An ad for the computer game Hitman: Absolution , viewed on the YouTube channel and Facebook pages for the Hitman game series:
a. The ad on YouTube was titled Hitman Absolution - Attack of the Saints Trailer [North
America] . Text at the beginning of the ad stated MAY CONTAIN CONTENT INAPPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN Visit www.esrb.org for rating information . The CGI animated ad began in a motel room, where a man was seen removing his shirt, washing blood from
his hands, cleaning a wound on his shoulder and getting dressed again. That was intercut with scenes of a group of nuns walking, a close-up of their high-heeled boots, and footage of them producing weapons. They removed their robes to reveal they were
wearing skin-tight PVC outfits. Some were wearing stockings and suspenders or ripped tights. The man was seen looking towards the spy-hole on the motel room door. The women stopped in front of the motel and one of them fired a missile at the building.
That was followed by several seconds of close-ups of firearms, intercut with the women pointing their weapons in different directions. The man appeared behind two of the women in succession and attacked them, garrotting one and punching the other in the
head whilst holding his other hand over her mouth. This was followed by close-ups of him grabbing a third woman over her mouth and nose, and pointing a gun out towards the viewer. He then shot two women in the chest; blood was shown flying from their
wounds. Another woman engaged him in a fistfight and knocked him to the ground. A shot, from the man's perspective, showed a woman standing over him pointing a machine gun at him. He knocked her over and punched her in the head. A woman appeared behind
him and attempted to garrotte him with her rosary beads. He headbutted her in the nose, breaking it, and they continued to fight. He then grabbed the woman with the broken nose and used her as a shield as one of the other women, who was lying on the
ground, shot at the man. He picked up a gun from the floor and fired twice. A close-up of the woman's face showed she was lying on the ground; she appeared to be dead. The man knelt down and closed her eyes. He stood up, against the background of the
motel on fire. Text appeared which stated HITMAN ABSOLUTION , followed by a shot of the man putting weapons in the boot of a car and driving away. Further text stated THE ORIGINAL ASSASSIN PREORDER NOW AND PLAY THE SNIPER CHALLENGE TODAY
b. The same ad was posted on the Hitman Facebook page, titled Attack Of The Saints Trailer The Saints have arrived! Watch the Hitman: Absolution trailer now!.
The ASA received two complaints
claiming that theads glamourised and condoned violence, particularly towards women, through the themes of graphic violence and the sexually provocative clothing worn by the female characters.
Both complainants challenged whether ad (a) was offensive;
one complainant challenged whether ad (a) was distressing; and
one complainant challenged whether ad (b) was
One complainant also challenged whether ad (a) was socially irresponsible, because it glamourised and condoned violence, particularly towards women, when it was for a product which would appeal to teenage boys.
Square Enix (SE) said there was also a European version of the trailer, which was the same except that it gave the PEGI rating of the game at the start rather than the North American ESRB rating. The game was rated 18 in both
jurisdictions, and both trailers included those ratings prominently at the start. They said the trailers reflected the content of the game, which would have been banned or cut if it had any content which was considered offensive or harmful. They said the
trailer was only intended to be viewed by adults of 18 or over; it was not aimed or targeted at teenage boys. They said they had taken steps to ensure that it would not be viewed by those under 18.
SE said the trailer was released
on their YouTube channel, which had an 18-rated age gate. Users could therefore only access the trailer by creating an account with YouTube and inputting their date of birth and other personal details.
With regard to the ad
appearing on Facebook, SE said that, on the release date of the European trailer, it had only been accessible to Facebook users who followed links to YouTube, and therefore the YouTube age gate applied. They had subsequently discovered, however, that the
North American trailer had then been posted on their Facebook page without an age restriction on users in Europe. They explained that was a technical error which had now been rectified; the trailer on Facebook could now only be accessed by adults who
were 18 or over.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
1., 2. & 3. Not upheld
The ASA acknowledged the ad included scenes of graphic violence in which a man fought a group of
women wearing sexually provocative clothing. We acknowledged some viewers might find the women's clothing gratuitous and offensive, and the idea of a man fighting women distressing and offensive. However, we noted the ad was age-restricted, and accessed
via a Facebook page and YouTube channel which were specifically about the Hitman game. We considered it was likely that internet users who viewed the ads would therefore have specifically sought out material relating to the game and would be familiar
with its premise and the types of characters and imagery which featured in the ad. We also considered that, in addition to the age-restrictions, the 18 rating at the beginning of the ad clearly signposted to viewers that the content would be of a
particular type. Furthermore, we considered that, because the 'Saints' were armed and initiated the violence, it was clear, even to viewers unfamiliar with the game, that they were professional assassins who had been sent to kill Agent 47, and that the
violence on his part was neither random nor sexually motivated. We also noted that the act of closing the eyes of one of the dead women would generally be viewed as a respectful gesture. Whilst we acknowledged that some viewers might find the ad
distressing and offensive, we concluded that, because it was age-restricted and unlikely to be viewed by those unfamiliar with the game, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence or distress to viewers of the Hitman Facebook page and YouTube
channel. We also considered the ad did not glamorise violence generally, or violence towards women in particular, and we concluded it was not likely to condone or encourage violence or anti-social behaviour.
