BioWare has always remained ahead of the curve when it comes to freedom of expression and choice regarding sexuality in video games. Their critically acclaimed sci-fi franchise Mass Effect let players pursue straight or gay romances, without prejudice towards either. It seems strange to applaud a work for such a basic acknowledgement of sexual diversity, but it's both disappointing and alarming to realize just how permissive BioWare is in relation to the rest of the industry.
It shouldn't be surprising then that their latest fantasy role playing game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, permits players to enter into same-sex relationships. The strengths of BioWare's games have always been their sophisticated character development and mature storytelling, dropping players into a fully realized game world and allowing them to interact with its characters (pretty much) however they wish: form alliances, make enemies, chat about the weather, or even start a hetero/homo-sexual relationship. The decision is the player's.
However, the world of (relatively) open possibility offered by Dragon Age: Inquisition has been firmly rejected by India, who's content laws have prohibited the sale of the game in their country.
Although the publisher EA has not yet confirmed the reasons for their decision to pull the game from the Indian market, the local distributor, Milestone Interactive, did confirm that homosexual sex scenes were the root of the problem.
Om Prakash Singhal, vice-president of the right wing Indian organization Vishva Hindu Parishad, said the ban was:
a right decision, we welcome it.... Homosexuality is against Indian culture, against nature and against science. We are regressing, going back to when we were almost like animals.
It's disappointing to see censorship at work in the video games industry, as it is in any artistic medium. EA is yet to comment on whether an edited version of the game will make it to India.
This certainly isn't the first case of a game being banned from a country, and it sure won't be the last. Check out the following games that were censored for the most of bizarre reasons.
Did you know why?
Football Manager 2005 - China
You might wonder what could possibly be so offensive in a soccer management sim that would provoke the second largest country in the world to completely ban it. Take a guess:
B - Yep, Football Manager 2005 was banned in China because it recognized Tibet as an independent country. The government therefore felt it was "harmful to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity" and that it "seriously violates Chinese law and has been strongly protested by our nation's gamers."
EA Sports MMA - Denmark
MMA has never been a sport that likes to avoid controversy, but EA's martial arts fighting game took one crucial step too far, getting itself banned from store shelves in Denmark. But why?
A - Apparently Denmark have laws restricting the advertisement of energy drinks in their country. As such, EA stated that "We are adhering to laws in Denmark...and therefore are not shipping EA Sports MMA in that region." The publisher refused to simply back down and remove the ads, claiming it would ruin the authenticity of their rendition of the sport. Artistic integrity, huh?
Pokemon - Saudi Arabia
Pokemon seems like a pretty innocuous video game, but it managed to get itself in serious trouble in Saudi Arabia where mufti, the highest religious authority in the Muslim state, outlawed its play. Can you guess why?
A - The religious edict claimed the game featured symbols that include "the star of David, which everyone knows is connected to international Zionism and is Israel's national emblem." Some fundamentalists even claimed 'Pokémon' means 'I am Jewish.' I guess it's lucky they never made it to Mew.
Saints Row IV - Australia
Volition's Saints Row series has always had a particularly childish sense of humor, but their fourth game included one joke that the Aussie Classification Board didn't find at all funny.
C - The following extract from the ACB's official report pretty much sums it up: "In the Board's opinion, a weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and as such the game should be Refused Classification." The game was eventually modified and re-released Down Under, minus the probe.
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