PIXEL BURN – Dragon Age 3 NOT banned in India, Activision censor Advanced Warfare vids

In which Matt dives into the sordid, sleazy world of clickbait headlines, PR spin and outright bollocks.
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[TRANSCRIPT]

Hello my name’s Matt and this is Pixel Burn, where I look at some of the more important, interesting or irritating things to have happened in gaming news this week. Which wasn’t much admittedly, apart from some big releases like Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Yes, the third instalment of BioWare’s blood-drenched dark fantasy romp is now out and has already secured its cold, hard grip on the hearts, minds and free-time of fans damn near everywhere. Damn near everywhere that is except India, where EA has withdrawn the game from sale in order to, and I quote, “avoid a breach of local content laws.” Specifically a law forbidding hot sweaty sexytime between two consenting adults of the same gender.

The law in question is Chapter 16, Section 377 of the Indian Penal code, which was reinstated in December of last year. I say reinstated because the law itself was originally enacted in 1861 during the British Occupation of India.

Sorry.

The possible point of legal contention in Dragon Age: Inquisition stems from two particular romanceable party member characters, Dorian the mage and Sera the elf rogue. Unlike party members in Dragon Age 2 who were nearly all bisexual, Dorian and Sera are both a solid unyielding 6 on the Kinsey scale. That’s “exclusively homosexual” in case you didn’t know, so no moustache rides for the ladies here!

I am a terrible person.

Yet if you live in India you can still buy Mass Effect 3 which features a character called Steve Cortez. An accomplished shuttle pilot who happens to be gay, and is romanceable if you’re playing as a male Commander Shepard.

Similarly you can still buy Dragon Age 2 in which your protagonist, Hawke, can get his or her freak-on with with up to four party members – two men and two women – regardless of gender.

In theory you should also be able to buy Dragon Age: Inquisition because the game hasn’t officially been banned. As far as anyone’s aware nobody from the Indian Home Ministry has even laid eyes on the game. It was entirely EA’s decision to withdraw Dragon Age: Inquisition from sale, and only to pre-empt a law written before the bloody light bulb had even been invented.

Which still hasn’t stopped various sites and YouTubers saying the game has been banned of course, because why bother researching something when you can simply peddle clickbait and fucking LIES instead.

Even if EA were playing it safe like they claim, there’s no guarantee this piece of anti-gay legislation would even be enforced against Dragon Age: Inquisition. Much of India’s laws are pretty vague and highly contextual, the letter of this particular law only refers to hot gay sex between actual flesh-and-blood people, and the characters in Dragon Age aren’t “real” in any physical sense.

No matter how badly some fans may wish otherwise.

Consider also that EA haven’t withdrawn Dragon Age Inquisition from sale in Russia, which has far more stringent and specific anti-gay legislation than India does. And where you can still buy The Sims 4, a game with far greater potential for sapphic shenanigans, which the Kremlin outright condemned as “harmful to Russian youth” and slapped an 18+ age rating on.

Some have speculated that it isn’t Inquisition’s gay content but other things, like characters appearing topless and some implied fellatio during one of the sex scenes, that might run afoul of India’s other regular anti-obscenity laws. Except that kind of stuff is also in Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2. So even with this old colonial law reinstated, unless Inquisition has gone full-on Fifty Shades of Thedas I can’t see how there’s really any more risk of it being banned than usual. It can’t be any more explicit than the Kama bleedin’ Sutra.

So why then do we have this pervasive narrative about India banning the game, even though it hasn’t actually been banned and there’s very little chance it would’ve been anyway? Well, it’s publicity innit?

Despite The Kremlin’s hard-on for harassing homosexuals, EA would never consider withdrawing a game from sale in Russia because it’s one of the world’s largest markets for videogames. Revenue from games in Russia last year was a whopping $1.5 billion dollars in revenue, accounting for around 7.5% of game sales in the European market. Which isn’t bad going for a country where supposedly 75% of people pirate their games.

Conversely India is considered somewhat small-fry, contributing only $376 million in games revenue in 2013 and accounting for only 1% of the global market. Like Russia it also has a rather high rate of videogame piracy, so high in fact that EA stopped selling physical boxed copies of PC games there earlier this year.

Sadly the most likely, actual explanation for this decision is EA decided India simply wasn’t economically viable enough for them, but they also saw an opportunity for some positive press. So EA now get to spin the whole thing into some patronising publicity about Inquisition being “too progressive” for India, while gaming news sites rake in the views with clickbait stories about the game being “banned.”

All at the expense of India’s small yet passionate and growing gaming community, who are smart enough to have ways and means around this.

Like they have any fucking choice in the matter.

Speaking of publicity, Activision are reportedly clamping down on what they perceive as negative publicity about Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Specifically any YouTube videos demonstrating glitches or exploits in the game. A warning went out to members of the Machinima network this week that Activision were being “particularly vigilant” and issuing copyright strikes against channels with videos showing off Advanced Warfare glitches. That’s actual, full-blown “getting your channel shut-down” kind of stuff by the way, and not mere ContentID matches which are annoying but tolerable.

