The Classification Review Board has announced it will not alter the classification of Ubisoft's We Dare, a game that was initially rated PG (Parental Guidance) in February and received heavy criticism for its inclusion of adult content.
Earlier this month, the Board announced it would rethink the PG rating following an application lodged by Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor. Yesterday, a three-member panel of the Classification Review Board unanimously agreed that the PG rating of the game should not be made higher, also retaining the consumer advice of "mild sexual references".
According to the Board, material classified PG may contain material "which some children find confusing or upsetting, and may require the guidance of parents or guardians." The Board's decision was based upon the fact that while the game encourages certain behaviour, there are no actual sexual references in the gameplay itself.
"This game contains a series of mini games which provide a single player (or a multiple of players up to four) with a variety of tasks. These mini games, which are randomly available to players based on a choice of 'moods', include dance moves and activities, which may require interaction with other players. There are no sexual references in actual game play. Text boxes, which contain miscellaneous facts about gender differences and interactions, randomly appear whilst a mini game is loading. Some of those text boxes contain mild sexual references. The text boxes contain no interactive elements."
"In the Review Board’s opinion the overall impact of this element does not exceed mild."
The Classification Board fell under fire in March over its decision to give the Ubisoft-published adult party game We Dare a PG rating for "mild sexual references." A number of early media reports blamed the board for inappropriately rating the game, which revolves around a number of sexually themed party minigames that ask players to simulate sexual behaviour such as kissing, spanking, and stripping.
The game also caused controversy in the UK, where it was given a 12+ rating by the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) ratings board. According to media reports, some British parents opposed the game's encouragement of sexual actions and deemed it unsuitable for teenagers.
The Board rated We Dare PG, ignoring Ubisoft's initial advice during the application process to give the game an M rating. According to the board's initial report, classifiers did not feel that the game deserved an M rating because there is no sexual behaviour actually displayed in the game and the graphics it contains are "highly stylised and cartoon-like."
"The Board disagrees with the recommended classification of M," the report states. "Given the reasons noted above, the Board is of the opinion the game warrants a PG classification with consumer advice of mild sexual references."
According to the report, it appears the board understood the nature of the gameplay involved. It concluded that it is not recommended for persons under the age of 15 without the supervision of a parent or guardian.
"The game contains mild sexual references that are discreetly implied and justified by the context. There is a sexual tone to the game…In the mini-game "The More You Dare", players are encouraged to remove as many clothes as possible in fifteen seconds…At the beginning of each mini-game, text bubbles appear…examples include but are not limited to: 'Many women prefer men who look like their fathers. This is called sexual imprinting' and 'Married women tend to have affairs when they're unhappy in their relationships.'"
Ubisoft responded to media criticism in March by claiming the game is intended for an adult audience and would be sold with a sticker advising as such.
This is the second time in two weeks the Classification Board of Australia has revised earlier classification decisions pertaining to games. Last week, the board revoked the initial classification of Tecmo Koei's Dead or Alive: Dimensions for the 3DS on the grounds that the contentious content in the game was not shown to the board during the initial application process. The game is currently being reclassified.
Stay tuned to GameSpot AU for more information on both of these stories.
UPDATE: O'Connor has just replied with the following statement, confirming that it was media reports who led him to contact the Classification Board about We Dare:
"I asked the Classification Board to review We Dare following media reports that the game's PG rating may be inappropriate. I believe that this game is unsuitable for children and I look forward to the outcome of the Classification Board's review of its PG rating. I share the concern of many parents that children may be inadvertently playing games that are more suited to adult gamers."