Several times last year Australian games ratings have been reported for arbitrary ratings assigned under the Australian Classification Board's IARC automated game and app rating tool.
Variants of the same game on different platforms appeared in
the classification database with wildly different outcomes. One game achieved being 15 rated, 18 rated and banned. Inevitably when the shit hit the fan and the incompetent ratings gained the attention of publicity, human censors stepped in and sorted out
the rating (down to 15), and expunged all the embarrassing misfires from the database.
Well it seems that the shoddy system has been discussed for a while and a damning report from 2016 has just been published as a result of a Freedom of
The report reveals that a selection of ratings from the tool were audited by compared them with an assessment from a human censor.
Results were particularly atrocious fro the higher ratings. A table on page 13 reveals
56% of M (PG-15) ratings assigned by the tool were wrong
72% of MA 15+ ratings were wrong
100% of R 18+ ratings were wrong
99% of RC (banned) ratings were wrong
In all of these categories the automated ratings were nearly always lowered by the audit.
The failure of the system was attributed to the inaccuracy of data input but surely this is a systemic failure to define tight enough definitions of date
Last week, Australia's Censorship Board was in the news for banning a game that it had just passed MA15+. The sorry story played out as follows:
DayZ has been available online via Steam since December of last year. As an online title it
was rated MA 15+ for strong violence, online interactivity under the International Age Rating Coalition system. This is an automatic rating assignment software programme providing ratings based on forms filled in by the games company.
recently the game was submitted for PS4 retail release by distributor Five Star Games. This time around it was assessed by human censors and was promptly banned.
Well the random Australian ratings have ht the news again, this time for
the dystopian game, We Happy Few. This was famously banned by Australia's human censors and was the passed R18+ by the appeal board. Well recent resubmissions have resulted in both MA15+ ratings and another ban.
Kotaku reports that the
recent submissions may be to do with a new downloaded content update called Lightbearer . But even if this is the case the Australian ratings database doesn't do much to make it clear which versions are banned, R18, or MA15.
Update: Australian censors sweep their rubbish ratings under the carpet
The Australian Censorship Board has been cleaning up its rubbish ratings. It has replaced the seemingly random recent ratings of MA15+ and RC (Banned) with the R18+ rating that has been used for all retail release for some time.
The board has
also deleted an entry from May 2018 noting that the game was previously temporarily by the censors in May 2018. This decision was eventually overruled by the Review Board with an R18+ rating that was used for all retail release.
So now website
viewers are now presented with a consistent set of R18+ ratings as if the rubbish ratings had never happened.
ign.com also note that a rubbish ratings have also been cleared out for the game Kingdom Come:
Deliverance which was also banned by the malfunctioning robot rating computer.
Australia's Classification Review Board has unanimously overturned the ban on the video game, We Happy Few by the main Classification Board. The appeals boards has now passed the game with the adults-only R18+ for Fantasy
violence and interactive drug use.
The game's developer, Compulsion Games, has expressed sympathy for the censor board saying it wasn't sure the Board could have ruled any other way.
In an email with Kotaku Australia, Compulsion Games chief
operating officer and producer Sam Abbott said he wasn't sure that the Classification Board had any room to move, given the constraints of the rating guidelines:
I think originally the board made the best decision they
could given (a) the guidelines they work within, and (b) the information we provided them, Abbott said. I'm not sure I'd make a different original decision given those constraints.
Abbott went on to explain that Compulsion Games could
have outlined more information about Joy -- the drug that is a centrepiece of the dystopian society in which We Happy Few is set -- including the positive and negative aspects of its consumption.
The censor board banned the game for its use
of drugs in-game, under the clause about incentivised drug use including:
New skills or attribute increases, extra points, unlocking achievements, plot animations, scenes and rewards, rare or exclusive loot, or making
tasks easier to accomplish,
The latter of which was the reason We Happy Few originally fell foul of in the rule. In the Board's opinion:
The game's drug-use mechanic making game progression less
difficult constitutes an incentive or reward for drug-use and therefore, the game exceeds the R 18+ classification that states, drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted. Therefore, the game warrants being Refused Classification.
The Classification Review Board will issue details reasons for its decision in due course.
The Classification Review Board has now published its reasons for overruling the censorship board's ban of We Happy Few and awarding an uncut R18+ rating instead:
Reasons for the decision
The premise of this computer game is for the playing characters to escape a fictional town where the inhabitants are in a state of Government mandated euphoria and memory loss. Although the non -playing characters appear to be happy
due to their continual use of the Joy drug, the computer game quickly establishes that this state is undesirable and the playing characters are on a quest to avoid the use of the Joy drug. The actual use of the fictitious drug as a game progression
mechanic, questions the viability of such a gameplay decision at each stage/level. The character's action in taking the drug is usually the only viable option given and while it may enable the character to pass a stage/level of the game, the benefit is
short term and is followed by a loss of memory and a reduction in health points, the depletion of the body and/or withdrawal symptoms. In the Review Board's opinion, the use of the drug is not presented as an incentive nor does it constitute a reward for
the player in achieving the aim of the computer game. In the Review Board's opinion, the interactive drug use does not exceed high, therefore the computer game can be accommodated at R 18+.
Call of Duty: WWII is a 2017 US combat simulation game from Activision.
On the first submission to the Australian Censorship Board the game was passed R18 uncut for
high impact violence and threat of sexual violence.
The distributors didn't want the reference to sexual violence so made cuts to the game and resubmitted it. The game was then duly passed R18+ this time for high impact violence.
kotaku.com.au asked the censor board about the original classification and the cuts.
Spoilers! hover or click text below]
According to the Classification Board, the original version contained a reference to sexual violence:
In one section of the game, the player controls Rosseau, a female spy, as she infiltrates a German
building. While inside, she witnesses a woman as she is dragged by a Nazi soldier into a closet, against her will, screaming, You're all pigs!
Rosseau opes the closet door, as the soldier says, Leave. This is none of your
business. The player is then given the option to kill the soldier or leave.
If the player chooses to leave, the player closes the door, as the soldier is heard unziping his fly and viewed advancing towards the woman. She screams,
Ah! Get away from me! as Rosseau leaves.
It is implied that the soldier is going to sexually assault the woman, but at no time is the assault depicted.
The board then described how the cuts made a difference:
In the Board's opinion, the modifications to this game - which include the change of dress for the female prisoner (was in a skirt and top, now in a pants and top) and the removal of audio that implies a soldier is
unzipping his pants - do not contain any classifiable elements that alter this classification or exceed a R18+ impact level.
In the Board's opinion, the removal of the audio track means that consumer advice of threat of sexual
violence is not required. Therefore, this modified computer game warrants an R18+ classification with consumer advice of high impact violence [and] online interactivity.