By now we’ve probably all heard about it. The accusations of the latest Team Ninja title, Dead or Alive Dimensions, containing child pornography and, after coming to the attention of the Australia Government, being pulled from Australian shelves.

The Dead or Alive series, originally started in 1996 as an arcade title by developer Tomonobu Itagaki, who is famed for his rockstar persona, makes no excuses about the use of sexualisation in its game play. Famed for the “breast jiggle” (and later “breast physics”) – the amount of which could be increased or decreased depending on what age the player inputs themselves as – as well as the prevalent panty shot from characters foolish enough to wear mini-skirts in a fight, the series seemed to have taken things “too far” following the release of Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, a sequel to the spin-off beach volleyball game series, as the characters now wore more skimpy bathing suits than ever and lingerie better suited for private activities than public beach contests.

But still, the concept of three girls in particular; Kasumi (17), Ayane (16) and Kokoro (17), being involved in these activities with their elder sisters did not crop up. Largely because, due to age restriction laws, the ages of these girls were not displayed in certain releases of the game, and their own physical depiction, with proportions closer to adults than minors, is a far cry from what their ages should have them actually appear as.

NZherald, a news blog affiliated with The New Zealand Herald newspaper, claims that the latest game in the series – Dead or Alive Dimensions for Nintendo 3DS – “is believed to violate child pornography laws with features that enable a player to undress female characters and photograph them from any angle, including under their skirts. It is also believed that underage girls appear in sexualised situations in the game.”

Actual gameplay footage of Dead or Alive: Dimensions. NSFW, apparently.

First off, the game does NOT enable the player to undress female characters, however, the game does possess a photography/screenshot option to enable players to pause and check out their cool poses in statue form. This attribute has been in the series since its conception, however, and is not a dominant feature of the series. Instead only used at the player’s whim.

The camera function in Dead or Alive Dimensions allows players to pause and take photos of their characters in various positions, at their discretion.

So the question is, why now? Why are the “Chicken Littles” crying over these game play attributes, which are prevalent in almost every fighting game in current rotation, now instead of earlier. While a chief reason might be due to confusion with the nature of the game being like the last Dead or Alive release; Dead or Alive Paradise, the third and most current iteration of the skimpy beach volleyball spin-off series for the Playstation Portable. However, this would mean extremely bad research and reporting for the various blogs commenting on this subject, a blunder on par with the last “sexualisation in videogames” issue involving Mass Effect and the “Alien Sideboob” affair.

Kasumi in 2006’s Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2 – Jiggly? Yes. Child porn? Apparently not.

The primary issue which set this fire ablaze, however, can be traced back to a single forum post made by an unnamed forum-goer in Sweden.

The Swedish Connection

Before the game’s release in the country, a random forumite started a thread in Flashback; one of the largest message boards in Sweden, noting that the player had the possibility of taking “pantyshots” of the three girls (Kasumi (17), Kokoro (17) and Ayane (16)) and that it violated the current Swedish law regarding child pornography where it is considered child pornography if someone is picturing a girl under the age of eighteen, fictional or not, in a pornographic situation. The reason for this thread was not to blow the whistle, but to mock the law’s over protectiveness, which resulted in a recent trial where a Swedish manga drawer was accused and charged for child pornography simply due to his manga drawings.

Kokoro in 2005’s Dead or Alive 4 – rated M for Moderate Violence.

However, another forumite did seem to take offense and filed a report before the game’s release, even contacting the Swedish police over the issue, however, the police found that “the evidence was “lacking”, since a girl under the age of eighteen in a thong is not porn.” However, the game’s distributor stopped the game from being sold in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, to avoid further controversy.

It should have ended there, however, reporters and journalists from around the world began commenting on the event and soon the facts became warped into the game being banned from the regions based on the myth of the game containing explicit sexual content involving the three fictional minors, the ages of whom are not even canon in some countries.

Enter the alarmist Australian media

Gamers have seen fires like this before, so called “professionals” of other industries stating that the video game industry is manufacturing inappropriate material; only to be shown that their “facts” were wrong or entirely false.

