The Australian OFLC has reared it’s ugly head and proven, once again, just how out of touch it’s members are with the modern world by refusing classification for Saints Row IV, a decision which, unfortunately, likely surprises no one familiar with the Classification Boards history.The given rating for any game is decided by the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification, whom also possess the right to refuse classification or outright ban a game from sale, and much to the dismay of Australian gamers, they have demonstrated on many occasions that they certainly aren’t afraid to do so. This came to a head however after they banned the colloquially notorious Mortal Kombat 9, from Nether Realm Studios, from being sold by Australian retailers or imported into the country from online distributors. However, many within the global gaming community may remember that it was only just last year that Australia joined the rest of the adult world and, with an immense push from the country’s collective gaming community, the Australian government decided once and for all to get with the times and recognise that gaming was no longer simply a childhood past-time. Mortal Kombat 9 was re-released with some extra content, allowing it to be re-classified and thus sold in retailers, and a cheer went up from Australian gamers as we claimed this hard fought victory.
However, this victory was short lived as yesterday Mr. Donald McDonald, the Acting Director of the OFLC, made the following statement in press release regarding the release of Saints Row IV:
This argument is awfully similar to those used before the R18+ rating existed, when games had to be tailored to be appropriate for teenaged audiences, and therein lies the rub: The reasoning behind this decision seems to imply that either the Classification Board believes every Australian adult cannot decide for themselves what is and isn’t appropriate content, and must have this decision made for them, or that we all have the susceptibility of a five year old who has just seen an episode of Batman and is now falling from the roof with a cape made from his mum’s good bed linen. In truth it might very well be both, but the Classification Board is still allowing developer Volition Inc. to rework the code in order to fit the Board’s delicate sensibilities and ensure that it’s moral enough to fit Australia’s (apparent) standards, it’s interesting to note that the game has remained unchanged for both North American and European audiences. Which raises the question: Why does Australian government oppose so rigidly to content no one else seems to have a problem with?The link between violence and reward, which most gamers will recognise as the “A given task within game context and reward for completing said task,” a staple of game mechanics since video games existed, is the key point in this argument. It’s this writers opinion that the Classification Board truly does believe that we (Australian adults) cannot discern between fiction and reality, and may try to emulate what we see in the game. The R18+ rating is simply a pacifier given to the Australian gaming community to keep them silent, because clearly, in the eyes of the OFLC, we still do not have the right to choose what we want to play.
Whatever the reasoning, there is an upshot to all of this: Reclassification is not the same as “banned”. So for any gamers who object to having someone else decide for them what should be seen as good and bad, that still wish to experience the uncensored version of the game, importing is still an option, and this whacked-out, drugged up, psychotically violent gamer certainly intends to.