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Last week, news broke that Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was going to be banned in Australia following a verdict from ‘The Australian Classifications Board’ after they refused to rate the game. This is only the latest in a string of recent decisions to directly censor certain aspects of videogames, albeit only in one country. Other very recent attempts to remove games depicting violent adult content include GTA 5 being taken off the store shelves of Target and Kmart across Australia and Hatred being removed from Steam Greenlight (Though it was later restored to the service by Gabe Newell himself).

I’d like to go over the recent case of Hotline Miami 2. This is the official statement from the Australian Classifications Board:

The computer game is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Computer Games Table, 1. (a) as computer games that “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”

hotline miami 2 screenshot 1

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number was mainly banned because of a specific scene depicting the player controlled character seemingly sexually assaulting a female character, though the way the scene is set up is in the form of a movie set, therefore a fictional event, and therefore there is no actual sexual assault going on. The scene in question is not sexually explicit in any way, and the extent of the nudity shown would be allowed on any network TV show (One might also consider the fact that this is a highly pixelated graphics style).

There was also the recent entry in the Gamergate debate, when ABC published their news story  on violent video games and harassment in the industry (We recently had an interview with someone involved in the news story. You can check that out here). In this news piece, the reporters put a focus on “Violent depictions of women being beaten, raped, and run over by cars” and showed gameplay from Grand Theft Auto 5 in which they chose to solicit a prostitute and then kill her, also running her over in the aftermath.

This is obviously a gross demonstration of misrepresentation and forcing agendas down the throats of the viewers. Grand Theft Auto is a violent videogame, which is also why it is a mature-rated game (17+, clearly labeled on the box), therefore a game made for the adult audience. The fact that ABC reporters choose to showcase scenes of prostitutes getting run over by cars is interesting, since you’re just as likely to find yourself taking part in bicycle races, harmonious underwater explorations via submarine, taking in the beauty of nature, or being a law-abiding citizen. Any of these things are possible in the game, and they only present a fraction of the thousands of different scenarios, which are all free to be created and explored in the sandbox world of Los Santos.

GTA 5 triathlon

But ultimately, the depiction of a Tennis mini-game is not as controversial as killing hookers and using terms such as rape and violence against women in your news broadcast. And linking violent videogames with violent or aggressive behavior is obviously much more interesting than mountain hiking. ABC purposefully put together the segments of gaming violence and online harassment of media darling Anita Sarkeesian, as if to poke the dated and unfounded assumption that depictions of violence in videogames actually cause violent behavior in real life.

I’d like you to think for a second: Has there, say in the last 15 years, been any case of rape in a mainstream videogame title? Personally, I cannot think of even one. Looking towards the East, to Japan, you can find niche markets of this controversial content if you go looking, but even in Japan, these games are not accepted in the mainstream.

Obviously, the claim that violent videogames cause real life violence has never been proven and has been discarded by courts time upon time again. We have already been over this subject more times than any of us care to remember. Mad headhunters such as the disbarred attorney Jack Thompson (I’m sure some of you remember him) have been going at this unholy crusade for years, but they’ve all ultimately lost the fight, though the war still seems to live on.  

It is a truly sad state of affairs: Gaming is not taken seriously by a lot of people. The idea of gaming as some sort of toy, lives on in the minds of some, and though our beloved medium has made great strides these past few years, the infantilization of gaming remains clear. It all comes down to the assumption that games are for kids, and therefore depictions of violence, especially those of sexual of nature, do not belong in the unique storytelling elements of gaming.

I believe we are in a transitional phase, where gaming is only just beginning to be accepted as an artform, and as a valuable and powerful tool of storytelling. One thing needs to be made perfectly clear: The assumption that games are for kids is as outdated and invalid as the belief that the earth is flat. The fact is, that the average age of a gamer is 34, the average age of the most frequent game purchasers is 39, and there is a bigger percentage of gamers above the age of 50 than there are gamers under the age of 18 (according to the ESRB). With this knowledge, we know that gaming mainly being the pastime of teenagers is a blatant misconception.

jack thompson

This idea of “protecting the kids”, “will nobody think ABOUT THE CHILDREN!” is ancient, and other mainstream mediums have gone through the same controversies as gaming is going through right now. Looking at TV from the 80’s, you couldn’t find rape or sexual abuse anywhere, hell, good luck even finding any kinds of nudity on television from that period.

Now, TV is quite a different story, featuring topics that were once but a whisper in the wind. Game of Thrones, arguably one of the highest rated and most popular TV shows of all, is not too shy to feature very high levels of gratuitous nudity, and its most recent season even featured a rape scene (Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil anything!). Sons Of Anarchy has done it, Scandal has done it, freakin’ Downton Abbey has done it.

Rape is an acceptable tool of storytelling in film and TV now, because these mediums are greatly respected. They are recognized for their potential to evoke incredibly powerful emotions and who would argue that TV and film is not art? That acting and film making is not an expression of emotions, and that they do not deserve the respect they hold in today’s society?

