News: Australia vs L4D2: Part 2

Another twist in the battle between Valve, Australia’s game classification board and the countless thousands of zombies which comprise Left 4 Dead 2 (see our first blog entry on this farce here; thanks for the update on this story are due to Slashdot).
It seems that Valve has prepared a “compromise” version of L4D2 with which the Australian game classification board feel happy enough to award it a “15+” rating.  Exatly how is this a “compromise”?  The most popular quote from the board’s report is that:
“The board notes that the game no longer contains depictions of decapitation, dismemberment, wound detail or piles of dead bodies lying about the environment.”

We can’t help but wonder what this compromise version will look like – flowers and daisies will replace all the dead zombies (a la Serious Sam) ?  Possibly the Tellytubbies or Bob the Builder might make an appearance? 

Apparently, Valve is still pushing ahead for its full version to be accepted – a hearing is scheduled for later in the month.  Let’s assume that that hearing decides the “compromise” version must be released.  It seems to us that that decision may well lead to an increase in (i) downloads (or attempts to download) the non-Australian version of L4D2; and/or (ii) considerable attempts to crack the Australian version; and/or (iii) an increase in parallel imports of non-Australian versions.  All of which would no doubt be in breach of several Australian laws.  We will leave readers to draw their own conclusions as to whether the board’s rating decision should still stand in those circumstances…

News: Australia and Germany pwn L4D2 and Wolfenstein respectively

An eventful week in the ongoing battle between national regulators and the games industry.

Australia vs Left 4 Dead 2

Australia has banned Left 4 Dead 2 on the basis that it is, well, just too violent. Apparently the Australia game classification system simply does not contain an 18+ rating and, L4D2 being what is is, they decided it was not appropriate to rate it as 15+.  Therefore, they felt they had no choice but to ban it. 

Of course, one has to wonder whether, if that kind of logic was evenly applied across games and other media products entering Australia, just how much entertainment would be able to enter Australia.  More generally, query whether this was really an appropriate response  – isn’t the real issue that there needs to be some modernisation of the classification system there?

[30/09/09: UPDATE: has a follow-up piece here, which confirms that (at least in South Australia) the Attorney-General continues to oppose implementing an 18+ rating in Australia’s rating system.]

Germany finds out Wolfenstein apparently contains some Nazi symbols (shock!  horror!) reports that Activision has removed all copies of the new Wolfenstein game from Germany after it was discovered that one small Nazi flag had been left in the game.  It is, of course, culturally very insensitive to display or in any way glorify the Swastika in Germany.  Perhaps more relevant for Activision though is the fact that it is also an offence to display the Swastika in Germany (other than in a historical/artistic context).  Presumably Activision decided not to plead the historic/artistic exception, so the game had to go.

Again though, was this the appropriate response?  Presumably Activision was comfortable with the fact that, looking past the flag matter, there are no legal issues raised by publishing in Germany a game which consists of blasting away Nazis in Nazi strongholds which are literally dripping with with Nazi iconography (and blood).  Does that not raise issues in and of itself?