Midway's Blitz: The League Banned in Australia

January 24, 2007 -
As reported by GameSpot, Midway's Blitz: The League has been banned from the Australian market.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) refused classification (i.e., refused to rate) the game, based on in-game drug use. Blitz had been planned for a February 22nd release Down Under. The refusal to classify effectively bans the game. An OFLC report on the decision says:
In the course of the game, the player may access what are purported to be both legal and illegal performance-enhancing drugs... Fake urine samples may also be acquired for avoiding positive drug tests. While the game-player can choose not to use the drugs, in the Board’s majority view there is an incentive to use them.

It is unclear whether Midway or the local Australian distributor will appeal the ruling.
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Comments

Before I say anything, its worth pointing out that I am an Aussie.

@Daniel: Read the article, you will find that they specified a reason.
And you'll find we don't ban everything, we even have GTA here :O

@Paranoid Individual: I have to agree with you, I don't really care about
most of these bans as they are games I wouldn't play anyway. Also
we prefer the term 'laid back' rather than 'lazy' :P

Personally I don't think there is any real need to 'fix' a system that
doesn't seem broken when you head to EB's and look at the selection.
If they start banning games that people care about then there will
be a problem worth fixing.

-Twixn-

I love Austrailia and its people, but have come to loathe its government. Being a diehard liberal, it pains me to call them pro-censorship, socialist weasels.

"Australia," that is. Forgive the typo.

@Alexander Case

It would get banned just as much as a foreign developed game.

Keep in mind that with rare exceptions we don't develop games for the local market anyway - Australian sales barely register compared to other markets.

Australia bans everything. They need to stop banning games for no reason. What's the matter with them? They don't believe in freedom of choice?

On a semi-related point to the topic, have there been any reports of abuse of performance enhancing drugs in soccer (Everywhere-Other-Than-The-US Football)?

Likewise, out of curiosity, if an Australian game developer made a Soccer Game which gave the sport the same dark and cynical treatment that "Blitz: The League" gave to US Football, would it get banned in Australia, I wonder?

Has anyone else noticed that the OFLC only ever seems to go after games that no one would really care that much about locally? Games that contain much worse content but are highly anticipated usually sail through without a problem. It's almost like they're avoiding the chance of there being any motivation for a serious push for the R rating. Australians are notoriously lazy about such things, and aren't likely to care overmuch that Blitz didn't make it, but they might, say, kick up a stink if Gears of War or Bully or Dead Rising didn't get through. Alexander Case has a good point - would it have happened to Madden or an AFL game?

Of course, I understand that it's more a fine print sort of thing - the OFLC considers detailed reenactments of possible crimes in a manner that could then be easily reproducable in real life to be worthy of 'banning'. Then again, the Australian Broadcasting Association is under the exact same restrictions in that regard, but you don't see any 'refusing classification' of any of the popular forensic shows.

Let's not forget about the idolisation of sports figures in Australia, either. Members of the OFLC board probably don't like having the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs pointed out, because we all know that professional athletes are the closest beings to god and such a suggestion is practically blasphemy. There was a comedian who got arrested for pulling an (admittedly not very funny) stunt showcasing how violent the fans of some sports teams became. He got off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, but it makes you wonder about the OFLC's mindset in this instance.

@DoggySpew (great name, BTW)

We can try to lobby as individuals. As I said, tho, my individual queries were ignored.

I suspect it will take a) a different government and b) a lobby group formed by the games industry to effect change.

My gut says the current government isn't ignoring this issue because of conservatism, but more because they just don't _see_ it as an issue in the first place.

The problem with Australia is simply that they don't have a classification higher then 15+.
So it is up to the Aussies to lobby for a higher classification, like the rest of the world has.

The current GG is Major General Michael Jeffery. He's a less controversial replacement for The Right Reverend Dr Peter Hollingworth, who resigned after rape allegations were leveled against him.

The GG is appointed by the Queen with advice from the Prime Minister. Yes, our head of state is still appointed by a foreign power. Sigh.

