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Sometimes, Censorship Is More Important Than Creativity

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Since the introduction of an R18+ rating for games at the start of this year, the Australian Classification Board has restricted 17 titles for purchase only by those considered ‘adult’by the state. Earlier this week, we discovered that, in spite of this, the Board is still not averse to banning games featuring content that it deems too extreme, with Saints Row IV and State of Decay both failing to fall within the restrictions of the new rating. I’ve seen several articles in response to this, attacking the government body for being overly conservative and continuing to think that we Antipodeans deserve to be wrapped in cotton wool.

Those voices of dissent have valid points. Our ilk fought for more than twenty years to gain unrestricted access to the products of game designers. The average age of gamers, according to numerous studies, is over 30 pegging them -us- as adults and therefore more than capable of making our own decisions about the content that we choose to partake of. Further, the vast majority of people over the age of 18 are capable of distinguishing reality from fantasy and are thus not likely to be influenced strongly, if at all, by what we see. In most cases, these arguments mirror those brought up in the initial struggle to get R18+ and leaves it feeling as though that war of attrition was for naught.

I sympathise with those sentiments. Nevertheless, I feel that in the name in common decency, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Allow me to state clearly right now that I am fundamentally opposed to the use and abuse of drugs, and can thus see why the ACB frowns upon their use being incentivised in both of these banned games. It promotes a fallacy that drugs are, in some nebulous way, beneficial to the well-being of your character. In a society where illicit drugs are easily accessible, is this the kind of message that we want propagated, regardless of whether those receiving it are children or adults? Surely not.

To be fair though, the inclusion of ‘Medications’ in State of Decay is somewhat understandable, as it was in Fallout 3, which also initially ran into the very same issue. In these titles, you are playing in a post-apocalyptic landscape influenced heavily by reality in terms of survival mechanics. Making it all but impossible to complete the game without utilising these buffing agents is, perhaps, taking things a bit too far, but I ask how could this mechanical reliance be mitigated without robbing State of Decay of something that makes it unique and even special? By featuring the mechanic as one with context and artistic legitimacy, I can’t help but think that the ACB’s decision to ban it based upon the incentivisation of drug taking is a case of refusing to see creative merit in a game. Saints Row IV is a different matter entirely.

Its ban is based on two factors, the first being the same as State of Decay. The difference is that in Volition’s latest, drug use is not tied to a sense of realism and necessity, but instead to the granting of superpowers to the player character. It very likely is not the developers’ intentions, but trivialising drugs by using them as a source of fantasised power-ups sends what is, unconditionally, the wrong message in any society that knows the true effects of drug use. Even so, if that were the worst the game had to offer, I would question the decision. No, the more controversial feature that has led to the ban is the one that has attained the lion’s share of attention: the ‘Alien Anal Probe’ weapon.

Even in a series founded on lunacy, excess and obscenity, a weapon based on sexual violence, one that is inserted into the backside of NPCs before launching them into the air, is one to cause furrowed brows and pursed lips. While absolutely in keeping with the irreverent nature of Saints Row, there is nothing that can justify it. It crosses a line that needn’t be drawn as irreverence descends into indecency. One commentator brought up the fact that The Human Centipede and A Clockwork Orange both feature sexual violence and were released in this country with R18+ ratings. I would hesitate to bring up the latter in this instance. The scenes involving sexual violence in A Clockwork Orange are handled with discretion and are clearly used, not for titillation or to push the boundaries, but to set up the depravity inherent in that world and its characters. Beyond this, the film takes a topical stance on criminal reform, among other relevant topics. To compare it to Saints Row IV, which is simply fluff entertainment is apples to (clockwork) oranges.

A comparison to The Human Centipede is much more apt. The film is nothing more than an exercise in just how vile and base film-making can get and, in my opinion, should never have been conceptualised, let alone produced and released. It is void of any artistic merit and any person, unless possessed of a particularly morbid curiosity, would do best to avoid it. Like Saints Row IV, it has nothing of any meaning to say and uses gratuity to appeal to a very select audience. I care not what Volition and Deep Silver have to say in defence of their latest game, the inclusion of this weapon puts it firmly on the very same level as The Human Centipede. I hardly figure that any comparison could be worse.

The rights of free speech and creative license are fine things, but the right of common decency to thrive is, in this case at least, more important. The world does not need an ‘Alien Anal Probe’ to make an appearance in gaming. What it does need is more people to take a stand against uncommon indecency. Society is already base enough.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

Top 5 Tuesdays

Top 5 Xbox One Exclusive Indie Games We Can’t Wait to Hear More About at E3 2015

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Top 5 Upcoming Xbox One Single Player Indie Games for E3

Indies have become a prominent part of the video game industry in the past few years with both Sony and Microsoft reaching out to indie developers extensively, with Sony originally leading the way, and Microsoft playing catch up. Now, in the lead up to E3 this year, there are as many Indie games as there are triple A titles that we can’t wait to hear about. Last week I talked about the Top 5 Sony Indies we hope to hear about at E3, but for this week we are looking at Xbox One Indies which are kicking up a storm. Here are the top 5 upcoming Xbox One indie games we can’t wait to hear more about at E3.

