Australia's entertainment ratings board, the Office of Film & Literature Classification, has refused to grant a rating for forthcoming Atari title Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure - thereby effectively banning the game from sale.
The move comes despite the fact that the OFLC granted Getting Up an "MA 15+" rating back in November, stating that although the game contains "strong violence and strong themes" it was suitable for gamers aged 15 and over.
However, according to OFLC executive Maureen Shelley, following a review of the rating: "It is the Classification Review BoardÔs determination that this game promotes the crime of graffiti.Ô The OFLC says games won't be rated if they "include or contain detailed instruction or promotion of matters of crime."
The OFLC has particular problems with "the realistic scenarios" where main character Trane learns about graffiti techniques and styles from five real life graffiti artists, and the fact that players are rewarded for putting graffiti on public buildings.
The board also objects to the inclusion of "interactive biographies" of 56 real graffiti artists, which include details of their tags, styles and careers. According to the OFLC, "The game detail states that all these artists began their careers performing illegal graffiti on public buildings and infrastructure and that some continue with this practice today."
Atari Australia issued a statement saying that the publisher "strongly disagrees" with the board's decision, and "defends the original classification by the OFLC."
Atari representatives is contacting Australia's Interactive Entertainment Association in a bid to get their support, claiming that the OFLC's decision "Will impact the industry and not specific or isolated to one company."
Australia is notoriously tough on games with violent or sexual content, with titles such as Leisure Suit Larry, Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto III also being refused classification. GTA: San Andreas was awarded an MA 15+ rating, but this was revoked after the Hot Coffee scandal broke.
Here in the UK, the Anti-Graffiti Association has already issued a statement slamming Atari for "encouraging an activity such as graffiti vandalism." However, the game is still set to go on sale this Friday.