On points (1) and (2),
we investigated ad (a) under CAP Code rules 4.1, 4.2 and 4.4 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
On point (3), we investigated ad (b) under CAP Code rules 4.1 and 4.4 (Harm and offence), but did not find it in
4. Not upheld
We agreed with the complainant that the product was likely to appeal to teenage boys under 18 years of age. However, we noted the ad was accessed via the advertiser's YouTube channel
and Facebook page, and that both avenues of access were age-restricted to website users who were 18 or over. We were concerned that a technical error had meant that European Facebook users had, for a time, been able to access the ad without an
age-restriction, but we noted the advertiser had taken swift action to correct the error when they became aware of it and they had not targeted the ad at those under 18 at any time. We concluded that, because we considered the ad did not glamorise or
condone violence, and the advertiser had taken steps to prevent those who were under 18 from viewing it, it was not socially irresponsible.
On point (4), we investigated ad (a) under CAP rule 1.3 (Social responsibility), but did
not find it in breach.
South Australia's Attorney General has given the greenlight to both MA15+ and R18+ classifications for games.
As reported by Indaily, John Rau has made a U-turn on his previous decision to abolish the MA15+ classification in South Australia when
the new 18-rated game rating was brought in.
The Attorney General said that the recently released guidelines were stringent enough and different from the original report that he had no problem ratifying all game ratings:
The new MA15+ classification is now so different to the previous one that I no longer see an issue with it. I will, however, keep a watching brief on MA15+ games. The guidelines include much tighter requirements for every level of
classifications, in particular, what constitutes MA15+.
Offsite Comment: Australian Christian Lobby have a meaningless whinge
Australia's Classification Board has released censorship rules that will be applied to the new adult R18+ category for computer games.
As Kotaku points out, the document disappointingly makes reference to the interactive nature of computer games
necessitating tighter controls than other passive media formats, a notion that has been diluted by plenty of studies over the years, and never supported by any conclusive findings. The Censor Board document says:
Interactivity is an important consideration that the Board must take into account when classifying computer games. This is because there are differences in what some sections of the community condone in relation to passive viewing or the effects passive viewing may have on the viewer (as may occur in a film) compared to actively controlling outcomes by making choices to take or not take action.
Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable
elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.
Interactivity may increase the impact of some content: for example, impact may be higher where interactivity enables
action such as inflicting realistically depicted injuries or death or post-mortem damage, attacking civilians or engaging in sexual activity. Greater degrees of interactivity (such as first-person gameplay compared to third-person gameplay) may also
increase the impact of some content.
The word 'impact' seems to be a fudge factor that means that its up to them. 'Impact' is an arbitrary scale with an arbitrary value of 'high impact' that will get games banned. The censors
then justify the ban by a meaningless justification that the violence is 'high impact'. So Australian gamers will just have to wait and see how the censors arbitrarily interpret the arbitrary rules.
The Daily Mail has again tried to prove that playing games is deadly. The tragic story of a 14 year old who killed himself has been twisted by the national newspaper, in a attempt to profit from his death
by propagandising the cause of his suicide. This is too sad.
A while ago, the R18+ legislation for video games passed through Australia's Federal government successfully, and now it is time for each state to pass the law.
The ACT (Canberra) is the first territory to pass the R18+ law, which the ABC reports
was done so with tri-partisan support, though the Canberra Liberals failed in a bid to boost the penalty for inappropriate display or distribution of material rated R18+.
Attorney General Simon Corbell has said, this is about making sure that
adults are able to view and play and read what they wish as long as it does not do harm to others.
From 30 July and with a few limited exceptions, the responsibility for classifying video games falls to the Video Standards Council, applying the PEGI system.
The BBFC will continue to classify all games featuring strong
pornographic (R18 level) content and ancillary games attached to a wider, primarily linear submission.
