South Park Creator Says Video Games Face "Double Standard"

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I feel absolutely disgusted that the game has been censored in Europe. Even if it's only 40 seconds or whatever, it is completely unacceptable.
Sadly, I will also not buy the game here as I will not buy a censored game, not ever.

It completely baffles me how I live in a nation where things like abortion and euthanasia are accepted, where big efforts are made to get people from all sorts of ethnicities to be equal, where controversial content is not commonly censored in any other media, but that we have started to see video games being censored. It really is a double standard.

Even though I believe most of these restrictions are caused by the policies of bigger nations in Europe, I also see quite a few narrow minded fools making appearances in media to demonize video games in Belgium.

It seems that they've forgotten that this here holds true for video games as well:

image

Veylon:

JimmyPage666:
Matt Stone you are talking out of your arse. The game wasn't censored like you guys would have us believe, you cut the cunting content out for Europe! There was an statement from the ESRB literally 2 days ago saying that they approved the uncensored version. Stop trying to pretend you were forced to cut content out for Europe, you weren't. I don't get it, are they trying to engineer an issue about this or something?

The ESRB is a voluntary rating system sponsored by the entertainment industry. It speaks for no government.

While America has no rating system - though a lot of people seem to think the ESRB is part of the government - other countries do and that is why the content was removed. Nobody's obligated to listen to the ESRB if they don't want to.

Yes and no. Groups like the ESRB exist in a rather weird place in the US where private industry is being used as a front by the government to force things that it can't do directly. The whole "hey, the government isn't taking way your free speech rights, it's private industry doing it and they have the right to control their own platform" issue that plagues so many informed discussions on the subject, albeit on a different front.

The way something like the ESRB works is that it coordinates with the government and licensing, while not a government agency their stamp of approval is something the government listens to when making it's decisions on a large number of issues. If a product decides to seriously buck the ESRB, they will rapidly find that few if any businesses will carry their product, as businesses that tend to do so will suddenly find other businesses unwilling to sell to them in fear of their own licenses and so on.

The government also holds a sort of mallet above the whole thing, with the constant threat that if the ESRB isn't abided by, then the government itself will continue to push to actually gain this authority itself. We already had one major battle over this where the government wanted the right to actually enforce age ratings criminally. For every victory one it's important to note the government can always find another way to push to do the same basic thing through some backdoor method, and all it takes is one ruling to win, and thus this also contributes to a lot of the pressure to force acknowledgement of the ESRB and why businesses that don't play the game and have nearly everything rated can run into problems from companies that do abide by the ESRB.

I don't articulate this very well, but basically it's like the mafia running a protection racket. Sure you don't HAVE to pay Vito and Luigi for security every month, but as soon as you stop paying someone vandalizes your store and beats you half to death with a baseball bat in the middle of the sidewalk in front of your store... not their fault, it's just a tough neighborhood. The Mayor, he's their uncle, the chief of police he's another uncle, the beat cops, they all speak Italian in this neighborhood and carry stocking masks folded up in their pocket purely by coincidence, the baseball bat in the trunk of the cruiser, that's for when the cops help teach little league in their spare time of course... point any of this out and the ACLU which received donations from various "uncles" talks about nasty stereotypes and the defamation of Italian Americans even if your not talking about Italians in general....

Not a perfect analogy, but the point is that the ESRB effectively wields enough power, and has enough support from the government, that you can't truly consider it entirely voluntary, and that is why a lot of people tend to mistake it for a government body, because if it's crossed it can bring a ton of crap (including legal) on the heads of the people involved.

This is why so many people point fingers to private organizations and their relationship with the government nowadays, the government does favors and helps run support, and private industry in turn helps force the kind of "voluntary" regulation of anything from free speech, to organized representation of labor or business owners, allowing the government to indirectly do things it can't do directly. It's been talked about for a long time.

This is in part why I think more of these businesses need to fight back against censorship and groups like the ESRB. Especially when you look at the amount of money they have to throw at the problem and play the same kind of games right back instead of always just backing down. In short it sounds nasty, but big video game companies and the like need to start directly buying their own politicians, and that includes those in other countries. By doing this they can actually create a situation where things like the ESRB and PEGI effectively wind up working for the with them controlling the favors and "soft power" support, as opposed to following the agenda of people who want "offensive" things like crude sexual humor censored from video games.

