A statement issued by the Deputy Director of the Board of Film Censors, a part of the MDA, stated that Mass Effect, a futuristic space adventure, contained "a scene of lesbian intimacy...as such the game has been disallowed."
Under the then existing local guidelines, video games sold in Singapore could not "feature exploitative or gratuitous sex and violence, or denigrate any race or religion," the official said.
Mass Effect was to be launched globally the following week. US software giant Microsoft, maker of the Xbox gaming console, said it respected the media watchdog's action. "We strictly adhere to the laws, regulations and norms of the markets we operate in," the company said in an e-mail reply to AFP.
The MDA said that a new video games classification system to be introduced in 2008 could allow titles such as "Mass Effect" to be passed and classified appropriately.
Earlier in 2007, the MDA had also banned two other video games, "God of War II" for nudity and "The Darkness" for excessive violence and religiously offensive expletives.
Rating and resumption of saleEdit
After fanning the ire of the video gaming community with the ban of Mass Effect, the MDA did a U-turn by rating the game and allowing its sale in Singapore.
In a statement, the MDA said the game had been reviewed by the Board of Film Censors (BFC) and was now rated M18. The decision came ahead of its planned implementation of a video games classification.
The MDA said this would allow highly-anticipated games to be launched in Singapore and give the industry and public a "better understanding of the benefits of the proposed games-classification system".
Ms. Germaine Ong, deputy editor of local gaming magazine Gameaxis, said the lifting of the ban was "a step forward for local gaming.
"This is significant because gamers would have obtained the game anyway, through parallel importers or illegal means," she said. "Now, gamers and parents are able to make a decision on which games are suitable rather than have the games prescribed to them by the authorities.
"I agree that children of a certain age shouldn't be exposed to some games because they lack the maturity."
Mr. Ian Tan, marketing communications manager for Microsoft Xbox 360 in South-east Asia, said: "We welcome the MDA's decision to allow Mass Effect for sale in Singapore with an M18 rating. We will continue to work with the MDA to promote responsible gaming here."
At that time, Singapore lacked a rating system for games that would allow gamers access to titles that contained mature content. The MDA was expected to introduce a classification system the following year that would help to avoid the outright ban of games.
Just like movies, video games are rated by the BFC. Ms. Ong said, "The ratings system is a long time coming but any step now is a positive one."
The MDA did not reveal what sort of rating system it would have, who would be involved in drawing it up or whether the same treatment would be given to games that had been banned.
The earlier ban of Mass Effect was seen as a step back by those in the industry as the Government wanted to promote the Republic as a gaming hub. In 2005, it announced plans to invest $500 million over five years to develop the digital media industry.
Interview with Chairman, Board of Film CensorsEdit
- Hedirman Supian, "Mass Effect to come", TODAY, 17 November 2007.
- "Singapore bans Xbox game over lesbian scene", Channel News Asia, 16 November 2007.
This article was written by Roy Tan.