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CENSORSHIP ISSUES

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[Shock at Victoria's death][Shock at Regina's death][Shock at Victoria's death (reversed)]

"If you are afraid to exercise your freedoms, you have already lost them."

"Free speech only means something when it permits speech that is offensive."

- Anon.


This information ceased to be updated on 1 January 1998.
For current general information concerning computer games censorship in Australia,
please consult my Games Censorship Collection Web site.

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My pleas in this section are addressed particularly to those Australian authorities who have banned Phantasmagoria so that no citizens under their supervision, regardless of their age, can play this game and make up their own minds about it. I am twenty-four years old and have attained the right to smoke, drink alcohol, drive a car, and raise a family. These are all responsible real world activities with clearly understood real world consequences. Phantasmagoria on the other hand presents a purely fictitious (ie. not real) situation whose outcome has no impact on the real world.

On top of this comes the disgraceful realisation that some censorship officials don't have the time or inclination to play through or even understand interactive computer game titles such as this one and thus cannot do them justice when allocating censorship ratings. Such ratings are usually far more severe than those given to the same product in Europe and the United States. Cartoon/animated games in the style of Doom and Quake are routinely designated "MA" (Mature Adult 15+) - the highest rating allowed for games. Titles classified any higher are officially prohibited from sale to everyone.

Australian government bureaucrats do not realise that many of the game players of today are adults - not children - who can make up their own minds about what is entertaining for them and what is objectionable without the reactionary interference of an incompetent and totally unsympathetic third party. To allow the distribution of computer games containing content similar to that found in "R" (18+) and even "X" (18+ contains explicit sex) rated movies and restrict their sale to adults only as is currently done with videos seems to me to be the way to go. Remember, as with most forms of entertainment, no one is forced to watch or play a computer game. Restricting access to adults only is far from allowing the game's compulsory purchase or viewing by members of the general public. Why can people my age not be trusted to see and emotionally handle something any adult overseas can view and is really no more violent or sexually explicit than many popular movies containing similar content? What are the censors afraid of? This is totally discriminatory! I thought the trend in the 1990s was to remove all forms of discrimination, not impose new ones.

Phantasmagoria provides its own optional internal censor function, "conveniently" ignored by the human censors, that blurs the more explicit visual details of some of the non-interactive cut scenes. However, anyone with even a limited degree of imagination can easily guess what is going on. More effectively, any "disturbing" scene may be skipped simply by pressing the Esc key. There is no excuse for anyone to sit through anything they find difficult to watch - quite unlike the situation experienced by traditional moviegoers. Furthermore, if Phantasmagoria (or indeed any other computer game) is found to be strongly offensive to an individual, one must wonder why the game was purchased and played by that person. Why not play something else or no games at all? After all, consumers always have freedom of choice - if you object to a title, don't buy it, but let others make that same choice for themselves.

I for one did not object to any of the clearly fictional controversial scenes presented in Phantasmagoria and, from the Review, it should be obvious that the character I controlled was far from a heartless perpetrator of mayhem and violence. Indeed, her only violent actions were undertaken in desperate cases of self-defence, and even then she committed them reluctantly. If anything, any sane, rational adult who plays this game will probably become even more intolerant of violent actions in the real world as Phantasmagoria strongly promotes the moral message that violence is horrific, ugly, very hurtful, and is never the desirable answer to anyone's problems. Everyone who commits a violent act is punished in some way, usually by death. Contrast this message with that promulgated by most permitted action gaming titles where the simulated violence is often unrealistically portrayed and encouraged of the desensitised player.


Yes, Phantasmagoria should be a prohibited purchase for those under eighteen but be freely available to all adults who want to experience it as I have. I hope in future when more well constructed games containing adult concepts are released by companies as established as Sierra On-Line, that this ignorant reaction will not be repeated by those who should know better. Those who make laws in this area must understand the harmless nature of computer and video games and must understand the demographics of the gaming population. To fail to make an unbiased, open-minded effort to do both these things is undemocratic and unjust.

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*** WHAT MUST BE DONE ***

  1. Removal of all references and implications in all Australian legislation and associated documentation related to the classification of computer and video games that adults do not play or have a right to play these consumer products.
  2. Removal of the separate classification schedule and guidelines that currently apply only to computer and video games.
  3. Classification of computer and video games to be performed in an identical way to the classification of films as they are no more psychologically harmful or have any less widespread appeal than that older form of popular entertainment.
  4. Games rated "MA", "R", and "X" under the new classification system to be restricted by law to persons over a certain age. Thus, "R" and "X" type games will not be banned to everyone as they are at the moment.
  5. Review of the classification decisions for all computer and video games that have been classified "RC" (banned) to date.
  6. No further regulations of a restrictive nature to be imposed on computer and video games without extensive community consultation and approval. In particular, this includes consultation with gamers on the Internet and through computer and video game magazines.

I have no objection to the concept of classifying computer games as is done with films, nor do I have a problem with the idea of a Federal Government body being behind this process. While I realise some other countries such as the United States voluntarily censor computer games according to the rulings of one or more industry "watchdogs", this only leads to inconsistency and confusion. What is needed in Australia is for one central Government body to do this work under drastically revised Guidelines which have the full support of as wide a cross-section of the community as possible. My list of demands stated above are not at all unreasonable, all they require is that a bit of much needed democracy and common sense be injected into the computer games censorship process to ensure the introduction of a much fairer ratings system for the benefit of all Australians.


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Find out much more about Australia's uncompromising computer games censorship legislation
(Each page includes my extensive commentary that elaborates on many of the above points)

*!* [Dot] EXCERPTS FROM THE REPORT RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS LEGISLATION: 1993 [Dot] *!*

Computer Games Ratings Guide: 1995

Why Phantasmagoria has been banned in Australia: 1995

Anti computer games censorship submission to Senate Committee: 1997

Banned and highly controversial electronic games in Australia: 1997


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I wish to state here and now that I am a committed supporter of the democratic concept of free speech in all forms of electronic media from computer games to Internet publishing. I deplore and reject the attempts of governments throughout the world to restrict the flow of products and information to adult citizens in cases where those products and articles of information are not derived from or directly promote real world physical or psychological harm to other people. Those who hold similar views are invited to join me and millions of other Internet users in the free speech campaigns indicated at the bottom of most of my Web pages. Please copy the logos and the blue ribbons and use and distribute them freely. Thank you for your support.

[Stop child pornography]

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So, what's all the fuss about?

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Be warned that the screenshots on the page indicated above are at maximum explicitness and may prove distressing to some viewers. Nevertheless, here is your chance to judge for yourself whether sales of Phantasmagoria should be restricted in any way or merely aimed at an older age group than many existing computer games.


"It is not the function of Government to keep the citizen from falling into error;
it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error."

- Judge Robert H. Jackson.


ALTERNATIVE COMPUTER GAMES CENSORSHIP SITE BY ANTHONY LARME


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Contents

Title - Introduction - Gameplay - Plot Synopsis - Sound and Visual Effects - Main Characters - Miscellanea

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[Phantasmagoria button] © Anthony Larme 1998 [Phantasmagoria button]
(larme@hotmail.com)

http://anthonylarme.tripod.com/phantas/phci.html

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