INTRODUCTION TO COMPUTER GAMES Dr Manolya Kavakli Department of Computing Macquarie University Sydney, NSW 2109 Australia Topics • 1.What is a computer game? • 2.Definition of a computer game • 3.Classification of a computer game • 4.Legal position of computer games in Australia • 5.Censorship in computer games What is a computer game? • computer games: games played on the computer from a – floppy disk – CD-ROM – e-mail – online via BBS – Internet. Official definition of Computer Games: The Commonwealth Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 • "computer game“: – either • A computer program and associated data – Or • A computer generated image • Problems in definition! – Any computer program and data? – Any computer generated image? Computer Games as Computer programs • computer program and associated data • capable of generating a display • on a computer monitor, • television screen, • liquid crystal display or • similar medium, – that allows the playing of an interactive game. Interactive games & Films • If a product appears in a computer generated form • and it is not an interactive game, • the product will be classified by the Commonwealth as a • "film". – Any differences between games and films? – Any differences between interactive games and interactive films? – Not clear! Interactive Films • There are some products on the market • that are "interactive films" and – which appear in computer generated form. • Interactive film – a film which allows the viewer to choose the ending of the film. • because they are interactive, • they are classified as computer games. Film – Films which are not interactive • will continue to be classified • under the Classification of Films Act 1991. • Further problems in legal definition: • If a film is a "PG" film for the Commonwealth, • it will be a "G(8+)" computer game for Queensland. – What does this mean? – You can’t sell this product to people under 8. Interactive Game • "interactive game” – those computer generated images – which are not films • will be classified as computer games • under this Act. Classification of Computer games as computer generated images • a computer generated image; – but does not include- • a bulletin board; or • a business, accounting, professional, scientific or educational computer program or computer generated image, • other program or image containing a computer game – Anything other than that would, if classified, – be classified as – an MA(15+)computer game, – or be refused approval for classification. What is a Computer generated image? • "computer generated image” – electronically recorded data capable, • by way of an electronic device, – of being produced on a computer monitor, television screen, liquid crystal display or similar medium as an image – (including an image in the form of text). Problem in definition: – Any graphics? What is a Computer Program? • "computer program" • a set of statements or instructions – to be used directly or indirectly in a computer – to bring about a certain result. Problem in definition: – Any computer program? What is an Objectionable Computer Game? • "objectionable computer game" – an unclassified computer game, • or – an unapproved advertisement for a computer game. unapproved advertisement for a computer game – describes, depicts, expresses or otherwise deals with matters of • sex, • drug misuse or addiction, • crime, • cruelty, • violence, • or revolting or abhorrent phenomena, – in a way that offends against standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; or unapproved advertisement for a computer game -depicts a minor – (whether engaged in sexual activity or otherwise) – who is, or is apparently, under 16 in a way likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult; or • promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime or violence;or • has been refused classification or approval. Our definition of a computer game: • a computer game: – a computer program and its associated hardware and software – capable of generating an interactive virtual play environment. Virtual Environment • Cyberspace – A metaphor for describing – the non-physical terrain created by computer systems. • Online systems, for example, create a cyberspace • within which people can communicate with one another • (via e-mail), do research, or simply window shop. – The term was coined by author William Gibson in his sci-fi novel Neuromancer(1984). 1. Neuromancer is a computer adventure game created by Interplay Productions in 1988 Cyberspace & Real space – Like physical space, • cyberspace contains objects – (files, mail messages, graphics, etc.) • and different modes of transportation and delivery. – Unlike real space, • exploring cyberspace does not require any physical movement • other than pressing keys on a keyboard or moving a mouse. Computer Games, Cyberspace & Virtual Reality • Some programs, especially computer games – are designed to create a special cyberspace, – one that resembles physical reality in some ways but defies it in others. • In its extreme form, called virtual reality, – users are presented with visual, auditory, and even tactile feedback that makes cyberspace feel real. Cyberspace Avatars • A graphical icon • that represents a real person in a cyberspace – When you enter the system, – you can choose from a number of fanciful avatars. • Sophisticated 3D avatars even change shape • depending on what they are doing • (e.g., walking, sitting, etc.). Virtual Reality • An artificial environment – created with computer hardware and software and – presented to the user in such a way that – it appears and feels like a real environment. • Virtual reality systems require extremely expensive hardware and software – and are confined mostly to research laboratories. • To "enter” a virtual reality, VR tools • a user dons – special gloves, – earphones, and – goggles, • all of which receive their input from the computer system. – In this way, at least three of the five senses are controlled by the computer. – In addition to feeding sensory input to the user, the devices also monitor the user's actions. • The goggles, for example, track how the eyes move and respond accordingly by sending new video input. Classification of Computer – If a computer game • is not an objectionable computer game; and Games • is not unsuitable for viewing or playing by a minor; – It is classified: • as a "G" computer game, – where the officer is of the opinion that the computer game is suitable for all ages; • as a "G (8+)" computer game, – where the officer is of the opinion that the computer game cannot be recommended for viewing or playing by persons under the age of 8 years; or • as a "M(15+)" computer game, – where the officer is of the opinion that the computer game cannot be recommended for viewing or playing by persons under the age of 15 years. • as an "MA (15+)" computer game – where the officer decides that the computer game depicts, expresses or otherwise deals with sex,violence