For the first time in the GTA series' history, commentators are falling over each other to lavish praise on the game. This has completely eclipsed the naysayers and detractors. The moral outcry has simply failed to materialise. But why?
If the Devil had his own bible, it would probably take the form of a computer game. It would be sly and witty, enjoyable and slick. It would start with small, almost funny misdeeds.
It would offer the player the joys of money, successful violence and easy, responsibility-free sex. There would be drugs which didn't fry your brain or burn holes in your nose.
You would be made to feel brave, while not actually needing to be. None of your pleasures would be paid for in coin, pain or grief. Hell hound: An image from the heavily hyped and violence-filled new computer game Grand Theft Auto V
Everyone else in the game would be disposable and forgettable. And it would contain one big lie. You would come out at the end happy and unharmed, and wanting more.
As I understand it, this is roughly what happens in the new, much-praised Grand Theft Auto V.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg believes games like Grand Theft Auto can have a corrosive effect on player behaviour, the politician said on his LBC Radio show. He said:
Clearly these games can have an incredibly powerful, and I suspect in some cases corrosive effect, on someone's behaviour, someone's outlook; they get shut off, they don't talk to other people, they just stay in their living room, their bedroom hunkered
down in front of their computer. They occupy a hermetically sealed world of their own and that can have a very detrimental effect.
In a free country, what do you do? Do you start saying to people you can't use it for more than X number of hours? No you can't do that. There are, of course, restrictions around content. But we cannot limit people's use of [video games], certainly not
the amount of time they devote to this by law or by edict.
Clegg did not say which research his comments were based on.
Clegg added that parents bear a heavy responsibility to make sure the games their children spend time with are age and content appropriate. He also said that parents should try to ration their children's time spent playing games because overuse
can be problematic.
Children are being exposed to sex and violence in video games which should carry adult classifications, outraging Attorney-General John Rau.
Rau said 13 video games released this year were rated MA15+ but carried a higher age rating in Europe and the US. [Perhaps he is referring to the equivalent 16 rating in Europe and 17 (M) rating in the US]
These particular games have been assessed as having intense violence, blood and gore, nudity and suggestive themes.
I am asking the new Commonwealth Attorney-General to have a look at the way the Australian Classification Board is assessing these games and assure the community that the rules are being applied appropriately.
Rau said he would prefer not to use the South Australian Classification Council to review the games and up their classification in the state even though he has the power:
The preferable position is to do it nationally because ... if other states had a completely different regime to ours not only would it be confusing for retailers but it would also mean there's an opportunity for people to buy online and interstate and
have things posted to here.
No study has ever shown that violent video games result directly in actual violence, let alone mass shootings. That doesn't mean it isn't possible, though the numbers suggest it's very unlikely.
Analysts estimate 18 to 20 million copies of Rockstar's GTA V will be sold worldwide by the end of March, 2014.
It's possible that someone who buys and plays the game will later go on to carry out a horrible shooting. Should that happen, it will almost certainly occur in America, which boasts far and away the highest number of mass shootings
(and shootings in general) while boasting no higher rate of video game consumption.
The article also has a knock at tabloid reporting in the Daily Telegraph and notes:
The Telegraph's Nick Allen described the [Washington] shooter's darker side which saw him playing violent zombie video games in his room, sometimes from 12.30pm until 4.30am. Is it odd to describe a mass murderer's darker side
not as his killings or other unstable interactions with people, but as an activity he shares with millions of other people?
The Daily Mirror has a bit of fun with the new Grand Theft Auto V and spouts:
In the 18-rated violent crime game's most shocking scene yet, the player is instructed to pull out his victim's teeth with a pair of pliers
A brutal scene in a new computer game where players carry out gruesome torture techniques has been condemned by teachers.
Today sees the official release of Grand Theft Auto 5, one of the most highly-anticipated games of all time.
In a torture scene in the PEGI 18-rated crime game, the player is instructed to pull out a victim's teeth with a pair of pliers. Gamers then pour a flammable liquid over a victim tied to a chair. Players then smash the victim's kneecap with a monkey
wrench and give him electric shocks using spark plugs as he pleads for mercy.
Alison Sherratt, president of the Lecturers and Teachers Association was suitable 'outraged':
Up until now we've been warning of the dangers of children seeing these games but saying it's the parents responsibility to keep children away from these video games. But this scene takes things a step too far and the games makers need to consider what
they are producing.
Children in our playgrounds are displaying more violence and we have conducted polls and found they are viewing games like GTA. My concern is that little brother or sister walk in to the room and start watching something like this because an older
brother is playing it. They don't understand the difference between reality and fiction because it's so awfully graphic and real. and they do copy it. They imitate what they see and this scene is taking it way too far.
