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Microsoft decides against sex-ed game

XBLA version of Zombie Cow's STD education title Privates cancelled

The Xbox version of the Channel 4-funded sexual education game Privates has been cancelled, following word from Microsoft that the title would not pass its censors.

UK developer Zombie Cow Studios has elected to discontinue development on the in-progress Xbox Live version of its PC title, having been told by Microsoft representatives that its sexual references made it unsuitable for distribution.

While the leading console-makers traditionally permit high levels of violence and bad language in mature-rated titles, they remain very cautious of open sexual content.

"The guys at Xbox have been amazing," said Dan Marshall of Zombie Cow Studios. "They've been really supportive and helpful throughout, but ultimately have advised that the game wouldn't pass the Indie Games Peer Review process, purely due to its inherently sexual nature.

"It's a shame, but it's something we'd always pretty much assumed would happen."

Privates is a bawdy action-strategy game intended to promote safe sex amongst teenagers. In it, the player explores human internal organs, battling anthropomorphised sexually-transmitted diseases and encountering visual depictions of genitalia.

An updated and patched version of the original PC release remains available for free from Zombie Cow's site.

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Latest comments (14)

Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 11 years ago
Title: Privates
Genre: Action-Strategy

*rolls eyes* That's the schoolboy inside me laughing.
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I thought it was a good Monthy Python esque product. Assuredly let us just label it AO.
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Paulmichael Contreras Contributing Editor, PlayStation LifeStyle11 years ago
@Dr. Chee Ming Wong, really it should be labeled T. Sure, there is obvious nudity, but if this really is an educational title then it is likely not explicit. The public really needs to get over its fear of nudity and sexuality in video games.
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Show all comments (14)
Richard Mead Studying ND B-TECH GAMES DESIGN, Darlington College11 years ago
Well what would be so wrong with making it an 18+ (eng) 21+ (USA) and so on then only teachers and ppl who are old enough to buy it, able to buy it and then it can be put into the educational system through the education board, i realise that there are other problems like it would be a one big sale then that's it barely any ever, but the only issue raised here is the age for the content.
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James Waltz Studying Computer Drafting and Design, ITT Technical Institute11 years ago
First off, I'd like to argue that sexual content is not worse than violence. If anything, it's better. I'd rather have a kid out having consensual sex than shooting a cop because he isn't mature or responsible enough to be playing Grand Theft Auto. Also, this kind of game presents a serious opportunity to reach out to kids in a medium that they use almost every day about a growing problem in the US. There are genitalia in the game. So what? Like none of us haven't seen them. Like kids in this country don't just click Enter on pornographic sites, regardless of laws. Sexual content has never been so looked down upon in history as much as it is today in the US. Japan's legal age requirement for pornography is 13. Germany has commercials for orange juice with nude models. And we require you be 18 before you can see a breast in private? It makes no sense. This government has the wrong idea.
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Jordan Woodward Level Designer, Rebellion Developments11 years ago
To be expected really but a shame considering it's educational aims. They should really make special circumstances for educational titles.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game11 years ago
As for it being entered into education system, this is far more likely to happen on PC than Xbox anyway, and it is free on PC, I assume there would be a charge on Xbox live, so really in this case, it doesn't make much difference, however, maybe the stance should be looked at for other future games of the type.
Why is sex so much more taboo than violence. Don't get me wrong, I like a good gorefest, but from a society point of view, how is a natural human interaction that our species is dependant on more offensive than a decapitation?
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To understand this is simple.

Man is Sin, blah blah therefore Sex is.....

Trying to remove this ingrained stigma will be many years to come. Maybe we need a David Cage as a AO evangaliser supremo!
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany11 years ago
Saw this coming.

Anyway; when a educational product has to be canceled because it does not pass a macro-company's censorship... that company should begin to think again about the quality of their guidelines.
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Richard Westmoreland Senior Game Designer, Codemasters Birmingham11 years ago
I do think that it's very sad that a more European attitude to sex can't be taken in games. Healthy sexual content (especially educational content) in games is far less harmful to teens than extreme violence.

I think all this still stems from the stigma that games are for children. I still don't understand how it's seen as more important to shield them from something natural than from mass murder.
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Alan Pierce Programmer, Digital Delight11 years ago
@Barrie: I would imagine they still have to follow guidelines set out by Microsoft.
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Katheryn Christy Student, Purdue University11 years ago
This is really a shame. There's so much research out there suggesting that video games can be an incredibly effective educational tool and (in my opinion) teens really need to have a greater awareness of safer sex practices. Hopefully Zombie Cow can find some other backer that will allow them to independently develop the game for PC and digital distribution. Then no rating is needed and each individual consumer could decide if images of genitalia are too "scarring."
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Al Campbell Studying Computer Games Technology, University of Abertay Dundee11 years ago
@Katheryn, they already have a backer, and Privates is in fact already freely available from the TV channel E4's website:
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Rikki Prince Studying PhD Computer Science, University of Southampton11 years ago
This is pretty ridiculous reasoning. If it's a peer review process, then shouldn't it be up to the community to decide whether, in this particular case, talk of sexual organs is appropriate in a learning context?
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