Yesterday I reported that Hotline Miami 2 had been refused classification in Australia meaning the game wouldn't be available for purchase, effectively banning it in the country.
Well, the game's makers have unsurprisingly been out responding to the action and defending their title. On Devolver Digital's website, the publisher posted a blog post condemning the decision, saying that the Australian Classification Board were misrepresenting the scene in question.
First, to clear up any possible misconceptions, the opening cinematic that was first shown in June of 2013 has not changed in any way. We also want to make clear that players are given an choice at the start of the game as to whether they wish to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence. The sequence in question is presented below in context, both after choosing the uncut version of the game and after choosing to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence.
Second, in response to the report itself, we are concerned and disappointed that a board of professionals tasked with evaluating and judging games fairly and honestly would stretch the facts to such a degree and issue a report that describes specific thrusting actions that are not simply present in the sequence in question and incorrectly portrays what was presented to them for review.
To add more context to the scene, Devolver Digital released the scene showing the option to show the scene involving sexual assault and then also without it.
This video contains strong content, so viewer discretion is advised.
Devolver also said:
We have no plans to officially challenge the ruling, we stand by our developers, their creative vision for the storyline
Adding to this story, an email from Jonatan Söderström, the game's lead designer, was sent to a fan in Australia asking what to do if they couldn't get their hands on the title. The email was later verified by Polygon. He said quite simply:
If it ends up not being release in Australia, just pirate it after release.
No need to send us any money, just enjoy the game!
Having seen the scene in question, I can see this from both sides. It is clearly exploitative and is certainly nasty. Two words that sum up Hotline Miami to a tee. I personally don't find the scene particularly graphic and I don't think the scene lingers on the act. I've never been a victim of violent sexual assault though, so my opinion isn't the most important here. Other players will no doubt be deeply troubled and it's their right to be. As I said yesterday, sexual assault in games is incredibly difficult to approach and it's not like the scene in Hotline Miami 2 is approaching the subject sensitively.
On the other hand, I can understand why Devolver Digital are upset at some of the misrepresentation. They do warn players beforehand and give them an option to view the scene or not. While the act is implied, there is no explicit details focusing on the sexual assault. I'm not sure if having it happen on a 'film set' really gives it a free pass, but I do think it is important context. Also, I do defend a creators right to create tasteless art.
I also defend people's right to be offended by it.
This is a tricky conversation. We will see how it plays out.