Oz Classification Board: Contextual drug use ok in Assassin

Aussie ratings board clarifies its position on drug use in Velvet Assassin; says historical and medical context justifies in-game use of morphine.

The Australian Classification Board caused yet another stir down under last week, with Kotaku first reporting that upcoming stealth actioner Velvet Assassin had been given an MA15+ rating, the highest rating available for a game in Australia. The decision would ordinarily be unremarkable, except for the fact that Velvet Assassin contains morphine as a type of in-game power-up. Last year, Fallout 3 was initially refused classification down under because it showed positive effects from in-game drug use--specifically, morphine.

Although it may seem somewhat contradictory, the Classification Board has stood by its decision. GameSpot AU contacted the Board, and in an emailed response, it stated that the morphine use in Velvet Assassin did not significantly improve the main character Violette's abilities, and that its use was appropriate within the historical and medical context of the drug.

"The drug references consist of references to morphine and the presence of syringes that can be collected by the players within each mission. The syringes allow the player to have morphine implicitly administered to them a limited number of times. The morphine links back to the reality of Violette being administered the drug in hospital. Although the use of morphine enables the player to better complete difficult parts of a mission, the applicant has stated that it does not lead to killings being more violent, to the demise of more enemies, or a better outcome for the player or the character of Violette," the Board response stated.

"While the general rule in the Classification Guidelines state that 'material that contains drug use (...) related to incentives or rewards is Refused Classification', the Board is of the opinion that the incentives in the game are very nuanced and mitigated by the historical and medical context of the references to the drug. The drug references are no higher than moderate in playing impact. They can therefore be accommodated within a lower classification, but warrant the additional consumer advice of drug references."

Velvet Assassin is a World War II-themed shooter that casts you in the role of spy Violette Summers. In the game, Violette is in a hospital and all of the missions play out in her unconscious mind. According to our last preview, morphine use triggers an effect in Violet's current, coma-stricken state in which she'll temporarily grow more powerful in her dreams.

On the other hand, Fallout 3's use of morphine led to more positive effects, hence its original banning, according to the Board. "The player can also select and use Morphine (a proscribed drug) which has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain when the character's extremities are targeted by the enemy. In the Board's view the drug use, in particular the use of a proscribed drug, via means of selection from a menu, is related to incentives and rewards as the incentive to take the drug is to progress through the game more easily and the reward is an increase in the character's abilities."

Under Australian law, computer games can be given a maximum classification of MA15+, as opposed to film or DVDs, which can carry up to an R18+ rating (the R rating prohibits sales to anyone under the age of 18 years old). Any games that do not fit under the Classification Board's definition of MA15+ are refused classification. Fallout 3 was eventually passed with the MA15+ classification in Australia after the references to morphine were removed.

Check out GameSpot AU's Censory Overload feature for more information on Australia's classification laws.

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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60 comments
Smoolander
Smoolander

@ 008Zulu Yes it is the Classification Board at fault here for their stupidly hypocritical decisions between this game and Fallout 3. This occurs all the time where it is OK for one game yet not another. Even though the classification ratings they have to work with are fundamentally flawed, the way they administer those ratings is disgracefully inconsistent.

LiveByMeDieByMe
LiveByMeDieByMe

I think that Australia is a bit too strict in their regulation of content in video games, but I do understand why they would allow the morphine in this and not Fallout 3.

Foolz3h
Foolz3h

LOL So, if it has historical context it's okay? Surely something that is MORE realistic and based in reality is going to be more influential to a REAL person who is based in REALITY?

CcDohl
CcDohl

@Grigjd3 Thank you for your response, but I think that you may be a bit confused about the FCC. The idea is that the airwaves are public property and limited in number and, therefore, the context of certain types of material may be regulated, though not the content. The FCC deals in broadcast waves, not in media like books, music and video games. However, that is beside the point. My point is that censorship of media to adults should be universally reviled in the international system. Government-enforced laws limiting content in books, movies and video games are unconstitutional in the US and should be recognized as human rights violations world wide, in my opinion. Regulation of broadcast airwaves is different, at least in part, from regulation of media itself. Of course, I personally agree that the FCC is overly broad in its regulations, but that is a separate issue.