These mediums get the respect that they deserve, and as a result of that, they have been freed from their chains. They can freely explore taboo subjects and frequently do so. Mainstream film and TV portray murder, sexual violence, depression and mental illness, drug addiction, extreme violence, neo-nazism… There is really nothing “untouchable” or sacred by film and TV standards, just like painters and sculptors can create whatever they so desire, however when it comes to videogames, we are being held back by the notion that it is a medium catering to children.

As I mentioned, sexual violence is extremely taboo in gaming, and we have rarely ever seen any form of it whatsoever, but why not? That is the question I believe needs to asked. Why can’t we discuss such serious subjects in games? Why can’t games feature sexual violence, not as an act of entertainment, but as a powerful tool of storytelling. Why must our medium be held back by assumptions and unfounded allegations. GTA 5 is a game made for adults. That’s why it has a ‘Mature’ rating. Gaming has a rating board (The ESRB), and it should be clear to anyone buying games of a mature nature, that it is indeed NOT a game designed for kids because of that very rating. There is a lack of understanding here, and games aimed at children can perfectly coexist with games made for adults (like they already do), just like the same is true for TV and film.

Mature ESRB rating

Banning a game which has been created by adults for adults, is absolutely nonsensical and we shouldn’t stand for it. Maybe this would be acceptable in an Orwellian society, but most of us live in democracies. Australia isn’t a authoritarian police state, so why can its citizens not enjoy a videogame when they are of adult age. Some might say that it is not only gaming as a medium and as an industry which is being infantilized, but also its users.

It is censorship, pure and simple. It is a clear violation of our freedom of expression in my view, and as human beings we should not stand for that. It is one thing is to disagree or be unfavorable towards a certain consumer product; it is something entirely different to ban that consumer product from use to an entire country. Censorship. There is no other word for it.

This question needs to be asked: Why can’t I, as an adult, decide which videogames I want to play? Video gaming is not a medium that only caters to children or underaged individuals, and it should not be treated as such. How is gaming ever going to evolve into something greater when it is constantly infantilized and ‘put in the corner’ to protect a minority of users that don’t have any business playing games that they don’t qualify to play according to the ESRB rating system?

What I have concluded to be the focus of the concern, is the interactive nature of videogames. It is the dimension that TV and film lack, and it is what makes videogames such a unique and invaluable medium. Videogames have mechanics that do not work in any other medium, and the fact that the player can control the action to the degrees that we see possible in games like GTA, scares those that believe games cause real world violence and aggression. This myth will be put to bed some day, but for now, we’ll keep hearing it and we’ll keep rolling our eyes in distaste.We will always fall back to the fact that there is no evidence backing their claims. Their hypotheses are faulty, and even if we were to look at violent crime in correlation to sales of videogames ,we’d find that violent crime has gone down while videogame sales have risen. Whether or not a graph shows a rise or fall in violent crime in correlation to videogame sales, is more or less unimportant. Correlation does not imply causation, and if you were to look into a real correlation between the two, you’d have to dig much deeper than sales numbers and crime rates.

violent crime vs video game sales graph

Chart showing the decline in violent crime offenses and increases in video game sales from 1996-2004. Source: “Chasing the Dream,” www.economist.com, Aug. 4, 2005

I see videogames as a beautiful artform that can entertain in a multitude of ways, and we are finally seeing progress in storytelling: Developers are daring to venture into the unknown, challenging conventions, pushing boundaries, and they are currently being punished for it. This transitional phase is hard to work through, but we will get there. It is only a matter of time. The fanatics are a dying breed, and their tales of old will soon be forgotten. Our medium will keep expanding, and it will keep pushing the boundaries, and it will be accepted as an artform. And once that happens, the infantilization of gaming will be nothing but history.

The Last of Us giraffe scene

What did you think of this editorial? Do you agree or disagree? What do you think about the implementation of more mature themes in videogames?


Marc Henriksen

I played my first video game when I was 4 years old and I haven't looked back since. If you can't find me playing videogames, writing, or playing music, I'm probably dead.



  • BEASTMASTERTOAD

    The issue is that people still see video games in the context of the 1980s. To many people over 40 (hell, even millenials have bought into this to some extent), video games are still the pasttime of children and not a viable platform for serious storytelling or ideas.
    That said, there are plenty of games out there that are violent or show sexual content for no good reason, and I think we need to push back on this idea some people have that sex and violence means an adult game. That is, perhaps, the truly infantilizing view in the industry that is putting a damper on many games.

  • DasJT

    I’ve never been one to say “videogames are art!” I honestly don’t care about that. I just want videogames that are fun and have REAL gameplay. If the game happens to have a great story then that’s just a bonus. To have those great stories you need allow these themes in a game. Rape, violence, and murder aren’t pretty topics. But they bring out emotions you wouldn’t feel in games without these themes. There will always be the argument that games are for kids. Well to that I say use the ESRB. It’s there for a reason. If a parent buys a kid a violent videogame then it’s the parents fault. It’s the equivalent of letting your kid watch The Godfather then blaming the people who made the movie.