or coarse language in such a manner as to make the computer game unsuitable for viewing or playing by persons under the age of 15 years. Refused classification – The computer games classification officer shall refuse to approve the classification of a computer game where the officer is satisfied that the • computer game depicts, expresses or otherwise deals with • matters of sex, • depicts a child (whether engaged in sexual activity or otherwise) who is, or who is apparently, under the age of 16 years in a manner that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult person; • promotes, incites or instructs in matters of crime or violencel; • promotes drug misuse or addiction, • promotes revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a manner that – it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adult persons to the extent that – it should not be classified… Legal Position of Computer Games – Commonwealth parliament and the Commonwealth Government has set up a number of committees • to investigate various aspects of IT, – including the alleged problems of controlling the Internet's content. • The reports which have been produced so far have been met with varying degrees of derision. • The only one that seems to have met with any approval is the one recent report of the ABA (American Bar Association). Situation in Aus in 2001 • First attempt at doing something about the first manifestation of IT: – The Commonwealth has made its move on classification of computer games. – The Commonwealth and States were trying to unify classification laws. New South Wales: – The provisions will cover all transmissions which use a public telecommunications system and will prohibit: • material that would be refused classification (RC) • material that would be unsuitable for minors of any age • a publication that includes explicit sexual or sexually related material • material unsuitable for minors (MA+). – no details available yet – (except on the level of sentences - $10,000 for individuals, $25,000 for corporations, one year's imprisonment). • in March1997 Jeffrey Shaw was making speeches saying that there was too much censorship going on. Victoria: – have passed a Classification (Publications,Films and Computer Games) (Enforcement) Act 1995, • which presumably, falls into line with the Commonwealth legislation • but also seems to do other things. – the Act was drafted taking into consideration all the recent government reports and had been drafted "to ensure the information technology industry will continue to flourish in Victoria". South Australia: – The Classification (Publications,Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 is in line with the Commonwealth legislation • though it provides for Commonwealth classification decisions to be overridden by the SA Classification Board or by a single SA minister. Northern Territory: – Northern Territory's Classification of Publications,Films and Computer Games Act 1996 seems to be – based on an early draft of WA Act and • has much the same provisions. Queensland: – passed the Classification of Computer Games and Images (Interim) Act 1995. • This seems to have been based on the WA legislation, • muddled up with – the NSW proposals and – the Commonwealth classification legislation. • The definition of computer games is so wide that it seems to cover anything sent over the Internet, – even though the Government had declared that it was not intended to cover the Internet. Western Australia: • The Censorship Act 1995 is in line. Tasmania: • No news Censorship in Computer Games – Computer Games are subject to censorship in Australia. – The Censorship Act 1995 creates two offences: • using a computer service to transmit, obtain possession of, demonstrate, advertise or request transmission of "objectionable material” • transmitting “restricted material” to a minor. Objectionable material – “Objectionable material”: – RC films, RC computer games, – child pornography, – promotion of crime, – violence, incites or instructs in matters of crime or violence, or • describes or depicts in a manner likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult – violent or coercive sex, – necrophilia, – bestiality, – torture, – extreme violence or cruelty, – use of urine or excrement in association with sex or with degrading or dehumanising conduct. Restricted Material – “Restricted material“: • an article that a reasonable adult, • by reason of the nature of the article, • or the nature or extent of references in the article – to matters of sex, – drug misuse or addiction, – crime, – cruelty, – violence or – revolting or abhorrent phenomena, • would regard as unsuitable for a minor to see, read or hear. Law • The law is: – a) the general law: • about indecent and obscene publications: – b) the specific classification legislation: • The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games)Act 1995 (Cth) sets up a scheme of classification and a Classification Board. • The idea is that all states and NT will pass similar legislation (which will include the enforcement and penalties provisions); and thereby there will be one board with one set of standards applicable across Australia. Problems in legislation – seems to treat computers as being in a discrete world and – fails to recognise that publications and films can appear on the Internet. – classification is allowed only up to the M level not to the RC level - • which means that you can get films and videos showing the same thing but not the computer game. – Descriptions… Problematic descriptions • "publication" • means any written or pictorial matter .... • "film" – a cinematograph film, a slide, video tape and video disc and any other form of recording from which a visual image, including a computer generated image, can be produced .... • but both of the above exclude "computer game". • "computer game" • a computer program and associated data capable of generating a display on a computer monitor, television screen, liquid crystal display or similar medium that allows the playing of an interactive game .... • "interactive game” • a game in which the way the game proceeds and the result achieved at various stages of the game is determined in response to the decision, inputs and direct involvement of the player they may live to regret some of those “ends". • "Game" is not defined. Effect of the legislation • Whatever the effect of this on the Internet, • it now seems to operate in respect of computer games. – The OFLC annual report: – 3 games out of 365 submitted were refused classification: Dream Web: • a scene of male and female animated characters engaged in intercourse - the player enters the room, shoots the man, blood pours out. Voyeur: • contains a full motion video of uncle and niece discussing the sex they had when she was a minor. Strip Poker: • showed female actors bare breasted. Rates of classifications • Of the rest: – 56% G – 27% G8 – 14% M – 2% MA – you can now get an R rated video game.