From Numskull comes word that Australia has banned Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure video game from being sold, demonstrated, hired or imported into Australia.
Here’s the full article:
Australia bans graffiti game
By Stephen Hutcheon, Louisa Hearn and David Braithwaite
February 16, 2006 - 1:20PM
Multimillionaire US fashion designer Marc Ecko has slammed the Federal Government’s decision to ban his new video game.
The Classification Review Board yesterday refused to classify the game, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, meaning it cannot be sold, demonstrated, hired or imported.
The decision was endorsed last night by the Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, who had asked the board to review of the game’s MA15+ classification after local councils and state governments voiced concerns that the game would promote graffiti.
Australia is the only country in the world to ban the game.
“I am extremely disappointed in the Australian Government Classification Review Board’s move to ban my video game ... based solely on a perceived notion that it somehow will promote the crime of graffiti,” Mr Ecko wrote in an email in response to a request for comment by smh.com.au.
Legal challenge on the cards
The local distributor of the game, Atari Australia, said it would be examining all legal avenues to overturn the ban.
“We are definitely investigating all our options at the moment. If we can appeal it we will,” said Mr David Wildgoose, public relations manager at Atari.
The action game is published by The Collective and was due to be released in Australia later this week. It has already gone gold in the United States.
Set in a city of the future, the game features a world where freedom of expression is suppressed by a tyrannical city government.
Game players battle the authorities to overthrow corrupt officials using only street fighting skills and graffiti.
Computer games are refused classification on the basis that they either promote, instruct or incite a matter of crime or violence.
Board’s split decision
With the four board members split 2-2 over the decision, it was the casting vote of the convenor, Ms Maureen Shelley, that broke the deadlock.
Based on information provided on the Office of Film and Literature Classification website, the average age of the four board members who presided over this decision is 43.5 years.
A full report on the board’s decision and the minority view will be published within 28 days.
Ms Shelley told smh.com.au that the dissenting view could be summarised as: “This game was fantasy and didn’t promote crime.”
She said while this was not the first time the board had refused to classify a computer game, the decision that effectively bans Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure marks “the first time we have refused classification for a computer game because it promotes crime”.
Atari’s Mr Wildgoose said his company would wait until it had a written decision from the Classification Review Board before launching any action and would be seeking the support of the gaming industry’s peak body, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA).
“We don’t like to see any product banned and in this particular instance we will wait until we have a copy of the report before we work out what we do next,” IEAA’s CEO Mr Chris Hanlon, told smh.com.au.
If Atari does choose to appeal, its case would have to be made through the Federal Court.
While the company would not be able to launch an appeal directly against the Classification Review Board’s decision, it could seek to pursue a case based on flaws in the legal process undertaken by the Board in reaching its decision.
The President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Mr Cameron Murphy, described the basis of the ban as ““ridiculous”.
“We don’t ban films that include criminal activities - we would not see The Godfather if this policy was in place with films.” he said. “The problem is clearly the Classification Review Board does not understand the technology.”
The game is being billed as the “first truly authentic video game based on urban culture” and the culmination of a seven-year project by Mr Ecko, who - in his younger days - was a graffiti artist.
On the game publisher’s website, Mr Ecko has described the game as “genre-defining. Revolutionary. We will put the flag in the ground of popular culture with Getting Up”.
Mr Ecko is the founder of the hip fashion label *ecko untld. His company has expanded into cosmetics and publishes a magazine focusing on hip-hop and urban culture.
Game attracts criticism
Although this is the first time Mr Ecko’s game has been banned, it has attracted its fair share of crictism.
Last year, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to have a graffiti-themed launch party for the game banned claiming that it would encourage vandalism.
Mr Ecko planned to have 20 former graffiti artists decorating model subway cars.
However Mr Ecko won the day when Manhattan federal court Judge Jed Rakoff said the mayor’s ban was a “flagrant violation” of First Amendment rights.
“By the same token, presumably, a street performance of [Shakespeare’s] Hamlet would be tantamount to encouraging revenge murder… As for a street performance of Oedipus Rex, don’t even think about it… ,” the judge said.
The game had also stirred controversy in the US from authorities in New York, Florida and California, according to UK gaming website www.ferrago.com.
Politicans in Florida called for the game’s release to be halted, or for Atari to fund an anti-graffiti campaign after its debut, the site said.
And the censorship row over the title in Australia could be heading for a second round with reports it is due to re-surface on the big screen.
Movieweb.com reported in December that MTV had bought the rights to turn Marc Ecko’s game into a feature film.
Gaming is misunderstood
In his email to smh.com.au, Mr Ecko rejected the notion that the game would cause a graffiti epidemic.
” To the contrary, I would argue that a graffiti tag in the virtual world doesn’t make one pop up in the real world.” he said.
“... to blame gaming for everything that is inherently wrong in our homes, in our schools and on our streets is much easier to do than to actually figure out ways to fix the systemic problems that exist within our culture.”
Mr Ecko said video gaming was a misunderstood cultural movement that was not about “teaching illegal activities”.
“If a kid wants to learn how to write on the wall, he or she will figure it out. They have done it since prehistoric times, in fact.
“It’s about sharing a fictional tale set in a futuristic city where freedom of expression has been suppressed by a corrupt government and how one young man is able to change his world by picking up a pen instead of a gun.
Mr Ecko said the game was about ““looking beyond the filth and realising that sometimes there is more to the message”.
“You just have to dig a little deeper and be willing to open your mind to two artistic mediums – gaming and graffiti – you may not fully understand or appreciate.”
In his press release yesterday Mr Ruddock said: “I am satisfied the decision to refuse classification is consistent with the proper function of the Review Board to reflect community standards and apply the Act, Code and Guidelines.”
Australian gaming environnment differs to other countries in that its strictest rating for games is MA15+, whereas some other countries also have MA17+ classification.