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Computer Games Ratings Guide

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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

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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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G


G(8+)


M 15+


MA 15+


RC




General commentary


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.


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A welcome alternative ratings system

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.

RSAC Ratings
Level

Violence Rating
Descriptor

Nudity Rating
Descriptor

Sex Rating
Descriptor

Language Rating
Descriptor

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.

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An alternative commendable voluntary computer games ratings body from the USA that I highly respect is the
Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

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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.


Australian Capital Territory
Ms Bronwyn Leslie
Human Rights and Community Law Section
ACT Government Law Office
3rd Floor
GIO House
CIVIC ACT 2600
Tel: (06) 207 0526
Fax: (06) 207 0538

Western Australia
Mr Frank Morisey
Secretary Censorship Office
8th Floor
81 St Georges Terrace
PERTH WA 6000
Tel: (09) 426 8603
Fax: (09) 322 7304

New South Wales
Ms Fiona Cameron
Senior Policy Officer
Attorney-General's Department
20th Floor
Goodsell Building
Chifley Square
SYDNEY NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9228 7435
Fax: (02) 9228 8563

South Australia
Ms Anni Foster
Legal Officer
Attorney-General's Department
11th Floor
Natwest Building
45 Pirie Street
ADELAIDE SA 5000
Tel: (08) 207 1518
Fax: (08) 207 1736

Victoria
Ms Jessica Lightfoot
Policy and Research Division
Attorney-General's Department
20th Floor
200 Queen Street
MELBOURNE VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9603 4594
Fax: (03) 9670 0097

Tasmania
Mr Peter Maloney
Director
Legislation and Policy Division
Department of Justice
10th Floor
Executive Building
15 Murray Street
HOBART TAS 7000
Tel: (002) 33 6754
Fax: (002) 33 3920

Queensland
Mr David Cannavan
Office of Consumer Affairs
25th Floor
State Law Building
Cnr George and Ann Sts
BRISBANE QLD 4000
Tel: (07) 3239 6841
Fax: (07) 3220 0015

Northern Territory
Mr Robert Bradshaw
Commissioner of Consumer Affairs
43 Mitchell Street
DARWIN NT 0800
Tel: (089) 99 7317
Fax: (089) 99 6327

Commonwealth
Mr John Dickie
Director
Office of Film and Literature Classification
255 Elizabeth Street
SYDNEY NSW 2000
Tel: (02) 9581 7000
Fax: (02) 9581 7001


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Contents

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

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

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