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Witcher 2 sparks debate over mandatory ratings

Good Old Games may have inadvertently kicked off a ratings revolution when it made changes to its online location controls that effectively allows an untamed version of Witcher 2 to bypass Australia's strict censorship rules.

Taking the incident as a sign of things to come, UK's Video Standards Council, is now saying there may soon come a day when mandatory ratings are no longer effective. Assuming that day hasn't already arrived.

In its interview with Edge Online, the non-profit video and video game monitoring group said the advance of global online distribution channels has made it a challenge for individual countries to regulate incoming content, despite their best efforts, saying, “The more benign censorship/ratings organizations will probably move away from the mandatory model and replace it with an advisory systems which puts the onus on consumers to make informed buying decisions through the provision of detailed consumer information."

Recently, GOG made location-specific IP tracking voluntary on its online ordering site, thereby allowing gamers to be less-than-honest about their home country in order to circumvent censorship restrictions. In a follow-up interview with GOG's head of PR & marketing Trevor Longino, he said such workarounds were par for the course in a global market, stating:

"The flat nature of the Internet means that it is virtually impossible to censor information by domestic region...I don't think it's a question of 'are digital distribution systems circumventing domestic censorship,' but rather, 'does the internet allow people to circumvent domestic censorship?' The answer to that is an unequivocal yes, and as quickly as governments can come up with new ways to enforce censorship, free-thinkers will circumvent them."

Still, despite his further sentiments that consumers should have the final say as to the content they're allowed to consume, Longino said GOG does not outright support the kind of abuse its website update allows. Furthermore, he said countries had every right to form their own rules as long as said rules are enforced responsibly and in accordance with public opinion.

“What one country considers crucial, others may thinks is trivial. Neither country is right, of course, and each is entitled to its own way of doing things,” he said, adding, “If a country feels that a censorship agency is important for its people, then there's no reason why they shouldn't have one, even if it makes things inconvenient for those of us who don't live there. If enough people decide that needs to change, then it's an outdated concept for them.”

This is exactly the question VSC is now posing to countries like Australia; that is, do mandatory ratings still work? Either way, it stated there still exists a place for ratings in some capacity, adding:

"We believe [local certification bodies] remain very relevant even in this age of global distribution. As stated previously, it may be that the nature of censorship and ratings will change to a more advisory-centered system, but ratings systems continue to provide consumers - particularly parents of children - with very useful content information which we know they find very helpful indeed. We believe the public tends to trust the judgement and advice of the more independent, established and respected ratings organisations and will continue to do so."

One has to wonder if any form of censorship is effective when consumers now have the resources to experience pretty much anything they want. Is it time to re-open the censorship debate, or has current technology already rendered the issue moot?

[Source: Edge Online]

May 13, 2011

The Witcher 2: GOG update bypasses censored Australia version 
“Effective privacy protections for our users means that any data that we don’t need to collect, shouldn’t,” says GOG


 

Bad Idea Corner potentially welcomes the ESRB, as it starts rating games by computer, unjudged by humans until release 
This has to be fine, right? Right?



Australian government pushing for R18+ rating addition by Summer 
Aussie Minister says classification system has made Australia "the laughing stock of the developed world"



 

11 comments

  • oni - May 15, 2011 9:31 p.m.

    It's a welcomed sight seeing a game/developer not ashamed of the more sensitive aspects of their game/story, not constantly bowing down to any kind of pressure or restrictions. Heck, The Witcher 1 even got a negative review from PC Gamer and YET what CD Project did : they redo every broken dialogues, fix the bugs and sell it again/released it as a patch for the earlier buyers- at the same time building a new game engine from scratch. This is in stark contrast with, oh.....let's say Crytek : Crysis 1 was a resource hog but they gave us 2 patches and then gave up because they are too busy building a new version of their Cry Engine. As for the sex scenes...well it happens. In stories, travel tales we tell our friends, movies and novels. Why shouldn't it be in games? We have book for kids and books for adults. So do games. The problem is that most/all the parents (followed by the ministers and senators who need their votes) thinks that games are just for kids - even when they themselves are playing Solitaire at work or baking some cakes in a Facebook game. I agree with Kingdom. It fits Geralt's nature to screw every women in sight. He's the last of his kind and constantly in mortal danger: why shouldn't he have some sliver of fun before he dies of a definitely horrible death. They inspire each other : Geralt screws women around then GoG screws the regulations. In my country The Withcer 2 is still in the TBA status in the only online store that I could find. Hopefully it'll be the European version, not some US censor heavy version. I don't want to pay the full amount for something that is not complete.
  • NelosAngelos - May 13, 2011 10:24 p.m.

    Oh gods, witcher stirrin up shit? Now I gotta have this game!
  • sirdilznik - May 13, 2011 7:23 p.m.

    Just mere days away from sexing up a red-headed sorceress, along with anyone else female, in The Witcher 2... and oh yeah killing monsters too. Until then I'll just have to sex up a red-headed sorceress, along with anyone else female, in The Witcher: Enhanced Edition.
  • BigWillis - May 13, 2011 6:29 p.m.

    As somebody who has worked in retail, I can say that ratings are useless 90% of the time. It's always some Mother coming in to buy an 18 rated game for their child and you say "This is 18 rated, it does have a lot of violence and also a fair bit of sex" to which the reply is "Oh, he's seen it all before he plays it at his friends". Every so often there's the responsible parent who will refuse the child the game and thank you for the information, but quite rarely. Also, things like entering a date of birth on a video online are so unbelievably pointless it's funny. Even if someone who is under 18 puts their real date of birth in, alls they need to do is refresh and put in a fake one.
  • TheRandomFool - May 13, 2011 5:54 p.m.

    That aGOG! Way to show that companies don't have to take crap from censorship agencies!
  • kingdom - May 13, 2011 5:41 p.m.

    As mentioned you can access just about anything on the internet and I think its overstepping its bounds for a government to censor video games from people old enough to make a decision about what they expose themselves to. Maybe its just me but I feel that its up to family and community to instill their values on children, I am a fairly well adjusted adult but I enjoyed the freedom in The Witcher to run around sticking his albino dick into anything willing, it was entertaining for some reason and seemed to fit his character. As with the news flipping out over Mass Effect "alien sex", it is a side part of the game that no one is forced to do, but I still think the freedom should be there. There are suggestive poses and blurbs of a sex scene with a "sex card" over the top...okay the cards were a bit cheesy but still. TLDR - Go GOG, screw governments sticking their nose into video games.
  • MancisFrorkYorgan - May 13, 2011 5:34 p.m.

    Jesus Christ, Australia, your country is full of gigantic, lethal animals. The least you could do is allow your citizens to have some XXX/ultra violent fun.
  • 8bitBaby - May 13, 2011 5:26 p.m.

    @db1331 XD oh gawd! whot?
  • db1331 - May 13, 2011 5:14 p.m.

    I can't wait to see what kind of stuff I can stick my dick into this time around. In the first game I fucked humans, half-elves, a dryad, even a 4 way with some vampire chicks. Why would countries want to deny their citizens of this?
  • AnonymouZ - May 13, 2011 5:02 p.m.

    holy shit. the balls on GoG to publicly say: i just don't give a fuck. i thought about pre-ordering from them instead of amazon now. xD can't wait for this to be released tho. GERALLLLLLLLT!
  • angelusdlion - May 13, 2011 4:56 p.m.

    And... they just noticed? I have some Aussie friends who got by the stupid censorship simply by buying their games from somewhere else.. Online. it's been going on for years and all it's done is punish local game sales and help other countries with theirs.

Showing 1-11 of 11 comments

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