‘Risen’ Refused Classification
Several sources have been reporting on the ban of Risen, and now Gamespot has the full details of the Classification Board’s report. I thought I’d support Risen‘s developers by providing a little ‘prior art’ where a similar depiction of the banned elements has existed in a game given an MA15+ rating (or below). Anyone interested should feel free to list more games with similar properties in the comments. (This list was compiled from memory; I didn’t do any research for it, so it shows how prevalent the prior art is.)
The game contains ‘quests,’ which a player may choose to complete by acquiring the sexual service of prostitutes. Though it is purportedly not a necessary element of the gameplay, players gain rewards or advance through the game more easily by engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes.
The first game that came to mind here was Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines. In Los Angeles, there are three possible solutions to the ‘Romero’ quest.
- The character may fend off the zombie hordes while Romero heads off to solicit a prostitute.
- The character may solicit a prostitute on Romero’s behalf and lead her back to the graveyard.
- The character may (if female with a high enough charisma attribute) perform the deed herself (which has the reward of allowing you to feed on Romero periodically; options 1 and 2 reward you with money and/or a weapon).
So VTM:B has a clear-cut case where prostitution (or the solicitation of prostitutes) leads to a reward. In addition to this, there are numerous instances where the character may ‘seduce’ NPCs to gain rewards.
The next game that came to mind was The Witcher, where the player is rewarded with ‘trading-cards’ of his female conquests. Frequently, sexual interaction with the characters is the reward of a quest (often very minor); sometimes it may be a traded item; in one or two cases, it serves to advance the plot.
[Brugleweed is] commonly referred to in text and dialogue as ‘weed’ or a ‘weed reefer’ and rewarded players who used it with experience points, failed to meet acceptable classification guidelines. In Risen, a player can both trade and smoke this drug, which mirrors an illegal ‘real-world’ drug in its terminology, use, and depiction.
Apart from the ‘terminology’, that description also essentially applies to tobacco. But enough semantics, onto some examples.
Velvet Assassin, which somehow got through the censorship process unscathed, allows Violette to enter ‘morphine mode’ which enhances her abilities. (And places her in a nightgown — does that count as a sexual reward?)
Fallout 3, although the name had to be changed from ‘morphine’ to ‘Med-X’,* features the use of this drug as a painkiller, complete with addictive properties.
Bioshock has you injecting shit into your arm, visible on the fucking screen.
VTM:B features a quest early on, in which one is required to steal painkillers to provide aid to a quest-giving NPC.
(Although it doesn’t depict the use specifically, Assassin’s Creed has the character ‘meditate’ before going out on assassinations; anyone with a little background in history and/or linguistics knows exactly what that means.)
The fact that Australia is still lacking an R18+ classification for games is ridiculous in and of itself; however, the arbitrary nature of the Classification Board’s rulings is even more bizarre. The complete lack of consistency (Fallout 3 vs Velvet Assassin being the most obvious clash) makes me wonder if there isn’t just some giant ‘wheel of censorship fortune’.
Knowing our current luck, upon seeing this list, the Classification Board will probably decide to ban retroactively all these games.
* I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How is the use of a ‘real world’ name for a fictitious drug in an overtly fictitious setting any worse than using a fictitious name for a fictitious drug in an overtly fictitious setting? The properties and context are identical.