That's just my opinion, I know many will disagree with me on all of this, including how all this practically works (especially seeing as I'm not great at explaining it). In short my basic argument is that everything is corrupt and for the right thing to be done, the guys who are right effectively have to become more corrupt than the other guys. It's a messed up world we live in sadly.

J Tyran:

StHubi:

J Tyran:
As an outsider and not from Germany I can understand the laws about Nazi symbology, the courts want a water tight way of banning the use of it with as few loopholes as possible. Is it right?

That's the way it is meant to be. The only exceptions are art and educational purposes. In all cases glorification of Nazi stuff will always be banned regardless if it is art or educational material. Video games do not fit into those two categories in Germany at the moment.

To make video games count as art in Germany a company would have to go into court and has to prove that their game is really art. But that did not happen yet as this company would not be allowed to sell the game (in a version with Nazi symbols) until the court has decided on the case. Lost sales would surely be the result and so far no company has tried this. Even in the best case this would probably only be a success for a single game and it would have to be repeated for every new game...

Games are in a funny position, some are just pure entertainment, others are art and some are educational. Some games mix the elements and be entertaining yet contain art and another might be educational art.

Personally I am not on board with the games are art thing, not all games at least. Many games can contain art and some might be making an artistic point but in general? No they are not art, is generic shooter #54895849 art? Sorry no, is a game like Journey art? Maybe, its certainly very artistic.

Games have to be judged on a case by case basis, any game wanting to use that horrible image would have to prove it was used artistically. How many judges would actually be able to make that call I don't know.

Right now 25 games have been actually banned in Germany since 1989. Most of those are games that had a different cut version specially for the German market while the uncut version was banned to avoid confusion and avoid a loophole with the second hardest hammer with that the BPjM (the government body rating games in Germany) can hit a game. The rest have been gems like the "Concentration Camp Manager" or the "Anti-Negro-Test" and stuff like that which violate German laws against inciting racial hatred. The UK and some Scandinavian countries have laws like that, too.

The thing though that sometimes causes the German special rules for this kind of thing to fuck over the rest of Europe is the "Index" (the second hardest thing I mentioned above). If a game is put on the "Index" it is not banned in Germany. You can still buy it legally without problem. The catch though is that due to youth protection that game cannot be advertised anywhere where minors could see the advertising. To avoid this publishers cut their own content so they can still roll the marketing machine.

My point is that this is not exactly censorship. Games aren't censored in Germany. The publishers do the censoring themselves if they expect higher sales that way.

Since 2003 though only very few games have actually been put on the index because that was when a legally binding 18+-rating was introduced (with a huge, ugly as hell red sticker on the game). Only very extreme games still get put on the index. Games where you would imagine even the advertising to be not fit for minors (one example was MadWorld for the Wii).

RoonMian:

J Tyran:

StHubi:

That's the way it is meant to be. The only exceptions are art and educational purposes. In all cases glorification of Nazi stuff will always be banned regardless if it is art or educational material. Video games do not fit into those two categories in Germany at the moment.

To make video games count as art in Germany a company would have to go into court and has to prove that their game is really art. But that did not happen yet as this company would not be allowed to sell the game (in a version with Nazi symbols) until the court has decided on the case. Lost sales would surely be the result and so far no company has tried this. Even in the best case this would probably only be a success for a single game and it would have to be repeated for every new game...

Games are in a funny position, some are just pure entertainment, others are art and some are educational. Some games mix the elements and be entertaining yet contain art and another might be educational art.

Personally I am not on board with the games are art thing, not all games at least. Many games can contain art and some might be making an artistic point but in general? No they are not art, is generic shooter #54895849 art? Sorry no, is a game like Journey art? Maybe, its certainly very artistic.

Games have to be judged on a case by case basis, any game wanting to use that horrible image would have to prove it was used artistically. How many judges would actually be able to make that call I don't know.

