Indigo Prophesy Censorship:
Who is to blame?

By Shamus
on May 20, 2008
Filed under:
Game Reviews

I’ve been playing Indigo Prophesy. The game is actually called Fahrenheit everywhere else in the world. A lot of fuss has been made over the fact that this game was “censored” for the American release. Censored in this case means that the developer willingly removed nudity from the American Release of a game so that they could get the game onto the shelves at Wal-Mart. No government coercion was involved, which means the word censorship is probably a bit overly dramatic here. I’d prefer to keep that word for use in referring to the forceful (under pain of law) suppression of speech (or other forms of expression) by a government. The government isn’t involved here, so we can’t blame them. Developer Quantic Dream removed the content willingly, so we can blame them.

But they wouldn’t have removed that content if it wasn’t for pressure from Atari, the publisher. Atari insisted they sacrifice artistic freedom to increase sales. So we can blame Atari.

But Atari wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for the nonsense policy of big retailers like Wal-Mart. PC Games sell poorly enough already, and unless you’re a big name title you just can’t afford to be left off the shelves if you want to recoup what you spent on development. You can’t expect a publisher to have so much respect for artistic expression that they allow a game to tank and end up laying people off. They were forced into this position by the retailers, so we can blame them.

But a retailer doesn’t really care about the content of the game. After all, they’ll sell you the Widescreen Special Edition of Eyes Wide Shut, so they don’t actually have a problem with selling stuff with sexual content. They’ll sell whatever. The only reason they care about sex in videogames is because they’re afraid some group of ignorant busybodies will jump out and start screeching about how they’re selling pornography to children. So we blame the busybodies.

But the busybodies wouldn’t have any power if it wasn’t for the circus-like media coverage they attract. Cooper Lawrence and Kevin McCullough both proved that you can make outrageous and easily disproved accusations about the sexual content of a videogame and get major media attention without worrying about anyone fact-checking you. So we can blame the media.

But the media is driven by viewership and readership. They run stories they think people will read. If people want to read stories about how children are being raped by videogames and every console is a gateway to a hardcore pornographic assault on their families, well… the media is just telling people what they they’re most likely to listen to. So we can blame ignorant and idiotic people for seeking out sensationalist news about things they don’t understand.

Ah, the idiots. They always get blamed for everything.

(Ah yes. Another post that promises to open up the floodgates of angry debate and controversy. No, I didn’t set out to start a series of bloody flamewars recently. I don’t know how I keep ending up writing about so many hot-button topics. Tune in tomorrow when I propose my idea for a new Sims 2 expansion pack: Barefoot and Pregnant!)

If you want to play the uncut version of Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophesy, it is being offered in North America via Direct 2 Drive. Only $20. There are some NSFW screenshots that should give you an idea of what was cut.

I have the edited American version, which is what I’ll be reviewing.

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  1. Jeremiah says:

    You bring up a good point that I’ve just never understood — Wal-Mart will sell pretty much any R-rated move ever, but they shun some video games? I know at one point they would only sell edited versions of cd’s with explicit lyrics (no idea if this is still the case).

    Reminds me of an amusing story. When I was in college, I’d buy alcohol every so often (very little, I’m not much of a drinker). Anyhow, I rarely got carded at liquor stores. But one time I DID get carded at Wal-Mart for a game I had to be 18 to purchase — I believe it was Enclave, or something. Regardless, that’s always amused me.

  2. JFargo says:

    Now, the only thing I’d like to point out is that I’m pretty sure the driving forces behind Wal*Mart ARE the right-wing crowd that goes crazy about violence in video games, so I’d have to say that while it’s hypocritical of them to not care about content in movies, it’s still true that they care about the content in video games.

    Because an “R” rating means children won’t watch a movie, while an “A” rating on a game means nothing, apparently.

  3. datarat says:

    I guess the question I’d be asking, at the risk of sounding like a member of the right-wing crowd, is if the nudity advances the story at all or if it’s largely gratuitous?

    What does it add to the game besides boobies?

    And for the record, I’m a fan of the above.

  4. Martin says:

    ugh. looks godawful.

  5. Phlux says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t there a law making it illegal to sell R rated movies to minors?

    No such law exists regarding M rated videogames or even CDs with explicit lyrics… yet.

    In some instances retailers take it upon themselves to institute a self-imposed age restriction for mature content where the law does not absolutely demand it.

    Personally I think they should just make the sale of M rated games to persons until 17 (same as R rated movies) illegal. It shouldn’t be necessary, because I’m sure wal-mart does a pretty good job of restricting sales all on its own, but I think it might take the pressure off of them enough that they could sell “uncensored” titles without so much political flak.

    The regulation is stupid and unnecessary but it’s the lesser of two evils in my opinion.

  6. Jimmie says:

    Now, the only thing I’d like to point out is that I’m pretty sure the driving forces behind Wal*Mart ARE the right-wing crowd that goes crazy about violence in video games…

    Hmm…who was the Senator who spent all of 2005 investigating the violence and sex in video games, prompted by the infamous GTA mod?

    Oh yes, that notorious right-winger Hillary Clinton.

