Sony has confirmed that the European release of Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls has been censored.
Sony says that around 5-10 seconds of footage has been edited in the European release so that the game could get a PEGI 16 rating. Sony did not say just what exactly censors in Europe found so offensive. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's Ross
Alexander on the PlayStation EU Blog:
There are only two amends between the EU and US versions of the game, amounting to about 5-10 seconds of gameplay that's not been removed, just edited slightly to be in line with a PEGI 16 rating.
For Beyond we wanted to make the game available to as many people as possible, hence applying for a PEGI 16 rating. The 5-10 seconds I mention above would have upped our rating to a PEGI 18, so it made perfect sense to make these two VERY minimal changes
to get our planned 16 rating.
I can assure you that this does not affect the game's story at all, and that if you didn't know these scenes had been amended, you wouldn't even notice.
Beyond: Two Souls is set for release on October 11 in Europe and is exclusive to Playstation consoles.
The Video Standards Council has published its first annual report since it was designated as the UK regulatory authority for classifying video games supplied in the UK on the 30th July 2012.
The report technically covers only the last 5 months of 2012. However, it also contains a brief history of the VSC, a description of what it does and how it does it and an overall view of VSC activities from a UK perspective. Beyond that it paints a
broader picture of PEGI in the global world of video games where the VSC has an international role as a PEGI administrator.
And just a couple of extracts from the report:
The Classification Criteria
For violent video games there are degrees of violence. Gross violence and such things as torture, sadism, horrific depictions of death or injury, motiveless killing and violence towards vulnerable people will attract a PEGI 18 classification.
For video games attracting PEGI 16 violence is permitted at levels which fall short of the violence attracting the 18 classification such as realistic violence and sustained depictions of death or injury to human characters
For video games attracting a PEGI 12 the level of violence falls even lower and includes such things as violence to fantasy characters and unrealistic looking violence.
A similar approach is adopted when dealing with the other main rating issues such as drugs, sex and nudity, crime, and bad language.
If the use of illegal drugs is shown in a game it will attract a PEGI 16 and if the game in any way glamorises the use of illegal drugs the rating will be raised to PEGI 18.
Sexual innuendo, images and descriptions as well as sexual posturing will attract a PEGI 12. If the sex act is shown in a non-explicit manner or there is erotic or sexual nudity the classification will rise to PEGI 16. If it does become explicit then it
will go to the PEGI 18 level.
7 If a game in any way glamorises crime it will attract a PEGI 16. A game containing mild swearing will be given a PEGI 12 and the use of any sexual expletives will raise this to PEGI 16.
It is useful to point out that once a single depiction of violence attracts say a PEGI 18 classification the video game concerned can never be classified at a lower level. The PEGI system does not take context into account because the single depiction of
violence may be seen many times over as the player may make many attempts play through the level of the game where the single depiction is.
Dealing with public complaints, queries and requests for information
It is probably a reflection of the times to say that almost no letters or phone calls are received by the VSC from the public. Virtually all complaints, queries and requests for information are made directly online to the PEGI public website
In fact PEGI received only 71 complaints about ratings from the whole of European region covered by PEGI ratings.
...So, back to Saint's Row IV. Could the game be banned in Europe under the Pegi system? The answer, for Britain at least, is effectively no. Pegi is a ratings system not a censorship board and has no remit to ban retail releases. However, in
situations where a European member country has legislation that may be contravened in the product, Pegi will advise publishers that they may well be breaking laws.
In the UK, video game content is governed by the 1984 Video Recordings Act and its subsequent updates, which Pegi has to take into account when rating games. We'd be talking about paedophilia, or any form of discrimination likely to incite hatred,
says operations director, Peter Darby. We've got a chair and vice-chair who are designated by the secretary of state to make a decision on whether a game should be given a certificate for release in the UK or not. Obviously that doesn't effect the
rest of Europe, that's just for the UK. But that's the process we would use to effectively ban a game in the UK. There's quite a long process leading up to that, though. We have an expert panel that will look at it and advise on whether it breaches the
law or could be deemed harmful. We have Tanya Byron and Geoffrey Robertson QC and the psychologist Dr Guy Cumberbatch -- they wouldn't make a decision, but they'd look at the game and advise us on the sorts of things we need to take into account. Pegi is
not a system that in itself bans games. But we will warn publishers to be careful where they release a title, because it could contravene laws.
So what happens in the event of a controversy? Does the government start trying to question the process? The DCMS will never get involved in us coming to a rating decision, says director general Laurie Hall, a veteran of the home video business in
the early 80s, when the video nasty controversy erupted. If Keith Vaz raises a question in parliament or whatever, they may ring us to ask what we have to say about it; we'll say our piece and that may be their reply to Vaz in parliament. But they're
at arm's length.
The article also comments on the 18 rating for the recent Tomb Raider release:
So why was Tomb Raider an 18? Before the game's release last year, there was controversy over a single sequence, referred to in an interview with the game's executive producer, where Lara is tied up and sexually threatened by a male captor. It turns out,
however, that by Pegi rating standards, the moment was so fleeting it didn't register. I don't even think I marked it 16 for sexual violence, says Davies. It just didn't go far enough . No, Tomb Raider received an 18 certificate thanks to a
mere handful of gory death animations. Most of the violence is 16-rated, continues Davies. But there's a particular part where Lara goes down a zip wire and, if you fail to jump off in time, she is impaled through the abdomen and jaw by spikes.
That counts as gross violence. It's basically anything that makes you go, 'eugh' .
Noting the inconsistency of video game ratings between various rating agencies. Perhaps the box ticking, better safe than sorry, PEGI 18 rating is contributing to high age ratings not being taken seriously by parents