The latest Saints Row IV news is a doozy. Turns out the game is going to be banned in Australia. “Why?” you may ask. Get this… giant purple alien probes. And no, we're not showing the weapon on here. Use your imagination with what we've cropped out.
So there is a weapon in Saints Row 4, a piece of Alien tech called the Alien Anal Probe. It’s essentially a sword, but instead of a blade it’s shaped like a penis. In the game, you shove this into your enemy’s… ahem… backside, and then they suddenly rocket off into space…
GAMES ARE ART!!!
Anyway, the Australian Classification Board noted that this implies sexual violence and that the violence was not, “justified by the context.” A statement was issued reading as follows.
The game includes a weapon referred to by the Applicant as an 'Alien Anal Probe'. The Applicant states that this weapon can be 'shoved into enemy's backsides'. The lower half of the weapon resembles a sword hilt and the upper part contains prong-like appendages which circle around what appears to be a large dildo which runs down the centre of the weapon.
When using this weapon the player approaches a (clothed) victim from behind and thrusts the weapon between the victim's legs and then lifts them off the ground before pulling a trigger which launches the victim into the air. After the probe has been implicitly inserted into the victim's anus the area around their buttocks becomes pixelated highlighting that the aim of the weapon is to penetrate the victim's anus.
The weapon can be used during gameplay on enemy characters or civilians. In the Board's opinion, a weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and as such the game should be Refused Classification.
Essentially, this means that the game will not be playable in Australia, even though they recently adopted a mature game rating.
The important questions is, and I say this with all sincerity, is it morally justifiable to ban a game for such actions?
You see, the problem is the ACB is essentially creating an even higher rating rung than “mature” games, things that would normally get an M rating in the ESRB system. Basically, if the ACB says a game is too mature to be mature, then it just doesn’t get rated or sold. But the whole point for the ACB extending its rating system was to allow games like Saints Row IV… as immature as they may be… to be published. It was a recognition that video games won’t instantly make us go around stabbing people with giant dildo swords, and choosing to do this basically reverses that important decision as if it was never made.
The statement further went on to say that there are points in the game when you acquire drugs, use drugs, and participate in drug deals, and that this is further reason to deny the game classification. However, that severely limits media that deals with the serious issue of drugs and drug abuse. Look at it this way -- The Wire had scenes of drug use and drug dealing. If it were a video game it would never see the light of day in Australia, and it’s easily one of the finest pieces of media we have seen in the past few years.
Australia has to make a decision. Are they going to allow mature games to be published or not? This muddled area will just lead to more arguments and possibly even ratings board corruption. Simply put, you need to let the gaming audience decide whether or not a game featuring a giant purple "probe" is appropriate to play. You can’t make that decision for them.
So what do you think? Is this weapon and a few drug allusions worth banning a game from a whole continent, or is this something we have to leave in the hands of the consumer?