Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Australian gamers pretty pissed - and rightly so

I'm a big fan of the original Fallout game series. I think I fell in love with it during the black and white still images being played during the opening credits, with the dulcet tones of Ron Pearlman ringing in my ears...
War. War never changes.
Its an awesome little clip to get you primed for the post apocalyptic world of the Fallout game, where mutations abound, a desert covers the landscape, and you spend hours and hours building the perfect character to accomplish every single mission you possibly can, including finding the splattered Whale, the Tardis, the Godzilla footprint and the Alien crash site. And now, Bethesda are bringing out the 3rd in the series, and it looks just as tasty as the previous ones. But the Aussies may not be able to see it (without legal chicanery) because their dumb ass Australian Classification Board have refused to give it a rating.

"Obscenity is not a quality inherent in a book or picture, but is solely and exclusively a contribution of the reading mind, and hence cannot be defined in terms of the qualities of a book or picture." Theodore Schroeder, author

It is apparently the problem within the game itself, part of the gameplay in fact, that has drawn the ire of the censors. And its not gratuitous violence (GTA, Condemned 2, pretty much any 1st Person Shooter), depiction of sex (GTA again, Soulcalibur, Duke Nukem 3D) or even banned substance use (GTA, Bioshock, Battlefield Bad Company). No, its much more insidious and dangerous (apparently) than that. Yes its the dreaded....morphine. Huh? Yes, apprently the morons at the OLAC are refusing to give the game a rating (thereby making it illegal to distribute and sell) because the character in the game gains an reward for using drugs. Heres the words :

"In regard to the computer game Fallout 3, the board is of the opinion that the use of morphine in the game has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain."

"This ability to progress through the game more easily is the incentive to take the drug while the reward is in the character's abilities."

Am I the only person in the world scratching their head and wondering what illegal substances these twerps imbibed before saying that? What they are effectivley saying is that its okay for characters in a game to snort pounds of coke, inject gallons of heroin, drink till they go blind and smack around (and kill) prostitutes, but its not okay to use morphine in a game to kill the pain? Huh? But in nearly every single game I can think of (thats had much lesser ratings than GTA) the main purpose of the game is to shoot people, and heal yourself when you get shot! In Max Payne, he takes painkillers to restore health and return use of his legs - is that not EXACTLY the same thing? And it was given an MA15+ which means its "not suitable for under 15" BUT this does not mean an under 15 year old cannot buy it if accompanied by an adult. So it means in reality "There's some pretty full on shit in this game. Are you sure your kids should be playing this?" The responsibility falls to the parent to watch what their children are playing/watching and use their discretion. As it should always.

I was originally going to call this post "10 reasons we should not decide who can watch stuff by elected committee", but that sounded a bit naff. But I will still use the original title's idea to explain my point. The problem the Aussie gaming fraternity, and indeed the film appreciation and media consumers in many countries have is that the ones hired to serve on the boards of censorship committees are people with specific moral values that differ to the majority of the intended audience of the game. And this is the biggest problem with Censorship - what may disgust one may titillate another.

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.” Henry Steele Commager American Historian

When we allow a bunch of people (and I don't mean anyone specific - it could be any bunch of people) to decide what we can and cannot watch\play\listen to in our own homes, we have lost one of our freedoms. And I'm not saying "old sad bastards on Censorship committees have their finger far from the pulse, jammed firmly up their ass". No - if I was on this comitttee I'd ban any and all forms of RnB music - its crap and no-one should have to put up with it. And Kenny G - don't get me started on the big KJ and his abominable wind instruments of torture. Thats my point - what some people (with no taste) like, I despise. But I dont care - because I dont have to put up with it. If I dont like it, I turn it off. If Britney is on the radio, I change the channel. If the god botherers are on the telly, I mute it or turn it off. If the mormons are at the door, I throw the cat at them. No-one is forcing me to tune into something I dont like.

Except in elevators in department stores - whats wrong with those people? Are they inhuman as well as rip-off merchants?

"Censorship reflects society's lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime." Potter Stewart, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

We should be able to make choices as adults to view whatever the hell it is that interests us, or listen to whatever music we feel like. I agree with an idea that there is a committee to rate things to give us an idea of what this media contains, and that children should not be able to view things that they may be ill equipped to deal with, but the responsibility for deciding what is best for the children lies solely with parents and care givers. Surely the people who are raising these children have a better idea of their maturity levels, and can gauge what is and what isn't appropriate for them? Never let the government dictate to you what their opinion of good and bad is - I've never seen a government get it right yet.

Case in point, the Australian Government - you cant play a video game where you use morphine to make yourself better, but you can help others invade Iraq and kill people in reality. Are they really the best people to be judging what morally right and wrong?

Aussies - if you want to make a difference, head on over to and sign their petition to the board to get the decision reviewed.

Did you ever hear anyone say, "That work had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me?" Joseph Henry Jackson, author

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