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

oh noez, theres morphine in a game, used by a assassin, in a ww2 themed game. i don't know about you, but if i had morphine and i was shot or wounded, i probably wouldn't hesitate to use it, which is how its used in the game. sheesh, they are kinda overb- 'realizes how the dumbass soccer moms in america are'....................never mind.

awkwardscilence
awkwardscilence

in FO3, was morphine an item that was removed? or did they just take morphine and rename it "stimpack" for rating sake? just wondering ^.^

Pilch_R_eD
Pilch_R_eD

You hear that kids! There's nothing wrong with taking drugs as long as they are administered to you by a close friend whilst you're unconscious. But don't you even DARE take painkillers to help deal with the pain if you have been shot, ok! IT IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!!! Now if you don't mind . . . . . Im going to go over to my 15 yo mates place and play the fully uncut MA15+ PC version of GTAIV and kill some hookers ^^! (Sarcasm to prove a point FTW!)

spacemariens22
spacemariens22

welshy83 Posted Mar 10, 2009 10:08 pm GMT really who cares? theres only a handful of games censored each year and if u want the uncensored version just buy the game off ebay from the states. problem solved thats not the point thow! its about choice and we are having ours slowly taken away bye these ppl which isnt right cause australia is a free land! and this whole problem would go away if they would just give us a R18+ system!!!

Pete5506
Pete5506

Man everything gets marked in Aussie land

royalpierre
royalpierre

how many parents do we need. i got my biological parents, teachers, the government, the ESRB, my boss, etc.. now these power hungry facists in australia want to dictate what people can play. i'm mad and i'm not even australian. just stop beating around the bush and say you want a "big brother" society. jeez the Australian Classification Board needs to get laid more often

czekebob
czekebob

it was renamed med-x, all the versions (even the american one!) got it changed

Spider-Jim
Spider-Jim

So what was morhine renamed in fallout 3 ?

008Zulu
008Zulu

It's not the OFLC who is at fault here in Australia, it is a certain South Australian Govenor who is blocking the R18 classification, you see, he thinks that because games have MA15 on them there is no way they can be sold to kids, but if there were a R18 then kids will be able to buy them. If that logic hurts your mind, don't worry, it means your normal.

D636A6D
D636A6D

Australia bans too many good games, but i am US so i dont care

Lisandro_v22
Lisandro_v22

who cares?? my god they are getting stupidier everyday... it's 2009 my god, they make games with no actual story and obviously without an "historical context" just as an excuse to shoot stuff, and they keep wasting so much time looking for "references" of drugs or nudity, it's so ridiculous, i haven't heard of a person becoming a sexopath because he saw a digital tit on a game for god's sake, the more i know people the more i love my dog, and i have no dog

welshy83
welshy83

really who cares? theres only a handful of games censored each year and if u want the uncensored version just buy the game off ebay from the states. problem solved

Jester-masK
Jester-masK

Rediculous! In Fallout you kill people and aberrations, there is an abusive usage of all sorts of drugs to enhanced your abilities, you can role-play an evil character and kill innocent NPCs... but you can use a single word from the dictionnary because it is a medical drug? Come on! It is a game, a GAME! Aussies should re-think there policiies.

mrklorox
mrklorox

Absolute hypocrisy! Fallout's use was MUCH more realistic than the bullet time s**t in Assassin. What imbeciles they have at the OFLC.

gamedude2020
gamedude2020

I can understand what they say about Fallout making drugs look positive. but the point they are making about it being "important in the historical context" is laughable. Fallout could be considered an historical context. Fallout is also not a contemporary setting, so they are being contradictory.

herodotus2006
herodotus2006

Time the guys & gals in the OFLC packed their offices up and retired. They simply don't have a clue, and to say they're inconsistent is an understatement. As an Aussie, its' just plain embarrassing as it affects gaming all over the world.

Un4givingAsault
Un4givingAsault

who cares... just because some dude shoots up in a vid doesn't mean im gonna look for a fix. I love how they make these decisions on whether people are mature enough to see certian content when their is the ESRB.