Right now 25 games have been actually banned in Germany since 1989. Most of those are games that had a different cut version specially for the German market while the uncut version was banned to avoid confusion and avoid a loophole with the second hardest hammer with that the BPjM (the government body rating games in Germany) can hit a game. The rest have been gems like the "Concentration Camp Manager" or the "Anti-Negro-Test" and stuff like that which violate German laws against inciting racial hatred. The UK and some Scandinavian countries have laws like that, too.

The thing though that sometimes causes the German special rules for this kind of thing to fuck over the rest of Europe is the "Index" (the second hardest thing I mentioned above). If a game is put on the "Index" it is not banned in Germany. You can still buy it legally without problem. The catch though is that due to youth protection that game cannot be advertised anywhere where minors could see the advertising. To avoid this publishers cut their own content so they can still roll the marketing machine.

My point is that this is not exactly censorship. Games aren't censored in Germany. The publishers do the censoring themselves if they expect higher sales that way.

Since 2003 though only very few games have actually been put on the index because that was when a legally binding 18+-rating was introduced (with a huge, ugly as hell red sticker on the game). Only very extreme games still get put on the index. Games where you would imagine even the advertising to be not fit for minors (one example was MadWorld for the Wii).

Self censorship is annoying but you can see where the developers ans publishers are coming from with it, its easier to edit the "objectionable" parts out rather than go through the palaver we see when games like Saints Row 4 are repeatedly refused classification in some countries and publishers have to go back and forth until it passes the censors. It is far easier to edit it before putting it up for classification.

Personally I hate the new system for game classification in the UK, games used to classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) who rated movies. The system was simple and fair, games with some violence and a bit of gore and/or revealing outfits that show some T&A got slapped with a 15 rating. Really violent games like Mortal Combat and/or games with sex and actual nudity where rated 18, it was easy to understand and as it was legally enforced (supplying under age kids with them was prosecutable) it pulled the teeth of the usual "games are evil" crowd because the defence was "kids shouldn't have them". Only 3-4 games where refused classification and where told they had to edit them before they could be sold. Only one game was ever actually banned but it was overturned in an appeal.

The law changed and now we use the PEGI system, its a stupid mess of symbols and has far less visual impact than the 15 and 18 system just about everyone understands because its been used for movies for decades. Now games are at the mercy of European censorship, if PEGI or another EU nation objects and demands censorship or a publisher self censors to pass classification Britain is affected when in the past it wouldn't have been with the old BBFC system.

Because of that I can certainly sympathise and understand your position.

J Tyran:

Self censorship is annoying but you can see where the developers ans publishers are coming from with it, its easier to edit the "objectionable" parts out rather than go through the palaver we see when games like Saints Row 4 are repeatedly refused classification in some countries and publishers have to go back and forth until it passes the censors. It is far easier to edit it before putting it up for classification.

Personally I hate the new system for game classification in the UK, games used to classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) who rated movies. The system was simple and fair, games with some violence and a bit of gore and/or revealing outfits that show some T&A got slapped with a 15 rating. Really violent games like Mortal Combat and/or games with sex and actual nudity where rated 18, it was easy to understand and as it was legally enforced (supplying under age kids with them was prosecutable) it pulled the teeth of the usual "games are evil" crowd because the defence was "kids shouldn't have them". Only 3-4 games where refused classification and where told they had to edit them before they could be sold. Only one game was ever actually banned but it was overturned in an appeal.

The law changed and now we use the PEGI system, its a stupid mess of symbols and has far less visual impact than the 15 and 18 system just about everyone understands because its been used for movies for decades. Now games are at the mercy of European censorship, if PEGI or another EU nation objects and demands censorship or a publisher self censors to pass classification Britain is affected when in the past it wouldn't have been with the old BBFC system.

Because of that I can certainly sympathise and understand your position.

Well... That's odd... Because I'm the complete opposite of you... :D

In my opinion the PEGI system is actually pretty fair and most Germans wished Germany would ditch its special national way and just join PEGI.

