Print 28 comment(s) - last by Lerianis.. on Aug 30 at 2:34 PM

Australia may lose most of its smart phone games, if the government's censorship plan moves ahead. Under the plan mature titles would be banned outright and developers would have to pay as much as $2,000 to have their games classified.  (Source: Ken Irwin/Sydney Morning Herald)

Fallout 3 was among the popular international titles to be banned outright by Australia's censorship board.  (Source: Aeropause)
In the land down under, if a 15 year-old can't handle a game, it's banned outright

At times the concept of banning violent or sexually explicit video games has floated around the higher echelons of the U.S. government, but has always been shot down as too gross an invasion of civil liberties and the free market.  However, Australia for some time now has been exercising a hard moralistic policy of censorship that would make even infamous anti-gaming ex-lawyer Jack Thompson proud.

Current Australian law mandates that video game-makers go before the Classification Board to receive a rating.  As there's no 18+ rating, any game that's too explicit for a fifteen-year-old will be banned from sale under the strict guidelines.  Recently banned titles include 
Fallout 3 (for digital gore, sexual innuendo, and simulated drug use) and Left 4 Dead 2 (for digital gore).

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor, who acts as the Commonwealth Censorship Minister, isn't satisfied with the current provisions, though.  He identified a loophole that currently allows smartphone app makers to sell games without review.  Currently Apple's iTunes store, Google's Android marketplace, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion's App World, and Nokia's Ovi store all sell classification-free smartphone game titles in the Land Down Under.

Under O'Connor's plan, smartphone game-makers would be forced to pay between $470 to $2,040 USD in fees to get their title classified.  And they could see their game rejected outright.

Many smartphone game-makers already operate on slim profit margins per sales region, and are saying that if the plan is implemented they will simply pull out of Australia's smartphone market.  

Marc Edwards, founder of Australian smart phone game studio Bjango, calls the plan deeply flawed, stating:

I understand that there's certainly a desire to treat [mobile game apps] in the same light [as PC-based games], but I think they're built and consumed in quite a different way and I think iPhone games may be a little closer to flash games on websites, certainly in some cases where they're small titles rather than [blockbuster] titles with large budgets and large timelines.

The sheer volume is going to make it very, very difficult.  The Classification Board is certainly going to have to put on a large amount of staff to be able to handle the iPhone app store, the Android [marketplace], as well as other platforms like Nokia's Ovi and other emerging platforms.

It's very difficult to define what's an app and what's a game.  What about if a utility has some kind of game as an Easter egg? Does that mean that all of a sudden it becomes a game? And what about desktop applications? They've never been classified.

Despite being a proud Aussie, Edwards says that if the rules are rolled out, he will likely pull out of the Australian market; after all, only 4 percent of his sales comes from his home country.  Other game developers, including other locally-based smartphone studios, are promising to following in suit.

The government, though, is likely eyeing the massive revenue it thinks that classification could bring.  Assuming a $2,000 classification fee, the scheme could, in theory, rake in $345M USD from game developers selling products on Apple's iTunes App Store.  And that's not to mention revenue from the Android developers and others.

Unfortunately, that move may largely kill smartphone gaming in Australia, blocking out all but the biggest titles.  That would leave Australia's 200,000+ smartphone users lacking the entertainment enjoyed by their more freedom-endowed colleagues elsewhere about the globe.

A final decision was postponed at the May Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting and will be delivered at November's meeting on censorship and other issues.

A full list of Australia's censored films, video games, and more can be viewed here (Note: The list contains some "erotic" films, but no hardcore adult entertainment. Nonetheless, it is probably not safe for work.)

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By bubbastrangelove on 8/19/2010 11:14:13 AM , Rating: 2
If someone from Australia downloads the STEAM Platform how does the government block someone from buying L4D2 off the STEAM platform as opposed to say Half Life or any other game considered acceptable?

It seems the Australian Government would need STEAMS cooperation for this to work which I'd be pretty surprised if STEAM actually went out of its way to enforce.

On a side note; the only bad thing I can say about Australia besides there's a whole lot of things that can kill you down there (lots of jellyfish, snakes, crocks, deserts etc) is their over-bearing government. I love that country and the people.

Just curious.

RE: Question
By B3an on 8/19/2010 11:39:32 AM , Rating: 2
Because Steam recognises what country you're in and displays available games for that area.

But you can always get torrents... in a way these Aussie Nazi's in power will encourage piracy.

RE: Question
By DarkElfa on 8/19/2010 11:56:13 AM , Rating: 3
Its just another day in the censorship news for the People's Republic of Australia.

The government probably censors the news so that they don't even know this stuff is happening.

