Community Soapbox: In defence of Saints Row 4′s Alien Anal Probe

Saints Row 4

By on July 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm

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When the news broke about Saints Row 4 being refused classification because of the use of an “alien anal probe”, I couldn’t help but feel that the Classification Board made the wrong call — and here’s why.

Spoilers for Saints Row 3 ahead.

The game’s plot

First, let’s take a look at the game’s plot. Here’s what the Steam Store page says.

The US President must save the Earth from alien overlord Zinyak using an arsenal of superpowers and strange weapons in the wildest open world game ever. 

The epic conclusion to the game that changed all the rules! The Saints have gone from the crackhouse to the White House—but the Earth has been invaded and it’s up to you to free the world from Overlord Zinyak and his alien empire. With homies new and old by your side, and an arsenal of superpowers and strange weapons, you must save the world in the wildest open world game ever!

That first paragraph is very important for context of the weapon. This is further reinforced by this point in the “Features” section of that very same Steam Store page.

Alien Toys of Destruction - Wield an impressive array of alien vehicles and weapons… FOR SCIENCE!

This would pretty much guarantee that you’d find some weird and wacky stuff in the game.

The history of Over The Top

Saints Row 3 had various things that were over the top — the giant purple dildo bat, the BDSM club and the various “questionable” machines on the smuggler’s boat. Somehow, the game got an MA15+ rating (in my opinion, it had no business being rated MA15+). Combine the over the top nature of Saints Row 3 and the plot of Saints Row 4 and you have a recipe for some wild and wacky weapons.

The alien anal probe itself

Now we get to the crux of the issue – the probe itself. Here’s what the classification board had to say about it (courtesy of Kotaku).

The game includes a weapon referred to by the Applicant as an “Alien Anal Probe”. The Applicant states that this weapon can be “shoved into enemy’s backsides”. The lower half of the weapon resembles a sword hilt and the upper part contains prong-like appendages which circle around what appears to be a large dildo which runs down the centre of the weapon. When using this weapon the player approaches a (clothed) victim from behind and thrusts the weapon between the victim’s legs and then lifts them off the ground before pulling a trigger which launches the victim into the air. After the probe has been implicitly inserted into the victim’s anus the area around their buttocks becomes pixelated highlighting that the aim of the weapon is to penetrate the victim’s anus. The weapon can be used during gameplay on enemy characters or civilians. 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.

I have a few problems with this statement.

1. The weapon is designed as a parody of the old joke about aliens wanting to anally probe us after abduction. Given that the plot revolves around an alien invasion, this sort of parody should be expected. Even Destroy All Humans (an older game where you played as an alien on Earth) had an anal probe gun. The Saints Row series also has a history of parodying all sorts of things in an over the top manner so this isn’t too far of a stretch to parody this joke.

2. How the weapon is used seems typical of a Saints Row game (complete with over the top death that is hardly realistic in any way). In fact, the part where the victim is launched into the air is pretty much an exact replica of the vehicle in the Prof. Genki pack in Saints Row 3 (it vacuumed up NPCs and you could send them flying at will with the push of a button).

3. The description of what the weapon looks like is hardly going to be realistic given the plot of the game.

4. There was pixelation in Saints Row 3 as well (especially when you’re abducted and stripped of all your clothes and placed in the dungeon of the BDSM club). You could also streak in Saints Row 3, complete with pixelation, for points (and there was even an in-game challenge related to that part of the game).

Conclusion

In my opinion, the Classification Board has blundered in a big way by Refusing Classification to Saints Row 4. Given the plot of the game, the history of the series and the actual look and behaviour of the weapon, I think the alien anal probe is justified by context and could easily be accommodated in an R18+ rating.

Agree? Disagree? Have your say in the comments.

39 comments (Leave your own)

I honestky think that given we have an R18 system now the regulations on which games are refused needs to be re written to take into account the R18… If its not for people within the MA15+ category make it R18. It should be up to adults to make up their own mind.

 

Agreed. I’ve already sent the classification board a complaint. In the context of the saints row universe it’s acceptable.

 

You have entirely misunderstood the notion of “justified by context”. Using your interpretation a rape game would be allowed because the context would be that the game is about raping people and so of course there’s rape in it.

“Justified by context” is for situations like Lara Croft being subjected to inappropriate touching at the hands of a villain in the course of her adventure. This is sexual violence, however given the context and the relatively low impact, it is not out of step with what you would expect in the game.

“Justified by context” is not for situations where it’s put in as a gag so you can anally violate innocent civilians for shits and giggles. That’s not context. It’s not important to the story or the world you’re playing in.
In order for it to be justified by context the violations would have to be perpetrated by an alien, or inflicted upon an alien – and even then it may not be deemed appropriate if it is too graphic, or interactive.

 

I’d be interested to see if the RC classification was a unanimous decision or a majority decision.

 

I hear consistency was also Refused Classification by the ACB. /rolleyes

 

I agree with Myhor.

I also don’t think the game would be any less fun without the option of forcibly sodomizing people.

 

Mythor,

In this case, it is justified by context because it’s stylised to the point of not being realistic. That’s why the actual workings of the weapon are so over the top.

A game all about raping people would still be RC either way there’s no context to such a game. The guideline itself is OK. It was just interpreted incorrectly in my opinion.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention is that this game is clearly intended for an adult audience. Most people playing the game wouldn’t see the alien anal probe as a rape gun. They’d just see it as something to kill people with in an over the top manner.

