Australia bans graffiti game
By Stephen Hutcheon and Louisa Hearn
February 16, 2006 - 1:20PM
Multimillionaire US fashion designer Marc Ecko has slammed the Federal Government's decision to ban his new video game. The Classification Review Board yesterday refused to classify the game, Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, meaning it cannot be sold, demonstrated, hired or imported.
The decision was endorsed last night by the Federal Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, who had asked the board to review of the game's MA15+ classification after local councils and state governments voiced concerns that the game would promote graffiti. Australia is the only country in the world to ban the game.
"I am extremely disappointed in the Australian Government classification Review Board's move to ban my video game ... based solely on a perceived notion that it somehow will promote the crime of graffiti," Mr Ecko wrote in an email in response to a request for comment by smh.com.au.
The action game is published by The Collective and was due to be released in Australia later this week. It has already gone gold in the United States. Set in a city of the future, the game features a world where freedom of expression is suppressed by a tyrannical city government. Game players battle the authorities to overthrow corrupt officials using only street fighting skills and graffiti.
Computer games are refused classification on the basis that they either promote, instruct or incite a matter of crime or violence. With board members split 2-2 over the decision, it took a casting vote from the convenor, Ms Maureen Shelley, to break the deadlock. A full report on the board's decision and the minority view will be published within 30 days.Ms Shelley told smh.com.au that the dissenting view could be summarised as: "This game was fantasy and didn't promote crime."
She said while this was not the first time the board had refused to classify a computer game, the decision that effectively bans Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure marks "the first time we have refused classification for a computer game because it promotes crime".
The game is being billed as the "first truly authentic video game based on urban culture" and the culmination of a seven-year project by Mr Ecko, who - in his younger days - was a graffiti artist. On the game publisher's website, Mr Ecko has described the game as "genre-defining. Revolutionary. We will put the flag in the ground of popular culture with Getting Up". Mr Ecko is the founder of the hip fashion label *ecko untld. His company has expanded into cosmetics and publishes a magazine focusing on hip-hop and urban culture.
Although this is the first time Mr Ecko's game has been banned, it has attracted its fair share of crictism. Last year, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to have a graffiti-themed launch party for the game banned claiming that it would encourage vandalism. Mr Ecko planned to have 20 former graffiti artists decorating model subway cars. However Mr Ecko won the day when Manhattan federal court Judge Jed Rakoff said the mayor's ban was a "flagrant violation" of First Amendment rights. "By the same token, presumably, a street performance of Shakespeare's] Hamlet would be tantamount to encouraging revenge murder... As for a street performance of Oedipus Rex, don't even think about it... ," the judge said.
In his email, Mr Ecko rejected the notion that the game would cause a graffiti epidemic. " To the contrary, I would argue that a graffiti tag in the virtual world doesn't make one pop up in the real world." he said. "... to blame gaming for everything that is inherently wrong in our homes, in our schools and on our streets is much easier to do than to actually figure out ways to fix the systemic problems that exist within our culture." Mr Ecko said video gaming was a misunderstood cultural movement that was not about "teaching illegal activities". "If a kid wants to learn how to write on the wall, he or she will figure it out. They have done it since prehistoric times, in fact.
"It's about sharing a fictional tale set in a futuristic city where freedom of expression has been suppressed by a corrupt government and how one young man is able to change his world by picking up a pen instead of a gun.
Mr Ecko said the game was about ""looking beyond the filth and realising that sometimes there is more to the message". "You just have to dig a little deeper and be willing to open your mind to two artistic mediums - gaming and graffiti - you may not fully understand or appreciate."
In his press release yesterday Mr Ruddock said: "I am satisfied the decision to refuse classification is consistent with the proper function of the Review Board to reflect community standards and apply the Act, Code and Guidelines."
possibly from the smh
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