    And the very next year, she picked up a wingman to help push the notion that videogames should be “investigated” by the CDC. That right-winger was former Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.

    Heck, in 2005 Clinton and Lieberman introduced something called the Family Entertainment Protection Act along with not-so right-winger Evan Bayh. The bill never made it out of committee (which was majority Republican/right-winger).

    I also recall a couple or three states who tried to ban selling certain games to minors in their states: Michigan, California, and Illinois (I believe). Two of those three have non-right-wing governors. Well, three of them because you can’t even reasonably construe the Governator as right-wing.

    Believe me. It ain’t the right-wing that’s trying to make these games against the law.

  7. Mavis says:

    I’m British – so over here we have genuine governmental censorship of games – manhunt 2 was (and still is….) banned from these shores.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7209766.stm

    However I find that oddly more comforting – since it’s open to legal appeals – then the ability of a large private body to gain the effective power to censor due to it’s market position….

    Equally I’m quite happy with the concept of a legally enforced limitations on games – so that selling an 18 game to a minor is illegal in the same way that selling cigerates or booze to minors is illegal.

  8. Adam says:

    I think what you forgot to add is that the idiots are all clearly console gamers.

  9. ccesarano says:

    Jimmie: I was just going to point out that if we’re going off of stereotypes, then the Right-Wingist typically has too much money to even bother looking at a Wal-Mart and that it is the “poor, down trodden left-wing minorities” that shop at Wal-Mart. Which, ultimately, leads to the idea of stereotypes being retarded and we should just assume everyone is stupid.

    But you did a fine job.

    In response to the article, I fully blame the Media, actually. The News networks have a responsibility to provide unbiased news on the important events of the world in order to keep people knowledgeable about what is going on with the world. Unfortunately, the Media instead insists on sensationalism, focusing on just what will get the highest ratings, and completely ignoring the rest of the world. Do you know how many natural disasters occurred during Katrina that had a much higher body count and more devastating effects? Yet the only donations you ever heard of or saw were for Katrina when there were people even LESS fortunate elsewhere. Now, I’m not trying to attack that attitude of Americans as being selfish (what with being an American and all), but the Media definitely enforces an image of ignorance onto the masses.

    If the Media had more educated people and also told REAL news stories, you’d probably find the masses themselves would also be more educated. Too bad the public education system is starting to also take the route of “Well, since kids complain about school being hard, let’s make it easier and thus give them no drive to be intelligent or think on their own”, so it is either going to get worse or just remain as bad as it is. Either way, improvement is unlikely unless some major changes occurs.

    Also, honestly, how much profit does a store like Wal-Mart REALLY generate? Something tells me the people that go there are only going to be purchasing GTA for their kids anyway.

  10. onosson says:

    I very nearly started a band with the name “People Are Idiots” not too long ago, but someone told me it was too negative…

    They were right, and so was the name.

  11. lplimac says:

    This has nothing to do with the “right-wing crowd that goes crazy about violence in video games.” There are just as many of the left-wing nanny state crowd that want to protect their precious little snow-flakes (i.e. children) from anything that may harm them. Both extremes exist, one just gets better press.
    I guess I could be considered by some to be right-wing but I really could care less about how violent or how much sex is in a game, and it’s not my place to tell others what to spend their money on, or where they go to purchase games. Personally I avoid Wall*Mart like the plague for anything and go to other places or online when I buy something.
    The games I get are for entertainment value and game play experience. If it has sex and violence so be it. Now, do I worry about what games my teenage children play? A little, but as I’m the one that pays for them they have to convince me to buy it for them but I rarely say no (especially if it’s a game I want to play). It helps that they are more into their DS and Wii games right now I guess.

  12. Deoxy says:

    EXCELLENT point about “censorship”! That word is flung about far, far too lightly.

    Also, Phlux’s point about the regulatory difference between media is quite good and very relevant (and a good answer to JFargo’s last comment – yup, an “A” means nothing, legally speaking, while an “R” or an “NC-17” has certain legal ramifications).

    But the media is driven by viewership and readership. They run stories they think people will read.

    Yes, but in letting the media off the hook, you’re missing the point: “They run stories they think people will read.” not “They run stories they think people want to read.” The difference? Make serious claims about something awful happening, and people WILL read/watch it! Nevermind that, somewhere near the end, you drop the relevant facts that make the whole thing a carefully-CYAed farce, when you claim that something parents give their children every day is harmful to those children, people are going double-check that, and I don’t really blame them.

    So for me, blame mostly stops at the media. At least, as far as there is really any “blame” to give (as you said, no government involvement, so really, it’s mostly just the market – any government “solution” to this problem would be worse than the problem).

    Oh, and I officially join with Jimmie in pointing out the political BS.

  13. Dylan Zimmerman says:

    (Please forgive, I’m not sure how to make the blockquotes work)

    “Hmm…who was the Senator who spent all of 2005 investigating the violence and sex in video games, prompted by the infamous GTA mod?

    Oh yes, that notorious right-winger Hillary Clinton.

    And the very next year, she picked up a wingman to help push the notion that videogames should be “investigated” by the CDC. That right-winger was former Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.”

