New Zealand: Illegal for Parents to Buy GTA IV for Kids

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.

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  1. 0
    ExLibris ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Overall, the Herald article was pretty balanced (IMHO)

    As ConstantNeophyte mentions, New Zealand’s laws regarding the rating and restriction of video games are hardly new, having been in place since at least the Video Recordings Act 1987. How enforceable they really are, I couldn’t say as I’m not a lawyer.

    Although the Office of Film and Literature Classification have banned three games as of Jan 2008 (which I definitely don’t agree with, although I wouldn’t actually have bought them anyway), in general video game content is a lot less censored than in the US. The uncensored versions of Fahrenheit and The Witcher were on sale here for example.

    We also seem to get a lot less posturing from politicians on the whole area of censorship (except for irrelevancies like Gordon Copeland and Ron Mark). And bizarrely Family First (which has called for GTA4 to be banned) seems to be mostly focused on helping parents to regain the ability to physically assault their children without fear of being convicted. Which I suppose makes them hypocrites, but what else is new?

  2. 0
    Haze says:

    Lets bring up children in a cotton wool filled world so when they grow up they commit emo suicide at the slightist problem because they have never experianced hardship before.

  3. 0
    Neeneko ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Black Manta

    If this law were enforced, it probably would not be at the time of sale. It COULD be brought up in, say, child custody battles, child protective services, teacher complaints,.. you know, good old fashioned ‘I need something to hurt my neighbor so I’ll find an unenforced law that they broke’ stuff.

  4. 0
    Michael ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Is it my imagination or has the Video Game stupidity exceeded that of the Dungeons and Dragons stupidity of the 1980’s?

  5. 0
    ConstantNeophyte ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Brace yourselves:

    @ everyone ripping on our Chief Censor, leave the guy alone; at least he knows something about GTAIV. He understands that most the worries/claims about the game are completely unfounded.

    As for the whole no under 18’s thing, never gunna happen:

    A) They can’t police it unless you pretty much tell them your breaking the law.
    B) This law is nothing new; it has always been illegal to provide minors with games rated higher than their age. Which naturally has had absolutely zero effect on whether underage people play R rated games, the most common determining factor there is the parents.

    In my opinion this law is (would be; if it were enforceable) too harsh, parents should get to make the decision on whether their child is mature enough to play R rated games.

    My brother is not a great gamer, the only games he ever really likes are the GTA games, from III all the way to IV (he’s 15). I have never for a second considered him too immature to play the games. Although he does miss some of the subtler jokes e.g. Turning Tricks driving school.

    Finally, the whole carding people for age thing: When I went to pick up my pre-order the store had all new signs about game ratings and another sign saying if you looked under 25 they would card you (and that you should take it as a compliment). I am 21 and no one carded me, however a day later I went to buy a bottle of vodka to celebrate my return to inebriation and got carded.

    So, in the end, despite all the crap about censorship, things are pretty good the way they are.

  6. 0
    BrandonL337 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    While the millitary did use Doom they did not use it for removing soldiers inhibitions to killing which is the argument that the idiots use
    what they used it for was to teach teamwork and tactics NOT killing

  7. 0
    Video Game Otaku ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is retarded… not only in the government enforcing thier method of parenting (non of thier business imo) but also… If a parent is going to buy it for thier kid all they have to say is that its for them. If they get questioned “I bought it for myself and its for my system, I let my kid play when Im not on it.” noobs.

  8. 0
    Shadow Darkman, Anti-Thesis of Jack Thompson, ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    It also has the word “ass” but that’s a different story.


    Cute. You win the Internet.

  9. 0
    Kincyr ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I like how the censorship people are quite happy to say words like “piss” in their comments.

    maybe they realized that the King James version of the Holy Bible has the word “piss” in it.

  10. 0
    Mad_Scientist ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    While I’m not aware of the specifics of Doom, but the main issue isn’t whether the military uses video games or video game style simulations as part of their training. It’s the claim that they use them to desensitize recruits. When in fact the military uses them to help teach team tactics and cooperation and the like.

  11. 0
    Eville1 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For everyone who brings up the whole “Military training people on Doom” thing I hate to say it but, that’s true. There was an article over a decade ago about how the military had modded Doom. Even had pictures of their “LAN room.” They took the health down to one point and added -nomonsters in their DWANGO batch file. (oh god I just dated myself.) So actually and unfortunately yes, they did use Doom for awhile.

  12. 0
    Mad_Scientist ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “If so, it would likely be the world’s first-ever sans genitalia porn.”

    Actually, that’s not entirely true. From what I understand, hentai, due to some weird quirk involving old Japanese censorship standards, is very limited in how it can actually depict genitalia… despite being VERY “free” in most other ways.

  13. 0
    Nash ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Seriously man,

    I think a guy who looks likes he sleeps with his bong and has a watch from the mid-80s should have more things to worry about..

  14. 0
    Mr. Swatch says:

    Maybe it’s only me, but I just cannot take seriously any man that wears a NEON GREEN WATCH like that. . .

    Oh, and JT is a twit.