If it looked like an actual dildo then I could understand the decision to RC the game. However, it looks nothing like an actual dildo.

 

PalZer0:

If it looked like an actual dildo then I could understand the decision to RC the game. However, it looks nothing like an actual dildo.

You don’t need to use a dildo to sodomize someone.

 

Yeah this article really didn’t do anything to convince me in the slightest. None of your evidence does much to explain why this is acceptable.

 

makena,

That’s true. However, the behaviour of the weapon is so over the top that it’s not meant to be taken seriously (again, like the giant purple dildo bat in Saints Row 3). Most would just see it as funny/lame and move on.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the game having a sense of humour – something which I believe the classification board lacks.

 

PalZer0:
Mythor,

In this case, it is justified by context because it’s stylised to the point of not being realistic.

No, being stylised (which it is not) might reduce the impact of the depiction, but it neither justifies nor affects the context of the act.

The context is the setting. The setting, in this case, being a (presumed) alternate reality experienced via some kind of alien construct, primarily replicating the real world. If you were attempting to set people in the construct free via jamming something up their butt there might be a case for it being allowed, though that would be about the sketchiest justification ever.
As it is simply in the game because “hurr hurr, aliens probe buttholes”, it’s not justified.

If you want to argue such humour should be granted an exception, that’s another matter. As the rules stand the Classification Board did exactly what they are supposed to do based on the guidelines they have been set.

 

PalZer0:
makena,

That’s true. However, the behaviour of the weapon is so over the top that it’s not meant to be taken seriously (again, like the giant purple dildo bat in Saints Row 3). Most would just see it as funny/lame and move on.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the game having a sense of humour – something which I believe the classification board lacks.

The Board is there to follow the guidelines and Legislation. I don’t think ‘have a sense of humour’ is in there.

 

I want to shoot the bum-gun and disagree with Mythor.

But I can’t be arsed defending the idea. I’ll just import!

 

Some of you talk like you’ve seen the weapon, if so then links please!

 

I’m not sure why you’d want to defend such a stupid weapon, which will probably be funny for a whole 5 seconds before realizing it’s completely childish. Will the game be broken if it’s removed? Will the artistic integrity of the game be ‘violated’ because it’s gone? I argue no, it wouldn’t, and in fact will probably better for its removal.

So yeah, I have no problem with the gun being missing, in fact I’d go as far as saying good riddance.

 
Nasty Wet Smear

vcatkiller:
I’m not sure why you’d want to defend such a stupid weapon, which will probably be funny for a whole 5 seconds before realizing it’s completely childish.Will the game be broken if it’s removed?Will the artistic integrity of the game be ‘violated’ because it’s gone?I argue no, it wouldn’t, and in fact will probably better for its removal.

So yeah, I have no problem with the gun being missing, in fact I’d go as far as saying good riddance.

Despite not knowing it, you’ve made the most solid point for your opposition that I can imagine. Even you, trying to say that the weapon removal is fine, instantly note that it’s stupid and designed only for humour. The weapon is a parody of the seeming obsession alien society has with probing our backsides and makes a strong and obvious mockery of that fact.

How someone, let alone a group of people, could look at this weapon in any other light and deem it an offensive display of sexual violence is utterly remarkable to me.

That being said, I think the Saints Row series is awful and very childish and I’ve always avoided it. I won’t be getting the new one with or without anal interactions. I will, however, join those who would like to play their game as reasonable adults in their indignation.

 

Murray Hibble:
I want to shoot the bum-gun and disagree with Mythor.

But I can’t be arsed defending the idea. I’ll just import!

Don’t be so anal about making your arguments. If you feel bummed out about these sorts of issues, speak up. Or else the pro-game side will feel you’ve rectumed.

 
jerichosainte

It’s pretty naive to think pixelated nudity can be used as a comparison to justify sodomy/sexual violence. Most misguided article I’ve ever read.

I think the board did the right thing by their guidelines.

 

Am I a bad person because I would have used such an item a dozen or so times for laughs (if any) and NOT actually thought about sodomizing/sexual violence at all? How many people would have actually consciously made the connection if it hadn’t been highlighted by the ACB and numerous articles?

Alternatively, how many people knew EXACTLY what was going on during the rape scene of Snowtown? Much less all the other messed up stuff that happened during that movie, or any other R rated movie.

That isn’t to argue the item should or shouldn’t exist, but I could almost guarantee that many people would have screwed around with it, and not thought twice about it. Now the concept of sodomy/sexual violence is strongly tied to it for everyone.

In this scenario, it’s like showing someone footage of an event, followed by the presentation of misinformation, and then getting them to recall or interpret what was shown; They can’t tell you what they actually saw, or give you an honest interpretation because you’ve already influenced them. On top of this, you then scold/punish them for giving you an influenced answer.

 

I really don’t think the issue is whether the weapon is distasteful, promotes sexual violence or whether its exclusion from the game will harm its integrity. The point is that a very small group of Australian adults (the Classification Board) has viewed the game and decided it is unsuitable/unacceptable/distasteful for/to all other Australian adults. I am personally very uncomfortable with this idea and believe I am entitled to make up my mind for myself. I am not a raging libertarian but some elements of nanny-statism really get my goat.

(I feel more and more like Ron Swanson everyday).

 
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