    Well now, I’m Canadian, and I consider both those people fairly right-wing…

    I agree with the sentiment that M-rated games should probably require you to be 17 to buy them. If parents feel their kids can handle it, the parents can buy the game using the kid’s money, or something.

  14. Veylon says:

    Ah yes. Then there’s the swatstikas that get removed from everything from Wolfenstein to Axis and Allies to Hearts of Iron. Of course, in Europe, that really is censorship. That’s political, so I suppose that’s a bit different, though…

  15. lebkin says:

    “Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t there a law making it illegal to sell R rated movies to minors?”

    It is my understanding that movie ratings are entirely voluntary. This is true both when you got to the movie theater and when you buy/rent the DVD. And movie ratings are entirely self-regulated by the MPAA. Thus an M-rated video game is under similar oversight as an R-rated movie. Thus any drive to legally enforce the ratings or make them government regulated against one industry and not the other is unfair.

    Also, things that in a movie that would only get you a PG-13 often will give a video game a M-rated. For example, a PG-13 can easily get away with partial nudity, but nudity of any kind almost always leads to an M-rated video game. Some of this is because of the interactive nature, though I would say that real people dying in movies is much more powerful than any computer graphic violence. I think video games are held to a higher standard already; they don’t need more regulation.

  16. MaxEd says:

    Funny thing now… Russia became one of the most censorship-free countries due to piracy :)

    Also: Ron Paul as an American president would be quite an interesting experiment… But I’d prefer to watch it from other side of the planet.

  17. Patrick says:

    In the case of Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy, the sex aspects were incredibly stupid and should have been dropped anyway.

  18. Chargone says:

    in New Zealand the rating system for movies and vidios goes G[eneral], P[erental]G[uidance]R[recomended], PG or R 13 [i’ve seen both, but it’s not used much]. so far as i’m aware it’s illegal to provide that material to anyone under the age of 13 if it gets the R13, while the PG13 is just a variation on PGR. then you get M[ature], which at the movies they won’t let you into without an adult if you’re under 15, but otherwise seems to mean little or nothing, then R16 and R18 [the difference being not noticeable from the nature of the packageing], which, again, it’s illegal to provide to people below those ages.

    vidio games, however, are odd. most of them get through with whatever rating they had on them in the main place they’re published. used to mean we mostly got the American ratings on PC games and the European ones on console stuff. more recently though, it means we get the Australian ones on everything [and a lot of dvds, too]. they, however, are again, not legaly binding. given that almost everything worth even thinking about looking at gets an “M”, [except some strat games which manage a G or PG] that really doesn’t mean much anyway. and those M’s range from ‘i can barely see how this misses out on a G’ to ‘why in the name of all that is holy does this thing not have an R rating?’

    that said, every new game, movie, etc to come into the country goes through the censors office. and they DO smack the legally binding R ratings on the games which qualify for them. oddly this doesn’t seem to have prevented a couple of games making it onto the shelves with “Banned in Australia!” and the like plastered across the cover as advertising for how great it supposedly is.

    all in all, it seems to work reasonably well. the only time games really make it into the news is if there’s a new one coming out that’s got a LOT of hype [halo got a brief mention] same as with books, or in articles which are more accurately described as being about ‘latest strange thing to happen in the USA’ than about the games.

    that said, we’ve got our own sets of issues and silliness that more than prove that the media is most assuredly as you say.

    and, to be honest, the general idiocy of the collective human race has been proven with depressing regularity to the point where questioning whither it is so is something of an exercise in pointlessness.

    umm, you know, I’m sure i had a point that actually Added something to the discussion here when i started, but I’m not so sure there still is one in there :S

  19. Strangeite says:

    Shamus, that was well written post but I must disagree with you on narrowing your definition of censorship to “forceful (under pain of law) suppression of speech (or other forms of expression) by a government”.

    The most famous act of censorship, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was not the product of any government but compiled by the Roman Catholic Church.

    When “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was first banned , it was not because a law was passed, but because the libary board in Concord took it upon themselves to “protect” the public.

    Anthony Comstock, the father of American censorship, was successful not because of undue influence on Congress, but by his ability to inflame the public.

    These are just a few examples. Legal censorship is in many ways less harmful than voluntary censorship, because as was noted in an earlier comment, you can always appeal a legal ruling. The American Library Association produces a list of attempts at censorship in public libraries, and you will be shocked by how large (and successul) these attempts are.

    As to the evil which results from a censorship, it is impossible to measure it, for it is impossible to tell where it ends. — Jeremy Bentham

  20. Matis says:

    I think the best post so far was Jimmie with, “Well, three of them because you can’t even reasonably construe the Governator as right-wing.”

    I predict the governor of California in 2042 will be Justin Timberlake.

  21. Davesnot says:

    Blessed are the idiots.. for they shall inherit the earth.

  22. Shamus says:

    Strangeite: I don’t understand how government prohibition is better? Sure, I can’t get the book in the library, but I can still get the book.

    If Wal-Mart won’t sell something, I’ll buy it elsewhere. If the government bans something, I can’t get it without breaking the law.

    I can choose not to be a Wal-Mart customer. I can boycott them if I like. I can’t “boycott” the government short of leaving the country.

