Hotline Miami 2 Effectively Banned in Australia

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alex

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Edited By alex  Staff
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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has been denied classification by the Australian ratings board, a move that will essentially prevent it from being sold in most marketplaces in the country. According to the report, which was obtained by Kotaku AU, the denial comes at least partially as a result of a particular scene in the game's opening, which depicts a female character being sexually assaulted. As the ratings board's description of the scene graphically states:

In the sequence of game play footage titled Midnight Animal, the protagonist character bursts into what appears to be a movie set and explicitly kills 4 people, who collapse to the floor in a pool of copious blood, often accompanied by blood splatter. After stomping on the head of a fifth male character, he strikes a female character wearing red underwear. She is knocked to the floor and is viewed lying face down in a pool of copious blood. The male character is viewed with his pants halfway down, partially exposing his buttocks. He is viewed pinning the female down by the arms and lying on top of her thrusting, implicitly raping her (either rear entry or anally) while her legs are viewed kicking as she struggles beneath him. This visual depiction of implied sexual violence is emphasised by it being mid-screen, with a red backdrop pulsating and the remainder of the screen being surrounded by black.

This depiction of implied sexual violence exceeds what can be accommodated within the R18+ classification category and the game is therefore Refused Classification.

If the description of this scene is familiar, it's because it's been a topic of discussion before. Cara Ellison wrote about her discomfort with the scene and its context within the game in a preview for PC Gamer back in 2013. Series designer Dennis Wedin discussed the scene in an interview for Rock, Paper, Shotgun shortly thereafter, explaining its existence within the framing device of an "exploitation film" based on the events of the first game.

Hotline Miami 2 publisher Devolver Digital responded to the rating refusal via a statement on the company's website, expressing displeasure with the ratings board's decision, and decrying what it believes is an unfair representation of the scene in question.

First, to clear up any possible misconceptions, the opening cinematic that was first shown in June of 2013 has not changed in any way. We also want to make clear that players are given an choice at the start of the game as to whether they wish to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence. The sequence in question is presented below in context, both after choosing the uncut version of the game and after choosing to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence.

Second, in response to the report itself, we are concerned and disappointed that a board of professionals tasked with evaluating and judging games fairly and honestly would stretch the facts to such a degree and issue a report that describes specific thrusting actions that are not simply present in the sequence in question and incorrectly portrays what was presented to them for review.

Though we have no plans to officially challenge the ruling, we stand by our developers, their creative vision for the storyline, its characters and the game and look forward to delivering Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number to fans very soon.

Devolver has posted the sequence in question online. The video includes both versions of the scene a player could see, depending on which option they choose from the opening prompt.

Australia has a long history of refusing classification to overtly violent or sexual games. Between 1993 and 2012, the country had no equivalent to the ESRB's M rating, and games have often been edited for content in order to gain classification. Most recently, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Saints Row IV, and State of Decay have all had to resubmit edited versions in order to acquire ratings.

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wastrel

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That's right, ratings board, this is TOO much for the fragile mind of a legal adult. Christ.

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AMyggen

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I thought Australia was past this with that new rating they got, but apparently not! It's completely ridiculous.

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Samaritan

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Boy I'm sure glad Australia finally got an R18+ rating!

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Nightriff

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I think we need to restart the Australia bashing from last year again.

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chronomac

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#6  Edited By chronomac

It should still be available on Steam, though, right?

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ottoman673

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To what extent is other content censored in australia? (Not games)

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Zabant

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#8  Edited By Zabant

While a disturbing scene, it's nothing say compared to the sexual assault scene in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

This feels like a board needlessly targeting games again for what plenty of other mediums are allowed to portray, most likely stemming from the whole games are for kids mentality.

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Cogzwell

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I don't know I'm a legal adult and I really wish I hadn't read that description.

I'm with Cara on this one.

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BrianP

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Man, reading that description I was thinking "that sounds really fucked up and extreme, even for hotline miami" but then watching the actual part it seems fairly tame. It kind of sounds like the people who wrote that paragraph have a pretty vivid imagination.

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#11  Edited By conmulligan  Online

Cara Ellison wrote about her discomfort with the scene and its context within the game in a preview for PC Gamer back in 2013. Series designer Dennis Wedin discussed the scene in an interview for Rock, Paper, Shotgun shortly thereafter, explaining its existence within the framing device of an "exploitation film" based on the events of the first game.