  • Cy

    Nothing will change in the right direction until game companies stop caving in to the shrieking SJW minorities. That’s why games like Hatred are so important right now, and I really hope that it’s a success because devs and publishers need to see that upsetting the professional victim crowd isn’t a death sentence for a video game. And it isn’t even just a video game thing, it’s a culture thing. Since we left the 90’s we’ve been getting progressively pruder and pruder and we’re at the point where people think hearing an opinion they don’t agree with or being hit on is harassment. Culture is pretty ridiculous right now and I can only hope it changes soon before more than video games are ruined forever.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    This is an in-depth article and it deserves more time that I probably can devote in a comment. But I do want to make a few points:

    1. Boundaries exist for a reason. When something (a movie, a painting, a video game) ‘bumps’ up against the standards of society, the boundary is not always obliged to give way. If everything is permissible, there is no boundary, there is no standard, there is no art. Sometimes the boundary pushes back. And perhaps in this cast, that is good and expected.

    2. If you are going to transgress the boundaries, it needs to be for a reason. It can’t just be for a giggle. What is the storytelling significance of the rape scene (or fake rape, haven’t played the game)? What do we learn about rape, about the character? Are the benefits of having a rape scene worth having the character perform a despicable act? GTA 5 gives you the freedom to do anything…and that’s the problem because:

    3. Actions need to have consequences. The main character is never arrested and the game ended for running over a prostitute in GTA 5. If there are no consequences then, yes, the art or game is teaching the wrong message.

  • I was going to take issue with “over 40” – the over 40s are the kids of the ’80s, the first videogame generation – but on reflection you’re probably right. Back then, it was still a niche pastime, and too many people of my age still see it in that light. They never played videogames, but their children do. Ergo, it’s still a kids’ thing.

  • coffeetable

    “Actions need to have consequences. The main character is never arrested and the game ended for running over a prostitute in GTA 5.”

    This certainly can happen within the game, and if the player is arrested for running someone over, it effectively leads to the “Game Over” screen of going to jail and having his money and weapons confiscated. I don’t know why it’s especially important that the player be pursued by the police for running over a prostitute in particular, since you will eventually become a police target for running over or harming anyone if you do it often enough or in front of a police officer. If you triggered an automatic wanted level for running over a single prostitute but didn’t trigger a police response by running over any other single NPC civilian, it would effectively break the immersion of the game’s world, as if prostitutes were a protected class above all the other civilians.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    I’ll take your word for it that running over people can result in a ‘game over’, that wasn’t my experience with GTA 3.

    My point isn’t about prostitutes, it’s about lack of consequence. Wanted levels go away, there are no persistent penalties for hurting people or just general criminal mischief. That immersion in the game world is the problem, being immersed in a world where you can do whatever you want and avoid punishment. You want to play that, fine. But people may have a problem with that kind of environment and I’m not sure they don’t have a point.

  • Bearpants112

    Boundaries should be tested because, like every other idea, it should stand on its merit. Boundaries that exist for no purpose other than tradition are useless and only hold people back.

    If your boundary cannot be questioned, then it isn’t worth keeping.

  • Bearpants112

    There’s always a balance in games between realism and immersion/fun. You can make a game where you get a Game Over screen after you run someone over, but players won’t like it. They will stop playing, and tell their friends not to buy the game. It’s not even realistic, as people on the fringes of society often go missing and get murdered without any criminal being caught.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    I’m not saying boundaries can’t be tested. I’m saying sometimes boundaries push back. Also, tradition has it’s place as well, but I’ll avoid the Chesterton’s Gate tangent for the moment 🙂

    The corollary to ‘questioning boundaries’ of course is that, if you’re given an answer (Like, no, this is not acceptable), that may also be a valid response.

  • Bearpants112

    I don’t think we disagree. However, “this is not acceptable” needs to be backed up with a substantive argument as to why.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Sure thing, I agree. A game needs to be fun first and foremost. It doesn’t even have to be realistic, I recall some game where you could hit pedestrians but they always got up and walked away afterwards. Sorta took the fun out of plowing into them.

    But GTA, for one example, crosses a number of lines in giving the player unlimited freedom with minimal responsibility. I don’t mind it existing, but let’s bad behavior what it is. I do think there’s some good storytelling in the series but that doesn’t give it a free pass for it’s other ethical problems.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Certainly. And I think the culture and society makes its argument, as does religion and ethics. In the case of Hotline Miami 2, the argument is that the game may:
    “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”

    Which it may, I haven’t played the game, I hope the classification board has. If they’re right, that seems to be an argument against it being sold there.

  • Bearpants112

    There needs to be an explanation of why those things necessitate a ban. If they’re banned because games are for kids, this article’s content addresses that argument sufficiently.

  • Pedro Henrique Ribeiro

    Spot on, man!

  • Bearpants112

    If the game’s purpose isn’t to be an ethics simulator, and there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that acting unethically in a game results in unethical behavior in real life, why the discussion of a “free pass”

    Popular movies in the US are far more violent and even contain graphic sexual violence. Yet few voices call for their free pass to be revoked. Why are games given special scrutiny? Is it the mistaken stereotype that games are for kids?

  • Chris

    Agreed, but it’s hard to say that video games aren’t art. Considering a key component to games is art. Character art, environment art, art departments, etc.