  23. Gary says:

    I’m not particularly concerned about them cutting sex and nudity from video games. In fact, I am rather far it. Not for any of that “save the children” blather.

    I’m a 27 year old, so legally and everything, I am allowed to view whatever I wish. The thing is:

    I just DON’T want to see that stuff when I sit down to play a game!

    Superfluous and annoying don’t even begin to describe sexual content in video games.

  24. Daosus says:

    There is a way to “appeal” WalMart’s decision not to carry such titles as well. You vote with your dollars and buy it elsewhere. Sure, it’s not going to change much overnight, but if there’s actually a market for those games, then either WalMart will recognize it and revise their policy, or some competitor will. History has shown that things that make money are successful, irregardless of anyone one group’s scruples (or legality for that matter).

  25. Strangeite says:

    I didn’t say that government prohibition is better, just less harmful, at least here in America. We have some pretty solid safeguards against long term governmental censorship and while censorship laws have been passed, they typically do not last very long due to legal challenges. The 1st Amendment rocks.

    Voluntary censorship due to market considerations (i.e. editing scenes so it can be sold at Wal-Mart) or voluntary censorship to protect the public (i.e. a library board banning a book), I would argue are more harmful because they last longer and the public usually is not aware of the censorship. I would be curious to know how many purchasers of Indigo Prophesy realize that their product has been censored. My guess is not many.

    I guess to sum up, I believe censorship that is done in bright sunlight (like passing a law) is “better” than censorship done in the shadows because the sunlight tends to wash it clean over time.

  26. I too disagree narrowing the definition of “censorship” which widely differs by country – the fact is, under your definition, videogames (currently) can never be censored! that’s plain wrong, they have been, by anyones real definition of it.

    I should finish my work on the Ratings and Censorship section of the IGDA wiki, it’d clear some of the things in this thread which are wrong too (Manhunt 2 has been cleared with an 18 rating now and so on).

  27. Cat Skyfire says:

    Should big box retailers require less nudity… probably not, but that’s something economic forces will manage.

    I want to know more of ‘is there any point to nudity in video games other than to give a vague sense of titillation to guys who can’t get dates?’

    They barely do bodies well (they’ve gotten better, but still don’t look ‘real’), and I can’t see that boobs are going to be much better. It’s never plot related, it’s just superfluous.

    Your average fellow will have better boob shots from a movie, and with the joy of rewind, could see them much better, without worrying about a headshot.

    Or is it that game makers know that a lot of gamers are so dumb that they’ll buy something because of the vague promise of some naked pixelated boobs, so that game design and playability won’t matter?

    I admit, I’m female, and the boobs don’t do much for me. But even half-naked guys aren’t that great in video games. The only time bodies are done decently is in the cutscenes and, well, I usually want to get back to the freakin’ game.

  28. Zombie Boy says:

    Actually, you can blame WalMart entirely.
    Yes, a boycott of the store would be awesome (for oh, so many reasons), but good luck with that. The fact is that WalMart is the largest retailer on the planet, so if they in their infinite wisdom object to something, the rest of us lose out because it’s too expensive to turn out different versions for each store chain.
    Here’s a twisted example of what they’ll refuse to sell and what they will:
    In the recent version of “Dawn of the Dead,” the Director’s Cut DVD was to have a two-second scene where from Sarah Polley’s POV through a windshield we would see a dazed and confused naked woman walking across the road. (correction: half naked. You only would’ve seen her from the waist up.) WalMart objected to this ‘graphic’ nudity, and the shot was changed so that CGI blood was added to the windshield so that the offensive nipples were obscured. Blood = OK, Nipples=Bad. They apparently had no problem with the woman being chainsawed in half later in the film.

  29. Dev Null says:

    Well yes, but if Atari pushes the developer to generate a seperate North Am release that has been recut, then everyone in NA will have the recut version, even if only Wal-Mart complained. So you have to go overseas to get it. Course if they had any cohones theyd make a recut Wal Mart release and let everyone else buy what they liked…

    Gary, I agree with you; I don’t want to see it either. But I’d prefer to have the option of buying it, so I can choose not to exercise it. Strangely, if enough people agree with you and I, the Wal-Mart policy might have helped _prevent_ the game from tanking and the developers from learning the lesson that thats not what we want.

    Shamus, I’m going to half agree with you. I DO blame the idiots, but I also still blame the news media. Their job is to sell media, true, but its obstensibly to sell media with content that is _true_ – the fiction comes on in the next timeslot. So where they’re hyping crap news stories because it sells ad slots, I won’t blame them (or watch it), but where they’re hyping _false_ news stories without checking their facts I still get to get angry. Its in my contract.

  30. Duffy says:

    To clarify the Left/Right statements so we can get that out of the way:

    To start, it’s generally only the far Left/Right that get involved in these debates, the moderates usually stay out of it or are on *our* side. Just keep in mind we’re not talking about everybody, just the extremists.

    As for the Right, the statement is about half correct. The far Right does in fact not want nudity/sex/violence etc… in video games. But it’s more of protest to them then something you should use the law to solve, even though some (good old Jackie boy) have pushed for censorship laws, it’s been to punish the companies that ignore there earlier pleas to stop putting “harmful” material in “children’s” games.

