While the long wait for the oft-delayed Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure has ended for North American gamers, it's only just begun for their Australian counterparts. With the game set to release in Australian stores on Friday, the country's Classification Review Board today denied the game a rating, banning it throughout the country.
Despite the costs associated with promoting and producing the game for an Australian release only to have it scuttled two days before launch, Atari vice president of corporate communications Ryan Barr told GameSpot his company's biggest concern was that the government was censoring entertainment.
"Essentially they banned the game, which in our opinion is rather ironic considering that the game takes place in a city with a tyrannical government that tries to suppress the freedom of expression," Barr said. "Life is imitating art right now. This is censorship, plain and simple. This is tantamount to burning books. If you start censoring video games, where does it stop?"
Last November the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification gave the game an MA 15+ classification, meaning it was not suitable for people under 15 due to strong violence and strong themes. Roughly equivalent to an ESRB rating of M for Mature, this is the same classification given to games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The Attorney-General and the Local Government Association of Queensland asked for Getting Up's initial MA 15+ classification to be reviewed, leading to today's 3-to-2 decision on the part of the Classification Review Board to refuse the game a rating.
"Both the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games state that a computer game will be refused classification if it includes or contains detailed instruction or promotion of matters of crime," the board's Convenor, Maureen Shelley, said in a statement. "It is the Classification Review Board's determination that this game promotes the crime of graffiti."
Barr disagrees. "Obviously we don't condone any criminal acts," he said. "We don't condone vandalism. [Getting Up] is really just a metaphor for getting out and getting your voice heard."
The review board listed the game's "realistic scenarios whereby the central character Trane acquires his knowledge of graffiti tips, techniques, and styles" as one such promotion. It also noted that the game rewards the player for graffiti, and includes interactive biographies of 56 real-life graffiti artists, pointing out that all of them began their careers engaging in illegal graffiti, and that some still do.
Barr said that Atari would appeal the decision immediately, but there was no telling how long the process would take.
Getting Up isn't the first game to run afoul of the Office of Film and Literature Classification. Titles like BMX XXX, Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, Postal, Postal 2, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, Narc, The Punisher, The Getaway, Phantasmagoria, and the Roberta Williams Anthology (the American version of which featured a one-chapter preview of Phantasmagoria) have also been refused classification and banned in the country, although some of them (like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and BMX XXX) have later been granted ratings.