RE: Question
By StevoLincolnite on 8/19/2010 12:03:19 PM , Rating: 2
The government probably censors the news so that they don't even know this stuff is happening.

On the contrary... It's actually well known when a game gets banned, and gaming magazines, websites etc' go into almost a sort frenzy.

Don't get me wrong, censorship plainly sucks, but the Government hasn't taken our ability to yell, scream and kick the bucket in frustration, regardless of Media.

RE: Question
By DarkElfa on 8/19/2010 12:10:42 PM , Rating: 3
I was mainly being sarcastic Stevo, but in the realm of seriousness, if Australians don't get off their asses and get these kind of people gone, you may lose those other rights as well.

RE: Question
By StevoLincolnite on 8/19/2010 12:00:11 PM , Rating: 2
If someone from Australia downloads the STEAM Platform how does the government block someone from buying L4D2 off the STEAM platform as opposed to say Half Life or any other game considered acceptable?

Because Fallout 3 and Left for Dead 2 are NOT banned, they had content modified so as to be accepted.

However, I just refused to buy Left for Dead 2 because of the castration it got, it was less gory than the original.

For instance, shoot a zombie and it fades into nothing almost instantly.

Heck StarCraft 2 is more gory than that with it's exploding Zerg units and buildings leaving entrails everywhere.

However, there is allot of lobbying to bring in an R18+ rating, so hopefully we should have it within a year or two.

RE: Question
By siborg71 on 8/19/2010 7:13:30 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, Steam blocks it. Apparently there are some ways around it, but it still filters out content for the rest of the world if an Aussie is on the server...

It f**king sucks hardcore. We have been trying to get this resolved here in Australia, but in order for the R 18+ classification to be allowed, there has to be a unaminous decision from the governors of each state... and one kept blocking it. Now he's resigned. And now this shit is going to happen? With our national election this weekend I'd vote for whoever is against this, but none of the major candidates have mentioned anything about this.

Also, there were plans put on the table to censor Australia's Internet access as well. Filtering sexually explicit content. I think our former Prime Minister has been talking too much with China!

RE: Question
By Lerianis on 8/30/2010 2:24:47 PM , Rating: 2
It's all about keeping control of the populace. The more sexually satisfied people are, the less violent they are... but it's also harder to get them to care about going to war with other foreign countries to force the conservative religious viewpoints on those foreign countries.

This is...
By Hexus on 8/19/2010 11:32:26 AM , Rating: 5
Laughable. Maybe it's because in America we take some things for granted, but reading this both disgusts me and makes me appreciate the civil liberties awarded to me as an citizen.

RE: This is...
By NanoTube1 on 8/20/2010 7:47:09 AM , Rating: 3
Couldn't agree more. Give this man a 6.

I think game developers and publishers should pull out of australia all together just to make a point. Gaming is a big industry and playing games is an important pass-time entertainment. In our times and in a western society, there will be wide spread discontent if games are not available and it will place their government under a lot of pressure. They will eventually give up.

RE: This is...
By Lerianis on 8/30/2010 2:29:38 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, right.... in a dream world. To be blunt, these asshats who like to tell people "YOU AREN'T DOING THE RIGHT THING!" don't take any mind to protests. They just keep on thinking "I AM RIGHT AND I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK!" not even realizing that they have NO RIGHT to dictate to someone else what they do unless they are physically harming someone else without that person's permission.

Our world is moving closer and closer to religious and non-religious fascism.

I don't see any way to stop that except by BEATING IT into people that they don't have the right to dictate to other people what they do in their own lives, unless they are doing the one thing above!

RE: This is...
By MungaIT on 8/21/2010 8:28:39 AM , Rating: 3
Oh dear... this is the kind of self righteous rhetoric that gives the United States such a bad name internationally(its a shame, your usually such nice people as long as no-one mentions "Freedom" or Liberty"). The United States exerts its power on other nations the world over, Iraq and Afghanistan are good examples(to be clear I am not against the wars)

Let's look at "Freedom" and "Liberty" from another perspective. Due to a lack of effective government in you may be able to play whatever computer games you like in the United States, however you also have an economy that is falling apart, roughly 17% of Americans are below the poverty line, 40% live below the poverty line at some time over a 10 year period and 60% of Americans live below the poverty line for at least a year in their lifetime. But the American government does not even provide a decent social security system to support these people in their time of need and it makes for pretty much the worst social security system in all of the western worlds first world countries. Even Obama's new health care scheme is laughable. Murder rates are 5 in 100,000 (as opposed to 1.2 in 100,000 in Australia). The public tertiary education system(university/college) is inaccessible to most of the American population, so you don't need big brother tactics to make the American people stupid and malleable, just leave the status quo and a lack of education will do it for you.

But hell, you have your Civil Liberties..... aint no government gonna rain on your parade...