    The far Left, is traditionally considered “socialists” and as such they even want the government to take care of your children. I have no proof, but it seems to me that those on the Left of this debate tend to stay on the violence, more then sex topic, or so it appears to me. Anyways, they still want to censor because parents are too lazy too. It does seem odd that the “progressives” are calling for censorship, but then again, they may think video games are just for children.

    Now that we’ve proved both the Left and the Right’s extremists are in on this, lets pray that we, those in the middle that may be associated with either side, can bring a clear and responsible discussion concerning the subject matter.

    Phlux: There are no laws to punish selling restricted media to a minor, only store/theater policy. The only exception is material deemed pornography, which is clearly what it is and would not be sold in the venues we are discussing, much less mixed in amongst normal media.

  31. Dan says:

    Personally, I think it is the nudity’s fault.

    Stupid nudity! Put some clothes on! Sheesh.

  32. Sauron says:

    @Phlux: “Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t there a law making it illegal to sell R rated movies to minors?”

    I’m correcting you, because you are wrong. There is no such law. This is why it’s a big deal that people are trying to make such laws for games. It’s quite frankly not fair, beyond being unconstitutional.

    No, the movie rating system is voluntary and run by the MPAA. Sounds similar to the game rating system, now that you mention it… hmm….

  33. Arthur says:

    To be fair to all concerned, the bit where the nudity happens in Fahrenheit is really, really stupid. I won’t spoil it with the specifics, but I will say that the behaviour of both individuals concerned suddenly makes no sense whatsoever in the final stages of the game.

  34. Burning says:

    @Strangeite

    While I think you have a good point that Shamus’s working definition of censorship is too narrow, he also has a good point that the word is used too broadly by many people. I have seen people use “censorship” to mean “refusing to assist in the promulgation of speech or other forms of expression.” This is an extreme that I think can only debase the reaction to real censorship.

    I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. I’m not going to pretend to be able to create a definition that will draw a line that even I will think is right in all circumstances. The difference between “refusing to assist” and “actively supressing” isn’t tidy.

    A public library refusing to carry a book does count as censorship in my opinion, because it public libraries are in part intended to be a source of books for people who can’t afford to buy them.

    A newspaper refusing to print a letter to the editor is not guilty of censorship (and sadly, this is not a strawman argument that I’m making here) in my opinion, because it does not prevent the writer from attempting to get his opinion to the public by other means.

    WalMart refusing to sell a game gets a bit murky. WalMart is a big distributer and their refusal is going to carry more weight with a publisher than “Ma and Pa’s Leet but Clean Game Store.” On the one hand, there’s problems with mandating that people have to sell a product they don’t approve of (i.e. depriving WalMart of their right to refuse). On the other hand there are also problems with having any entity that does not produce content having substantial influence over what is produced. My personal feeling is that it’s not censorship, but it is distasteful. However, that’s a gut feeling, not an analysis of a carefully crafted definition.

    Any reasonably intelligent person can pick holes in the details of this, I freely admit. However, I hope that my main point that the word censorship can be and is overused comes through.

  35. Shamus says:

    I agree with the previous posters that the buck should probably stop with the media. They have a responsibility to tell the truth and inform more than the average idiot has an obligation to watch what’s good for them.

    But I liked blaming the idiots because it could, arguably, include all the parties in the entire list. :)

  36. Eric the Baker says:

    Another thing to remember about the “idiot” customers. Many of these people are the same adults who are mostly computer illiterate. They acknowledge that little Cissy, their 9 year old daughter, can use the computer better they they can. They laugh in discomfort at that idea and go back to watching Dr. Phil or Oprah, while dumping another half tube of Pringle’s down their gullet.

    They are suspicious and distrustful of computers and computer games in general; slightly less so of console games, possibly because those are played on a television, and being raised with that as a constant companion, they are comfortable with a TV.

    I am not sure if this dynamic will change, as the children of this generation, who are comfortable with computers, grow up and start becoming true consumers. I suspect that they will be equally suspicious of whatever technology comes next.

  37. Chris Arndt says:

    “ARE the right-wing crowd that goes crazy about violence in video games”

    Oh go screw. We Right-Wingers rejoice in fictional violence (and occasionally the real thing, somewhat tastelessly). We love to see that German thief Hans get thrown from the skyscraper!

    Gee what was it that the fine right-wing Tipper Gore was into back in the nineties?

    I revel in the fictional violence and every time I see a trailer for the movie “The Strangers” asking “what would I do” I think to myself that I would grab one of the many firearms in the house and end these mother truckers. Why? Because home invaders aren’t the subject matter of horror movies. They’re short dramas.

    Time Splitters 3 has wonderful violence.
    Medal of Honor has lots of Nazi-shooting.

    I went to Star Wars for space battles. Star Trek too! Stargate has plenty of violence.

    bah.

  38. Shamus says:

    Strangeite: After reading your and a few others objections to the way I’m trying to use “censorship”, I can see why it’s too restrictive to insist that it must be government-driven.

