I shouldn’t have to, but I’m going to establish my bonafides here. I loved the last two Saints Row games. I played two on a mate’s Xbox, to completion, and I even got the Platinum trophy in Saints Row The Third on PS3. Like many fans, I look forward to the release of Saints Row IV.
I guess it can seem a little hypocritical of me to like a game like this- I’ve railed here in the past against immaturity in games. Why I enjoyed the game is that it has no pretensions to maturity- it’s a silly and puerile game. It’s basically well made junk food in videogame form.
So, like many gamers, I was disappointed that Saints Row IV was refused classification here. That said, I totally understand it.
The R18+ classification struggle was a long fight- I wrote about the R18 movement for assignments in high school a decade ago. When the R18+ law was passed, it seemed like an acceptance that games were to be treated like any other medium with regards to classification- a sign of an entertainment form that had finally “arrived.”
There are many valid criticisms of media classification- it violates free speech, it’s nanny state, it’s arbitrary, the material is available readily anyway, it’s poorly administered, it’s not transparent, it should be an advisory more than a legal framework. They’re all good arguments, and they’re all worth continuing to rail against through the proper channels.
All that said, it’s what Australia as a society has agreed to. As a society (and by this, I mean gamers and non-gamers) we have agreed that certain standards should be put in place in our media, and that anything that breaches those standards should be refused classification and disallowed from sale. No standards system is ever going to be perfect or cover all cases, but there are a set of guidelines of what we see as appropriate material to be present in the community.
And I struggle to see how what amounts to forcible weaponised sodomy of civilians is really acceptable.
I don’t see it as a bad thing that we say “hang on, depictions of anal rape aren’t acceptable,” even if like most of the game it’ll be played for laughs (which i find incredibly troublesome as a concept). I’m not going to lash out at the Australian Classification Board over banning something that’s actually quite unpleasant. Australian society has deemed depictions like this as unacceptable, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This is actually the classification system performing the task it was established for, and like it or not that’s what we’ve got to contend with.
As I commented over at Kotaku, this isn’t an issue I’m going to jump on the battlements for. The fact is, this is a minor part of the game, and Volition will cut it in about ten minutes and resubmit. We’re still going to get Saints Row IV, with all of its goofy superpowers and over the top dub-step guns. If you want (though I’m really not sure why), I’m sure it’s the work of ten more minutes to find a way to get the sodomy-sword back in.
We’re still going to rail against the classification system in the future, over many issues and some which may have the strongest of cases for reform, but we should pick our battles. Fight for State of Decay- that’s got a much more contentious reason for banning.
I’m sure as hell not going to fight for my right to bugger someone in a game. Do you really want to fight for the right to anally rape someone for laughs?
PS: Saying the Australian Classification Board is just being “anal” is not an original or creative joke.