    Hell, you could frame a screenshot of most Halo skyboxes and they’d be far more interesting and artistic than what people tout today as modern art.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Let’s take the ‘impressionable kids’ discussion to one side, that’s another tangent that can be fun to chase but I don’t think that’s the main thrust.

    I think it boils down to this: Should adults be permitted to consume whatever entertainment they want to?

    Most, maybe all, societies will say no. There are limits on what can be made, bought and sold. Those limits currently can be pretty wide, witness “A Serbian Film” but there are limits.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    There we come to it. What is the game’s purpose? Why is it acceptable or ‘fun’ to murder people (not getting in gunfights but the whole ‘running over prostitutes’ part)?

    Is that fun? Should it be considered fun?

    I think the pro-censorship voices lost the movie debate back in the 60’s in the US at least. (Though God help you if someone smokes in a movie today)

    It may be the impression is that games are mostly for kids. I know I have less time for gaming now that I did when I was in my teens and 20’s.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    I’m not sure oppostion to the main character raping someone is ‘branded morality’, that’s considered bad just about everywhere.

    But that aside, I support the Devs being able to make games they want. But if what they make gets rejected, I don’t see why they should be lionized. They pushed the limits, the limits pushed back.

  • Niwjere

    Amen to this. Too many boundaries are defended with the classic bad-parenting line of “because I said so”.

    “Nothing by mere authority.” —The Royal Society of London

  • Damian Salcedo

    Great article man!

  • Niwjere

    On average, the forty-somethings don’t have nearly the dedication to gaming that we young bloods do. That ESRB “averages” metric is horseshit, not because it’s wrong, but because it’s misleading — when you define “gamer” as “anyone that plays video games” your metrics are boned from the get-go.

    The previous generation grew up with video games, yes, but they also largely bought into the idea that games were for children and that as they grew up they should “put away childish things”. The core nerds didn’t give it up, of course, but their Everyday Joe counterparts pretty much everywhere else did (case in point: my father plays Sid Meier’s Civilization series semi-regularly, but that’s literally all he ever plays, and he has very little understanding of modern gaming — I had to teach him about save points and persistent online games that don’t HAVE save points when I was much younger).

    My generation is fortunate enough to not forcibly lose its childlike sense of wonder to the mundane society around it.

    “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” — C. S. Lewis

  • Niwjere

    Or letting your child get hold of your unsecured handgun, then blaming the people who made the firearm.

    Oh snap, did we just get political in here?

  • Niwjere

    “progressively more prudish”

  • Cy

    Just be glad I didn’t pull out the triple negatives.

  • Niwjere

    “Considered bad just about everywhere” is the logic used by the Australian government to censor games they personally find morally distasteful.

    It doesn’t matter how many people dislike what you think or what your art depicts. Freedom of speech, as a concept, exists for the sole purpose of protecting UNPOPULAR speech — because that which is popular does not need defending.

    If someone’s art is rejected by the free market, the free market has spoken. If someone’s ideas are shot down in the free marketplace of ideas, the free market has spoken. But this is not a popularity contest. This is SUPPOSED to be a meritocracy.

    Consider the once-infamous game RapeLay for a moment. Its developers had every right to make what they did. Those who disliked what they made had every right to express their opinion of it. Individual establishments were of course free to set their own boundaries and refuse to sell it. But if something controversial is sold directly by its creators with no middleman, or if it is distributed online, NO ONE has the right to say “We find this distasteful and you are not allowed to bring it to market.” That is the point. The Australian government is WAY out of line.

  • Niwjere

    Prohibitions against multiple negatives are stupid anyway. They can be effective in many contexts.

  • Bearpants112

    Interesting that there’s far less concern for acts of genocide and war crimes in video games than there is for running over a prostitute. Just as a simple measure of scale, it is a strange priority.

  • Anonymoose

    One of the best games I’ve ever played, Rance VII, has rape everywhere in it. And that’s not even rape which is inherently considered bad, especially when done by the main character as a form of justice on women ‘behaving badly’. Sexual violence is more prevalent in the Rance series than actual murderous violence, and as such, you get a setting and characters I find rather compelling and puts a lot of other games trying to be serious and play it safe all the time to shame.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Yeah, that’s always been odd to me, too. I prefer sex in games over violence but outside of Japan, not a lot of that around either.

    It was one of my big problems with MW 2, the airport opener. Don’t know why the devs put that there.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    Sorry, not trying to trap you or anything.

    But if rape was one of the reasons why Hotline 2 got rejected, well, I have a hard time shedding tears over it.

    The media (or the game developers here) IS pushing a morality here, though. One that says it’s ok to slaughter and maybe more (again, based on the article, haven’t played Hotline 2). I like Niwjere’s comment that the market should decide. But there are governments and they do pass judgement on things so I’m not surprised this didn’t make the cut.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    As a matter of ideals, I agree with you. As a practical matter though, there are consequences for pushing the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable. The devs of Hotline Miami 2 ran into them. I’m not even sure if free speech is a protected right in Aus, it isn’t in the UK.

  • Niwjere

    “Should it be considered fun?”

    What someone else considers fun is none of anyone else’s business, so long as they are directly and nonconsensually harming no one (and so long as there is no scientific proof that they are indirectly harming others — see also, video games). Full stop.