Semaphore313
Semaphore313

The Australian rating system makes the ESRB look almost logical...

grigjd3
grigjd3

@CcDohl, I agree with your main point in the freedom of ideas, but the United States most certainly has a body that determines what can be said and shown in media in this country: the FCC. Worse, the FCC doesn't lay out guidelines but rather hands down fines and penalties without explanation meaning that artists and producers are in constant fear of saying something that might upset what has historically shown itself to be a fickle and inconsistent decision making body. I'd say the FCC is downright tyrannical. Now I await the fine which will inevitably be leveled on this comment for speaking poorly of this over-powered government body...

Caer_Death
Caer_Death

Sagacious_Tien and maldoror19 have it right! Something like Assassin's Creed should be exempt from any kind of censorship, if "dream" game means anything different than "real life" game.

Junkmandude
Junkmandude

Note to self. As long as I play games and that will be until I die, never move to Australia.

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

It really doesn't matter what the Australian Board of Review gave Velvet Assassin in their rating review. The game was not banded and I can see their point. It will make it harder fo those under 15 to buy it but not impossible. I still believe that a parent's right to oversee what their children play is the best review and rating.

CcDohl
CcDohl

Dirtyfunk, Regardless of what you may think of the US, you missed the point. The free exchange of ideas should be fundamental to human rights. That is something that the US has gotten right. We don't have a government agency that tells us what we may and may not watch. Of course, there are laws concerning obscenity and defamation, but those are necessary. I was not showing "hubris" over America, just expressing my thoughts on what should be a fundamental human right.

samfisherelitec
samfisherelitec

well they want money, obviously, or we won't see the game!!!!

NavIGOtoR25
NavIGOtoR25

Usefull things!? Why again discussing about Rating???

dirtyfunkmaster
dirtyfunkmaster

CCDohl: American rights are not Human rights regardless of that state's hubris. The US needs to deal with its own human rights violations in its own country before it tries to preach to the rest of the world.

CcDohl
CcDohl

Anyone else thing that parts of the American First Amendment, freedom of speech, press and religion, should be considered to be part of human rights, and therefore, also considered to be a violation of human rights when violated world wide? It just seems that censorship of material is wrong.

CrossLOPER
CrossLOPER

Vague and unclear determinants used by a bureaucracy? Go figure...

Waffen_SS84
Waffen_SS84

Is it me or their analysis is totally absurb? Can those nazi leftist try to make some sense? After playing Failout 3 for many hours I can safely say I'm not addicted to stimpacks : /

otanikun
otanikun

Yeah, because if it didn't have any good benefits I might have been offended.

maldoror19
maldoror19

So, at the end of every game you just have a narrator say that it was all a dream in the characters head and then whatever is in the game won't be censored! Simple really! - What a joke.

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

Fallout 3 is historially accurate though! They just told their story 200 years in advance.

mand_450
mand_450

Typical Aussie censors, but at least those bloody bigots let this game pass (no offense to australians, of course, but just to the censors). It is funny how they said that morphine in Fallout 3 was only positive. If i remember correctly, you could become addicted to drugs in fallout 3, thus resulting in negative effects for your character.

pidow
pidow

I am truly glad that they grow-up and saw things as they should be.

confucioussayyo
confucioussayyo

WTF is wrong with the Aus Classification Board? They should smoke pot or something and let the people have their video games.

XanderKage
XanderKage

I'm sorry, but Aussie censors are so lame...

Scorpion1813
Scorpion1813

The only thing Michael Atkinson is actually against is the violence in video games, the problem is, the only games that are getting denied are the ones with drug uses, therefore all those violent 18+ games are being released in Aus with a 15+ rating. He's trying to stop violent games yet he is only exposing MORE people to it (that are also younger). The guy is an idiot and it seems like he is doing out of spite.

sxcnova
sxcnova

So does not having a R18+ rating for games in australia mean that the classification board think that no one in australia over the age of 18 plays games????

Cujo31
Cujo31

hahaha man, they wouldn't have this problem down under if they just make the mature rated games for 17+ gamers.

witide
witide

Well, at least it passed the classification...

MetallicaKings
MetallicaKings

Why does Australia always have to be a poopy head

SharMah
SharMah

If they think that putting a R18+ rating will stop kids from playing the game, well they are wrong. We all know that if you say to a kid "Don't do that"....it's exactly what he will do...

ImOldGreg
ImOldGreg

This stupid country!! :evil:

TurambarGS
TurambarGS

Pfffft, even if you couch it in those terms, it's still a huge double standard.