UPDATED: The latest first person shooter from publisher EA, Syndicate, has been refused classification by the Classification Board and cannot be released in Australia. EA will not appeal the decision.
EA Australia released an official statement in response to the decision, stating that it would not attempt to appeal the decision or re-submit an altered version of the game for the Australian market.
EA’s statement reads:
“It’s regrettable that government policy in Australia is denying adults the right to play Syndicate. The game will be not be available in Australia despite its enthusiastic response from fans. We were encouraged by the government’s recent agreement to adopt an 18+ age rating for games. However, delays continue to force an arcane censorship on games – cuts that would never be imposed on books or movies. We urge policy makers to take swift action to implement an updated policy that reflects today’s market and gives its millions of adult consumers the right to make their own content choices.”
The publisher said it would not appeal the Refused Classification decision as changing the content of the game would “singificantly affect the game’s quality and appeal.”
The Classification Board’s decision was published by Kotaku, revealing the reasoning behind the decision for a ‘Refused Classification’ rating:
“In the Board’s view this game warrants an ‘RC’ classification in accordance with item 1(d) of the computer games table of the National Classification Code: “1. Computer games that: (d) are unsuitable for a minor to see or play;” will be Refused Classification.”
The report went on to detail why exactly the game was banned:
“Combatants take locational damage and can be explicitly dismembered, decapitated or bisected by the force of the gunfire. The depictions are accompanied by copious bloodspray and injuries are shown realistically and with detail. Flesh and bone are often exposed while arterial sprays of blood continue to spurt from wounds at regular intervals.”
“The game also allows a player to repeatedly damage enemy combatants’ corpses.”
“Civilians can be shot, accompanied by copious bloodspray, but it is not possible to decapitate or dismember them, whether they are alive or dead.”
The first person shooter was scheduled for an early 2012 release, but will now either need to be resubmitted to the Classifications Board in an altered form or give up on the Australian market.
The maximum classification a game currently warrants is MA15+, which means games deemed excessively violent are either banned from sale in Australia altogether or have to be tweaked by developers and rereleased.
Australia is still yet to receive the same R18+ or Adults Only rating for video games that are applicable to the film industry, and games deemed unfit for minors are banned altogether.
Detractors of current classifications legislation have often pointed to the unfairness of banning a game from adult eyes because it is deemed unfit for minors.
Earlier banned titles included the latest Mortal Kombat title and EA’s Left 4 Dead 2 which developers altered to get past Australian censors.
An R18+ classification is on its way though after most Australian Attorneys-General agreed on its introduction in mid-2011.
“With strong classification guidelines in place, an R18+ rating should result in violent games currently rated MA15+ in Australia being reclassified as adults-only, as they already are in many other countries,” said NSW Attorney General Greg Smith at that time, despite abstaining from the vote.
For those still keen on playing the game, the closest region Syndicate will be available in is New Zealand, with an unchanged release on February 24, 2012, rated R18.