Censorship

The ability to censor is an extremely volatile power to have, mainly due to the conflict of basic human rights that it raises. On the one hand free speech dictates that the public have a right to know every detail that passes through our courts, but when you combine that with the equally important issue of protection you begin to delve into a serious problem which is much more than simply black and white.

The super injunction is something that has been at the forefront of our media for weeks now, and is effectively a tool that enables celebrities to silence the appropriate outlets in writing about their private life.  Most recently a top Premier League footballer was found guilty of a super injunction, only later for his name to be revealed on Twitter, where the injunction is difficult to apply due to the instant nature and popularity of the service, as well as its international nature. Over 200 million boast a Twitter account, and within hours many had made a mockery of the law that continues to beg the question; is censorship right?

The potent matter of censorship is one that also haunts the videogaming industry, in some countries more than others. Britain itself has an extremely lenient history when censoring videogames and this is reflected in the fact that only three games have ever been seriously questioned by the British Board of Film Classification, in the form of Carmageddon, The Punisher and Manhunt 2. All three were eventually released after reworking parts of the game, the most drastic change appearing in Carmageddon where the intended pedestrians were replaced with zombies to somewhat reduce the game’s realism.

Although we’ve only had three games that actually required it, is the censorship of videogames (or anything else, for that matter) insulting to the intelligence and maturity of the masses? The BBFC and PEGI currently share the role of rating our videogames, and as long as these ratings are followed and acted upon responsibly, theory dictates that there should be no need for censorship. Cases occasionally arise where videogames serve as a scapegoat for various violent crimes, but it is highly debatable whether these crimes are down to the content of the videogame itself or the state of mind of the player. The general consensus is that it’s most commonly the latter, so censorship is entirely unnecessary as long as the games in question do not fall into the wrong hands. But then is that a risk that any government seeking votes can hazard?

[drop] The Australian government certainly don’t think so. Utilising a similar age badge scheme to Britain, the only noticeable difference is the lack of an “adult” rating, meaning that if any videogame is deemed to be only worthy of an “18” it is immediately refused classification. This has led to a large number of videogames being denied a release down under, and the titles that do see the light of day are often heavily edited to fit into the country’s arguably flawed rating system. The sufferers include both the public and the developers themselves; heavily edited games such as Grand Theft Auto IV, Left 4 Dead 2, and Fallout 3 are a less attractive proposition to the public and as a result harm the developers, who are working increasingly harder to censor their own creations so that they are allowed into the prominent Australian videogame market. What makes the regulations even harder to take is the fact that they insinuate that only children play videogames, which is definitely not the case with studies showing that the average gamer is over twenty years old.

There is no right or wrong answer, but from a personal perspective I’d like to think that I am mature and old enough to make my own decisions in regards to what I can and cannot view. The motives of censorship are completely understandable – it’s a harsh truth that humans do kill other humans and then pin the influence on videogames, and I think that it would take a naive person to say that they didn’t have an effect at all. However, anything visual can potentially have an effect on the viewer, and if you decide to censor based on the concept of safety then you’ll find that other outlets need to be censored too for consistency.

And even then, the personal line for each individual is likely to be different, and as a result you will have a large number of people who feel strongly aggrieved by the censorship in question. It’s a topic that is endless and one that certainly warrants a healthy degree of discussion, but after the recent injunction farce you have to question the right of any esteemed body to decide what we can’t, and cannot partake in.

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56 Comments

  1. I heard on the radio that music videos are now to be censored and the more adult orientated to be put beyond the watershed.

    The world has changed a lot even in my short time, what is now acceptable was considered an atrocity in my younger days. Even the word sex could not be publicized to children.

    ‘Kids’ these days have access to all sorts of media not suitable to them, too advanced for their young minds to comprehend fully. They are also very easily influenced.

    I am getting onto the subject of age restriction now and while these 3 games may be ott there are so many other problems with young people getting their hands on things they really shouldnt.

    Growing up is a slow process, hell, i havnt grown up yet! :)

    • Do you think that exposure to such things a part of growing up?

      • Yes. Why do you think we have age ratings in place? The content is not suitable. Over the years the line has been pushed further and further back to the point that even music videos have things that many young people see as normal but are infact influential to the child mind.

        “Beyonce wears it” “Lady GaGa does it” etc etc.

