A Brief History of Australian Game Censorship
By Cameron Van der Does
For some reason, Australia has been stuck with a ridiculously strict rating system for a long time and we only got the R18 rating in 2013! For a full list of banned and censored games, search in Google and you’ll find a nice long wiki list, a list too long for me to go into every instance of stupidity, so I will stick to a few key situations.
Let’s start with one of the more well-known bans of a game, the infamous Mortal Kombat. Originally banned for being too violent, this game was completely prevented from entering the country under threat of a $100 000 fine. Some clever gamers managed to sneak in some copies, and it isn’t too uncommon to see a UK copy of the game circulating around the trade in section of game stores.
Here is one of the most popular and successful game franchises in the world and because we didn’t have an appropriate rating system, it was made unavailable to everyone in the whole country, regardless of if you were 14 or 44. Luckily this didn’t cause the developers to become uninterested in the Australian market, mostly due to the fact we have one of the highest earning, otherwise developers could decide the difficulty in releasing in Australia might not be worth it.
For those who were patient enough, though, the game was finally released in Australia (unedited and all!) in August 2013, as the Mortal Kombat: Komplete Edition with the all new R18 rating. I guess we have taken a big step here, I mean we have the R18 rating, and the new Mortal Kombat X game was released, and that is even more violent. Just look up the x-ray brutalities and see if you don’t squirm from discomfort.
So the new rating means finally we will get the unedited versions of adult games, right? Wrong. Let’s look at the next travesty, South Park: The Stick of Truth. Originally refused rating entirely due to one scene. Admittedly, the rather intense, anal probe scene. Australia ended up getting an edited version of the game, rated R18, with a title card instead of the scene. If you look around you can find a patch to get the full version and experience it in all its probey glory.
Even with the new rating, we aren’t guaranteed a final product true to the game developer’s vision. Other countries may have had this problem with South Park too, but Australia is so consistent in stifling us and our game choices and even when we “win” we are only given a moderated version.
Now for the final and most notorious game series, GTA (Grand Theft Auto). Notably the most targeted game series for censorship, GTA has had problems in almost every release they’ve had. Rockstar Games push the limits when it comes to GTA, with drugs, violence and crime as basically the entire storyline it isn’t hard to see how some parents may have some problems with the games. Unfortunately there is no way to stop their kids playing the game, so the only viable solution is to ban the games altogether. If only there was a way to talk to your children about violence in games and movies.
GTA III was the first to be hit by Australia’s censorship crusade. Originally refused classification in 2001, due to violence involving prostitutes, we ended up with an edited version for PS2 and eventually the original untouched version for PC sometime later. Vice City suffered a similar fate, being released in an edited form in 2002 and wasn’t released in its original form until 2010. Next was San Andreas, it was originally released without a problem but it was later found due to a computer mod, that a “sex scene” mini-game was located in the game files, inaccessible however without the use of the mod. It was demanded that a re-release was issued with the files omitted, otherwise the game would be reclassified and subsequently removed from Australian stores.
Next to feel the wrath was GTA IV in 2008. By this point they probably knew the drill and an edited down version was originally released, getting an MA15 rating. Eventually a patch was released for PS3 and Xbox 360 un-censoring the game and also an uncut PC version. A complete edition was also released in 2010, unedited with the DLC included.
Lastly, and most recently was the release of GTA V in 2013. It actually received huge support upon its release, and was the first R18 game to have such a massive commercial release in Australia. We managed to receive the full version of the game, which is funny since it’s the most realistic and violent one yet. It hasn’t had much trouble, with the exception of Target deciding to stop stocking the game due to pressure from a petition, started by a sex worker.
Clearly these games are popular, selling 34.61 million copies worldwide on PS3 and Xbox 360 alone, it was also the most pre-ordered game of all time in Australia. So, though it is good to see we are taking a step in the right direction, Australia still has a long way to go when it comes to game freedom. This problem seems to stem from the people in charge of censoring being out of touch in the first place and we can only hope that as gaming progresses, the new people in control will keep an open mind and realise that these games aren’t going to end the world. Stop using violence in games as an excuse for your neglect, learn the games rating system for yourself and actively monitor your children’s gaming and ensure they are playing appropriate games for their age, leave the Grand Theft Autos for the adults. That being said, don’t overdo it and if you decide to let them play something a little out of their age range, play with them and give them your guidance along the way.