It could be argued that the Australian video game classification system is, for lack of a better word, broken. A lack of an R18+ rating for games, coupled with what could be seen as a misconception that gaming is just for kids, has seen a dizzying array of game content banned or heavily modified on our shores.
Over the following pages, we take a look at some of the games that were cut or effectively banned in Australia, along with the Board's explanation.
NARC (Refused classification: 2004)
The original Narc was a classic arcade shooter released by Williams in 1988. It armed the player with a machine gun and tasked them with 'cleaning up the streets' of drug offenders and er, dogs. (You could choose to arrest junkies or blow them away - no prizes for guessing which option most gamers took.)
In 2004, Midway attempted to resurrect the franchise on Xbox and PlayStation 2 consoles. The main difference was that players could now inject the drugs they confiscated for various gameplay bonuses. Not surprisingly, this saw the game refused classification in Australia.
"Throughout this game the player can choose to take illegal drugs to help achieve the aim of being an effective drug-squad officer fighting a major drug cartel," explained the OFLC in its decision. "...Taking speed allows the player's character to run faster and catch bad guys," the report added.
Manhunt (Classification revoked: 2004)
The Australian classification system for video games is wish-washy at best; a fact amply proven by the Manhunt fiasco in 2004. The game, which is essentially a snuff film simulator, originally passed through the OFLC uncut with an MA15+ rating and remained on sale for several months. A Western Australian state Justice Minister then made a complaint about its violent nature, with Attorney General Philip Ruddock adding his support.
The game's classification was subsequently revoked, with all unsold copies facing the scrapheap. In essence, a game that had been perfectly legal to buy the week before had now been banned. "It contains some depictions of high impact, as well as scenes of blood and gore that go beyond strong," the OFLC explained.
The game's publisher Rockstar didn't even bother to release the sequel in Australia: they knew it would be a lost cause.
Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude (Refused classification: 2004)
While violence and swearing often gets past the censors unchecked, sex is anethema to the powers that be. (You'd think ripping out people's entrails would pose a bigger risk to society than cartoon nudity, but the OFLC begs to differ.) Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude is a prime example.
The game follows the exploits of college student Larry Lovage who attempts to woo various women around campus. The cartoony graphics, bumbling protagonist and infantile plot are impossible to take seriously, yet that didn’t stop the OFLC from banning the game.
"Leisure Suit Larry: Magma Cum Laude contains obscured and/or implied sexual activity and obscured and partial nudity involving stylised, animated characters," the report explains. In one scene, Larry receives fellatio, off-screen. "Sucking sounds are heard," the OFLC added to its report.