      • Yes, it is tricky for parents to make sure they balance all that alongside some more positive role models. You wouldn’t want to over-censor a child’s experiences though, society is rather ‘grown-up’ as you describe and they have to get used to it all somehow – staying within the recommended age-ratings to a large extent as they develop.

  2. Parents buying 18 rated games, such as Call of Duty, for their 12 year olds makes a mockery of the censorship rules but it seems thats OK with some…

    • If parents know what the games contain and are happy to let their children play it, I don’t really have any great issue with that. They know their kids better than some review board. I played all kinds of games and watched all kinds of movies when I was below the age rating for the product. It did me no harm.

      Parents just buying whatever their child asks for without any knowledge of the game/movie they’re buying is another matter.

  3. When I was younger, like 11ish I wanted to get the getaway on ps2 as it involved free roaming around London. My mum seriously didn’t want me getting it as it was an 18. The game had violence, torture scenes, very bad language and a few naked women here and there. But I still got the game, as my dad also wanted it :D haha. It’s now in my all time favourite game lists.

    Also a funny ish story(imo). I went into game to buy gears of war when I had my xbox.it was an 18 but I hadn’t realised. I was about 15 at the time. I went to the counter expecting to buy it, the guy said “you can’t buy it.” I was thinking wtf why not?! I then asked him why, and he said I was underage. I looked at the case and said oh yeah haha. Thankfully my mum was in the area and I got her down to buy it for me. Moral of the story, make sure your mum is within the area :P

    On a side note I wonder how many underage kids play cod, mw2 was an 18.

    • Oh yeah almost forgot to add the fact that I turned out good, just a few murders here and there but nothing much haha. But really, you’ve got to have common sense to realise that what you are playing would be wrong in real life. If you don’t then I’m worried

      • Agree 100% about people of any age really, needing the common sense to realise that it is a game and that it should not be replicated outside of the game.

        This common sense is surely down to the parents to develop with their child, except It’s the game developers who take the flak.

  4. Yes, I agree that (a) there should be some censorship to prevent unsuitable (whatever that means, and it changes with each generation and also how society itself changes) material getting intot he hands of children, and (b) what was considered too risky for broadcast (for example) is now, not commonplace, but shown with nay a murmour (Life Of Brian).

    Howeverf, in these days of easy access to material via the internet (the main culprit, as was the postal service in times gone by) censorship is increasingly hard to enforce (Call Of Duty games (18) being played by children – obviously when you hear them on their mics). But, out of respect to our less world-weary and more volnerable members of society, we’ve got to try. We may get it wrong sometimes, and sometimes be laughed at (especially by people with the advantage of hindsight), but if we made no effort then what sort of state would our world be in?

    • Oh, and yes maybe exposure to the nastier side of life is part of growing up, but it also desensitises you to them as well and you then accept them as normal instead of the horror they are.

  5. its about liability in the absence of common sense. about imposing your own beliefs, taboos and prejudices on others through fear and control. about creating scapegoat criminals prior to the crime being committed, as convenient sources for blame so we don’t have to confront the notion that we are still just wild animals and unfortunately some of us are monsters.

  6. As far as I’m aware, the R 18+ rating is coming to Australia soon, although at the expense of the 15+ rating, which is ridiculous.

    Unless it’s inherently distressing, someone’s creative visions shouldn’t be censored. There is no reason why Left 4 Dead 2 should have been as censored as it was in Australia.

    Censoring things like that and indeed banning them just makes it seem like you don’t trust the people of your country or region to be mature enough to make an informed decision about what is distressing t them and what is acceptable.

    Ratings should be a guideline, not a choke chain.

    Either way, great article Toby :)

  7. While there are a lot of reasons censorship can be a bad thing, sometimes I welcome it with open arms.
    I hope this movie gets the same treatment in Ireland:
    http://www.empireonline.com/news/story.asp?NID=31162

    • Agreed.

      Read the description and that is just sick. I didn’t even want to watch the first one, but that crap is just horrific.

      It looks as immature as it could be, and the maker’s reaction was suitably immature too.

      • As my girlfriend put it, she can never unread that article. :P

      • Yep the reaction of the film maker was what shocked me most, and makes me wonder how old he is and is he safe in the public realm!

    • I’ve no desire to watch the second movie, but only because the the first was terrible, purely because it was a bad movie, not because of the content, which I personally thought was nowhere near as horrific as was expected and even somewhat tame.