Where the fuck do I even begin with this shit?

Now if the videos Activisions were issuing strikes against showed the entire game, cutscenes and all, without commentary then I could understand. I’d disagree with it but I could understand: it’s not like Call of Duty has the same kind of variance and range of choices as, say, The Walking Dead does. Single-player Call of Duty is so bloody linear, any jokes I could make about railroads were shipped off to the knackers-yard aeons ago and broken down into scrap.

In this instance however it’s entirely about glitches regarding maps in multiplayer, a more fluid and dynamic experience where no two games are ever exactly the same. While a glitch can be fun in a single-player game, in multiplayer it can mean all the difference between enjoying yourself and screaming the walls down.

Some people have actually been defending this, saying people will use these glitches to get an advantage in online multiplayer and ruin the game for the honest and virtuous few. To which I reply “well maybe Activision should fix their fucking game then?”

Videos of glitches fall well within the purview of Fair Use for purposes of criticism. Advanced Warfare is a consumer product and if that product does not work properly, people are well within their rights to demonstrate how and why it does not work properly. They’re effectively doing post-launch QA entirely for free, and video evidence can illustrate these sorts of bugs far better than a checklist on a piece of paper ever could.

Instead of using these vids as input for ongoing QA and balancing however, Activision have gone all totalitarian on people’s arses and actively punishing folks for pointing out flaws in their product. But then this is Activision of course. If they could get away with it they’d charge you ten bucks just to look at the fucking box.

Surely even if they weren’t willing to spend money putting out hotfixes for the most disruptive glitches, at the very least they could add it to the queue of things to fix in the next big update. Punishing people for simply pointing out flaws in your game is petty and ridiculous, and seems a uniquely Activision thing to do.

Even Ubisoft, still reeling from the bug-riddled launch of Assassin’s Creed Unity, haven’t gone so far as to flag YouTube videos of glitches for copyright violations. Oh sure, they tried to keep a lid on all the bugs but at least they didn’t flag YouTube channels with copyright strikes. Nor did 343 Studios with videos of Halo Glitches.

So yeah it’s no surprise Activision are being a bunch of bullying, money-grubbing arseholes as per usual. What is surprising, and sad, is people defending their behaviour instead of condemning it.

People who should be screaming blue-bloody-murder for these glitches to be fixed. Instead of condoning a PR censorship campaign in the hopes their corporate lords and masters will stop regarding them simply as ambulatory money dispensers, and throw them a few scraps from the executive dining table. Spoiler alert: they won’t.

Aside from those two biggies, actual decent gaming news was pretty thin on the ground this week. By which I mean stuff that didn’t come from a press release email with specific bullet-points and suggested buzzwords. Like Blizzard giving World of Warcraft players in the US, Europe and Oceania – that’s Australia and friends – five days worth of free game time by way of apology for them not being able to play the game for several days. In Blizzard’s defense – not something I say all that often – it wasn’t really their fault. All the launch preparations in the world don’t mean squat in the face of things like a concerted DDOS attack on your game servers. Still, it’s nice of Blizzard to do this for its players.

Of which I am not one. I shrugged-off the World of Warcraft monkey back in 2010 and have been clean ever since. No! NO! YOU WON’T TAKE ME BACK! I WON’T GO BACK! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! YOU HAVE NO POWER OVER ME!

And finally Telltale released a new trailer for episode one of its upcoming Game of Thrones adaptation, featuring the vocal talents of Lena Headey reprising her roles as Cersei Lannister, and rendered in a slight variation of Telltale’s distinct visual style. And very much based on the TV series rather than the books, with some familiar faces like Sansa Stark, Tyrion Lannister and Ramsey Bolton all rendered to look like the actors who play them in the show. Familiar places like The Wall and King’s Landing, complete with the Iron Throne forged from the molten swords of King Aegon’s enemies, also resemble their TV show counterparts. The game puts you in the leather boots of an as-yet unnamed member of House Ironwood, banners to House Stark, who have been put into an awkward political position by certain events in King’s Landing and forced to do the bidding of House Lannister if they want to keep their lands. Specifically for Cersei who is full of subtle and not-so-subtle threats as to what might happen to House Ironwood if they don’t dance to tune of Casterley Rock, and I don’t mean the Rains of Castamere.

(INTERRUPTED BY THE END OF THE TRAILER)

Oh.

Is that it?

Yep, that’s yer lot until Telltale puts out a longer trailer. Which shouldn’t be too long as the game is still scheduled for release this year. Winter is coming, etc etc.

That’s all for this episode of Pixel Burn. Apologies for it being a tad short this week but real life intrudes in such things as it always does. If you still liked it then please do let me know, and let your friends, family and India’s Ministry of Culture know as well. At the very least I hope you found it tolerable. And if you didn’t like it then I’ll just withdraw it from viewing in your territory and tell the rest of the world you’re not progressive enough to enjoy it. Until next time, you can go now.

Matt

About Matt

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com and the sarcastic writer, editor, director, presenter and tea boy of Pixel Burn.