    It is not acceptable or fun to murder PEOPLE. It IS acceptable and/or fun to SIMULATE the murder of SIMULATED people. Reality, meet fantasy. This is the same reason murder, rape, etc. are acceptable in film — no actual harm is done. It is a depiction of a despicable act used for entertainment (in either the “fun” or the “attention-grabbing” sense, sometimes both). Society recognizes the difference in films, mostly. The problem is that the older generations still see “games” and “playing” as exclusively for children, whose grasp on the difference between reality and fantasy is not always assured. This flawed view will die off in time.

  • Niwjere

    I’m aware that it’s not protected, but it damn well ought to be. No free society will long remain free when they have handed over their liberties to a small group of autonomous censors. The law is irrelevant here, really — it’s a matter of the people speaking up and saying “no, we will not have you suppress this merely because we don’t personally find it morally tasteful.” It’s a matter of principle. Sometimes you have to stand up for the things you don’t like.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    I’m very tempted to go into a side discussion about how freedom only works when tempered with responsibility 🙂

    However, I will just say that I admire your ideals and I wish we had more people who favored your point of view.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    That was one of the things I really liked about ‘The Wolf Among Us’, at the end you could see how many other users made decisions similar to yours.

    I do think that there’s a reason for limits and even a place for censorship. Limits create creativity. A world without limits is a world without standards and to me that seems rather ugly.

    I’m a Westerner, so naturally I’d prefer Western morality. It works. And nothing exists in a moral vacuum, the devs bring their prejudices to their work, of course. Look at Borderlands the Pre-sequel or Dragon Age: Inquisition for two recent controversies. So you can’t avoid someone’s morality being in the content.

    Again, I like Niwjere’s idea of releasing stuff and seeing what flies and what doesn’t. I vote with my dollars.

  • Niwjere

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m also big on personal responsibility (and do note that personal responsibility extends to actions which have been shown to indirectly harm bystanders, even with no malicious intent). But I will preach “my rights end where yours begin” with my dying breath.

    I have a right to sell something offensive, for any reason I choose. Doesn’t matter how offensive it is, or why I chose to make it. Everyone else has a right not to buy the things they find offensive. Doesn’t matter how rational or ridiculous their reasoning actually is. No one has a right to prevent me from selling or to force them to buy. This system works best when all participants are educated, intelligent, and respectful, but since we can’t guarantee that, we must choose between drawing an arbitrary line in the sand and not drawing a line at all. Any arbitrary line that is ever drawn will be inherently unfair and hypocritical, even if only to the smallest group. To maintain freedom of choice and equality of opportunity across the board, it is necessary to draw no line at all and let the free market decide.

    If, in a free and open market with no censors blocking the entrance, you choose to make something offensive, and you make no money from it, that’s on you. You made that choice. Maybe you just marketed it wrong, and you’ll have to try again with people who are actually interested, but the only right you have is the right to bring whatever you want TO the market. No one has any guarantee of bringing money BACK. That’s the responsibility involved with the free market — put your chips where you will, but don’t blame anyone else if you bet wrong.

    One of my favorite historical anecdotes:

    The deliberations of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 were held in strict secrecy. Consequently, anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall when the proceedings ended in order to learn what had been produced behind closed doors. The answer was provided immediately. A Mrs. Powel of Philadelphia asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” With no hesitation whatsoever, Franklin responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

    A republic — IF you can keep it. With great freedom comes great responsibility.

  • Niwjere

    There’s a difference between reflecting personal morals and biases in one’s art (largely unavoidable) and preaching them to one’s audience (fully avoidable). The Pre-sequel is PAINFULLY preachy. Borderlands 2 barely managed to mask its intentions (Anthony Burch is just a bad writer, period). Inquisition — I’m not convinced we needed a metric ton of side conversations that involve sexual preference. It’s jarring and comes off as unnatural.

    I agree with “limits create creativity”. It’s not an idea I often see espoused, but it’s one I’ve tried to spread around. There’s a reason the Bit Wars produced some of gaming’s greatest masterpieces. As the adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Simultaneously, however, there is no reason for UNJUSTIFIED limits.

    For example, most businesses in the States these days prohibit smoking on their premises. That is a limit on behavior that has a good backing reason — people are more likely to frequent an establishment whose air is comfortably breathable and does not perpetually smell like smoke. But why would there be a limit on which games are allowed to be made or sold? There is no proof that selling these games chases customers away (unless you’re an openly family-friendly establishment, in which case that’s your prerogative). There is no proof that games cause violence (quite the opposite in fact). In fact there’s really no reason other than the arbitrary declaration that the games are “offensive” or “immoral”. The question then must be asked — offensive to whom, and by what measure? Who has the right to declare something “offensive” for anyone else? Can such a thing even be factually established outside subjective opinion?

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    I wish I had time to write more 🙂 Work is being…difficult.

    I’ll just say that though there is difficulty in drawing the line between what is acceptable and what isn’t (see the USSC’s problems defining obscenity), that doesn’t mean that the line shouldn’t be drawn somewhere.