      Granted the BBFC’s explanation for the classification refusal paints quite a damning view of some of the events that take place in the movie, but write a damning and graphic description of events that take place in any horror movie from the last 20 years and it will have the same effect on a neutral reader.

      Horror and damaging material is; just as is beauty, in the eye of the beholder. Only a mature adult can decide for themselves what they wish to subject themselves to based on their intrinsic knowledge of themselves. In the case of a child, this responsibility falls to the parents.

      Where there is a genuine belief that material is likely to influence potentially unstable individuals to commit harmful acts on the larger populous then this is the job of the censorship organisations; each of whom use the largely subjective opinion of individuals who may not make the correct decision, thus the process is flawed and only as foolproof as the individuals that enforce it.

  8. It makes me laugh when idiots from the BBFC will happily dole out a rating to garbage like Saw and Hostel, but when it’s a game like Manhunt 2, they banned it and it had to be changed! Manhunt 2 isn’t that bad, I’ve seen waaaaaaaaaaaay worse on TV and in movies.

    • for example, in manhunt 2 when you sneak up behind someone and kill them quickly, it has to be cencored. Yet in one of those shit hostel films (hostel 2 I think) You see a guy get his dick and balls cut off with a pair of plyers and thrown to a dog, which eats them, and that dosent get cencored!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME YOU BBFC IDIOTS!!!??

  9. ‘the intelligence and maturity of the masses?’

    Made me laugh. You really are naive.

    • Although I am glad to think that I have provided you with some laughter in this alleged gloomy world, I disagree.

      There are people out there who certainly aren’t intelligent, or mature, and who exist solely to make life difficult for those who surround them. However, whatever you read, hear, or see, in the papers or otherwise, I strongly believe that the majority of our population are intelligent and mature in the respect that they care for their environment and will go out of their way to help those around them.

      You call me naive, I call you a cynic. Either way, we’re both viewing the world from different parts of it and as a result, through different perspectives. Make of that what you will.

      • ‘You call me naive, I call you a cynic. Either way, we’re both viewing the world from different parts of it’

        Yeah, I see it from the real world, you see it from behind a computer desk. The blunt truth is; 9 in 10 of all people are imbeciles.

        ‘whatever you read, hear, or see, in the papers or otherwise, I strongly believe that the majority of our population are intelligent and mature’

        I don’t get my views from any of those rags people call newspapers, or any website or political party. I get them from taking in what I see out in the towns and the neighbourhoods; in the real world. From seeing and interacting with real people, not biast ‘news’ outlets. When you go out from behind your newspaper, computer monitor, TV screen or whatever, using nothing other than your good old-fashioned common sense to survey your surroundings, putting any of your opinions to the back of your mind, starting with a blank canvas, you can see things for how they actually are.
        Or you can convince yourself that everythings okey-dokey, and that we all fart rainbows and unicorns exist. Whatever helps you sleep at night.

      • Firstly, I’d like to highlight that yesterday I was thinking about the future of the human race. In no way do I think that the world is perfect, and I fully accept that there are some genuine problems that we will all have to face the consequences of sooner or later. You just have to look at the rise in energy costs for that. Research also states that if we continue to consume oil in the quantities that we currently do, it will all be gone in roughly thirty nine years, which is an extremely large problem.

        To say that I view the world from behind a computer desk, to me, is out of order. You don’t know me, and I can tell you that whilst I consider myself fortunate to have a home, I know full well about the harsh realities of life. Whether you believe that is up to you, but perhaps you’d like to consider the way you word things before making baseless accusations about how other people view the world.

        You say that 9 out of 10 people are imbeciles. If that’s your opinion then I respect that, but that is all it is, an opinion. There is no factual evidence to back that statistic up, and the way you put it across makes you seem slightly arrogant – I assume you aren’t one of the common imbeciles?

        Look, I respect your opinion and if that is what you believe, then fine. However, in saying that it would be good if you could show a little respect for mine, too.

  10. A lot of things get censored for no reason. It is always video games that get censored. I believe 18rated games should never ever be censored. As it is aimed at adults and we know what to expect when playing them. I have seen more disturbing scenes in movies then games. People who whinge about a game not being censored and then go to see a very gory movie have double standards.Games should never be censored. The bottom line is don’t censor it.If joe PC brigade have a problem with not censoring games then they should take a good look at films before complaining as Films can be gorier then games.

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