RicoADF:
The problem with the ratings board is that they don't actually sit down and play the games/watch the shows/movies etc, it actually comes down to what the publishers write in the form and a few clips showing things they consider potentially controversial which they submit to the classification board that they go off. So the way something is described in the form and presented in the footage can make all the difference as context in most of these cases is everything. That's why GTAV got through where as SR4 got changed.

Honestly, that's what must be happening. If they'd played it they probably would have wanted the entire anal-probe teleporter censored as well, I mean it does show a device exiting from a minor's rear end and somehow that's perfectly fine but the original anal probing is wrong?

Lunar Templar:
I've no sympathy for him. At all.

Just because you can get away with it in America doesn't mean you can get away with it every where else, yes, shocking as it might be to some America isn't the gold standard for the rest of the world.

What are you even on about? He is 100% correct. Many of the jokes have been used before in the TV show which is uncensored. I'm in Australia and have every season up to season 16 and none of the episodes are censored while the game is. How is there not a double standard?

OT: He is right and it's pretty annoying. Every South Park episode is rated MA15+ here while the game is rated R18+, you'd expect that the removal of some pretty run of the mill South Park gags would see the game brought back to an MA15+ rating but no. I'll admit the message used in place of the censored bits was a bit funny but I would have much rather played the game as it was intended to be played by its creators.

Also, so what if it wasn't censored by PEGI in Europe? It was still censored in Australia so he's not lying in that regard.

SourMilk:
I never placed the South park creators with high esteem when it comes to their IQ. Regardless what they say, it makes no sense that the censors would allow some formats to be uncensored.

Which is funny considering you are talking about people who have won a Grammy, a Tony, and an Emmy. They certainly aren't lacking for intelligence.

Just saying.

RoonMian:
In my opinion the PEGI system is actually pretty fair and most Germans wished Germany would ditch its special national way and just join PEGI.

It would be debatable if it is really "most Germans". From my point of view that is not a good idea. The current system is really easy to understand. But I am sure, as soon as the USK is gone the BPjM would not automatically accept 18+ ratings by the ESRB as binding (the law is only about the USK NOT about other organizations!). That could even mean a return to "This 16+ game is to gory! We ban it!" like it was before 2003.

It would be back to the old situation and that would be MUCH worse than today's situation. So far there was also no game that I would have really disagreed with the USK's rating... How developers and publishers react to such ratings is their own decision. South Park TSoT is a really good example for this - they choose the financially most promising way :( That is not art, that is commerce.

StHubi:

RoonMian:
In my opinion the PEGI system is actually pretty fair and most Germans wished Germany would ditch its special national way and just join PEGI.

It would be debatable if it is really "most Germans". From my point of view that is not a good idea. The current system is really easy to understand. But I am sure, as soon as the USK is gone the BPjM would not automatically accept 18+ ratings by the ESRB as binding (the law is only about the USK NOT about other organizations!). That could even mean a return to "This 16+ game is to gory! We ban it!" like it was before 2003.

It would be back to the old situation and that would be MUCH worse than today's situation. So far there was also no game that I would have really disagreed with the USK's rating... How developers and publishers react to such ratings is their own decision. South Park TSoT is a really good example for this - they choose the financially most promising way :( That is not art, that is commerce.

Nobody is talking about the ESRB. I was talking about PEGI.

RoonMian:
Nobody is talking about the ESRB. I was talking about PEGI.

Speaking of PEGI, just got to this line in the game last night (though in my US copy, they said "ESRB" instead of PEGI). I love some of the references within the game about its being censored. Also, granted I have the full version, I thought it was a pretty hilarious way to make a statement about censorship using the Koala/Europe screens, even if they weren't actually censored and the decision to not include those scenes were made by the publisher to avoid problems.

RoonMian:
Nobody is talking about the ESRB. I was talking about PEGI.

Sorry, I also meant PEGI :D I confused them...

StHubi:

RoonMian:
Nobody is talking about the ESRB. I was talking about PEGI.

Sorry, I also meant PEGI :D I confused them...

