News broke yesterday that Saint's Row IV would be the firstunder the recently introduced R18+ ratings system.
The title received the decision primarily on the basis of "interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence, which are not justified by context", but also thanks to "elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards".
At the time, the specifics of this content were unknown. However, a copy of the Classification Board's report was obtained by Kotaku, revealing that an "alien anal probe" weapon was the main culprit.
The report states that "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".
After the probe has been implicitly inserted into the victim's anus, the area around their buttocks becomes pixellated, 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.
This, along with "alien narcotics" that imbue the player's character with superpowers after being smoked, resulted in the Refused Classification ruling.
While we await comment from the developer or local distributor of the game, the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) has issued a media release regarding the Refused Classification ruling.
The IGEA issued its media release before the board's report came to light, and thus stated that it couldn't comment on the validity of the decision, as it wasn't "privy to the specific content of the game" on which the RC was based. However, the release does say:
Under the new guidelines ... we also must accept that there will be some video games which will fall outside the scope of the R18+ guidelines. Whether we agree or not with this specific classification, it highlights that the classification system is functioning as it should and that R18+ was never meant to open the "floodgates" for all types of content.
The statement does seem to leave open the possibility that a resubmission of Saint's Row IV could see a different decision be made. Acknowledging that the IGEA is "confident that the Classification Board is applying the new guidelines as they see appropriate", its report concludes with:
we ... recognise that with any change to a system as subjective and complex as applying classification guidelines, there will always be a "settling in" period where all stakeholders strive to find an appropriate middle ground. Currently, we're at the "high water" mark, where there's a natural inclination to err on the side of caution.
However, given the nature of the content on which the Refused Classification ruling was made, it seems that some major edits to the gameplay would be required for a change in the board's decision.