    I infer that you prefer there to be no limits (no offense intended if that’s not the case) but I don’t think that’s healthy or (back to the article) useful for game developers. Absolute freedom requires a lot of maturity to wield without harming other people, even if that harm is just to their standards of right and wrong and what’s acceptable or useful and what is not. And if a game developer and publisher wants to make money, they need to have a clear idea of what they need to adhere to in order to sell their product and return a profit.

  • Niwjere

    No worries. I’m between projects myself at the moment.

    Yes, I prefer that there be no limit, because the market doesn’t need limiters. The culture has already established those. If you want to make the most money, you will appeal to the most people, because that will expand the number of possible wallets from which money will be transferred to you. If you want to make something that is NOT appealing to the majority, you should expect less profit, but that’s just as valid a choice as making something that’s widely approved of.

    The creators of Hotline Miami 2 will not be earning money from people who find their game offensive. That’s already a given. Those people aren’t the target demographic, by definition. Those same people do not have the right to be “protected” from that which they find “immoral”, nor do they have the right to stop those who do not share their opinion from partaking. This applies to governments and organizations just as much as individuals.

    Again, I should be able to bring whatever I wish to the market. If no one buys, that’s wholly on me, but no mob of offended people should be allowed to trample my stall and run me out of town. Hotline Miami 2 should be given its fair shot at success, same as anything else. If no one buys, that’s far more effective than censorship — the creators likely won’t make another one ever again due to lack of funding. If people buy, its presence in the market is justified.

    And now, off to meetings. Thanks for chatting in a sane and reasonable manner. =)

  • Misogynerd

    Time as always, in 30 years the first generation to be born with video games will be 60 years old. VR glasses will make people antsy and move away from trying to ban video games to banning VR software. It will be the same type of fear mongering.

    Games have also fortunately become the first medium without any Comic Book code or the Hays Code. Not sure if TV had a similar code. As a species we are fortunately becoming more logical and less about demagoguery. Socrates, Turing and others were killed by their government, but now the only one trying to ban ideas and mediums is a hoop wearing “pop critic” with increasingly less credibility and work ethics.

  • Bearpants112

    We know for a fact that the purpose of GTA is to offer a unique sandbox experience where the player is given a lot of control over what is or isn’t acceptable/fun. Only the most dishonest of zealots would argue that the purpose of GTA is to murder prostitutes.

  • Reece Hardy

    They are not sex negative, violence negative or even rape negative (Vagina Monologues is celebrated yet has stat rape of a 13yo), until an audience has been defined as negative.

    Ie, it is not specific content that makes entertainment offensive, it is the intended audience. Anything that is perceived to be targeted at a “negative audience” will be heavily criticized and anything perceived to be targeted at their “acceptable audiences” will be celebrated and lauded (no matter how good or bad it is).

    This is simply identity politics and critical theory at work.

    The aim is to either directly censor, or force self censorship onto creators so they change their intended audience. Once creators pick the right audience, they get all their artistic freedom back again. Add the correct narrative to the work, and heck, all the marketing will get done for them as well.

    *cues awards and lavish media praise*

  • Audie Bakerson

    “Has there, say in the last 15 years, been any case of rape in a mainstream videogame title?”

    Fallout 2 is 17 years old and that’s the only non-porn game I know that actually has an explicit rape involving the player (both instances a fade to black)

    Plenty of games since have IMPLIED rape (and plenty of games with girls forcefully groping girls), but none by the player. Groping mechanics (consensual or otherwise) came pretty much side by side with touch screens, but I don’t know of any games that are even remotely mainstream with such a feature (indeed, I only know 1/2 that were even translated: The Vita Senran Kagura games)

  • TacticalTimbo

    So long as all parties (creators, distributors, consumers etc) involved are willingly taking part, what good reason is there for the ban hammers to come out?
    If I were to watch a film that my neighbour would find distasteful, what unavoidable harms would I be forcing upon him/her?

  • BEASTMASTERTOAD

    I agree on every front except for Hatred. While no one should be blacklisting the game, I don’t like the developer’s intent with this game. Shock value and mid-’90s edginess shouldn’t be the motivation for touching on a subject like mall shootings. It’s as poor in taste as an angry birds-type game where you’re launching airplanes into buildings.

  • Bearpants112

    I don’t think it’s productive for a discussion to suggest that people want a world without any limits at all.

  • DariusQ

    As much as I support freedom of speech I cannot get worked up over Australia banning Hotline Miami 2. It’s their country, their rules. Whether or not people from other countries do not agree with the policy it isn’t our right to force our values upon them. Unless Aussie gamers start their own formal petition I don’t see any alternative but the accept their decision.

  • Niwjere

    Consider, then, that this is all merely fantasy. Would you argue that these people cannot fantasize in their own heads about these acts, in the absence of fantasy-based entertainment? There is no difference between a fantasy in one’s head and a fantasy on the silver screen, save for the degree of publicity that fantasy has the potential to achieve. It is all equally fictitious. It is all equally harmless, provided the consumers can differentiate reality and fantasy. Most can — and I don’t see anyone blaming cinema for the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, despite the fact that it is well known that the would-be killer was motivated to commit his crime by repeat viewings of the film Taxi Driver.

