March 10, 2014 marked the release of the hotly anticipated sequel to Hotline Miami, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. Gamers around the world were able to purchase the high-profile indie and murder to their heart’s content, that is if said gamer didn’t live in Australia. Australia once again brought the ban hammer down, this time months before a game’s release. It wasn’t the buckets of blood the Hotline Miami franchise is known for, but instead a completely optional scene of sexual violence early in the game that forced Australia’s hand.
The scene in question follows Miami’s violent formula: man enters building and slaughters everyone inside. One victim, a woman dressed in only undergarments is beaten and pinned to the floor by the man. He pulls down his pants and appears to rape the woman. It’s a disgusting scene and taken out of context, the outrage is understandable. Seconds later in the scene a director calls “Cut!” The gross act of violence has now transformed into something resembling social commentary. Hotline Miami 2 isn’t condoning sexual violence and although its methods may not be subtle, there’s more here than just a mere murder simulator.
Australia’s relationship with video games has been a rocky one. High profile games such as The Witcher 2, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Silent Hill: Homecoming have been banned, with developers needing to release censored versions in order to achieve “classification.” Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure was banned for glorifying graffiti. Meanwhile, Grand Theft Auto V is available for purchase in Australia, although not at Target or Kmart.
It’s estimated that Australia is home to 11.1 million gamers. Developers eager to tap into that market are often confronted with editing their product. Video games are finally being recognized as an art form, thanks in part to a bustling indie scene, and Australia’s antics seem to be behind the times. Nevertheless, Australians are being denied content and at some level, free speech.
A triple-A game has enough manpower to edit a game and release a censored version to the Australian public in a timely fashion. In the case of an indie like Hotline Miami 2, Australians may have to wait a little while longer for a copy, if they get one at all.
Hotline Miami 2‘s developers were not happy with the decision, but do not plan to challenge the decision.
The following is the statement from Australia’s Classification Board:
“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 emphasized by it being mid-screen, with a red backdrop pulsating and the remainder of the screen being surrounded by black.”
Hotline Miami 2′s developers had this to say:
“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.”
Additionally, the developers have encouraged Australians to pirate the digital-only game if they wish to play it.