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.