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Does censoring games change anything?

by Stephanie Duchenne (Panda McBearface)  Posted Friday, June 28, 2013 8:49:00 AM

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I have just read some interesting articles on gamepolitics.com and videogamer.com respectively about how two games have been denied classification in Australia. Essentially, this means these games have been banned as the ratings board felt that they contain content that “…was above and beyond the highest rating a game can get in the country - R18+”:

Regardless of your age, you will never be considered emotionally or mentally capable of handling exposure to the content of these games.

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The first game to be hit with the banhammer was Saints Row 4, because of an “alien anal probe weapon” which is “designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians.” The Australian Classification Board said that:

 "A weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and as such the game should be Refused Classification."

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The second game to be denied classification is State of Decay. The Board gave the following reason:

“The game contains the option of self-administering a variety of “medications” throughout gameplay which act to restore a player’s health or boost their stamina. These “medications” include both legal and illicit substances such as methadone, morphine, amphetamines, stimulants, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, codeine, aspirin, “trucker pills”, painkillers and tussin. Of these, methadone, morphine, and amphetamines are proscribed drugs and the term “stimulant” is commonly used to refer to a class of drugs of which several are prescribed… When administering drugs, the player is briefly depicted moving a pill bottle toward their mouth. The sound of pills rattling in the bottle accompanies the depiction. The name of the drug appears onscreen along with its representative icon. Consumption of the drug instantly increases a player’s in-game abilities allowing them to progress through gameplay more easily. The Applicant has stated that a “player can choose not to make any drugs or scavenge for them, but it would be very difficult to complete the game without some form of medication”.

To me, this raises two questions:

1. Shouldn’t we be able to use our own discretion in terms of deciding what we wish to expose ourselves to?

2. Does censoring a game actually have any effect on society and people’s actions?

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The effects of censorship.

My answer to the first question is presented thus:

I do believe that a ratings system should be in place for games as it is necessary to notify the public when something contains mature or violent themes so that they may decide for themselves whether they wish to expose themselves or their children to these themes. However, the key words to me here are “decide for themselves.” I am of the belief that censorship does not aid anything. I realise that games are not reality, but they do reflect things that exist in actuality – like killing or, in the case of Saints Row, usage of prescribed medication for example. Pretending these things don’t exist, or not allowing people to see them does not mean that these things do not happen; and we need to know about them in order to collate data and make informed opinions about our feelings towards these themes. Complete censorship does not allow for the application of critical thinking because the decision about what we wish or do not wish to expose ourselves to has been taking out of our hands.

I also feel that the old adage “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” is applicable here – but we should have the right to purchase these games if we so wish.

In order to answer the second question in an appropriate fashion, I must state that I am not a qualified head-shrinker, but I do read a lot of books about murder and its psychology. The reason I mention this penchant of mine is because I do not believe that the censorship of a game will have any effect on people’s behaviour.

A new report has shown that research showing a causal link between videogames and violence does not use correct scientific methodology, thus meaning that any findings from such studies are flawed and may in some cases be factually incorrect – and I believe that this conclusion is applicable in these cases as well:

Just because we make an in-game character inject himself with Morphine to heal himself during play does not mean that we are going to feel that we need to rush out and apply this situation to ourselves in real life. We might use an anal probe in a videogame does not mean that we are going to go out into the real world and rape people with giant phallic objects.

I do have to add the qualifier that, despite the fact that I do not believe that videogames or any form of media along those lines can influence a person into performing an action that they would not have without exposure to said media, I do think that certain themes will attract a person of a particular inclination. For example, a person of violent temperament will be drawn to a violent game – but he will take away something different from the experience. Whereas most of us play for the fun, competition or to release a bit of stress; he plays because it excites him. This form of media would be for him what pornography is to masturbators.

The second thing I think is important for me to acknowledge is that, yes, sometimes media can supply the blueprint for a crime. My criminology idol, John Douglas, provides a case study in his book The Anatomy of Motive that deals with two Airforce officers who committed robbery and murder:

The murders were committed using methods that these officers had seen in a movie: they forced their victims to drink drain cleaner which caused incredible pain, internal burns and bleeding followed by respiratory   failure.

However, the fact is that, these men had already decided to commit these crimes prior to watching the movie in question – and although the movie had provided them with creative inspiration for their methodology, the fact remains that it did not incite them into these despicable actions.

The most important issue here is that although violent or sexual content may attract or inspire people in a negative fashion, these dark desires existed in them before they were exposed to such content and therefore the blame lies with them.

Censorship of a videogame will not influence anyone’s behaviour and although they may not have access to these games and their themes, they will just find other ways to fuel their innate desire for destruction. If one believes that withholding information will stop a person from behaving a certain way; essentially you would have to take down every single form of media: the internet, television, radio, newspapers. And to be honest, I think you’d find that people would still take illegal drugs or kill others anyway.

Censoring a videogame does not change anything or impact a person’s behaviour in any way because essentially, the media he is exposed to doth not the man make.

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Derogatory terms for "vagina" censored for your safety :P


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Please note that these are the views of the author and not MWeb (pty) ltd



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