  15. 0
    Gameclucks says:

    I’d love to see the form for buying this on the internet:

    Are you over 18? Yes/No
    Are you buying this game for a minor? Yes/No
    You wouldn’t lie about something like that, would you? Yes/No/Maybe

  16. 0
    Mouse says:

    I’d like to see th psychic clerk who denies a sale to an adult based on the gut feeling of “They is buyin’ it for child!”

    Scary govt censorship tho.. the mere implication of enforcement is impossible without treading over the rest of their human rights.

  17. 0
    Tonkarz says:

    Well, New Zealand seems to be being entirely reasonable on this issue. For once, someone in government actually knows what he is talking about when it comes to videogames. Also, it’s good to know that I won’t be missing much if I buy GTAIV here in Oz.

  18. 0
    Demontestament ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So if an adult walks into a game store over there, and tries to purchase GTA IV they can be denied by the clerks because they think the adult is buying it for a kid? There is a very easy way around this, don’t show up with your kids and buy the game, if no kids are in sight how can anyone prove you are buying the game for a kid?

    This is a dream for censors over here, who would love to fine and jail anyone who would dare make a parental decision for themselves and allow their kid to play GTA. This hopefully will be met with outrage, it is up to a parent to decide if they want to buy GTA IV and let little Jimmy play it. It is not the job of the government to make that decision for the parent.

  19. 0
    Overcast says:

    “the government’s chief censor”

    Think History has proven this type of device to control people is far more damaging to society than people playing “good and bad guy” games.

    That scares me far more than a kid playing GTA

  20. 0
    BmK ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I find it ridiculous and against a parents right to raise their child as they see fit. What’s wrong with allowing a parent to let their 14+ aged high school teenage son or daughter play the game. Personally I’m against all government enforced age based rating systems for entertainment/free speech media but this is preposterous.

  21. 0
    Necromancist says:

    I’m not familiar at all with New Zealand law, but they have something akin to the First Amendment, right? And wouldn’t this be contradicting that?

    It’s a fine idea, I have to agree with you there. But these kinds of laws are very hard to enforce practically, since you can’t really know for sure who is going to play a game someone buys, short of stalking them. (Which, I’m pretty sure, is illegal even down there in Bat Country.)

    As a final note, no country should need laws to tell them what is obvious.

  22. 0
    TheEdge ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    At least they’re aren’t spitting being overly religious zealots over this.

    I was just thinking that,hilarious!

  23. 0
    Benjamin Ambroso ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Good to see they’re finally putting pressure on the people that should be responsible. Not the retailers. Not the creators. The parents that buy the stuff for their kids. Bravo, New Zealand.

  24. 0
    MRK ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Gee, now I almost feel bad for buying kids copies of GTA IV when the store clerks turned them away… almost. 😛

    Whats really hilarious about this is Video Stores don’t card kids for the unrated movies they Buy/Rent, which are far more explicit than any video game would be.

  25. 0
    Black Manta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ NovaBlack & GP

    I’ve heard that podcast. Yeah, he does make some semi-valid points, but then he demonstrates his own ignorance and goes too far in his zealotry. What really gets under my skin more than anything else though was the condescending tone he took to Sterling, which is the same tone he takes with just about everyone.

    He also restated how he thought it would be preferable for companies like Take 2 to tell retailers how if they sell their games to minors, they will withdraw their business. I know from the way business works, that doesn’t make sense, but can someone please fill me in on the specifics as to why it doesn’t exactly?

  26. 0
    TheRoosterRngr says:

    BAM! EXACTLY. First we let Mr. Rhode Island Attorney tell us parents what we thing, next thing we know Mr. German Shiza video (his picture looks funny :-)) is making laws saying parents do not know what is best for our kids.

  27. 0
    NovaBlack ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    YEah if you head over to there is a one hour interview with JT

    he classes it as porn beause porn is ‘anything that elicits a sexual response’ apparently. He skims over the fact that practically millions of things coul be classed as porn under such a definition. In daytime Tv if a woman winks at somebody suggestively isnt that then ‘porn’?


    @GP you may want to get a link up to that interview. The podcast was run by Jim Sterling, and although JT actually makes some (for once) semi-ok points, he does demonstrate what an ignorant ass he is. Oh and once again brings up the oft debunked ‘military trained ppl on doom’ thing.

  28. 0
    Steve ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    OK, that’s the guy in charge of what people can see? That guy? Anyone who wears a watch like that with a suit should not be in charge of determining tastes. That picture kind of looks like the mental stereotype image I get of Lazlo when I listen to Integrity 2.0.

  29. 0
    Black Manta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well, it’s good to know that he’s aware it’s satire at least. That’s something about the game that seems to escape some people. It’s satire in the same way the movies Robocop and Starship Troopers were satire.

    I’d really like to know, though, how this law could be enforced? How could someone know if an adult was buying the game for their children unless A) The kid is right there with them when they do it or B) They loudly declare their intentions at the store.

    Once again JT gets his facts wrong, or deliberately twists them to further his agenda. I have the feeling he’s going to have a hard time proving their actual porn in the game. Explicit language and lap-dancing by themselves do not a porn game make.

