By Mitchell Tromans / March 16th, 2018
I’ve received replies from my messages to PQube and the VSC unfortunatly neither answered my questions and instead gave me a more PR centric response
PQube: PQube specialises in the localisation of Japanese videogames and endeavours to publish them as faithfully to the Japanese source material as possible.
PQube works closely with all age ratings bodies and platform holders through this process. In an instance where a release is not possible, PQube respectfully complies with the guidelines of a platform holder and the laws of any given territory.
The VSC did not answer my questions regarding them having no faith in consumers or that their ratings board is effectivly useless they did give me more information on how lengthy the process of getting the game banned was.
VSC: Whilst it is true that the game received a PEGI 18 rating, in the UK the VRA requires us to further consider issues of ‘harm’ which may result from a game being released. This question of harm is applied to all and every game we receive. It is unfortunate that on this occasion it was found necessary to refuse certification to this particular game. However, this decision was not taken lightly. Two clinical psychologists and a senior lawyer gave opinion on the viability of the game and concluded that it was likely that the material was in conflict with the law. This notwithstanding, the VSC Chair and Vice Chair also considered, independently, the viability of the game and ultimately concluded that it was not viable in the UK. The game remains available in mainland Europe where UK laws have no bearing.
There is nothing further to add other than what we have already stated on our website and in our press release.
While the VSCs reply could read as “please stop emailing us about this.” if the release of this game could cause ‘harm’ I should probably send them the address of PQubes headquarters so they can contact the authorities and put a a stop to this manufacturer of ‘underage leakage’ before any of the general public comes to ‘harm’ from any of their future releases.
Earlier this week the Video Standards Coucil (VSC) rejected classification for the dungeon crawling RPG Omega Labyrinth Z, making it the first game to be banned from sale in the UK since Manhunt 2 a decade ago.
PQube, the Western publisher, tweeted a message regarding the decision:
Following recent emails and tweets: #OmegaLabyrinthZ won't be released in Germany, Australia, New-Zealand, UK and Ireland. There won't be any movement on it. The USK appeal we tried was rejected, other appeals would have yielded the same result so those decisions are final. pic.twitter.com/i2p3DfjrNb
— PQube (@PQubeGames) March 13, 2018
I was not satisfied with the statement the VSC gave regarding their decision, so I got in touch with them so they could answer a few questions of mine.
They responded very quickly and my questions were answered by their communications manager, Gianni.
Oprainfall: Good afternoon. I was recently made aware of the news that you had refused classification [for Omega Labyrinth Z] in the UK effectively meaning that the game would not be allowed to be sold within the UK. I was hoping you could answer a few questions regarding this decision?
Firstly in your press release you stated that the themes in the game would appeal to a young audience and how that would be harmful to them. If the game is rated appropriately so that a young audience could not legally buy the game (ie, rated 16 or 18) what would it matter if it contained those themes?
Gianni: The problem is that even with an ‘18’ rating, we believe there would be a risk of significant underage ‘leakage’ as the game does have the appearance of a child-friendly game. It is, in our view, likely that some adults (be they parents, relatives or friends) may be fooled into thinking that the game is suitable for children because the actual gameplay is quite unproblematic.
Oprainfall: Secondly Omega Labyrinth is not the only game that contains similar themes, many games have been released without a problem in the UK whilst still containing similar or identical themes. What was the offending case that pushed this title over the edge for it to be refused classification?
Gianni: We have seen similar games to OLZ, BUT they have never been as sexually explicit as OLZ is. The central issue is that the game normalizes the idea that sexually alluring adolescents/children [are] acceptable.
Oprainfall: Finally I am unsure as to the process of how games are rated. Is it one individual that rates the games or is it a group? Does the individual play through the game or just receive a vertical slice of what the game is like? Do you have an individual who is privy to Japanese culture and standards and are they more likely to be in charge of rating games from Japan?
Gianni: Games are initially looked at and rated by an examiner. If the examiner raises an issue, the game is then referred up the chain from a games manager, to director and finally the VSC Chair/Vice Chair if necessary. The examiners are a mix of male/female spread age-wise from early twenties to sixty. It so happens that one of our examiners is a keen player of anime-style games and is conversant with Japanese games culture.
I have sent a response email to their reply where I suggest that the VSC is giving consumers too little credit in being able to determine if a game is suitable for their children, especially if it has a big age rating on the front of the box. What I am gathering from their response is that their rating system is effectively pointless if a game can be rated appropriately but then refused distribution if the organisation is concerned about “underage leakage.”
I also contacted PQube, the company in charge of publishing the game in the West, to see if this decision would make them think more carefully in what games to bring over, but I have not heard back from them yet and will update the article if I get a response.
Omega Labyrinth Z is releasing everywhere except the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand in Spring 2018 on the PS4.
omega labyrinth zPlayStation 4PQuberefused ratingUKvideo standards council