Read more about the exciting role of GG here: http://www.gg.gov.au/governorgeneral/

:)

@Ed

Thanks for answering. Just one more question: Who is the current GG? I've heard politicians in Australia are extremely conservative, hence all this censorship.

In Australia, the ratings come from the OFLC. I have sent them two letters requesting an explanation of why we have no R rating for games, and I've never received a response.

I believe the board is appointed by the Governor General, not elected. The GG's beliefs, well that depends on which GG is in the house.

http://www.oflc.gov.au/special.html?n=244&p=180#1

"Who makes classification decisions?

Decisions about the classification of film (including videos and DVDs), computer games and certain publications are made by the Classification Board.

The Board consists of up to 20 members, who are drawn from all over Australia, and who represent a diverse range of backgrounds, experience and qualifications.

If the applicant disagrees with a Classification Board decision, the Classification Review Board may be called upon to make a fresh decision."

@DrkMatter

"Having your players use illegal performance enhancing drugs can either statistically yield gameplay rewards or gameplay punishments."

Okay, that much we know. What I was asking in my previous post was: How did they come to the conclusion that there is a clear incentive to use them, and no incentive not to? If the drugs in the game reflect the negative side effects in a realistic manner, I'd hardly call that an "incentive." Their argument would only hold water if you recieved significantly more positive effects than negative ones. I haven't played the game, but I don't think that steroids work in that game like Super Mushrooms.

"Of course, their beliefs DO come into play when trying to decide if encouraging illegal drug use should deny the game a rating, but that’s not what you quoted implied. "

I think you misinterpreted my post, because that was EXACTLY what I was implying. I wasn't referring to their statement that there was an incentive to use drugs in that game in the first place, but their implication that the incentive to use drugs in the game was far too great despite the fact that there are negative consequences to use them. And unless they can offer any relevant studies or data to support their assumption, then yes, that statement is mostly based on their own beliefs. It particulary sounds familar to the popular censorship attitude that even featuring something in a book, movie, or video game is an endorsment of it, regardless of the context in which it is used.

That's all I was saying. I didn't intend to come off as denying that there are SOME short-term benefits to using illegal drugs, just like in real life. But their belief-yes, belief. I think we've established that now-that simply showing this in a game justifies effectively banning it does strike me as censorship-happy, and I want to know if mainstream Australia shares this view.

Just testing an apparent glitch in the profanity filter system here...

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

Ben
if they harden up any more they will start banning 13+ games and then go after the fantasy and magic based games.

"Austrailia needs to harden the f*** up."

the player may access what are purported to be both legal and illegal performance-enhancing drugs

Sadly, if it were *just* legal performance-enhancing drugs, they'd probably still ban the game, but not the real players who do it...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Of course, if the let games havea R18+ rating like films and dvds this would of probably been passed.

"While the game-player can choose not to use the drugs, in the Board’s majority view there is an incentive to use them."

Just like there is incentive to use them in real life? I'm not advocating the use of performance enhancing drugs, but there are PLENTY of reasons to use them in real life. They may be illegal, but they make you stronger. So if someone makes a game that states that Steroid Abuse takes place in organized sports, you go after the game instead of the problem the game is pointing out?

@goodrobot

heh next thing you know the government will ban power pills as a addictive substance.

@mike
I don't think you guys ride kangaroos but im sure your politicians jump all over freedom of expression like kangaroos :p

personally I think its a massive overreaction to the truth of sports when it comes to drug use sure its nice to think none of them roid up in a perfect world but as always the reality hits you in the face like a 399lb center.

Like eating a Power Pill in Pac-Man?

"I’d really like to know whose views they represent, or if they’re just representing their own narrow-minded beliefs"

The incentive to use or not use drugs is a gameplay mechanic. It's not about beliefs. Having your players use illegal performance enhancing drugs can either statistically yield gameplay rewards or gameplay punishments. Hence, I don't see what their "beliefs" have to do in judging the matter.

Of course, their beliefs DO come into play when trying to decide if encouraging illegal drug use should deny the game a rating, but that's not what you quoted implied.

"It is unclear whether Midway or the local Australian distributor will appeal the ruling."