PEGI has a specific official mission from the EU. If Germany stopped frying its special sausage the BPjM would at least in that capacity cease to exist and all its authority would be relegated to the higher, European authority, namely the PEGI. And sure, the USK is fairly easy to understand because it's only about age but to me that's a bit arbitrary. PEGI gives parents a lot more information and is more differentiated. With PEGI parents can take a look at the symbols and easily see why this game is rated such and such. For example they can say "Well fuck, I swear like a one-legged dock whore in front of my child anyway. If swearing is what makes this game PEGI 16 instead PEGI 12 then that's okay, the little fucker is used to worse." Just as an example.

RoonMian:
And sure, the USK is fairly easy to understand because it's only about age but to me that's a bit arbitrary. PEGI gives parents a lot more information and is more differentiated. With PEGI parents can take a look at the symbols and easily see why this game is rated such and such. For example they can say "Well fuck, I swear like a one-legged dock whore in front of my child anyway. If swearing is what makes this game PEGI 16 instead PEGI 12 then that's okay, the little fucker is used to worse." Just as an example.

More information is not necessarily easier to understand or interpret. Looking at an age stamp takes seconds but deciding if contents XY is okay for their kids requires more time. In most cases parents just do not want to take this time and imagine how friends and grandparents are overwhelmed by such information. They CANNOT decide if the game is an appropriate present or not based on such information. They would use the age anyway (there is also an age indicator on the PEGI stickers, isn't it?) or just buy something completely different, because they are unsure about the appropriateness.

The information on the PEGI stickers in general is even more useless than just an age sticker in my opinion. There is swearing and then there is SWEARING. Without having played the game it is impossible to say if there is any swearing in a game that parents would deem inappropriate for their kids... That can be applied to all "words" on those stickers.

Its because video games are the go-to-scapegoat at the moment. It used to be music and then TV but now that we've found a whole new medium to put the blame on that is very popular with young adults, teens and kids today its easy to see how sensationalist media would twist and bend the truth to get ridiculous censor laws passed, or to simply say people become messed up because of video games

StHubi:

RoonMian:
And sure, the USK is fairly easy to understand because it's only about age but to me that's a bit arbitrary. PEGI gives parents a lot more information and is more differentiated. With PEGI parents can take a look at the symbols and easily see why this game is rated such and such. For example they can say "Well fuck, I swear like a one-legged dock whore in front of my child anyway. If swearing is what makes this game PEGI 16 instead PEGI 12 then that's okay, the little fucker is used to worse." Just as an example.

More information is not necessarily easier to understand or interpret. Looking at an age stamp takes seconds but deciding if contents XY is okay for their kids requires more time. In most cases parents just do not want to take this time and imagine how friends and grandparents are overwhelmed by such information. They CANNOT decide if the game is an appropriate present or not based on such information. They would use the age anyway (there is also an age indicator on the PEGI stickers, isn't it?) or just buy something completely different, because they are unsure about the appropriateness.

The information on the PEGI stickers in general is even more useless than just an age sticker in my opinion. There is swearing and then there is SWEARING. Without having played the game it is impossible to say if there is any swearing in a game that parents would deem inappropriate for their kids... That can be applied to all "words" on those stickers.

Well... I think we may fundamentally disagree over how far parents should be involved in the gaming habits of their children.... I find more information for parents better because I expect parents to be very engaged in what their children pass their time with.

RoonMian:
I find more information for parents better because I expect parents to be very engaged in what their children pass their time with.

It would be a perfect world if this was the case in every family... But this world is not perfect, naturally :(

StHubi:

RoonMian:
I find more information for parents better because I expect parents to be very engaged in what their children pass their time with.

It would be a perfect world if this was the case in every family... But this world is not perfect, naturally :(

Yes... And for the less than desirable parents that don't give a fuck the PEGI stickers still have a plain age reference.

RoonMian:
Yes... And for the less than desirable parents that don't give a fuck the PEGI stickers still have a plain age reference.

At least there is something "old" remaining :)

But the additional information could make engaged parents even more unsure if a game is okay for their children. In some cases the mentioning of contents X will immediately lead them to not buying the game. Perhaps it is justified, but it could also not be... There will be less bought games because of such overflow of (in my opinion) useless information.