    Then again, I believe he is going for a strict definition of pornogrpahy. Specifically: ” the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.” So in that sense, maybe. Still, this is coming from a man who thinks the act of a simple ass-slapping constitutes S&M. 😛

  30. 0
    Godkarmachine O Inary ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Untouchable It’s negative. Very negative.

    At first is sounds great. “Hey parents can’t buy a violent game for their kids, and then bitch about it being violent, awesome.”

    But then you realize it still takes away from parents who think their 15 or 16 year old is mature enough for GTA. Now, to me, no matter how mature some kids are. I don’t think a 7 year old should play GTA, but it’s the choice of the parent buying the game for them. It shouldn’t be regulated.

    It would just be nice if parents really knew the content of the games they let their kids play, and judge if they really want their child playing those games. Most of the time they assume video game violence is going to be childrens cartoon style. Then they are outraged when that rated M game has guns in it.

  31. 0
    Trevor McGee says:

    There is absolutely no visual depiction of sex at all. Calling it porn is a joke, but it’s not surprise that the fool saying such things is our very own Court Jester Jack Thompson. I mean, he didn’t even play the game and was claiming this as you reported when he was cut off of that Talk of the Nation show admitting that he hadn’t play it. The funny thing is that people went nuts over the tame sex scene in Mass Effect and GTA, as far as I’ve seen, hasn’t even shown a bare ass. I haven’t seen a bare breast or genitalia for that matter let alone full on nudity or sex. The game say “Partial Nudity” on the back of the box in the descriptions, but I’m guessing that’s referring to the strippers but I haven’t seen them with anything less on than a skimpy bikini.

  32. 0
    magichouse says:

    i think it’s great that theres someone out there who isn’t on the GTA hate band wagon. he’s not saying anything negative about the game at all, just iterating the truth of the game.

  33. 0
    Twin-Skies ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “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.”

    Anybody know how they’re going to prove an actual INTENT to buy the game for the kids? Short of telepathy I mean.

  34. 0
    Yuki says:


    Yeah, then he gets laughed out of Congress for being a Retard and sued into bankruptcy Buy Take two!

    That I would actually like to see, JBT begging for change on the street.

    Scratch that, I don’t wish that on people i hate, let alone someone I think is a retard. he’s got enough problems. Ironicly most of them are all in his head.

  35. 0
    jds ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Only the gub-ment knows what’s best for you!

    No GTA but feel free to experience the live action gore of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

  36. 0
    MaskedPixelante ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    That is so stupid, especially considering the number of people who said they were going to import the uncut version. Nice try though.

    Frankly, I could care less about GTA4. I played Vice City, and it’s enough for me, thanks. Does that blow your mind, Jack? A gamer that doesn’t care, much less want to play, GTA?

  37. 0

    […] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIt 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. […]

  38. 0
    Kevin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Never enforced? Sounds about right. I live in NZ and have been playing R18 games for ages. In 1999, I got Doom 2 for my 13th birthday, which is R18. Not exactly the most violent game by today’s standards, but nobody got arrested for me getting it.

    Just in case people want to know, New Zealand has a sort of 2 tier rating system:

    Tier 1: Entertainment anybody can have. These are rated G, PG and M. G is similar to America’s E and M is kind of like America’s T (teen).

    Tier 2: Entertainment restricted to a certain age. Not too sure how X and NC-17 and all that work in the USA, but in NZ, the rating we use R, but (these days) it is always accompanied by a number. The 2 most common are R16 and R18. Nobody is allowed a title rated these unless they are at least 16 or 18, respectively. Less common, but still used are R13 and R15. Not too sure how a 15 year old and a 16 year differ much, but that’s the NZ rating system for ya.

    So, games in tier 1 can be bought for or even bought by anybody of any age. A child can buy an M game, although M is usually not very bad. Examples are Burnout Revenge, Ninety-Nine Nights and Oblivion.

    Tier 2 games are restricted to the specified age or above and it is illegal to provide, in any way, such material to somebody under that age.

    Despite the fact it can get you a reasonably severe punishment for even supplying a 17 year old with an R18 game, NZ censorship STILL feels the need to ban games that are overly violent games, which they suspect will make their way to the hands of underage people anyway. Examples of this are Postal 2 and Manhunt. NZ censorship also felt the need to ban an anime (Japanese cartoon) called Puni Puni Poemy that had such terrible things as “implied underage rape”. (The scene was not as bad as it may sound.) Nevertheless, NZ is not protected by a Constitution allowing for freedom of expression and all that. We have something, but it’s not as powerful as the US Constitution is for the US.

    Here’s a little something to mull over about NZ censorship: Gears of War, an extremely violent and bloody game, involving chopping humanoid creatures in half with a chainsaw in a bloody mess that splashes the screen with blood, got an R16 rating. That is the same rating as all 3 Halo games. Crackdown, on the other hand, got an R18 rating. Not sure how MS pulled that off…

  39. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “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.”


    Don’t let You-Know-Who hear that! He’ll demand an amendment to the constitution that only HE should make that decision for other peoples’ children. Like in his Bully lawsuit where he states that HE should be the one to make the decision as to what is or is not appropriate for other peoples’ kids.

    NW2K Software

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