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Local Censorship - Overseas Censorship - Developer Responses - Accusations

How have computer games developers responded to concerns over content?

If a computer game contains material of an M 15+ level or above, it often comes with a built-in censoring device for the benefit of the majority of parents who supervise their children, and for squeamish adult players.  With these inbuilt software features, violent and/or sexual scenes may be blurred/blanked out or even bypassed altogether.  The censoring features themselves may not be bypassed as they are always password protected.  Needless to say, only the parent decides upon and knows about the password that turns the inbuilt censor on and off.  Examples from selected games are provided below.  Reviewed games not mentioned that provide similar systems are: Phantasmagoria 2, Strip Poker, and Voyeur.

Duke Nukem 3D adult mode configuration screen
One in-game configuration screen for Duke Nukem 3D allows for the optional setting of a password that will not allow adult mode to be turned on.  Adult mode increases the gore in the game as well as allowing captive women to be seen.  For several months in 1996-1997, Australians were only permitted to purchase a specially modified version of this game in which the adult mode was turned off permanently.  Adult mode choices were included by the game's developers to ensure parents could regulate their children's access to some of the more controversial aspects of Duke Nukem 3D if they wished to do so.

Harvester optional internal censorship features
As Harvester can be highly disturbing to many people, especially children, the game's developers included features to optionally control the level of gore displayed on screen and even to restrict access to the entire game.  Such controls operate on a password system similar to that used in Duke Nukem 3D.

Phantasmagoria optional internal censorship features
Phantasmagoria's developers chose to provide an optional internal censorship feature that could allow for the screen to be blurred during many controversial violent or sexual scenes.  Regardless of censorship status, any scene may be ended instantly through a single mouse click or by pressing the Esc key on the player's computer keyboard.  Even so, parental guidance is still suggested for players aged 13-17 (17 being the minimum age suggested for unsupervised play by the game's USA ESRB M rating).  Such warnings and features did not prevent Phantasmagoria from being banned in Australia.

Phantasmagoria censorship configuration screen
This in-game configuration screen from Phantasmagoria allows for the setting up of optional censorship.  If the gold button near the word Uncensored is clicked on, the user will be prompted to create a password.  Once set, the game will resume in censored mode and can only be changed back to uncensored mode using that same password.

© Anthony Larme 2002
Comments and questions are most welcome