Labour MP Keith Vaz says he is astonished by the torture scene in GTA 5 and contributed a sound bite:.
I am astonished at the level of violence depicted in this game.
It is worrying that this type of content could be accessed by young people, particularly considering the previous links to real-life violence. It is important that the video game industry takes steps to fully inform the public about the level of extreme
content. Responsibility also lies with parents to ensure that their children do not access these types of games until it is appropriate.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number developer Dennaton Games is currently reviewing a scene that sets up a sexual assault, but
doesn't actually show it happening. Some early players voiced concerns about its place in the top-down shooter.
Dennaton Games' Dennis Wedin explained that the scene has been removed from the newest version of the Hotline Miami 2 demo while the developer works out a way to potentially alter its content.
We're going to work with it, see if we can fix it. You get a bigger picture when you play the whole game, which is lost in the demo of course.
The controversial scene appears during a level transition. You play as the Pig Butcher and smash your way through hordes of bad guys, leaving a bloody mess in your wake.
Following the formula of the previous Hotline Miami game, once you reached the end of the level, the character would either rescue a target or kill them. Your target in the controversial scene is a blonde who appears to fight just as well as any of the
men in the room. However, once you defeat her the game prompts you to FINISH HER. But instead of a needlessly violent kill, Pig Butcher pins her down and drops his trousers. At that moment a voice yells CUT........Pig Man, well done, but don't
be afraid to be rougher. And you there, blondie. You need to work on your femininity. Act more helpless and scared. You know, more girly.
Whore of the Orient , a new computer game from the developer of L A Noire , is being harangued for not
having a politically correct title.
A prominent member of the Australian-Chinese community is whingeing that the game is supposedly an attempt to disgrace Chinese culture, history and traditions .
Jieh-Yung Lo has vowed to take his complaint to the Human Rights Commission on grounds of supposed racial vilification:
Australian institutions should be encouraged to fund projects and initiatives that cultivate mutual understanding and prosperity in the Australia-China relationship. We need to build greater trust and cultural understanding rather than promote division
It seems that Whore of the Orient is an historical nickname for the city of Shanghai. The game is set in 1936 in a city described in promotional material as the most corrupt and decadent city on the planet, where anything can be had or done for
the right price .
It's the use of the word 'Orient', more even than the word 'whore', that is the issue. The O-word is very similar to the N-word for African-American communities. It's a 19th century racial-colonial conception and it's especially painful for older people
in the communities. That was a very bad time in China, and people don't want or need to have that dragged up.
Past research has found that playing a classic prosocial video game resulted in heightened prosocial behavior when compared to a control group, whereas playing a classic violent video game had no effect. Given purported links between violent video games
and poor social behavior, this result is surprising. Here our aim was to assess whether this finding may be due to the specific games used. That is, modern games are experienced differently from classic games (more immersion in virtual environments, more
connection with characters, etc.) and it may be that playing violent video games impacts prosocial behavior only when contemporary versions are used.
Methods and Findings
Experiments 1 and 2 explored the effects of playing contemporary violent, non-violent, and prosocial video games on prosocial behavior, as measured by the pen-drop task. We found that slight contextual changes in the delivery of the pen-drop task led to
different rates of helping but that the type of game played had little effect. Experiment 3 explored this further by using classic games. Again, we found no effect.
We failed to find evidence that playing video games affects prosocial behavior. Research on the effects of video game play is of significant public interest. It is therefore important that speculation be rigorously tested and findings replicated. Here we
fail to substantiate conjecture that playing contemporary violent video games will lead to diminished prosocial behavior.
After numerous Russian Company of Heroes 2 players expressed issues with the game's portrayal of the Soviet Union in World War II, the game's distributor, 1C-SoftClub, has withdrawn the game from sale.
The game publisher Sega, has also released a statement to GameSpot:
Sega and Relic are aware of the press stories circulating concerning Company of Heroes 2 and the historical context of the game from a Russian perspective.
At this time we cannot offer any further comment, however we are taking this issue very seriously and are investigating these concerns thoroughly with all relevant partners.
Some gamers have taken issue with Company of Heroes 2 for supposed Western bias. A Change.org petition has been launched calling on Valve to remove the game from Steam to protect the young people from that propaganda.
A cut version of the computer game Saints Row IV has been classified MA15+ by the Australian Censorship Board.
An optional side mission has been removed. The mission contained the use of a substance Volition referred to as alien narcotics which improved certain superpowers temporarily within the game. The cut episode represents about 20 minutes of game
The anal probe weapon, which was highlighted as problematic when the Censorship Board initially rated Saints Row IV RC back in June, is due to be available in Australia as part of scheduled online update which has been agreed with the censors.