This is a textbook example of how media criticism should play out. I wish everyone else was capable of being so thoughtful.

Anyway, it's hard to judge whether or not that scene is necessary without playing the game, but at least Dennaton and Devolver seem to be handling it with consideration and respect.

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MEATBALL

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The scene in question is gross and confronting, but that's kind of Hotline Miami in general and one of the interesting things about it. I'm bummed that my country's classification rules have once again lead to adults being unable to decide what content to consume for themselves (and decide for themselves whether said content is offensive or, whilst confronting, acceptable).

I guess at least this is a more "worthy" banning than Stick of Truth and Saints Row IV's cartoon ridiculousness. It's concerning however that they seem to have misinterpreted/misrepresented the offending scene.

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cornbredx

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Because of course it is.

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AMyggen

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To what extent is other content censored in australia? (Not games)

Reading the Wikipedia article about this stuff, video games seems to be in a pretty unique position. But that was mainly because they didn't have a M rating for a long time, now that they have I'm not sure what's going on tbh.

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kalmia64

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Good. That scene is revolting and unnecessary.

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XChairmanDrekX

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#16  Edited By XChairmanDrekX

Good, we sure wouldn't want the game about horrific mass murder to make anyone feel uncomfortable.

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BillyMaysRIP

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#17  Edited By BillyMaysRIP

I'm not a huge fan of the scene, just as I'm not a huge fan of brutal violence in general. But at the same time, if a game is attempting to deliver a message to an adult audience, then it should have the right to do so. I remember putting on a production of Philomela when I was a freshman in high school; no one tried to stop that from being put on. Movies like Once Were Warriors get praised when addressing violence, so why can't games attempt to do that too? I doubt hitting space bar is a level of interactivity that will cause gamers of any gender to go and commit acts of sexual violence. Hotline Miami at least attempts to question player motivation, unlike COD where gunning down civilians is there for simply shock value.

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Musubi

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Looks like they have found the best possible solution to appease the people who this makes feel uneasy and also being able to show the work as they fully intended it to be. I would say though that being disturbed by the scene is its entire intent anyways. In fact media that can draw that kind of emotion out of me can often be some of the most thought provoking at least IMO.

Also Australia...WTF? Like c'mon.

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#19  Edited By AMyggen

@kalmia64 said:

Good. That scene is revolting and unnecessary.

But does that content make it okay to ban the game? Unless there's illegal content in the game I support letting people decide if they want to play it, not deciding it for them.

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whitegreyblack

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The rating board stretched a bit with that sexual violence description. Thrusting?

What is the point of the R18+ classification in Australia if they do not use it?

It's interesting that they explain in great detail the physical violence (which they explained pretty much right on the money) but it's the 1/2 second half-buttock scene that gets the game denied classification.

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Just sounds like good publicity to me.

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gren

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Wow that was not nearly as bad as I expected from their description...yeah seems like they are really stretching here to ban it. total b.s. for sure.

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Corevi

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#23  Edited By Corevi

Do You Like Hurting Other People?

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MEATBALL

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@kalmia64 said:

Good. That scene is revolting and unnecessary.

That doesn't mean the creators shouldn't have the freedom to include said scene, or that adults shouldn't be able to decide for themselves how they feel about it. Just because something is offensive doesn't mean it shouldn't exist. Particularly when the developers have included the option not to encounter it.

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jerseyscum

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So can I purchase the film Perfect Blue in Australia? The one that depicts a fucking brutal staged sexual assault on a film set?

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TheHT

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Wow. They really let their imagination run wild with that description.

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Naoiko

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That scene is a bit much for me.

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AMyggen

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@billymaysrip: I think a lot of people still view video games as toys for kids, and get uncomfortable when it's depicting gruesome stuff in a way they don't when other forms of entertainment do. I'm sure you can find hundreds of movies that you can sell in Australia that depicts way worse shit than what's shown here.

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niceversepie

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"Australians all let us rejoice,

For we are young and free"

... or not.

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MEATBALL

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#32  Edited By MEATBALL
@jerseyscum said:

So can I purchase the film Perfect Blue in Australia? The one that depicts a fucking brutal staged sexual assault on a film set?

Not only can you purchase that film in Australia (where it isn't even rated R18+, but rather MA15+), but it has also previously aired on Free-to-Air Television on SBS (though I couldn't tell you if it had been edited at all for television). While I do think it's understandable to treat two different mediums a little differently it is a pretty large inconsistency, particularly given that the scene doesn't have any particularly large element of interactivity.