The only remedy for Australia...
By Motoman on 8/19/2010 10:05:19 AM , Rating: 5 for the citizens to:

1. Organize protests and make sure the media is involved

2. Letter-writing campaigns to elected officials (and remember - form letters and/or the internet things where you just click a button are UTTERLY WORTHLESS. Either write your own, short letter or don't bother...from a politician's view, if you can' spend 2 minutes writing your own paragraph, you don't actually give a rat's ass).

3. Form a PAC (or whatever does the same thing in Australia). Endorse candidates that aren't pro-Big-Brother.

4. VOTE. The people can remove elected officials from power by voting someone else in. But you actually have to mobilize the populace to get off their asses and get to the polls. And remember...there's going to be a lot of Luddites and curmudgeons who *like* this censorship and will be voting FOR you have to outweigh them.

RE: The only remedy for Australia...
By MungaIT on 8/21/2010 7:50:43 AM , Rating: 2
4. VOTE. The people can remove elected officials from power by voting someone else in. But you actually have to mobilize the populace to get off their asses and get to the polls. And remember...there's going to be a lot of Luddites and curmudgeons who *like* this censorship and will be voting FOR you have to outweigh them.

Unlike the US voting is compulsory in Australia, so getting people to the polls is not the issue, over 99% of people vote in Australia and about 2%->4% of votes are then invalidated either because the forms are incorrectly filled out or left blank, so in essence over 95% of Australia votes.

I am watching the Australian federal election right now and there is a very good chance at the moment that we will either have a hung parliament or a change of parliament that will invalidate this entire story. Seems like poor timing on this one Jason...

The issue of Australian Censorship gets a lot of coverage on this site for some reason, strange considering that Australia only has a population of ~22 million people and many other non-english speaking countries around the world have much more aggressive censorship laws.

On the issue of media coverage, this issue has been getting quite a bit of coverage, however it is not really one of the issues that is having an effect on the outcome of the election, we simply have more important things to talk about(Mining tax, Emissions Trading Scheme, Government paid parental leave, National Broadband Network ect...).

Fortunately the BEST solution as far as I can see, which is not to stop vetting the media that is freely available but to extend the classification system to include an R18+ rating for games has been gaining a lot more traction in Australia at the moment and there is a good chance this is something that we will see instituted in the not so distant future. In the main time there is always rapidshare....

Regarding the concept of PAC's they do get formed in Australia, however they usually gain traction with the help of union leaders, and the union leaders are all backing the current government due to their position on Industrial Relations issues.

The people who are willing to do serious protest in Australia are currently protesting about, frankly, more important policies regarding things like climate change and even more important civil liberty laws such as same sex marriage.

There will be change, but I very much doubt it will be done by eliminating censorship completely. We will see...

RE: The only remedy for Australia...
By Motoman on 8/21/2010 10:26:27 AM , Rating: 2
I find it strange that voting would be compulsory in a democracy...that implies a lack of free will about the issue, and indeed, refusing to vote can be considered a form of speech that should be protected ("I refuse to choose between a giant douche and a turd sandwich").

The reason that Australian censorship gets so much coverage is precisely because it's an english-speaking democracy...for all intents and purposes, "just like America." So while it's not all that surprising to see a theocracy in the middle east censor the hell (heh) out of it's citizens, it's very surprising and even disturbing to see it happen in Australia.

While I agree that there may be "more important" issues than whether or not you can buy Diablo III when it comes out, the root of this issue is highly alarming...censorship can spread like wildfire, and if a society starts accepting it as "ok" in one area, it will spread like a cancer to others.

By eldakka on 8/22/2010 11:54:01 PM , Rating: 2
Actually it's not really compulsory to vote.

You have to turn up to a polling station (or send in a postal vote) and get your name crossed off the register. Once you've had your name crossed off you can turn around and walk out without having voted.

Or you can submit a blank, unmarked voting form if you'd prefer to not be so obvious about not voting.

I'd say it's a better way to ascertain people voluntarily not voting (a protest vote) by having them turn up at the poll-booth and not cast a vote than it is to just have people not register.

Not registering is less-reliable in my opinion because you also get people who just couldn't be bothered registering. i.e. they are not 'protesting' about anything, they are just too lazy.

Also, the penalty for not voting is like a parking ticket. They send you a letter saying you have to either:
1) pay $20 (OMG $20, that'll hurt!)
2) give a reason why you didn't vote (Once I said I was overseas and wasn't even aware an election was on...never heard back. Which was true btw, I saw post-election results on the news in a pub in London, was a surprise to me) (or could even say "But I did vote, prove otherwise". Since they just cross your name off, it's not really possible, without witnesses coming forward to claim otherwise, that you didn't vote)
3) contest it in court.

