These are the detailed guidelines determined by the Australian Attorneys General and their policy advisors that the censors must follow when classifying computer games in accordance with the National Classification Code detailed in the Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 which was passed in response to the Senate Report on Video and Computer Games and Classification Issues. For erroneous reasons outlined in that Report, these guidelines have been made intentionally much harsher than those used to classify films and videos. The games guidelines are also the only classification guidelines of any description in my country to consider the context of all contentious depictions to be largely irrelevant - in gross violation of standard rules of justice. Thus, the guidelines are totally misguided at best and may even be considered a national embarrassment. Personally, I reject them utterly and am campaigning very hard for their complete replacement without delay with fair and just regulations comparable to those used to classify films.
|A submission I sent to the Australian Government concerning my opposition to the continuing excesses of computer games censorship|
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.
- Suitable for all ages.
- General, suitable for all persons under 15 years.
- Suitable for the youngest child and should not require parental supervision.
- Suitable for children 8 years and over.
- Suitable for persons under 15 years but may not be appropriate for younger children under 8 years who may have difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Material in this category would contain elements which might disturb or distress very young children.
- Elements warranting this category would include depictions of unrealistic or stylised violence even where considered mild.
- Mild horror or potentially frightening fantasy characters or situations.
- The mildest expletives, but only if infrequent.
- Suitable for persons 15 years and over.
- This material would contain elements which might disturb, harm, or offend those under 15 years to the extent that it is recommended for use by those 15 years and over.
- Depictions of realistic violence of low intensity (eg: punches, kicks, blows to realistic animated characters or real-life images).
- Supernatural or horror scenarios, but not if graphic or impactful.
- Low level coarse language, but not if excessive.
- Restricted to those 15 years and over.
- May not be sold, hired, or demonstrated to persons under 15 years.
- Depictions of realistic violence of medium intensity (eg: impactful punches, kicks, blows and blood-shed to realistic animated characters or real-life images).
- Graphic or impactful supernatural or horror scenarios.
- Strong sexual references.
- Use of frequent crude language, but not if excessive, unduly assaultative, or sexually explicit.
- Nudity, including genital detail, but only if there is a "bona fide" educational, medical, or community health purpose.
- Games or images which are Refused may not be sold, hired or offered for use in amusement arcades. Games or images which are unclassified at the time of sale, etc but would have been Refused had they been submitted for classification are subject to the same requirements. There are substantial penalties for trading in Refused material.
- Violence: depictions of realistic violence, even if not detailed, relished or cruel; extreme horror scenarios or special effects; unduly relished acts of extreme violence or cruelty.
- Sex: nudity including genitalia unless there is a bona fide purpose; simulated or explicit depictions of sexual acts between consenting adults; any depiction of sexual violence or sexual activity involving non-consent of any kind; depictions of child sexual abuse; bestiality; sexual acts accompanied by offensive fetishes, or exploitative incest fantasies. Use of sexually explicit language.
- Detailed instruction or encouragement in matters of crime or violence; the abuse of proscribed drugs; depictions which encourage the use of tobacco or alcohol, or which depict drug abuse. Depictions which are likely to endorse or promote ethnic, racial, or religious hatred.
On the basis of the definition of "Refused" material for computer games, Phantasmagoria failed to pass these guidelines on no less than two counts. With the inclusion of two simulated (i.e not real) sexual acts in the game - both inexplicit, brief, and one totally consensual - Phantasmagoria did not have any hope of being permitted under the current regulations.
It is interesting to note that the "RC" category for computer games is indeed a "super category" that encompasses some elements from the "M" (recommended for ages 15 and up), and all elements from the "MA" (persons under 15 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian), "R" (restricted to persons 18 and over), and "RC" (banned to everyone) classifications for film and video which are detailed in a separate publication, the Cinema and Video Ratings Guide. As far as films are concerned, sexual activity may be simulated to a significant inexplicit degree in "M" and "MA" rated productions if consensual and discreetly if otherwise. But, Phantasmagoria is a computer game and thus "must" be unjustly discriminated against by those who do not know any better. Therefore, on the basis of the reasons provided in the preceding paragraph, it was banned, thereby putting it in the same forbidden category as far worse non-computer game depictions such as those of close-up full frontal nudity revealed in unjustified sexually violent situations, child pornography, and bestiality!
