
Ethan Watson is a game programmer. He also lives in Australia, and has had to put up with being treated like a child when it comes to video games. With this in mind, he started up Treat Us Like Adults in an attempt to inform the public - and get something done - about the R18+ ratings issue for games.
I managed to sit down and talk to him about this.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and how does it relate to Treat Us Like Adults.
Interactive media has more potential than any other medium for artistic expression the human race has developed. As an emerging art form, we are just beginning to explore what it is capable of. I view the current state of the medium as paintings on a cave wall. We're getting used to a new way of expressing ourselves and have yet to hit a true creative stride.
I have ideas in mind that I wish to explore and produce in my career. These ideas certainly aren't intended for children, and I expect them to be classified as such. However, using the standards that are currently applied to interactive media and using the standards that are applied to other media, these ideas would surely be Refused Classification due to thematic content. This is solely due to the lack of an R rating.
It's even more dire in the state I currently live in, Queensland. Section 27 of the Classification of Computer Games and Images Act 1995 states that I'm not allowed to even attempt to make one of these ideas. This law was extremely outdated when it was introduced, and it is even more so now.
If any game I make in the future gets Refused Classification, it means nothing for getting the game abroad to the rest of the world. I would like to be able to sell or distribute the game in my home country though, and it would be great if I didn't have to move states to have the opportunity to pursue my ideas.
What do you feel is the biggest problem with the current Classification system?
That's a hard question, simply because there are several problems with the system that should demand equal attention. The first and most obvious problem is that there are different classification systems for different forms of media. Books, movies, music, and games all have different classification systems and standards.
Another big problem is the way the law is set up for the system. Classifications are defined at the Federal level. The law allows for each State and Territory to expand upon this law and operate without contradicting it. Each state as a result has set up different laws regulating the sale and supply of classified material. Us Queenslanders, for example, cannot purchase books in either Restricted category in this State. Despite the ability for the State to regulate tighter than the Commonwealth, the process for altering classifications must be approved by representatives from each State. While I can understand why this kind of balance has been placed in to our system, in this particular case it is being abused. Getting the States to give up their say in something that should exclusively be a matter of the Commonwealth won't be an easy task, so we're likely to be stuck with this convoluted system for some time.
I also feel that people need to be more educated about the system. Growing up, both myself and the people around me had misconceptions about what the ratings meant. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realised M15+ was merely a recommendation and not a restriction. I'm quite sure more people hesitate when they see an R18+ rating than when they see an MA15+ rating. I'm also not entirely sure how successful the MA15+ rating has been since it was introduced for films and games. A study in to the awareness of what each rating means would be something worth pursuing.
You invited Michael Atkinson to the protest rally. Why did you do this, and what was his reply?
Recently, News.com.au ran an article stating that Michael Atkinson has challenged critics to stand against him. It hit me upon reading that article that I should in fact invite him to attend my rally so that he could have exposure to a viewpoint he may not have heard before.
During our correspondence, he confirmed that he is not afraid to debate his stance on the matter. He has prior commitments on the day of my rally and unfortunately will not be able to attend. He did express interest in another idea I have in mind however. I have not taken that idea further than asking him if he would be interested currently as I am busy getting word out about this rally. Once I have a bit more time, I will look in to
Mr. Atkinson has been quoted as saying there are no safeguards "to prevent R18+ games being bought by households with children." What do you make of this?
There are no safeguards to prevent R18+ games being bought by households with children. There are also no safeguards to prevent the purchase by the same individuals for R18+ or X18+ movies, Restricted Category 1 and Category 2 print media, and music restricted to adults. It's not like games are alone in that regard.
Introducing any kind of safeguard for this is in danger of introducing a police state in to the country. Imagine walking in to a store, selecting a game for purchase, approaching the counter and then being asked for a Proof of Dependents card. The concept alone is preposterous and highly invasive of one's privacy. We are trying to build a society where sex, race, and religion are not discriminated against. Why should we discriminate against the amount of children you live with?
I have grown up in a different generation to Mr. Atkinson. The home video market didn't exist when he was a child, and video games had yet to have been created in a laboratory. I have experienced first hand that it is indeed possible to keep restricted material away from children in the place they live. Any responsible parent should be able to regulate the material accessible to their children in their own home. There is no need for Government measures.