    I think burning nailed it for me: I think I’d call Wal-Mart’s move “censorship” if they went beyond simply refusing to carry the game. If they told Atari, “If you put out your pornography game we will punish you by not carrying any Atari product”, then I think I’d join in calling it censorship. They would be working to suppress the game, not just exercising their right to decide what they sell in their own store.

    And I just want to be clear: As I read it, Wal-Mart made no public statement or anything about the game. The way I read it, the change was made by Atari because they would rather just sell videogames than fight over the content of the game. It may be POSSIBLE that Wal-Mart would have sold the game anyway. (Although I wouldn’t bet on it.)

  39. Shamus says:

    Okay, okay. Let’s stop this left vs. right thing. I see this is going nowhere good. Five posts from now we’ll be arguing over which party has the Nazis in it.

    (Shudder.)

  40. Strangeite says:

    Burning: You actually bring up some excellent points and I completely agree with you that the term “censorship” tends to be overused.

    I may not have made this clear, but I do NOT think that Wal-Mart is guilty of censorship. It is the publisher that is guilty of self-imposed censorship because of their desire to have the game sold at Wal-Mart. It is a fine line, but I do believe it is there. They obviously did not find the material itself objectionable because they included it in the release for everywhere but North America.

    As to a newspaper refusing to publish a letter, while I tend to agree with you, I actually know that most newspaper editors actually hold a different view. My lovely wife’s family is in the newspaper business and I am lucky enough to attend the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editor’s annual conference. I have taken part in the debate on this topic and the vast majority of editors believe that refusing to print a letter to the editor is censorship. They believe that occasionally it might be jusitified censorship, but censorship nonetheless.

    Don’t worry that you aren’t a lawyer, the question of censorship and obsensity is complicated. In fact, the courts have ruled over and over again that only the “community” can define it.

  41. Alan De Smet says:

    While a popular belief, there are no federal laws in the United States barring under-age kids from being admitted to an R rated movie, or from buying an R rated movie. Period.

    I don’t believe any states have such laws on the books, but hell, there are a lot of states and a lot of crazy people, so who knows.

    Stores and theaters that restrict access to those above a certain age are doing so voluntarily. Some do it because they think it’s the right thing to do. Others do it because they don’t want to end up on the nightly news. “What local business is exposing our children to filth? Film at 11!”

    The closest we might have to a law against giving kids access to R rated movies would be the various “corrupting a minor” type laws, none of which are going to say, “anything with an R rating.” Were some local prosecutor to try and get a little publicity over a kid being allowed into a movie, he would have to address the given movie on its own merits. “It was R rated!” is good enough for television, but not for the courts.

  42. Sandrinnad says:

    the way to get Wal-Mart to change their policy? Buy the game elsewhere (or don’t buy it) and write tell head office that you didn’t buy the game from them and why. :) If it happens enough times they’ll take notice eventually.

    I think the reason people get twitchy about nudity in games is that for a lot of people there’s the ‘computer game = kid’s game’ thing going on in their heads, so _every_ game to them is for kids, even if it’s clearly marked as teen/adult. The same sort of mindset leads people to take 5-year-olds to ‘Batman Returns’ (because it’s Batman!) and then complain it’s violent or tv programmers to put ‘Family Guy’ on at 6:30 pm (because it’s a cartoon!).

    so, ya….I think I have to toss this back into the idiot’s court. I’ll take a fair helping of media on the side though.

  43. Various websites document the fact Wal-Mart will ban entire stocks of a companies products if it doesn’t work with them, in this case, with censorship – so no doubt Atari does this so it can stock any games at Wal-Mart, heh.

    Quite ridiculous to assume censorship comes down to that however. Wikipedia cites a great many levels of censorship – the word, when applied to governments, is specifically “Government Censorship” :) (which is what the UK has, sadly).

  44. Doug Brown says:

    Five posts from now we’ll be arguing over which party has the Nazis in it.

    Isn’t it the National Socialist Party?

  45. Deoxy says:

    I’m not an expert on the MPAA, etc, but I have a semi-informed question/comment. Is the MPAA the beneficiary/recipient of any particular powers or authorizations from the government? Even some form of recognition would give them quite a bit more power and “officialness” than the source of video game ratings.

    Considering the way the Feds have their hand in all kinds of union issues (and Hollywood is pretty thoroughly unionized, so that’s pretty relevant) and other ratings groups, this would put the MPAA, and thus its ratings, into a rather different category than video game ratings.

    And, just to prove Shamus wrong, it’s only *3* posts from his, and I’m going to claim that the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei had Nazis in it. :-p

  46. Dreamer says:

    What I think is interesting that there are movies, listed squarely as “Comedy” and several “Horror” movies that include various forms of nudity and gratuitous sights such as to burn holes into the brain through one’s eyeballs, but something where you can play out doing it is completely and utterly wrong. It’s as if certain individuals are saying, “It’s okay to watch and do, but never – Under any circumstances! – Pretend to do it while you’re watching!”

    If that makes a grain of sense.

  47. Xed says:

    Gary:
    I actually think that this is mainly because sexual content in games has so far been met with a lot of resistance by… certain groups. If it became more commonplace, it would probably be done a lot better, since the games that contained it wouldn’t have it as just about their only selling point anymore.