Update: Aussies thrown out of international gameplay
Game developer Deep Silver has revealed that the recent Australian cut version of Saints Row 4 will not enable play with international fans in the optional co-op mode. The company explained:
We feel that you deserve to know what you are getting in Australia. Due to the changes we were forced to make, this version is different than the version rated by rating boards like the ESRB, USK, and PEGI, which is why it will be incompatible with those
versions in co-op.
The Facebook post also revealed that the other controversial topic for classification, the Rectifier weapon that acted as an anal probe, is still under consideration on whether to be included in the Season Pass for Australian versions.
Uncut in New Zealand
Those in New Zealand who are concerned they may also be getting a cut version will be happy to know that this isn't the case. Gamers will have access to both international co-op and the Rectifier weapon in the uncut version.
Computer game producer Naughty Dog has confirmed that the European version of The Last of Us has bee censored compared with the American release.
After weeks of questions from suspicious players, a community manager answered a private message from a user, and their response was posted on the Naughty Dog forums:
The gore and violence ratings are subject to local regulatory boards in various countries, so the game must be slightly changed in order to accommodate those choices, the representative wrote. If you import the North/South American version, it will not
be censored, but EU/UK will be.
The version of the game released in Europe, Australia and other PAL territories is missing certain elements of gore in multiplayer mode. Survivors cannot be dismembered (with limbs disintegrating into meaty chunks), and there's much less blood. Gameplay
in single player mode is uncensored in all versions.
The cuts seem to have been implemented to pre-empt the censorial requirements of Germany and Australia. European gamers outside of Germany are annoyed that their versions are unnecessarily cut, and are also annoyed that the secretive approach meant they
lost the opportunity to buy the uncut US version.
The Australia's Censorship Board banned the video Game Saints Row IV citing issues with drug use related to incentives and rewards.
The distributors then appealed the ban to the Censorship Review Board who have turned down that appeal.
A three-member panel of the Censorship Review Board unanimously confirmed the ban. In the Board's opinion, Saints Row IV could not be accommodated within the R 18+ classification as drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted. The
detailed reasons for the decision will follow.
It is expected that the game distributors will now submit a cut version.
The Video Standards Council has published its first annual report since it was designated as the UK regulatory authority for classifying video games supplied in the UK on the 30th July 2012.
The report technically covers only the last 5 months of 2012. However, it also contains a brief history of the VSC, a description of what it does and how it does it and an overall view of VSC activities from a UK perspective. Beyond that it paints a
broader picture of PEGI in the global world of video games where the VSC has an international role as a PEGI administrator.
And just a couple of extracts from the report:
The Classification Criteria
For violent video games there are degrees of violence. Gross violence and such things as torture, sadism, horrific depictions of death or injury, motiveless killing and violence towards vulnerable people will attract a PEGI 18 classification.
For video games attracting PEGI 16 violence is permitted at levels which fall short of the violence attracting the 18 classification such as realistic violence and sustained depictions of death or injury to human characters
For video games attracting a PEGI 12 the level of violence falls even lower and includes such things as violence to fantasy characters and unrealistic looking violence.
A similar approach is adopted when dealing with the other main rating issues such as drugs, sex and nudity, crime, and bad language.
If the use of illegal drugs is shown in a game it will attract a PEGI 16 and if the game in any way glamorises the use of illegal drugs the rating will be raised to PEGI 18.
Sexual innuendo, images and descriptions as well as sexual posturing will attract a PEGI 12. If the sex act is shown in a non-explicit manner or there is erotic or sexual nudity the classification will rise to PEGI 16. If it does become explicit then it
will go to the PEGI 18 level.
7 If a game in any way glamorises crime it will attract a PEGI 16. A game containing mild swearing will be given a PEGI 12 and the use of any sexual expletives will raise this to PEGI 16.
It is useful to point out that once a single depiction of violence attracts say a PEGI 18 classification the video game concerned can never be classified at a lower level. The PEGI system does not take context into account because the single depiction of
violence may be seen many times over as the player may make many attempts play through the level of the game where the single depiction is.
Dealing with public complaints, queries and requests for information
It is probably a reflection of the times to say that almost no letters or phone calls are received by the VSC from the public. Virtually all complaints, queries and requests for information are made directly online to the PEGI public website
In fact PEGI received only 71 complaints about ratings from the whole of European region covered by PEGI ratings.
A cut version of State of Decay has been resubmitted to the Australian Censorship Board. All references to drugs have been
Undead Labs explained on their Facebook page that the game has been edited to comply with the censorship guidelines of the Board:
Stimulants out! 'Supplements' in! Who could possibly not like vitamins? They're good for you.
Meanwhile there are reports that a cut version is also being prepared for the other game banned by the Australian censors, Saints Row IV . A 'low violence' version is now listed on Steam, a download centre for computer games.