Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

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We Happy Few Australia’s Classification Review Board has unanimously overturned the ban on the video game, We Happy Few by the main Classification Board. The appeals boards has now passed the game with the adults-only R18+ for Fantasy violence and interactive drug use. The game’s developer, Compulsion Games, has expressed sympathy for the censor board saying it wasn’t sure the Board could have ruled any other way.

In an email with Kotaku Australia, Compulsion Games chief operating officer and producer Sam Abbott said he wasn’t sure that the Classification Board had any room to move, given the constraints of the rating guidelines:

I think originally the board made the best decision they could given (a) the guidelines they work within, and (b) the information we provided them, Abbott said. I’m not sure I’d make a different original decision given those constraints.

Abbott went on to explain that Compulsion Games could have outlined more information about Joy — the drug that is a centrepiece of the dystopian society in which We Happy Few is set — including the positive and negative aspects of its consumption.

The censor board  banned the game for its use of drugs in-game, under the clause about incentivised drug use including:

New skills or attribute increases, extra points, unlocking achievements, plot animations, scenes and rewards, rare or exclusive loot, or making tasks easier to accomplish,

The latter of which was the reason We Happy Few originally fell foul of in the rule. In the Board’s opinion:

The game’s drug-use mechanic making game progression less difficult constitutes an incentive or reward for drug-use and therefore, the game exceeds the R 18+ classification that states, drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted. Therefore, the game warrants being Refused Classification.

The Classification Review Board will issue details reasons for its decision in due course.

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the sims freeplayA representative for games developer EA has announced on an online forum that The Sims mobile game The Sims: Freeplay would no longer be available in seven countries: China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Egypt.A spokesperson said that in light of regional standards the game would no longer be updated.?  EA did not confirm the exact nature of these regional standards, prompting many fans to speculate that the ban was caused by the game’s explicit LGBT content. The EA spokesperson wrote:

We’ve always been proud that our in-game experiences embrace values as broad and diverse as our incredible Sims community. This has been important to us, as we know it is to you.

Users who had already downloaded the game would still be able to use it, however, the game will not be updated and may eventually be rendered obsolete. Players will also not be able to make in-game purchases.

The popular EA life simulation video game includes diverse elements such as same-sex weddings and gay adoptions, and male pregnancies. The game let players pick whether the sim had a feminine or masculine frame and allowed players to decide whether their sim stood to use the toilet.

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steam logoThe trouble with games shops imposing their own censorship rules is that the only brownie points to be won for censoring games are from the type of folks who don’t buy games. Their own customers are highly unlikely to be impressed by unnecessary censorship.Anyway Steam has explained its new non-censorship policy in a blog post:

Recently there’s been a bunch of community discussion around what kind of games we’re allowing onto the Steam Store. As is often the case, the discussion caused us to spend some time examining what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we could be doing it better. Decision making in this space is particularly challenging, and one that we’ve really struggled with. Contrary to many assumptions, this isn’t a space we’ve automated – humans at Valve are very involved, with groups of people looking at the contents of every controversial title submitted to us. Similarly, people have falsely assumed these decisions are heavily affected by our payment processors, or outside interest groups. Nope, it’s just us grappling with a really hard problem.

Unfortunately, our struggling has resulted in a bunch of confusion among our customers, developer partners, and even our own employees. So we’ve spent some time thinking about where we want to be on this, and we’d like to talk about it now. But we also think it’s critical to talk about how we’ve arrived at our position, so you can understand the trade-offs we’re making.

The challenge is that this problem is not simply about whether or not the Steam Store should contain games with adult or violent content. Instead, it’s about whether the Store contains games within an entire range of controversial topics – politics, sexuality, racism, gender, violence, identity, and so on. In addition, there are controversial topics that are particular to games – like what even constitutes a game, or what level of quality is appropriate before something can be released.

Common questions we ask ourselves when trying to make decisions didn’t help in this space. What do players wish we would do? What would make them most happy? What’s considered acceptable discussion / behavior / imagery varies significantly around the world, socially and legally. Even when we pick a single country or state, the legal definitions around these topics can be too broad or vague to allow us to avoid making subjective and interpretive decisions. The harsh reality of this space, that lies at the root of our dilemma, is that there is absolutely no way we can navigate it without making some of our players really mad.

So we ended up going back to one of the principles in the forefront of our minds when we started Steam, and more recently as we worked on Steam Direct to open up the Store to many more developers: Valve shouldn’t be the ones deciding this. If you’re a player, we shouldn’t be choosing for you what content you can or can’t buy. If you’re a developer, we shouldn’t be choosing what content you’re allowed to create. Those choices should be yours to make. Our role should be to provide systems and tools to support your efforts to make these choices for yourself, and to help you do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable.