  48. Joe Cool says:

    I have a very hard time getting up in arms about the alleged “censorship” with Indigo Prophecy. Perhaps if it were political ideas, or some other message or opinion that had to be cut, then I would be upset with it, but let’s be perfectly clear what was “censored” here: pornography. Smut. Call it what you will, it was the debasement of the human body for the carnal pleasure of others that was removed.

    Similarly, I don’t consider the ban on child pornography to be “censorship” and I’m not upset in the least that it’s illegal. Likewise, I’m not going to shed one tear if the mundane actions of an organization such as Wal-Mart serve to remove even just a little “normal” pornography from the world, even though it is less dangerous and does not really need a strict governmental ban.

    Call me when it’s something important that gets “censored”.

    And don’t even think about saying something like “they came for the pornographers and I did nothing because I was not a pornographer.” Just… don’t.

  49. Ben says:

    I think the root cause of the censorship here is the ESRB. It initially assigned the game an AO rating, which no game has ever been released under, not even BMX XXX. Due to the large number of stores that refuse to stock AO games if they ever exist, an AO rating ensures horrible sales for the game. The ESRB also seems to be pretty wanton in their rating system, for there is still a sex scene at the end of the game, completely untouched, in the American version. Also, other rating systems gave the unedited version ratings of Fahrenheit 15 or 16+ ratings, supposedly what the M rating is. The ESRB irrationally gave the game an AO rating and forced the censorship.

  50. Danel says:

    The strange thing is that the United Kingdom, with all of it’s full-on official Government Censorship… had the full, uncensored version of Fahrenheit. As to what there is… it’s certainly not pornography, and to describe it as such is silly. But nor is it vitally necessary – although I haven’t actually seen a censored version, from the bits that I’d imagine were removed, it’s neither central to an appreciation of the game nor shoehorned in. It’s largely organic developments that you’d really expect in a movie – a few people in showers, one or two sex scenes viewed not particularly graphically.

  51. Patrick says:

    Although I amdit I have little to say about the “censorship” or whatever, of Indigo Prophecy, I will state for the record that it’s sexual content was trivial, adolescent, gratuitous, and stupid. It added nothing to the game.

  52. wakela says:

    Wait a minute. I can download the unedited version of the game legally and openly? Then what’s the controversy? By coercing Atari to produce an edited version of the game Wal-Mart is actually increasing consumer choice here. Based on the comments above, there is a significant number of people who appreciate this.

  53. Elise says:

    Here in Australia ratings for Games and Movies are the same.

    G (General)
    PG (Parental Guidance Recommended)
    M (Mature Audience)
    MA 15+ (Mature Audience, Restricted to audiences over 15 years. For movies, Children under 15 are admitted if they are with a parent/guardian)
    R 18+ (Restricted to audiences 18 years and older) this category does NOT APPLY to video games. Video games which rate higher than MA15+ are banned from sale.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Film_and_Literature_Classification_(Australia)

  54. Hawkehunt says:

    Actually, we (Aussies) have some slight difference in the G and PG ratings between film and games – film has G and PG, while games can be rated G, G-8, PG, or PG-13 which are recommended – not required – minimum ages for players.
    There are also several obscure variants of G for television, the most common of which is C – children.

    If I recall correctly, MA 15 games can also be sold to and played by children in the presence of a parent/guardian.

    Also, I have been curious – does America has an [NR] or [E] rating (Not Rated or Exempt from Classification) for documentaries and instructional films?

  55. Winter says:

    This thread is challenging my ability to not start a political flame-war. Not intentionally starting one, mind you, but it’s just so full of misinformation…

    Well, here goes:

    lplimac:

    Funny you should use the phrase “snowflake children” because that the term is primarily associated with the ring wing. Just how associated? Well, when George W. Bush signed the stem cell veto a while back guess who he brought along as a backdrop. That’s right, the real-life “snowflake babies”. If you don’t know what “snowflake babies” are: they’re the children resulting from implantation of embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. A nice and clean way for right-wing, upright, Christian types to adopt (or to “adopt”) without having to adopt a kid whose birth parents might object, or who might be uncomfortably non-white. Oh, and they’re getting millions of dollars in public funding for this and it isn’t particularly cost-effective.

    I’m guessing you weren’t explicitly referring to this project, but…

    Anyway, i’m going to move on to the censorship issue before i start taking on various assumptions about politics in here.

    In my view, Wal-Mart can be held 75% accountable for their decision regarding video games. Honestly, how many other stores get pressure from the busy-bodies? All of them, presumably. And you’re telling me big, bad Wal-Mart–the store that’s literally dictating how games will or will not be–can’t stand up to them? No, they could if they wanted to–but they don’t. Partly because, as some others have pointed out, Wal-Mart is actually run by those very same busy-bodies.

    Hawkehunt:

    We do have a “not rated” rating, so to speak, in that the ratings are not compulsory. So you can just not get your movie rated if you want, but if you want it to be shown anywhere that matters you probably will have to have it rated. The MPAA is like that, some times…

  56. Robert says:

    if Atari pushes the developer to generate a seperate North Am release that has been recut, then everyone in NA will have the recut version, even if only Wal-Mart complained. So you have to go overseas to get it.

