Sometimes even when bad things happen there’s that little bit of light at the end of the tunnel that will keep you going. I guess somewhere deep in my head I had the idea that the Australian Classification Board would see how silly it was being denying Left 4 Dead 2 a classification in Australia and thereby forcing us to have a completely butchered product. Turns out they’re pretty consistent with their rulings and the appeal has fallen on deaf ears:
After the Australian Classification Review Board first refused to classify Valve’s zombie first-person-shooter Left 4 Dead 2, Valve appealed the government’s decision.Valve’s Zombie shooter was refused classification, which means it can’t be made commercially available in the country. Not quite the same as a banning, but it has the same effect.
The company’s appeal to overturn the Board’s earlier decision has been refused, and the original, unedited version will not be sold in Australia later this fall when the game launches there.
As Valve told us earlier, the version of Left 4 Dead 2 submitted to the Australian government for rating is “the adjusted version.” This version has been rated and will be commercially sold in Australia.
The cut down version of the game sticks in my craw for a couple reasons. The first is that it highlights a critical flaw in the Australian classification system which can trace its roots back to one man, Michael Atkins, who in the past has used extreme hyperbole to defend his positions. Here’s an excerpt from a charming letter he wrote to the Adelaide Advertiser back in March:
Their vote is hardly likely to hinge on the “right” to score gamer points… by running down and killing pedestrians on the pavement, raping a mother and her two daughters, blowing oneself up in a market, cutting people in half with large calibre shells, injecting drugs to win an athletics event or killing a prostitute to recover the fee one just paid her (Welcome to the world of R18+ computer games).
Those of my constituents who are refugees have been subjected to the practical instead of the virtual suffering that R18+ nerds seek to inflict for their gratification on the computer screen.
Probably the worst thing about this situation is that the seat he’s in, the just over a decade old seat of Croydon, is a safe labor seat with him winning 74% of the vote in the last election. If it was a marginal seat we might have seen a swing against him on an issue like this but for the time being this man with his hyperbolic rhetoric and conservative viewpoints are keeping the mature Australian gamers behind the rest of the developed world. He uses an appeal to emotion to say that he represents people who’ve endured the horrors of R18+ games for real, and that’s the reason why he’s opposing it. If we’re to take his view to its logical conclusion does that mean every other developed country which has such a rating for these games is encouraging behaviour that is seen in these games? Although I should hardly expect any kind of sense from him, especially when he’s mislead parliament in the past.
Secondly what does coddling all the gamers in Australia net for society at large? Since the rest of the developed world has such a rating and have yet to descend into an anarchist orgy of drugs, sex and violence I can’t see how introducing a rating would do any damage to the Australian public. In fact present research shows that violent video games have no link to real world violence and in fact since games have become more popular in the last 2 decades violence amongst the young has decreased. The end affect is that the Australian gamer receives an inferior product or none at all, removing income from Australian game distributors and encouraging more nefarious means of acquiring what they want.
In fact I’m going to detail one way us Australians can get the game we deserve. First you’ll need yourself a Steam account and a friend in the USA. Get your friend to buy a copy of Left 4 Dead 2 and gift it to you and voila! You now have yourself an as intended from the developer copy of Left 4 Dead 2, thereby circumventing Australia’s draconian classification scheme. There are of course other ways, but they’re left an as exercise to the reader.
The backwards view that Australia is taking with respect to a R18+ rating for games is a black mark that we can easily erase if a couple people started practicing critical thinking. The evidence is on the table and their flat out refusal to acknowledge it shows a purposeful cognitive delusion, something that I can’t stand for when they’re supposed to be representing the people. I know one day we’ll see the end of this, and it can never come soon enough.
Anyone got a friend in the US I can talk to? 😉
I can’t imagine what it must be like for game developers who want to sell their games to us Australians. Being a prosperous nation there’s enough spare income flying about that people are willing to spend up on non-essential items such as games so it makes sense to try and market their product to us. However from time to time the developers run up against the wall that is the Australian Classification Board when their game pushes across some boundaries:
THE sequel to a popular video game has been banned in Australia after failing to receive a rating of MA15+.
Left 4 Dead 2 was refused classification by the Classifications Board this week, meaning it will be banned from sale.
In its report the board said the game, due to be released in November, contained “realistic, frenetic and unrelenting violence”.
“The game contains violence that is high in impact and is therefore unsuitable for persons under 18 years to play,” the report said.
Here’s the decision in PDF form which actually makes for some entertaining reading. I’ve never seen someone so formally describe a game where you are basically hacking up zombies with cool weapons. But this does bring up a point which I’ve lamented before: Australia needs a R18+ classification for it’s games, especially considering the average age of the Australian gamer is now 30.
Now I know a couple people who are in the game industry and nothing seems to stress them more than the last few months up until release. The amount of work that they put in to make sure that every bug they can find is ironed out and the game play experience is as best as it can be is staggering. I’m still frankly amazed that many game development houses attempt to release their games in Australia when the threat of refusal of classification is always there as it means putting the developers through another crunch cycle so that the game can be sold in Australia, something which will never go down well. Indeed if your game is one that is guaranteed to get refused (like say Postal) you will probably not bother and save yourself the time and money.
For the most part though a lot of game development houses have learnt from previous rejections and know what to avoid. The best example I can think of is dismembering bodies after you’ve killed someone. If you’re a particularly twisted individual like myself you’ll usually test a game to see if you can do this sort of thing. You can then imagine my surprise when I played Dead Space and Fallout 3 that both allowed you to do such things yet have been classified as MA15+ in Australia. The decision on Left 4 Dead 2 makes note that you can’t do this but it appears that their refusal for classification is based around the use of melee weapons that allows you to make quite a pile of bodies with a decent amount of blood and guts spilling everywhere. Since that’s probably one of the major selling points of the game (who doesn’t love chainsawing up a bunch of zombies with 3 friends?) they’re going to be hard pressed to remove that, so we’ll probably end up with guts and gore replaced with rainbows and sugar plum fairies.
Maybe then it will be suitable for our sensitive little minds.
I’ve been a gamer ever since I learned how to use a keyboard and I’ll be damned if the government believes it knows what’s safe for me to see and what isn’t. Too often do we have games that are refused classification in Australia because of some petty aspect of game play that in all seriousness most Australian adults would have no problem with. If parents are worried about their little tykes getting their hands on these games then that’s not a problem for the classification board to solve. Realistically retail stores would have to be more strict in checking ID, but 30 seconds at the cash register is a small price to pay when compared to the high cost that is incurred when you have to redevelop your game in order to dumb it down for the Australian market.
It’s not for lacking of trying either that we don’t have a classification. There was supposed to be a public discussion on the matter back in July however due to a shuffling of cabinet members the minister responsible Bob Debus was replaced by Brendan O’Connor, and this has stagnated any progress on the matter. In fact a recent interview with O’Connor on Gamespot shows that they’ve basically rolled back to square one, since they’re now reconsidering their methodology for consulting with the Australian public.
At this point I’ve just lost hope with the Australian government doing anything solid on this matter. Realistically refusing classification to a game doesn’t stop people from getting their hands on it either because if they can’t buy it locally they’ll import it. If they can’t import it, they’ll pirate it, and so far any attempt to stop piracy has failed miserably. In essence the government is attempt to keep “extreme” material away from the Australian community, failing, and souring a multi-billion dollar industry’s view of our market. Keeping Australia behind all other developed nations in this regard is short sighted and provides no tangible benefits to the community at large.
Don’t make me throw a temper tantrum.