Extra Lives: Why is it only games?

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If you want to play “Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number,” make sure you don’t live in Australia. The country effectively banned the game from being sold inside its borders in one of the most blatant display of censorship the video game industry has seen in recent years. When retailers in the country censored “Grand Theft Auto V” in the country based on the protest of a group of former prostitutes, I was upset. This is much worse. It’s not a couple of companies deciding to censor a product, but rather the government itself violating people’s right to free speech. It astonishes me that something like this can happen in the 21st century.

What caused the big issue? The game was refused classification and thereby censored for a scene that occurs very early in the game. The game begins with a graphic depiction of violence where the protagonist brutally murders dozens of people, just like its predecessor. This isn’t what the ratings board had a problem with. What follows is what very clearly appears to be a rape scene. In the middle of it, however, a director yells “CUT!” and it’s revealed that you are an actor on the set of a movie.

It’s a very interesting commentary in that it both makes the player feel disgusted with his or her actions and clearly satirizes Hollywood sensationalism and exploitation. The scene has a clear and unambiguous artistic purpose.

So why, then, was it censored? The simple answer is that it’s a video game. If this was a movie, a television show or a book, this simply wouldn’t have happened. Don’t believe me? At the Golden Globes last week, Joanne Froggatt won Best Supporting Actress for her role as a rape victim in the hit TV series “Downton Abbey.” “Downton Abbey” certainly isn’t censored in Australia, and neither are the countless other movies, books and TV series that depict rape.

If you’re a TV series that deals with the complex issue of rape, you get an award. If you’re a video game that does the same thing, you get banned.

This reveals more complicated answer to the reason “Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number” was censored: games simply aren’t considered to be a legitimate form of art in our society today. Keep in mind that the game didn’t depict actual rape, and used it to make a point about sensationalist media and culture.

Games aren’t considered to be art because people still see them as toys. People look as games as things that should be for children’s enjoyment instead of meaningful artistic vision or commentary. Video games have only been around for about 40 years, making them a fairly new form of entertainment.  Games need to be elevated to the same sort of artistic status that other forms of media have. Until that happens, this kind of censorship will continue to go on unchecked.

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