    And if you have a console, say, you can’t do that, because those come with region codes like DVDs. And in America, hacking those is illegal, right?

    Shamus. here’s a question for you: do you consider DVD region codes censorship? There are movies you can’t buy in America, and that you can’t watch on an American DVD player (or Bluray player, or whatever). It’s the company that made that decision, but the average consumer doesn’t have the technological knowledge to circumvent the region codes—and the DMCA makes it illegal to do that anyway.

  57. Jeff says:

    I blame parents who are too lazy to do parenting.

    Edit: For everything, mind you.

  58. Phlux says:

    OK I stand corrected.

    I think what needs to happen then instead of extending non-existent government regulation to videogames is that the ESRB and the MPAA and RIAA should all come together for some sort of universal content rating system.

    It would be the same rating system for all types of media, which would obviously have to be very generic. This would give retailers a little political cover to protect themselves with.

    “Well hey…GTAIV is rated R, just like Eyes Wide Shut, which we’ve sold for years without complaint. It’s our policy not to sell R rated stuff to minors, so your kids are safe at our stores.”

  59. Chris Arndt says:

    We all believe in censorship.

    We just disagree on when and where we engage in the practice.

    Thus I don’t believe that condemning “censorship” wholesale is smart at all, at least as far as the use of the English language and in general the sincere denouncing of censorship in general is a form of hypocrisy.

    So I consider the censorship of child pornography to be censorship and I am fine with it. The First Amendment is not an absolute license to say and assemble how one wishes where one desires to carry out one’s will.

    I mean, if someone steps into your home and insults your mother, who really thinks you did the wrong thing by smacking them in the mouth?

  60. ArchU says:

    It’s nobody’s fault, Shamus, you’re just blaming everybody. Let’s all blame everybody for everything. Then we’re all in the guilty boat together where we belong! (Yay!) ^_^

    Regarding Indigo/Fahrenheit: review, don’t rant!

  61. Telas says:

    Love the example of the zombie chick’s boobs being occluded by blood. That’s hypocrisy at its finest. (…like zombie boobs are going to be titillating…)

    We all have things we’d rather not see. When deadly force is used to enforce those restrictions on others, it’s censorship. (Nobody ever needs a law to keep themselves out of trouble.) Sorry, but Wikipedia’s definition isn’t good enough for me. In other words, Wal-Mart can’t come into your house and take your uncensored copy of the game.

    Censorship isn’t always bad. Is kiddie porn censored? You bet it is, and I and hopefully the vast majority of y’all are just fine with that.

  62. Shamus says:

    Robert: Interesting. How do you define a practice that allows Alice to freely publish but forbids Bob from owning a device that can read it? It’s like… I can’t think of a good analogy from days past. Maybe like allowing people to sell books but outlawing eyeglasses? Er. That doesn’t quite fit.

    The DMCA is, of course, the worst sort of idiocy. Is it censorship? I don’t know. Maybe there is a better word for it. Is it destructive and oppressive? Certainly.

  63. Mephane says:

    In Germany here, we have a word for this behaviour of the Publisher and Developer: ‘Vorauseilender Gehorsam’. It means, roughly translated, ‘obeying to something you only ASSUME it might be imposed upon you, maybe’, like bad publicity, real censorship and the like.

    Actually, it is far worse in Germany than what you have in the US. Very often, even games that are adult only anyway are YET being cut in vorauseilender gehorsam. I am not kidding here. Shooters that are rated adult, for which to buy you need to look really adult or if there is any doubt the retailers check your ID, is being ‘censored’; although for Germany they don’t censor for sexual content, but for violence, typically removing some death animations, dead corpses, or tainting the blood grey or the like.

    The weirdest incarnation of this stupidity came with the Orange Box: The German version, being rated ’18’ anyway, contains HL2 and Ep1 ‘un-cut’, i.e. without any kind of censorship. Ep2 and TF2 however, were modified. In Ep2 corpses vanish, blood is grey, zombies cannot be cut in half etc.* In TF2, dying enemies burst into a pile of hilarious items (although this fits very well to the general comic style of the game, heh). So they censor 2 of 5 games in a box that you can only buy as an adult, with 2 games containing the very violence that is cut down in 2 others. Now THAT is silly.

    (Games like the Postal series can only be bought as import here, btw.)

    *Luckily, there is a fix for it, floating around the net. If you edit one configuration file you can get the game to almost original state.

  64. froogger says:

    I agree with Shamus that idiots are to blame.
    Seems to me that the core of idiocy is that digital isn’t taken seriously. Computer games aren’t considered an artform alongside established media such as movies. Ludicrous, of course, considering the gross games produce and the influence computers has on economy. But that’s the state of it still. Most people just haven’t adapted to it sufficently. It’s like an instinct that “If you can’t touch it, it’s not for real”. In techsupport I’ve seen customers shrug as if it was expected to happen when their data is corrupted and lost. I’m pretty sure they would be in outrage if their filecabinet spontaneously burst into flames though.

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