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noizy

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#33  Edited By noizy

There's always GOG and VPNs.

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Chicken008

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Ha! They should just put a silly censor screen in like South Park.

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spraynardtatum

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#35  Edited By spraynardtatum

It's 2015.

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Cold_Wolven

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Unfortunately Australia is a nanny state with double standards when it comes to movies, all that effort trying to get that R18+ for games was ultimately for nothing.

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Dberg

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#37  Edited By Dberg

It's a video game. A video game in which disturbing things happen with video game characters. You're supposed to be disturbed by the disturbing things, that is the right and healthy response to a disturbing thing.

On the other hand, if you don't like being disturbed, don't play it. We as consumers don't need babysitting. Damn it, Australia.

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ArbitraryWater

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Ah, it's good to know that Australia still is crazy! I dunno about you guys, but I heard from a girl who is from Melbourne that Sydney is dumb and stupid and they wear flip flops in public....

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Brodehouse

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#39  Edited By Brodehouse

There is a scene in Kane & Lynch 2 where the protagonists and Lynch's girlfriend are tortured with knives, the slow way, by Triads. In a loading screen with audio, you hear them being tortured in addition to hearing ... clapping noises and female screaming that can only be one thing. When you get free, Lynch checks her, but shes gone, with a horrifying rictus grin of agony. It's one of the most uncomfortable and fucked up things I've sat through. It was revolting, and it aimed to be.

I know certain people think I'm Edgelord Bonerhitler, this sequence legitimately upset me. To this day, the sound of fuck-clapping makes me think of this scene. I believe that's the basic definition of being triggered.

I guess it's too bad that there wasn't someone with more political power to protect me from it. It was unnecessary, after all. Just like violence in general; it's unnecessary. Games don't necessarily have to have violence in them, which means violence is unnecessary.

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climax

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Pshh what a bunch of dumb bullshit. I am really excited for this game though. It looks incredible

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BisonHero

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The scene is intentionally provocative and gruesome, but Hotline Miami is generally making a point with its extremes. I'd argue it's trying to make more of a point than Postal 1 and 2's satire, or Hatred's complete lack of any point besides "look at how edgy we are". All three of those games should be allowed to be released without significant industry/government opposition, but of the three, Hotline Miami is probably putting the most careful thought into what they're trying to make the player think about or feel when the game goes to these extremes.

The R18+ rating exists for a fucking reason, so it should pretty much be "the sky's the limit" in terms of content allowable for that rating.

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Parsnip

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So their description of the scene is actually more graphic than the scene itself.

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Vamino

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On the plus side, everyone in Australia that has a brain has known how to circumvent these bans for years!

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KaneRobot

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#44  Edited By KaneRobot

Can't wait to read their description of Hatred when that gets denied as well.

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cannonballBAM

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Having the option is better than it being censored all together.

Infinity Ward did the same with the "No Russian" level of Modern Warfare 2.

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conmulligan

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#46 conmulligan  Online

Christ, we're only on the first page and people are already whipping out their insufferable free speech arguments. The Australian ratings board should reverse their decision if only to spare us from first-grade level Randian pontification.

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Atwa

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#47  Edited By Atwa

Ultra violence yay!

Sexual violence, OVER THE LINE!!

I am just glad Jonatan Söderström didn't give into the complaints when this was revealed earlier, I am glad hes making the game he wants to make.

He also said this about it. http://i.imgur.com/Z84eDVa.png

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AMyggen

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#48  Edited By AMyggen

@conmulligan said:

Christ, we're only on the first page and people are already whipping out their insufferable free speech arguments. The Australian ratings board should reverse their decision if only to spare us from first-grade level Randian pontification.

You're the first to mention free speech. I don't think wanting the game to get an 18+ rating and letting people choose for themselves qualifies as "first-grade level Randian pontification".

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tuxfool

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#49  Edited By tuxfool

@brodehouse said:

I guess it's too bad that there wasn't someone with more political power to protect me from it. It was unnecessary, after all. Just like violence in general; it's unnecessary. Games don't necessarily have to have violence in them, which means violence is unnecessary.

I'm strongly feeling the effects of Poe's Law here.

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billyok

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#50  Edited By billyok

That's ... kinda fucked up, Hotline Miami. I mean murder is too, of course, but eesh.