They wont.

I'm suprised they even tried to release it.

Australia's highest age restriction rating is 15+. It is a country that - by its own design ironically - can't shake the lingering misinformation of games being "just for kids".

Please seek an education Joel, you know absolutely nothing about Australia's classification system. Much worse games have been released uncut with an MA15+ rating.

Let me guess, you're someone who thinks we all live in the desert & ride kangaroos around right?

"While the game-player can choose not to use the drugs, in the Board’s majority view there is an incentive to use them."

Here's a question for you, mike, are the members of the board elected by the Australian public, or are they hand picked by government officials? I'd really like to know whose views they represent, or if they're just representing their own narrow-minded beliefs.

Given how zealous people in the US tend to be about the "pure and noble sport" of football, I'm surprised it wasn't banned here to

@ Twinx
Aussie here, too. :)

Even though it is tempting to leave the issue alone seeing as there's very few good games that would ever be refused classification, and so the effect of the loophole isn't really ever felt, the OFLC has been utilising that legislative quirk more than usual of late, which is a troubling developement. Is it that there are just more R-level games being submitted, or is the board starting to react to the most recent public backlash against interactive media? Either way, while the lack of an R rating doesn't really matter now, if the games debate actually manages to pick up in Australia beyond the occasional current affairs show, it could become a problem as politicians start using that loophole to ban games without actually banning them and bringing up the whole suppression of free speech thing.

I don't honestly think it will come to that, as on a per capita basis Australia is pretty heavy-duty on the gaming as a whole and politicians aren't quite so driven by votes and popularity as they seem to be overseas (Typically all Australian politicians have to do once they get in office over here is not screw things up too badly, and they'll get voted back in until they die or retire. At least, that's what it looks like. Probably a side-effect of compulsory voting.) In fact, I personally don't think the debate would come up at all if it weren't for all the kerfluffle in Europe, which seems to be where the OFLC is taking their cues from. Either way, the system needs an update - it's leftover from the days when even MA rated games were practically myth. How many games - good or bad - will have to be refused classification before it's finally updated to reflect the current market?

So yeah, these 'refusing classifications' are not a big deal in Australia now, but may be a big deal later. But it'll be easier to fix before the media catches on to the potential controversy and whips parents and politicians into a moral panic than after.

@Twixn:
Huh? GTA *was* banned. They had to make a censored version of the game for the Australian market to make it fit in the rating. That said... the only thing they had to remove, I believe, was the hookers.

An IMPORTANT note on the Office of the Governor General:

The Governor General is constitutionally REQUIRED to act on the advice of the Prime Minister and other Ministers. So in practice, the Prime Minister and Cabinet direct everything the GG does.

Therefore, the appointments to the board of the OFLC are all made by the Prime Minister and Cabinet (in particular, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts -- currently Helen Coonan).

The Governor General just adds his signature to make it official.


The problem with Australia is there is no R18+ rating for games. Conservatives use this loophole to deny classification for certain games, effectively banning them without banning them (the game developer can, however, modify the game and apply for classification again)

I live in Sydney, and Helen Coonan's office isn't too far from where I work. I've got a good mind to go there in person and demand why this loophole still exists.

@ Anon. Fan

I wouldn't describe our current government as socialist.

We have two definitions of liberal here: small l liberal defines a belief, large L Liberal is the conservative political party currently in charge.

@Daniel:
Australia doesn't ban everything. The OFLC bans certain games which, as stated before, no-one really cares about. Yet. Which is no excuse in any case.

Which is where I disagree with you Twixn, regardless of whether people care about the game or not there is no reason that the Australian public shouldn't be able to make their own choice. There needs to be a major push from us, the Developers, and the general public towards adopting an R18+ classification as given to movies.

Diceman's description of our politicians is actually pretty accurate :P

[...] Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameSpot | OFLC Media Release [...]

san andreas had worse things and now they dont rate this game sad

IM WITH DILMA(DYLAN)

why is this game banned or not rated. its just a game!!!!

My son and me would love this game. Family entertainment
 
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