    We force others to abide by certain moral codes daily, but as I’ve stated before, limits require proper justification. For example, there is a minority of individuals that would very much like to be able to freely commit murder. We have established laws that make this sort of behavior illegal. Why? Why is murder objectively wrong? Because it impinges on the rights of others. It is a violation of a person’s agency. It ends the life of another human being. It causes the loss of a member of society (any society that is OK with killing itself off won’t last long, obviously). I could go on, but the point is that murder is not wrong because a bunch of people rose up and demanded that it be considered wrong. It is wrong because it objectively violates someone’s rights. Morals cannot established by popular vote.

    There is a massive group of individuals that would very much like to consume fantasy-based media, some of which is violent, grotesque, and unsavory to the population at large. Australia’s government has established laws that allow it to arbitrarily prevent these individuals from exercising their right to participate in the free market as consumers, on the grounds that some of the material they wish to purchase might be considered “offensive” to the majority of the population. This law directly interferes with the rights of the consumers, as there is no proven social benefit that accompanies the banning of these items, other than the smug satisfaction of those who are too sensitive to allow anything they do not approve of to cross their paths.

    This is the key difference. Moral objections are no objections at all. If I find your hat offensive, you are under no obligation to remove it, destroy it, or never purchase another like it again. Why then should the government be allowed to declare in my stead that something is bad for me? I am an adult. Nothing can actually make that determination but science and my own self. If I have no power over your personal choices, so long as they do not harm me or others, neither should the government.

    If the majority is allowed to impose their moral code on all citizens, they are in direct violation of basic human rights. The only limits that can be legally imposed on human beings without breaking their fundamental rights are limits that are based on objective fact — limits without which it can be proven that society as a whole would be worse off.

    I know that most societies WILL disagree with my sentiments. I am simply stating that they are objectively wrong. Again, morality is not decided by popular vote. Direct democracy will forever be susceptible to the tyranny of the majority.

  • Niwjere

    I want a world in which the free market is actually free — no restrictions on what can be sold. Societies and cultures will then impose fluid “limits” on what is actually sold by determining what is profitable. After all, if you’re selling something, you presumably want buyers.

    “No limits” is ridiculous. You can never truly have no limits at all. What you CAN have is no ARBITRARY limits.

  • Niwjere

    Poor taste to you. Others may not agree. If I want to make an Angry Birds clone wherein I launch miniature passenger airliners into a replica of the World Trade Center, I have the right to do that and no one has the right to tell me I cannot sell it. Individual shops and storefronts can refuse to sell it, because they set their own bars (my rights end where theirs begin), but the product itself is free to be on the market. I merely need find the proper venue (probably independent distribution).

    When perpetual offense is the byword of the day, deliberately offending people with delicate sensibilities is absolutely the right way to go. Ask a psychologist. The more you avoid that which offends you, the more it will keep offending you. Only through regular exposure can the walls be broken down.

  • Niwjere

    Political principles don’t give a damn about national borders. Human rights don’t suddenly start existing once you cross an arbitrary geopolitical line.

    At best, I will admit there is not much that can be done. That doesn’t mean I have to accept the decision as good or beneficial, because it most certainly is not either of those. Seriously, freedom of expression isn’t a new concept. Neither is the free market. Yet virtually all societies are quite content to toss the whole of human progress straight into the waste bin, so long as they don’t have to subject their precious personal sensibilities to something that might offend them. At the edge of liberty, the temptation of security lies in wait.

    http://cdn2-b.examiner.com/sites/default/files/styles/image_content_width/hash/c9/df/c9df94086289a62b2cb12e4fbcc5e58f.jpg?itok=uTXWAmxV

  • ” It’s their country, their rules”

    Who cares as long as it ain’t where you live? Do you take the same view regarding all human rights or just when it comes to freedom of expression?

  • “This is simply identity politics and critical theory at work.”

    Amen Bro, that is *exactly* correct, it is applied Frankfurt School, nothing less.

  • Heavy Mettle

    No they can’t not.

  • dsadsada

    Yes, they should be permitted to assuming the adult is mentally healthy. Otherwise you’re treating a full grown, mentally stable, emotionally mature adult like a child. At which point if you’re going to treat adults like children, what gives you, another adult, anymore clout than anyone else? You should be treated as a child just as much as anyone else, moreso if you’re the one screaming “you can’t do that because I said so times infinity!”

    And if you’re going to do that anyway, you shouldn’t kick me out of your facility when I decide to play in the ballpit and throw those plastic balls at other children who dare to enter in order to assert my dominance on my domain…hypothetically speaking.

  • Marc Henriksen

    Thank you 🙂

  • Cy

    I don’t not disagree with you.

  • BEASTMASTERTOAD

    You probably should read my post a little closer than you did. I never came down in favor of blacklisting games. I also did not say that we should never touch on sensitive topics either. I said that I did not like the motivation behind Hatred (NOT the fact that it is about a mall shooter). People should be able to make a game about whatever they want, but when it is done merely to be edgy or when the subject is trivialized, that’s when it becomes poor taste. Calling Hatred a game with poor taste doesn’t mean I want to censor it or that games on that subject shouldn’t be made — it just means Hatred is a game with poor taste.