Such examples can be seen in the aforementioned Mass Effect “Alien Sideboob” issue where the game was stated by an American politician on Fox News to contain hardcore sex scenes on par with pornography industry (this was found to be false), or in the current revelation, also on Fox News, that the American government would be providing funding for violent games such as CounterStrike (the government was actually found to be providing taxpayer funding for artistic games such as Flow and Spore).

The controversal “Alien Sideboob” from Mass Effect. Claimed by Fox News as being “hardcore” pornographic, it was later found to better fit the definition of “artistic nude”, with no depictions of a sexual act most commonly found in pornography at all present.

The same can be said for this issue where, thanks to the media’s fanning of the blaze, the issue has come to the attention of the government where the Australian Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor has become involved in looking into the game’s current PG rating for Australia. Mr O’Connor and his department has been an influential factor in the industry’s continued fight for an updated R18+ classification rating for the country.

The best, and perhaps worst, part about this over-reaction from the media industry is that the blogs are using a falsified image to reinforce their argument of child sexualisation in Dead or Alive Dimension.

The image in question is actually a fan-made iteration mostly seen circling the R-rated boards of the internet, combining images of the characters Kasumi and Ayane from Dead or Alive Ultimate (their nipples “touched up” to visibly protrude through the material of their tops) in front of a arena screenshot from Dead or Alive 4.

In every case of this image being used (on multiple websites, newspaper articles and blogs right around the country by both Fairfax and News Limited employees), no credit for the original fan-artist has been given. It’s almost as if they’ve simply ripped them off a Google image search, but surely that’s unlike the media, right?

Wether they are aware of its authenticity or not, this fanart is being falsely presented as an official screen-grab from Dead or Alive Dimensions.

Click to enlarge.

Following its release in Australia on May 26, Nintendo has had to dispute claims that the scenes in the game equated to child porn. “The game contains a wide variety of fictional characters which depict Japanese style cartoon images some of which are female fighters. This is not classified as child porn,” a Nintendo Australia spokeswoman has been quoted as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald – a blog which uses the above-mentioned falsified image to support its allegations of the game possessing child pornography and questions the competency of the current Australian Classification Board for giving the game a PG rating.

Overall, the game has had positive reviews. Scoring high for gameplay and graphics, Dead or Alive Dimensions was considered of higher quality than the Nintendo 3D’s launch title, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition.

The REAL reason DOA:D was pulled from shelves in Australia

The Australian government has pulled revoked Dead or Alive: Dimensions of it’s PG classification – rendering it unclassified and therefore unable to be sold in Australia until a classification is passed.

This is in spite of a law in the Classification Act that prohibits the Board from reclassifying a game within two years of its initial classification. The media were quick to point fingers at Nintendo for supplying a “child porn game” without any onus put on the ACB for approving the classification in the first place.

So why then did the ACB go back on their own decision and revoke the classification, dodging those pesky “constitutional rights” Nintendo and other distributors have? By their own admission, it was due solely to the Australian media’s falsified, made up articles, sparked by Fairfax’s Asher Moses;

The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O’Connor welcomed the Classification Board’s decision today to revoke the classification of the computer game Dead or Alive: Dimensions.

This game was classified PG (Parental Guidance) on 8 February 2011 with consumer advice ‘mild violence and sexualized gameplay’.

Subsequent media reports indicated that the game might have contained content that would not be appropriate at the PG level which had not been drawn to the Board’s attention.

It should be noted that all previous games of the series, including spin-offs, were previously granted M classification ratings (barring Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, arguably one of the more sexualized incarnations of the series, which features a PG rating with Mild Sexual References).

But this has never been about community outcry or taste and decency. It has never been about protecting the children, or child porn. It’s the same old story about a renegade government department making up their own rules as they go along, and a corrupt, rogue, sensationalist media confusing misinformation with fact.

In closing, while the Australian community waits for the fate of the revoked game to be ultimately revealed, (whether it shall be banned from sale within the country or shall return to stores with an amended rating), it goes to show that the power of the press can be both a force of order through the trade and sharing of information, and a force of chaos through the ignorant spread of falsified or warped information, whether it be intentional or unintentional.

In short, for the sake of common sense, check the facts and do not believe everything you read at face value.

This article was contributed to by Michael J. Talbot.

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