With that principle in mind, we’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling. Taking this approach allows us to focus less on trying to police what should be on Steam, and more on building those tools to give people control over what kinds of content they see. We already have some tools, but they’re too hidden and not nearly comprehensive enough. We are going to enable you to override our recommendation algorithms and hide games containing the topics you’re not interested in. So if you don’t want to see anime games on your Store, you’ll be able to make that choice. If you want more options to control exactly what kinds of games your kids see when they browse the Store, you’ll be able to do that. And it’s not just players that need better tools either – developers who build controversial content shouldn’t have to deal with harassment because their game exists, and we’ll be building tools and options to support them too.

As we mentioned earlier, laws vary around the world, so we’re going to need to handle this on a case-by-case basis. As a result, we will almost certainly continue to struggle with this one for a while. Our current thinking is that we’re going to push developers to further disclose any potentially problematic content in their games during the submission process, and cease doing business with any of them that refuse to do so honestly. We’ll still continue to perform technical evaluations of submissions, rejecting games that don’t pass until their issues have been resolved.

In the short term, we won’t be making significant changes to what’s arriving on Steam until we’ve finished some of the tools we’ve described in this post. As we’ve hopefully managed to convey, navigating these issues is messy and complicated. Countries and societies change their laws and cultural norms over time. We’ll be working on this for the foreseeable future, both in terms of what products we’re allowing, what guidelines we communicate, and the tools we’re providing to developers and players.

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active shooter Anti-gun campaigners are highlighting a school-shooting simulator video game available on Steam. According to its listing on the Steam, the game lets players slaughter as many civilians as possible in a school environment.InferTrust called on Valve, the company behind the Steam games store – to take the title down before it goes on sale, on 6 June.

The BBC report omits the name of the game but in fact it is titled Active Shooter .

The school-shooting game is described as realistic and impressive. And the developer has suggested it will include 3D models of children to shoot at.  However, the creator also says: Please do not take any of this seriously. This is only meant to be the simulation and nothing else.

A spokeswoman for InferTrust said:

It’s in very bad taste. There have been 22 school shootings in the US since the beginning of this year. It is horrendous. Why would anybody think it’s a good idea to market something violent like that, and be completely insensitive to the deaths of so many children?  We’re appalled that the game is being marketed.

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We Happy Few We Happy Few is a 2018 Canada survival horror from Compulsion Games

We Happy Few is the tale of a plucky bunch of moderately terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful denial in the city of Wellington Wells. In this alternative 1960s England, conformity is key. You’ll have to fight or blend in with the drug-addled inhabitants, most of whom don’t take kindly to people who won’t abide by their not-so-normal rules.

In May 2018, the Australian Censorship Board announced that We Happy Few has been banned in Australia.

The censors noted that the game’s depictions of drug use related to incentives and rewards, in this case the beneficial effects of using Joy pills, could not be accommodated within the R 18+ category.

The Soma-like drug Joy is used in the game to detract the citizens of Wellington Wells from the Orwellian reality they live in.

There’s no word yet on if Compulsion Games will make cuts to the game to satisfy the Board, but it s often the case.

The game is set for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC this summer.

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iarc logoThe Entertainment Software Rating Board has confirmed it will cease offering free age and content ratings for online video games next month. The Short Form ratings process the ESRB currently offers for download-only and online games will be discontinued in June. The ESRB will continue with the higher cost Long Form ratings, primarily used for physical/boxed games. A date has not yet been set for the end of the service.

Developers feared that they would be forced to pay for the higher cost rating otherwise they would not be allowed to release their titles on key platforms like Xbox that demand a content rating.

However the ESRB’s official Twitter feed responding that:

Developers of digital games and apps will still be able to obtain ESRB ratings at no cost through the IARC rating process. The Microsoft Store deployed IARC years ago and has committed to making IARC ratings accessible to all Xbox developers. So, developers should not be concerned.

The International Age Rating Coalition is a newer system for obtaining age ratings for multiple territories and storefronts with a single process. While ESRB single out the Xbox Store, it is also accepted on Google Play, the Nintendo eShop, and the Oculus Store.

There is currently no word on when this will apply to the PlayStation Store, but an IARC press release in December 2017 said the platform would be added soon.

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Conan Exiles: Day One Edition Conan Exiles is a 2018  Norway online survival game by Funcom, either played from the first-person or third-person perspective.Many months ago, windowscentral.com reported that the American ESRB might give Conan Exiles an AO for Adults Only rating which could prevent it from coming to consoles. To avoid this, Funcom had to censor some adult content like exposed penises and testicles for release in countries using ESRB ratings.

A Funcom spokesperson clarified the situation. On consoles, full nudity is only available in PEGI (Albania, Bulgaria, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and more) and USK (Germany) territories. You can activate it by downloading the Nudity add-on which come with the game purchase.

Unfortunately, only partial nudity is available in ESRB (Bahamas, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, United States, and more) countries.