Australia Ratings Board Bans Hotline Miami 2; Developers Tell Australians To 'Just Pirate It'

from the BUT-WE-SAID-YOU-CAN'T-HAVE-IT! dept

In 2013, Australia boldly moved into the 20th century by finally allowing games targeted at gamers above the age of 15 (which still makes up a majority of gamers, despite the birth rate and the rise of mobile gaming) to reach their intended audience. Even with the new rating (15+), game developers still found themselves altering games to avoid the government’s infantilizing banhammer.

The developers behind Hotline Miami 2 (Devolver Digital), the sequel to the Drive-inspired, synth-drenched, retro ode to twin-stick, top-down ultraviolence, is the latest to have a game banned in a country that loves banning creative works. Of course, the Australian ratings board doesn’t call it a “ban.” It simply refused classification, which is basically the same thing, only using bigger words.

The ratings board doesn’t have a problem with the standard grade violence contained in Hotline Miami 2, but it does find the following (taken from the ratings board’s report) to be a bit more than even adult Australians can handle:

In the sequence of game play footage titled Midnight Animal, the protagonist character bursts into what appears to be a movie set and explicitly kills 4 people, who collapse to the floor in a pool of copious blood, often accompanied by blood splatter. After stomping on the head of a fifth male character, he strikes a female character wearing red underwear. She is knocked to the floor and is viewed lying face down in a pool of copious blood. The male character is viewed with his pants halfway down, partially exposing his buttocks. He is viewed pinning the female down by the arms and lying on top of her thrusting, implicitly raping her (either rear entry or anally) while her legs are viewed kicking as she struggles beneath him. This visual depiction of implied sexual violence is emphasised by it being mid-screen, with a red backdrop pulsating and the remainder of the screen being surrounded by black.

Rape — even implied rape — is a very touchy subject. While normal killing-type violence is considered perfectly acceptable, adding a bit of sexual violence puts it over the top. But there are two things to consider here. One aspect is exactly how “graphic” something that looks like the following can actually be:

Now, let’s throw that all out, because maybe it’s just rape that’s the issue, no matter the graphical fidelity.

There’s also context to consider.

The Classification Board was concerned with an opening sequence—the same sequence that caused uproar after being included in a demo—that depicts a man in a pig mask sexually assaulting a woman after slaughtering everyone else in the house. Which, yes, sounds pretty bad, until a director yells cut, and it turns out the entire scene is part of an exploitative cinematic recreation of the first game.

This didn’t factor into the ratings board’s decision, apparently. Just seeing rape depicted was enough to refuse classification. The ratings board — which has previously allowed developers to alter games facing bans to alter aspects found especially objectionable — also didn’t consider the fact that Hotline 2’s developers give the player the choice to skip this scene completely when playing.

Devolver Digital, to its credit, has refused to alter the game to fit the Australian rating board’s sensibilities. But it still wants Australian gamers to play the new game. In a response to an Australian fan asking how he might get ahold of a copy, developer Jonatan Söderström said, “Just pirate it.” [click picture for a larger version]

So, Devolver Digital gives the finger to the censors by giving away its own game. The networks used to bypass the “Australian tax” will also be used to bypass the Australian ratings board, meaning this attempted ban will have no effect — like pretty much every ban ever.

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Companies: devolver digital

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Comments on “Australia Ratings Board Bans Hotline Miami 2; Developers Tell Australians To 'Just Pirate It'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

However, a server in the United States is NOT SUBJECT to Australian law, so the owners of any server in the U.S. to download the game into Australia is NOT SUBJECT to Australian law.

I run a small VPN, and if someone in Australia should use it to download the game without being detected, I am NOT SUBJECT to Australian law. My server is in my apartment in Carmichael, California, that makes the server, and anything downloaded through it, ONLY subject to the laws of the UNITED STATES.

JP Jones (profile) says:

It’s refreshing to see a developer who understands that someone who pirates your game isn’t necessarily a lost sale. The developer has lost nothing by giving this guy the go-ahead to pirate his game; after all, it’s not being sold where he lives, so if the guy didn’t pirate it, his net profit is still zero.

He stands to gain a fan, however, and now (probably unintentionally) good publicity. That fan is someone who is going to watch out for any new games he releases which aren’t banned in Australia, and by being open he’s probably gained a life-long customer.

It’s a lesson more companies really need to consider. We’re so focused on short-term gains we seem to forget the concept of investing in the future. For video games, customers are a far more valuable commodity than sales. Think of companies like Blizzard, which until some poor decisions with Diablo III, had millions of people buying their games on the reputation of the company alone. Heck, it was so good that even Diablo III couldn’t ruin their reputation (and the excellent expansion certainly helped).

My recommendation to any content creator is this: build your reputation and a fan base first, and always keep your focus on what’s best for your customer, not you. Focus also on the product, and making it the best you can. A good product, from a creator willing to engage with their community, is going to be very valuable to your customers. You have to create value for those willing and able to pay you for your product; you can’t demand that you deserve value.

Anonymous Coward says:

Nice to see the Australian rating board is interested in seeing that games gain fame. If Australia won’t let it in the country to be sold gamers will figure “IT MUST BE GOOD!”. I know of no quicker way to gain a reputation of the game that must be played.

Add to it the developer says go pirate and you have a can’t miss winner that circumvented the rating board totally.

That One Guy (profile) says:

‘I was thinking I could torrent it and donate to you directly…

‘Please, if there is any way for me to pay you for a copy of your game, I would be delighted.’

‘Perhaps you could send me a copy and I could donate to your paypal? Just give me options!

‘… so give me a way to donate and I will :)’

But remember kids, ‘People just want things for free’. /s

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Nothing in the known universe dumber than a puritan

But you cannot. If you had played the first game or read anything outside this article about it, you would know that you only gain points from doing gameplay stuff, that is, running around and killing shit. All “story” stuff (interacting with objects and people other than killing enemies) does not award points. Alongside that, I am under the impression that the character that does the fake raping is created to be a character the player is disgusted by.

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