Apparently, the blokes who classify games Down Under have just been hipped to the fact that fighting to the death often involves blood. In a decision handed down yesterday, the Austrialian government has denied Mortal Kombat classification, effectively banning Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment’s game.
Mortal Kombat‘s always been bloody, and the over-the-top kung-fu Fatalities were arguably the reason the game shot to success in the first place. The new Mortal Kombat returns to the series’ gory roots, with special cutaway scenes that show bones breaking and organs bursting from the furious, super-powered fighting that happens during matches. But the violence in MK has never been the kind of thing that normal human beings could pull off in real life. Nevertheless, the members of the Australian Classification Board don’t even want the game anywhere in the country. Australia doesn’t have a games rating equivalent to M in the US or 18+ in Europe, though last year saw strenuous lobbying and agitation to get such a category created. (God of War’s Kratos in PS3 Version of Upcoming “Mortal Kombat”)
Now, Mortal Kombat was once the boogie monster of anti-video game activists, with Congressional hearings held to vilify the cartoonish digitized violence of the long-running martial arts series. But the furor around Mortal Kombat and video game violence in general has died down. That could be changing, though. With the Schwarznegger v. EMA Supreme Court case and the recent controversy of Bulletstorm’s low-brow ethos, the meme of video game violence impacting society appears to be rearing its ugly head again. The Supreme Court case may change how M-rated games get produced and/or sold but, for now, games like Bulletstorm can get released with little to no problem.
But, no matter what goes on here in America, we’ve got nothing on the cultural gatekeepers in Australia. Australia’s Classification Board is renowned for forcing content changes in order for games to see release in their territory, or denying them distribution altogether. Some recent games that have run afoul of the Australian government have been Left 4 Dead 2, Dead Space and Fallout 3. (Violent Video Game Law To Get Tested in Supreme Court)
It’s ironic that a country which alternately projects itself as laid-back, rowdy and carousing would continuously come down on games that they think might rot the minds of young people. Never mind that most of the people playing said games would likely be older than the cautionary age of 15. For all the outlaw independence that Australia brags about in its national DNA, banning Mortal Kombat just shows its government officials to be fearful and out-of-touch.