The BBFC will also examine and offer a determination on certain linear content in video games. This determination will help the
Video Standards Council in reaching an overall classification for the video game. The BBFC will offer a determination for linear content which does not contribute to the narrative drive of the game, whether this footage is live action or computer
generated; embedded in the game or simply contained on the game disc. Examples of such linear content include the TV material created for the GTA series; video rewards for completing certain tasks or levels within the game; or other video content which
does not contribute to the narrative drive of the video game.
The BBFC will continue to classify all non-game linear content on a game disc, such as trailers and featurettes.
A TV ad for the computer game Call of Duty: MW3 , opened with on-screen text stating AM3RICA , followed by computer-generated scenes of New York under military assault, with buildings exploding and catching fire, soldiers loading guns
and a submarine firing rockets. On-screen text stated 3NGLAND , followed by scenes of warfare in London, including armed men firing at a lorry until it crashed and a helicopter firing rockets. On-screen text then stated FRANC3 , followed by
scenes of Paris under attack, featuring soldiers and vehicles firing weapons. On-screen text then stated G3RMANY , followed by scenes of tanks driving down the streets, soldiers abseiling down the side of a building, planes firing overhead and a
burnt-out building toppling over. A voice-over stated, The world as you knew it is gone. How far will you go to bring it back? The ad featured further scenes of armed warfare and destruction, including soldiers firing weapons, military vehicles
firing rockets at buildings and explosions. An end-frame stated CALL OF DUTY. MW3. 08.11.11. Pre-Order Now For XBox 360 and featured the logo for certificate 18. A sound-track featured throughout the ad as well as sound effects for weapons being
fired, explosions and soldiers shouting.
The ad was cleared by Clearcast with a timing restriction such that it should not be broadcast in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal
particularly to persons below the age of 16 years. Issue
Two viewers challenged whether the ad was inappropriate for broadcast during the day when children would be watching. One of the viewers reported that their children, aged
between two and four, had been frightened by the ad.
ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld
The ASA understood that the ad had been cleared with a scheduling restriction that meant it should not be broadcast
in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to persons below the age of 16 (an ex-kids restriction). We noted that the ad was broadcast at 2.30pm during a premier league football match and that
audience index figures showed that a small proportion of viewers were children aged under 16. We also noted Activision's comment that the ad had been given a Parental Guidance (PG) certificate by the BBFC for in-store use, which meant that it had been
rated as being suitable for general viewing, although some scenes may not be suitable for young children.
We noted the ad featured computer-generated scenes of warfare in various cities around the world. The ad contained scenes of
extensive gunfire, explosions and destruction, and these scenes were accompanied by sound effects of weapons being fired, explosions and soldiers shouting. We also noted the ad featured music in the background which sounded like a low-pitched siren and
which added to the dramatic nature of the scenes. We considered that the scenes of violence and destruction, together with the sound effects and music, could cause distress to some children who might see the ad. Although we noted that the ad was only
shown during the football, we concluded that it was inappropriate for broadcast during the day when young children might be watching and the ex-kids restriction was insufficient. We considered a post 7.30pm restriction would have been more appropriate.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 5.1 (Harm and offence) and 32.3 (Scheduling). Action
The much-delayed implementation of PEGI as the sole UK video game rating system is now expected to come into force on July 30.
Games will be more or less self rated using PEGI age classifications of 7,12,16 and 18, along with comments about
the type of content. The Games Rating Authority (GRA), a division of the Video Standards Council (VSC), will oversee the ratings process, with powers to ban and censor where necessary.
Meanwhile Resident Evil 6 may be one of the last major
games to obtain a BBFC certificate. (The cover is already sporting a PEGI rating on advance publicity pictures).
The perennial hindu whinger, Rajan Zed, has expressed his 'dismay' over Hi-Rez Studios decision not to remove Hindu deities such as the goddess Kali from the multiplayer online battle arena game, SMITE.
Zed called on Hi-Rez Studios to remove Hindu
deities Kali, Agni and Vamana from SMITE. Zed added:
Moreover, portrayal of goddess Kali, who was highly revered by Hindus, appeared like a porno star in the SMITE version shown on the company website, which was quite
distressing for the devotees.
Game makers should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects and no faith, larger or smaller, should be plundered. As these games left lasting impact on the minds of highly
impressionable children, teens and other young people; it would create more misunderstandings about Hinduism, which was already a highly misunderstood religion in the West.
Chief Operating Officer Todd Harris said that Hinduism was an
inspiration for the deities in the game along with other mythologies from the Norse, Greek, Chinese and Egyptian cultures. He went on to say that the PC title would receive more deities, not fewer.
A Hi-Rez says the company has no plans to add
jewish, christian and islamic figures because they are not that interesting in character design or gameplay. [And of course can be more threatening than a little whinge from Rajan Zed].