In the end there are obviously different opinions about the rating systems. So far I believe that it will probably not change in Germany unless the majority of the German population (that means not only the gamers among us) sees a need for it. That's probably not going happen any time soon.

Finally someone in another industry has taken the words out of every aware gamer's mouth and says what needs to be said, again. It's like no one knows the problems video games face until they try to partake in the creation of one.

Step 1: Censor myself.
Step 2: Claim Europe censored me.
Step 3: ????
Step 4: Profit!

If a publisher feels the need to drop the nuke in regards to self censorship in order to save money then thatīs fine but be honest about it. Tell people "Sorry bro, we donīt want to tango with Germany so weīll just censor it for everyone" donīt make a big fuss acting like you were censored by the moral police until you were actually censored by the moral police.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions of this whole South Park situation is that it was -not- Matt Stone and Trey Parker who wanted the censorship. The self imposed censorship was a choice made by the publisher, Ubisoft. A lot of people are calling out Matt and Trey claiming they are being hypocrites for a decision that was made for them. They didn't have anything to do with the actual censorship made to the console versions of the game in other regions.

Sarge034:

StewShearer:
These different standards, of course, led to the censored versions of the game, something that Stone has made peace with to an extent. "As long as we could make a joke out of the fact that they made us cut [content], that was fine."

LOL, wut?
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/132690-South-Park-The-Stick-of-Truth-Wasnt-Censored-By-PEGI

That article was posted on March 5th so I am curious as to why you didn't call shenanigans in your article.

The fact that it was cut meant that SOMEONE made them cut it! In this case it was Ubisoft that made them cut it, but they were still made to cut it...

OT: That's kind of... well... dissapointing! On a side note, what did the Austrailian scene say? I know that a lot of games arn't edited at all between Europe releases and Aus releases, so did they change that message scene?

Fdzzaigl:
I feel absolutely disgusted that the game has been censored in Europe. Even if it's only 40 seconds or whatever, it is completely unacceptable.
Sadly, I will also not buy the game here as I will not buy a censored game, not ever.

It completely baffles me how I live in a nation where things like abortion and euthanasia are accepted, where big efforts are made to get people from all sorts of ethnicities to be equal, where controversial content is not commonly censored in any other media, but that we have started to see video games being censored. It really is a double standard.

Even though I believe most of these restrictions are caused by the policies of bigger nations in Europe, I also see quite a few narrow minded fools making appearances in media to demonize video games in Belgium.

It seems that they've forgotten that this here holds true for video games as well:

image

I bet you already own a game that was censored. Most JRPGs have been censored in one way or another. Even Bravely Default recently had 2 costume design changes and the colour of a monsters innards changed for the US and Europe releases...

LordOfInsanity:
You're confusing Ubisoft's decision to enact content cutting with Matt & Tray's desire to keep the content in while working with Obsidian. M&T were essentially extra hands with Obsidian, helping shape and create Stick of Truth, but Ubisoft's fear of backlash and outrage forced them to cut the content. They, as Matt uses the term, is more towards Ubisoft instead of the rating boards, but Ubisoft's reaction can be a symptom of the rating boards'/governmental bodies' desires to keep interactive media "child friendly".

Elementary - Dear Watson:
The fact that it was cut meant that SOMEONE made them cut it! In this case it was Ubisoft that made them cut it, but they were still made to cut it...

OT: That's kind of... well... dissapointing! On a side note, what did the Austrailian scene say? I know that a lot of games arn't edited at all between Europe releases and Aus releases, so did they change that message scene?

I will direct you both to the in game pokes at regional rating that they flat out blamed for the censored content before PEGI made an official statement to the contrary. Now they are just implying heavily that it was the regional rating board's fault. See in article, "I was told that Australia has different standards [for video games]," he said. "They have their own ratings system, as does Europe, so I was told that we had to submit it for ratings and they come back and tell you this will pass, this won't." Where as the PEGI statement revealed that both the uncut and the cut version were submitted for review and both received the same 18+ rating.

So again, there be shenanigans afoot.

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