Last week, the Australian version of Watch Dogs had a rating-turnaround, changing from MA15+ to R18+. According to a report obtained by Kotaku Austrailia, the switch was made due to a scene of implied sexual violence or assault.
The ratings report apparently states that Watch Dogs “contains references to sexual violence that cannot be accomodated in the MA15+ classification category”. Where sexual content and nudity can fall under the MA15+ rating, anything that involves “sexual violence, implied or otherwise”, is specifically reserved for the R18+ classification. The Australian Classification Board report details the specific scene that warranted the rating-change (Warning: Potential Spoiler); in an incident involving human-trafficking, a 19-year-old girl is groped before she enters a room off-camera. It’s implied by the details below that she was sexually abused:
“The room is set up with video cameras and filming equipment and as the male moves away from the bed several blood spots are visible on the bed sheets…On-screen text identifies the woman as a nineteen year old, Romanian immigrant.”
A statement from the ACB report reveals that this scene was added after the original build of Watch Dogs was submitted for an official content rating. The “MA15+ version” was submitted on September 13 of last year:
“A version of this computer game has been previously classified MA15+ (with consumer advice of strong themes and violence, gaming experience may change online) on September 13th 2013…In the board’s opinion the modifications to this game contain classifiable elements that alter this classification and exceed a strong impact level.”
According to Ubisoft, the added content had nothing to do with the 2014 delay, as it was added well-after that decision was made:
“The entire development team has been working hard to polish and fine tune Watch Dogs in order to deliver a truly memorable open world game…the extra time also allowed the team to include a bit of additional content. As per Australian classification guidelines, Ubisoft resubmitted the updated version with the added content to the Australian Classification Board (ACB). The decision to amend the rating of the game from MA15+ to R18+ was made by the ACB.”
Watch Dogs is the 2nd title for 2014 that includes a depiction of sexual violence; according to the ESRB description of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, the espionage title includes an instance of “sexual violence”, presented to the player through an audio-log.
Several developers have sounded off in the past about video games having much darker, more “mature” themes within them in the future, but it looks like we’re already beginning to get a taste of that. Watch Dogs has been confirmed to release on May 27 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC…Still no word on a release date for the Wii U version.