As Atkinson noted in the letter he recently sent out to gamers who had written to him, almost two-thirds of people with gaming devices in their household say that the classification of a game does not influence their decision to purchase it. This could also be an argument for proper education of the classification system. However, I must ask, what percentage of those two-thirds have children in their house? The report he refers to does not mention the percentage that were identified as children nor as parents. I believe that complete data there would be beneficial to both sides of this argument and dispel some myths that have been built up.
Another thing that I want to bring up here is the fact that freedom of speech/expression is not protected by Australian law or constitution. It is for this reason alone that the Government is able to impose restrictions based on the classification system and use it as a form of censorship without mentioning that dirty word. There has been some talk lately about the introduction of a Bill of Rights to the Australian Constitution. I think this is a fantastic idea, but only if the drafting and introduction is done transparently and isn't rushed through. A Bill of Rights is something that the public will need a thorough education on. They will need to understand where the system currently stands, and what a Bill of Rights will both fix and break. If you ask me though, the only thing more dangerous than the lack of free speech is thinking that it's not a bad thing.
As an advocate of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I believe it is solely up to the parents to decide what material they should expose their children to. The law defines what a dependent child is. Isn't it about time that it recognises exactly what that implies?
What can people do to show their support in your endeavor?
The most obvious thing you can do right now is attend the rally. Beyond that, educate yourself. Read up on the Classification law. It's not as hard to understand as you may think. I've linked to all Acts as currently in use by Federal and State governments through the Refused Classification Demystified article on my site.
Is there anything else you'd like to add, or tell people out there?
Unless you're Western Australian or are within the Northern Territory Emergency Response Zone, it's not illegal to possess Refused Classification material unless there are separate laws against what it depicts - so import it. It's ironic that, as a credit card is most commonly needed for international transactions, refusing classification of media limits purchases to 18 year olds anyway.
As you may have gathered from this interview, I'm not just against censoring games. Here in Queensland, there is still a ban on Category 1 and 2 Restricted print media. As I wish to see the same standards applied to all media, I also want to see the end of this archaic ban.
By all means, if you are a concerned parent, don't rely on or expect the Government to tell you what's right for your children. You know best. You live with them and know what they can and can't handle. Allowing adult games in to the country does not mean doom for our younger generation.
Finally, I have no trouble telling the difference between fantasy and reality. In reality, I don't believe in violence as a solution to a problem (with the sole exception of self defence), nor do I believe in taking frustrations out in a violent manner. In the fantasy world of video games, I know that pressing A to fire a gun just results in a voltage change on a chip. I have done nothing illegal, nor have I contradicted my views on reality. I have not met a gamer that doesn't share the same ability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Those that can't have deeper psychiatric and psychological problems unrelated to games.
Thanks to Ethan for answering my questions, and I recommend people to have a read over his whole site. It's a very informative look at the issue we're all facing
South Australian Governor-General Michael Atkinson has confirmed his intention to appeal the MA15+ rating of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 yesterday in an emailed statement to GameSpotAU
He mentioned on ABC's National Radio program National Interest last Friday about his intentions, but the Classification Board has yet to receive the official appeal.
In the email statement, Michael Atkinson confirmed this intent.
"I worry about any game that encourages gamers to perpetrate extreme violence and cruelty on screen, but this game [Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2] allows players to be virtual terrorists and gain points by massacring civilians. Expecting game designers to be responsible by not glorifying terrorism will always lead to disappointment,"
It's interesting to note that you do not gain points in the level "No Russian", as it is entirely skipable.
The Classification Review Board have told GameSpotAU "in order for the South Australian attorney-general to carry out his appeal to seek a new classification for the game, he must request the Federal Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O'Connor, to apply for a review to the Classification Review Board. The Federal Minister for Home Affairs must then carry out this review application."
Kotaku has posted an article today about South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson attempting appeal the MA15+ rating for Modern Ware 2.
He appeared on Radio National, hosted by the ABC, and was asked for his opinion of the game, described by interviewer Peter Mares as "violent and bloody and graphic and confronting.”
Atkinson replied "I'll be appealing against that classification, I think it's wrong,"
Kotaku lists another example where Atkinson talks about "the Japanese game Rape Play where one scores points for raping a mother and daughter," but it is brought to his attention that the game is not available outside of Japan, even in countries with an R18+ rating. Atkinson's reply?
“Well, I wouldn’t put it past the Classification Board to make that an R rated game, frankly, on their previous form,”
A couple of days ago the Queensland State Government placed a petition online. What for? To allow the Classification of Computer Games and Images Act of 1995 "be amended to permit computer games to receive the R18+ classification when they have been refused classification under the Commonwealth Act."
