First-person survival horror game Outlast 2 has been denied classification by the Australian Classification Board, effectively banning it from sale in Australia.
While the original Outlast and its Whistleblower expansion contained numerous scenes of graphic violence, and Outlast 2 looks to follow that trend based on the demo that was released last year, that’s not the reason given for its ban. The game has reportedly been refused even the adult-restricted R18+ rating due to “a depiction of implied sexual violence” in one part of the game (SPOILER WARNING):
In one cut-scene in the game … a female creature prepares Blake for a ritual. She says, “I want to see your true face. Your seed will burn this world.” Shortly afterwards, he objects to having psycho-active dust blown into his face, yelling, “Nope! Nope!” before he stumbles into a forest clearing.
His vision blurring, he witnesses what appears to a ritualistic orgy. His wife, Lynn, calls out for his help, saying, “It hurts! Oh god!,” as she hangs from chains on a raised platform at the front of the clearing. Humanoid creatures, their skin grey, spattered with blood and scarred, implicity have sex as others pray, or chant, or gesticulate.
One creature has another bent over a rock, thrusting as they implicitly have rear-entry sex, another sits astride the pelvic region of a creature prone on the ground, moving their hips rhythmically as they too implicitly have sex. Two other pairs of creatures in the clearing are also implicitly having sex.
As Blake yells for the creatures to “Get away from her!” a female creature, her greyish breasts bared, pushes him onto his back, holds his arms to the ground and repeatedly thrusts her crotch against him. As Blake protests, saying “No! Stop that!” the creature thrusts again, before placing its face over his midsection and then sitting up and wiping its mouth.
Although much of the contact between the creature and Blake is obscurred, by it taking place below screen, the sexualised surroundings and aggressive behaviour of the creature suggest that it is an assault which is sexual in nature. The Board is of the opinion that this, combined with Blake’s objections and distress, constitutes a depiction of implied sexual violence.
In the Board’s opinion, the above example constitutes a depiction of implied sexual violence and therefore cannot be accommodated within the R18+ classification category and the game is therefore Refused Classification.
This is not the only content on which the refusal was based but seems to be the final straw for members of the board. Developer Red Barrels will be forced to decide between heavily censoring their game or being refused the opportunity to sell it to Australian consumers.
While the sequence depicted above is undoubtedly horrific, it’s important to remember that Outlast 2 is, in fact, a horror game. Its content is roughly equivalent to what you would expect from any of the copious R-rated horrors in books or films — areas in which the Australian Classification Board is decidedly more lenient.
Games are no stranger to exceptional scrutiny and subjected to a broad spectrum of myths about their comparative effects on empathy and development, against all evidence to the contrary. For now, developers must regularly choose between delivering content as it was originally intended or being permitted to sell their products in countries with zealous media restrictions in place.
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