It is the nature of the U.S. video game market that parents make the final decision about what constitutes appropriate content for their child.
Not so in New Zealand, where the government’s chief censor has ruled that parents may not purchase Grand Theft Auto IV for their children.
As reported by the New Zealand Herald, Bill Hastings (left) of New Zealand’s Office of Film and Literature Classification issued an opinion that store clerks may not sell the game to parents who are buying it for their teen. Said Hastings:
If it’s perfectly obvious the parent is buying the game for the child, don’t sell it to the parent. If a game is R18 it’s R18 for a reason and it’s illegal to make it available to anyone under that age.
In New Zealand, adults buying the game for a minor – even for their own child – could be jailed for 90 days or made to pay a $10,000 fine. The Herald notes, however, that the law has never been enforced.
And while Hastings seems to take his censorship duties seriously, he had some quite reasonable comments about GTA IV’s more redeeming qualities:
With the games we ban you have to kill everyone you meet and you’re generally rewarded for making the killing more gruesome. In Grand Theft Auto, you don’t have to kill everybody you meet – you could drive around and just look at the architecture…
All games in the Grand Theft Auto series have a kind of black satire – an overstatement of machismo. It takes the piss out of Soprano-type things.
By the way, we’ve heard America’s self-appointed censor, Jack Thompson, claiming that the sex scenes were taken out of the Australia/New Zealand version of GTA IV. Not entirely so, according to the Herald:
In the version submitted for classification [in New Zealand], the sex scenes include going to a strip club and getting lap dances. There’s also another point where the player can have sex with a prostitute – but in the version sold here, there is no visual depiction, just audio.
Thompson is trying to claim that the game is pornography, making its sale to 17-year-olds (as permitted by its M rating) a crime. If so, it would likely be the world’s first-ever sans genitalia porn.