  • DasJT

    To be fair I never said videogames aren’t art. I just said I don’t care.

  • TeLin特林

    Hey….He didn’t say ban the game.

    People can have opinions on what is and isn’t “offensive.”

    Let’s not go in the opposite direction of SJW Cultural Marxism.

  • hots

    That sounds like the most soul-crushing thing I’ve ever heard of. Do you also brag that Custer’s Revenge is one of the best games ever?

  • Niwjere

    And my point was that the motivation behind it doesn’t matter. You can dislike it all you want, but as far as the free market is concerned, it is a product like any other.

  • Niwjere

    Ha, I’ve thought the same thing to myself before — virtual reality will probably be the next moral panic.

    When will humanity learn from its own repeated failures? When will people recognize the cycles and break them?

  • Niwjere

    It’s mostly a newbie’s rule, frankly. Once you’ve been writing for a number of years, double negatives (and occasionally even triples or quadruples) won’t be nearly as taboo. Kinda like splitting infinitives.

  • BEASTMASTERTOAD

    You’re responding to an argument that I never posed though. That is my point.

  • Niwjere

    Gotcha. Sorry if it seemed like I was coming after you, then. My mistake.

  • Niwjere

    Like so many others, instead of evaluating a game based on the effectiveness of its gameplay and story, you’re judging based on your feelings — how “moral” you perceive the contents to be. (If that’s not actually the case, please tell me — it’s certainly the impression I’m getting here.)

    I have the utmost respect for the Rance series, even if I don’t personally enjoy playing the games. I’m with RazorFist on this one — any game that succeeds at doing what it was trying to do is a good game. The content is irrelevant; only the execution thereof matters (quality of both writing and mechanics).

    I would ask what you consider some of the greatest games ever, but I’d be willing to bet that that list will include at least one game that contains violence. Flip your response around and make it about general violence instead of rape. How comfortable are you with playing games that force you to maim and kill simulated human beings or other creatures? Why? Answer those two questions for yourself before you deem it suitable to condemn someone else’s fantasies.

  • Audie Bakerson

    Weirdly the writer, Tori, that made Rance the character he is, is female.

  • Niwjere

    More common than many radicals would like to admit. Many women have a habit of writing fiction that involves overt sexuality and…unconventional relationships.

    Men aren’t allowed to enjoy any of that, oh no. That would be evil. Because patriarchy.

  • hots

    Of course I’m not evaluating its gameplay, I know next to nothing about it except for what DeusEx said. He described the protagonist as someone who forces women into sexual submission until they behave differently, and rationalizes it.

    I play games with violence in them when the rationale is is “kill or be killed” or “defend the weak”; I would not play a game where the point is to torture women until they become mentally unable to disagree with me. Call it personal preference if you want.

    You said, “any game that succeeds at doing what it was trying to do is a good game”

    So you ARE saying that Custer’s Revenge is a good game.

    And then you said I was condemning your fantasies; of COURSE I am, who the hell FANTASIZES about rape?

  • Niwjere

    Custer’s Revenge failed miserably at what it was trying to do. Its mechanics are clunky and it’s a pile of shit even for the time it was made in. Don’t put words in my mouth. The game suffered the same fate as quite a lot of would-be erotic media — its core purpose was to display pixelated intercourse, and as a result its actual delivery in all other areas was godawful (like porn with good writing and acting — such a thing virtually doesn’t exist).

    As for “who the hell fantasizes about rape” — I take it you live in a bubble. Are you seriously not aware of the MOUNTAINS of rape-based pornography on this planet? Have you not even heard of the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey? Rape fantasies are just about as common as murder fantasies. Welcome to entertainment. We human beings tell some pretty fucked up stories sometimes. And that’s OK, because they’re fictitious. The vast majority of people can differentiate very effectively between fantasy and reality. We explore twisted worlds in our heads while outwardly behaving like civilized individuals. Literally every major civilization in history has done this. It’s not unique to us, and it certainly isn’t a new development in the state of humanity.

    You’re welcome to condemn rape. I do as well — the real-world sort. What I don’t condemn is fantasizing. If you want to fantasize only about things you perceive as morally good and right, well, that’s your prerogative. Just know that a hell of a lot of people aren’t doing that, and that you have no right to expect them to follow your lead. Grown adults are capable of being outright sociopaths in their heads with zero danger of that fantasy crossing over into reality. The Puritans already lost. Your closing cry of righteous indignation is several hundred years too late.

  • DariusQ

    This isn’t a human rights case though. The Australian Classifications Board has been given the authority to ban this game as an elected governing body by the people. Unless there are actual Australians who demand change then there is very little that foreign sensibilities can do but respect their right to self govern.

  • “This isn’t a human rights case though”

    Of course it is.

    Yours is a very subservient statist view. I assume you take the same view of the North Korean government? Their country, their rules? There are no objective rights in your view presumably.

    Personally I think rights are not something people have doled out to them by a nation-state. So I am all for respecting the right to self govern, what a pity the Australian state thinks otherwise of its hapless subjects.