Disclaimer – (Although a number of these games have console exclusivity to Xbox One, these are often just timed, meaning they may come to other consoles at a later date, and there is a strong possibility of them coming to PC platforms at any time.)


Below

Top 5 Upcoming Xbox One Single Player Indie Games for E3

Another game looking to set itself apart in a market flooded with rogue-likes, Below is a beautiful and mysterious game with great experience behind it.

A title which caught my attention quicker than any other indie before, was the beautiful and intriguing Below. From the developers who brought gamers the delightful and explosive Super Time Force last year, Capybara Games, comes the rogue adventure game with simple yet almost breath-taking artwork. Originally shown for the first time in Microsoft’s E3 press conference back in 2013, before the current generation consoles were even released, the game is played from a top down perspective, with the player controlling a small warrior exploring the depths of a mysterious island.

Featuring many rouge-like mechanics, including randomly generated levels and permanent death, it’s a familiar take on the recently popularized rouge genre. However, it is the art style and tone which ultimately sets it apart, making it onto our top five Xbox One indie list. With no release date announced yet and little details given since 2013, we hope there will be some concise information at this year’s Microsoft press conference.

Blues and Bullets

Top 5 Upcoming Xbox One Single Player Indie Games for E3

Blues and Bullets looks and sounds interesting and hopefully will see more of it soon.

With the episodic game formula becoming popularized by developer Telltale Games, it’s not surprising we are seeing a number of developers trying the structure for their own game ideas. The newest developers giving it a try is A Crow of Monsters, with their action-adventure detective game Blues and Bullets. The story follows Eliot Ness, an agent who jailed the infamous Al Capone, but after going into retirement is told Capone needs him to find his kidnapped granddaughter as his former nemesis is the only person he can trust. Players will need to search and find clues through investigations at crime scenes and match clues with suspects in order to solve crimes.

Another game which in concept is simple, but is set apart by its contrasting graphics. The noire style with tinges of colour occasionally to attract attention such as blood, acts as a dramatic and immersive mechanic. Blues and Bullets is another title which has caught our attention and we’ll be sure to investigate ourselves. The game was awarded Excellence in Story and Storytelling at the recent Game Connection Development awards. Set to be released onto Xbox One through the ID@Xbox publishing program, the first episode will be coming soon, with hopefully more details to come at E3.

Cuphead

Top 5 Upcoming Xbox One Single Player Indie Games for E3

A strange game with an art style replicating cartoons from the 30s and classic platforming action.

Set to be one of the strangest yet interesting games we’ve seen in a while, Cuphead aims to revisit older times with 30s cartoon art style and classic run and gun gameplay which centres around 1-on-1 fights. Players will face a multitude of enemies and bosses in order to repay a debt to the devil gained from gambling. Cuphead is the first game from developers Studio MDHR, consisting of brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer. Development began in 2010 and is inspired by “subversive and surrealist” elements in regards to the art style in particular. The developers aim to mix up the style of game by having unlimited lives, but the game is continuous, in the sense it is one boss fight right after the other.

Cuphead stands out for its art style, dating back the original styles of Disney and other comics from the 30s. A title which is sure to turn a few heads and surprise many, we hope to see more of it at E3, with the game set to come out sometime in 2015.

Inside

Top 5 Upcoming Xbox One Single Player Indie Games for E3

A dark and dystopian setting, dark colours and themes and clever puzzles to boot. Its easy to be excited for Inside when the developers behind the game created the magnificent Limbo.

Limbo surprised many with its deep puzzle mechanics and simple storytelling when it released back in 2010. However, the art style and theme of hopelessness, darkness and light were what drew gamers in and immersed them in the experience. The developers behind Limbo, PlayDead, are aiming for a similar feeling with their new title, Inside, a 2.5 puzzler and platforming game where you must guide a child through dystopian environments  Although hard details remain thin since the original announcement, Inside follows the story of a small boy, living in a dystopian society of drones, as he hides, runs and investigates the people around him.

The players must slowly piece together and learn about the culture and civilization the boy lives in as he traverses the plain and seemingly government controlled world. Inside looks interesting so far to say the least, with an Early 2015 release date set on the website, there’s a strong possibility it will be coming out in 2015.

SuperHOT

Top 5 Upcoming Xbox One Single Player Indie Games for E3

Superhot a First Person Shooter which innovates in the genre with one unique mechanic, nothing moves unless you do.

Continuing the theme of unique art styles and themes comes the fast and furious, SuperHOT. The game is a first person shooter, but with a unique element to the shooting mechanics. Bullets and other projectiles only move when the player moves, meaning you can freeze time by standing still. Along with the unique game mechanic comes a unique art style with simple colour schemes used to make enemies stand out for the player. It allows for players to focus on the skill needed to complete levels in the short time limits given. The idea came out of a game jam from a group of friends, but has since taken on a whole new life.

SuperHOT was remade from scratch, but with the core concept intact, after which the game was greenlit, kickstarted and is now set to come to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program this Summer. Although there is a continuous influx of first person shooters in the industry, it’s nice to see developers innovating on core mechanics, leading to unique experiences such as SuperHOT on consoles.


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