By kattanna on 8/19/2010 10:43:32 AM , Rating: 2
Australia for some time now has been exercising a hard moralistic policy of censorship

i always find it "humorous" when others try to cloak their meddling ways into the lives of others in "morality"

RE: amusing
By Lerianis on 8/30/2010 2:31:43 PM , Rating: 2
Right in one. The fact is that 'morality' is outside of 4 things someone else pointing at you and saying "I DON'T LIKE WHAT YOU ARE DOING!"

Period! They have NO RIGHT to do that, and should just SHUT UP and leave those other people alone!

By Paj on 8/19/2010 10:57:02 AM , Rating: 2
This is one of the few examples where I support the notion that government should stay the hell out of peoples lives. The government needs to have a hand in regulating many things - energy, defence, education, health, taxation - but saying what media people can and cant enjoy in their own privacy is ridiculous in this day and age.

Rest assured, many Australians feel the same way:

RE: Censorship
By Schrag4 on 8/20/2010 3:38:17 PM , Rating: 2
This is one of the few examples where I support the notion that government should stay the hell out of peoples lives.

The only way I could agree with you less is if you had said the government should be sticking its nose into people's video game choices.

Ridiculous Nonsense
By crackerman666 on 8/23/2010 10:33:02 PM , Rating: 2
"At times the concept of banning violent or sexually explicit video games has floated around the higher echelons of the U.S. government, but has always been shot down as too gross an invasion of civil liberties and the free market."

Are you serious...? Do you want our kids exposed to this garbage. God bless the government and their good fight against the kind of smut that is shoved down our throats by the liberal media and the like.

RE: Ridiculous Nonsense
By Lerianis on 8/30/2010 2:34:36 PM , Rating: 2
? I truly hope that you are being sarcastic with this posting. I'll be blunt: I don't care if a 2 year old is playing Doom 3, like my one little cousin was at my home with her parents permission.

I told her parents how gory it was, and they said "Whatever... not like it is anything worse than I made up on my own when I was young!"

They were right. She had no problems from playing that game: no bedwetting, no night terrors, no anything!

18 certificate
By psychobriggsy on 8/19/2010 12:47:34 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like the country needs to get an 18 certificate, which from the other comments it looks like it might get. Quite why it stops at 15 is beyond me!

In addition they should be adult enough to allow some self-regulation (with fines for inadequate self regulation). I.e., if you've written a non-gory/violent/sexy/etc game, then you shouldn't need to get it classified. This would also solve a lot of this article's issue.

But the politicians can't see beyond the $$$, so they'll screw over all their citizens out of greed, and they won't get anything in return as the games are pulled by the developers en-masse.

By Sibuna on 8/19/2010 3:52:08 PM , Rating: 2
But it's for the children! What if they have terrible parents that instead of, hey, maybe don't buy it for their kid instead of letting them buy whatever they pick up in the store?

Grow a pair Australia, seriously. Don't blame the makers of the game for faults of the parents.

they will get the games they want
By gorehound on 8/19/2010 4:18:26 PM , Rating: 2
use p2p and watch it make more piracy.what else to do when you live in a country of censorship you have to fight back.
if i lived there that is what i would do.i would just download away.
AAARGH !!! There Be Pirates !!!

Shoot zombies or have shots?
By nikon133 on 8/19/2010 5:45:22 PM , Rating: 2
It seems Ausies would rather have their late teens going to pubs, get drunk and get involved in healthy physical exercise a.k.a. fist fight than play violent games.

Beside keeping nation in good physical shape, it also helps Fosters and other strategic national industries. Sweet as.

By cactusdog on 8/20/2010 2:53:22 AM , Rating: 2
I'm in Australia and this censorship issue is ridiculous and really doesnt stop anybody getting any game they want.

Many of us are petitioning the government to introduce a 18+ rating for games just like we have for movies.

It really doesnt make any sense because many games are released with a 15+ rating that really should be 18+. and there is no consistency. A (popular) mild game gets the ban stick while other lesser known games that are much more violent are allowed.

Looks like we are going to get the 18+ rating soon but either way i cant think of any game that i couldnt get because it is banned. Luckily, The Christian lobby arent computer literate so in reality it doesnt work.

I bet
By zmatt on 8/21/2010 5:22:33 PM , Rating: 2
That if it were possible to quantify you would find that the piracy rates of the banned games in Australia are higher there than anywhere else in the world where they aren't banned. Nowadays you just mandate something like a piece of software be illegal. Smuggling a physical object can be difficult and risky, but smuggling software is cake. I imagine it happens quite frequently. The only people this hurts are the game developers. and for the life of me I can't understand why they don't have an 18+ rating.

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

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