To look at some of the controversial scenes from a different perspective, consider what really took place in the studio where they were filmed. According to Phantasmagoria - The Official Sierra Insider's Guide, Sierra "sought out the talents of professional effects house, The Creature Shop" to create the gruesome horror special effects required in the game (page 119). For those who are treating their work as anything other than one hundred percent artificial, know that actress Victoria Morsell (Adrienne) had a plaster cast of her face made from which a soft rubber recreation of her head and its contents was carefully constructed. All that gets ripped apart is only a colourful piece of rubber rather than any part of a real human or animal. As for the violence directed to Adrienne by Don (David Homb), particularly the rape scene in chapter four, note these words of Morsell in reference her co-star, "We just hit it off from the very start. We're together now" (page 131). These real life people are just two actors playing pretend who had a very amicable professional and even personal relationship with each other. In presenting a variety of violent situations, they were simply doing the grown up version of the fantasy situations acted out in the harmless play of children worldwide. No real person was harmed in the production of this game and the messages presented to the player by this product do not promote real world physical harm to others - quite the opposite actually. There is no sensible reason, apart from the ignorant forces of bureaucratic regulation, why Phantasmagoria and similar titles which are sure to come should be banned in Australia and in other supposedly freedom loving countries.
To further promote my points, presented below is the table by which the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC), a non-government body from the United States, rates software voluntarily submitted before it by computer games manufacturers. Games rated in this fashion carry small thermometer icons and any applicable warnings on their packaging that clearly indicate the levels of each of the listed classification categories present within the product so that concerned parents and squeamish adults are able to make an informed choice about their potential purchase. Note that this is done without the ignorant heavy handedness present in the Australian computer games ratings guidelines! These guidelines from the USA recognise the right for some people to be protected against material they might find offensive while at the same time recognising the equally important rights of all adults in a truly free and democratic society to be able to exercise their rights to free speech, freedom of expression, and freedom to read, hear, see, and play whatever they want within very broad parameters. I hereby hold up this table as a shining example of what my country's computer games ratings system should be like and commend it to the Australian censors for consideration and eventual implementation.
|0||Harmless conflict, some damage to objects||No nudity or revealing attire||Romance, no sex||Inoffensive slang; no profanity|
|1||Creatures injured or killed; damage to objects; fighting||Revealing attire||Passionate kissing||Mild expletives|
|2||Humans injured or with small amount of blood||Partial nudity||Clothed sexual touching||Expletives; non-sexual anatomical references|
|3||Humans injured or killed||Non-sexual frontal nudity||Non-explicit sexual activity||Strong, vulgar language; obscene gestures; racial epithets|
|4||Wanton and gratuitous violence; torture; rape||Provocative frontal nudity||Explicit sexual activity; sex crimes||Crude or explicit sexual references; extreme hate speech|
Highlighted (boldface) words indicate the type of material that gets computer games banned to everyone in Australia, regardless of their age. Those that are italicised refer to probable borderline material. Take special note of the archaic, extra-strong prohibitions on sex and nudity. I have done this for comparison purposes so that all reasonable people who read this page will see why I am so angry about the current deplorable state of computer games censorship in my country. As a matter of interest, Phantasmagoria was indeed rated under this system and received a violence rating of 3 for blood and gore, a nudity rating of 2 for partial nudity, a sex rating of 3 for non-explicit sexual activity, and a language rating of 3 for strong, vulgar language.
People to lobby for change to Australia's computer games ratings guidelines
The best way to campaign for change to Australia's oppressive computer games ratings guidelines is to persuade the people who drew them up to make the required modifications. Although the Attorney Generals would seem to be the ideal contacts to do this, it is their most senior policy advisors who are the public servants that make most of the crucial behind-the-scenes decisions. Advisor contact details are listed below by Australian State or Territory. This information was current in mid/late 1996.
Mr John Dickie
Office of Film and Literature Classification
255 Elizabeth Street
SYDNEY NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9581 7000
Fax: (02) 9581 7001
Title - Introduction - Gameplay - Plot Synopsis - Sound and Visual Effects - Main Characters - Censorship Issues - Miscellanea
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© Anthony Larme 1998