It's being sponsored by the Honorable Kate Jones MP. While it is Queensland only, it is a step in the right direction.
If you're a Queensland resident sign it here
Despite EA's attempts to clearly show the differences between Zombies, Infected and Humans in Left 4 Dead 2, the Classification Board was not moved in favour of granting it an MA15+ classification.
EA argued that the game's violence was "unrealistic", the main enemies were "zombies who were not and never had been human" and that the "zombie killing was an ancillary component to the central objective of the game being played online and in multiplayer format"
In the Review Boards report, recently obtained by GamespotAU, it was mentioned that there was "insufficient delineation between the depiction of the general zombie figures and the human figures as opposed to the clearly fictional 'infected' characters."
This wouldn't have mattered anyway, as the Review Board went on to say "whether the objects of the violence were fictional or real, and whether a 15 year old could discern the difference, is largely irrelevant where the game displays the level of realism this one does."
Gamespot also mentions several instances of "high impact" violence occurring in the game, the reason behind the RC classification.
Sick of being prosecuted because you play games? Wish you could play games as they were designed, not how they were 'toned down' for Australia?
You're not alone.
Ethan Watson, professional game developer, is the brains behind an upcoming protest rally attempting to educate people on the R18+ issue. He has seven years experience working in the games industry, and has decided enough is enough, and he's going to do something about it.
So head down to King George Square, Brisbane at 11am on Saturday, the 5th of December and be a part of a protest rally.
Yesterday Kotaku posted an article about one of their readers who wrote to South Australia Attorney-General Michael Atkinson earlier in the year finally recieving a reply.
Here is a link to the article, where you can find a download for the entire letter.
Here are some excerpts from it:
"You may be aware that there was talk of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General releasing a discussion paper on [the introduction of an R18+ classification for games]. I have been awaiting the release of this paper… Alas, the paper has not yet been released and, despite my inquiring, I do not know when it will be available. I want the discussion paper released as soon as possible and have done nothing to impede its release."
"‘Interactive Australia 2007', a report prepared by Bond University for the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia, surveyed 1,606 Australian households randomly. The report found “79% of Australian households have a device for computer and video games”. Further, 62% of Australians in these gaming households “say the classification of a game has no influence on their buying decision”. Given this data, I cannot fathom what State-enforced safeguards could exist to prevent R18+ games being bought by households with children and how children can be stopped from using these games once the games are in the home. If adult gamers are so keen to have R18+ games, I expect children would be just as keen. Classification of electronic games is very different from the classification of film. In cinemas, the age of movie-goers can be regulated… Rising game and console sales make it clear that this is a growing area that needs careful regulation, even more so than cinemas and private D.V.D. hire and purchase. Access to electronic games, once in the home, cannot be policed and therefore the games are easily accesible to children."
This is possibly the most insulting argument I have seen from him. If it was the case that there are no safeguards "to prevent R18+ games being bought by households with children" then how are MA15+ games any different? He brings this point up later on, about how they are already gaining access to MA15+ material, and that proves that the R18+ rating should not be allowed.
What Mr Atkinson's letter demonstrates is little more than that he has a prejudice against violent video games. Much of the 'evidence' he provides to support his claim is dubious or patently false, and it shows a much greater interest in distracting people with emotive arguments than thoughtful consideration of available information. While he is of course entitled to dislike violence in video games (and any other media for that matter), his personal distaste is not sufficient reason to curtail the rights of responsible adults, expose minors to adult content, and ignore the opinions of an overwhelming majority of Australians.
He is, after all, supposed to be a representative.
Michael Atkinson has welcomed David Doe's challenge for his seat in next year's election.
Mr Doe, the brains behind Gamers 4 Croydon, announced last week that he was planning on challenging Atkinson for his seat in next year's state election. In March earlier this year, Atkinson himself wrote: "I welcome a challenge in my electorate of Croydon at the next general election on this issue."
Even though he only had 75 people register on Friday, Doe is still positive he will get the 150 he needs in December at a function he is planing.
In respone to the challenge, Atkinson was quoted as saying: "The voters of Croydon will now be asked directly whether they want interactive games in which gamers score points by raping a mother and daughter, blowing themselves up, torturing human figures . . . killing people and taking drugs to improve their sporting prowess,"
I don't know what to say about that, so I'll leave it there...