JRPG MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death has been rated appropriate for gamers aged 13 and above in the USA, and suitable for those aged 12 and above in Japan… but in Australia, it’s considered inappropriate for everyone, in a shock move from the Classification Board.
While most games to be Refused Classification in Australia these days do so due to drug use or violence, MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is a little bit different – it’s been effectively banned due to sexualised content featuring what seems to be an underage character.
We’ve gotten our hands on the Board’s report, and it’s quite specific in describing what the problem is.
The five main characters in Labyrinth of Death are known as Machina Mages, female characters who pair with “robot-like guardians” to do battle. Each wears a provocative costume, “with their cleavage emphasised by their clothing revealing the sides or underside of their breasts”.
It’s never spelled out how old any of the Mages actually are, but four of them – Estra, Flare, Maki and Setia – are all “adult-like”, according to the Board, featuring “voluptuous bosoms and large cleavage that are flaunted with a variety of skimpy outfits”.
The fifth, however – Connie – is presented in a different way.
She is flat-chested, under-developed physically (such as the hips), is significantly shorter than the other characters and wears her hair in pigtails. She also has a child-like voice, wears colourful child-like clothing and appears naive in her outlook on life. She is also referred to as a “girl” by the other main characters. In the Board’s opinion, the character of Connie depicts a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18.
Young children in video games is not the problem, though. The problem is what those children get up to. MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is a dungeon crawler RPG for PlayStation Vita, and uses the handheld’s touchscreen. The player can “touch or run their finger across the touchscreen in order to make any female character’s breasts move in response”. The breasts of the four adult-like female characters move greatly when this occurs, while Connie’s chest area is described as “moving slightly” – something the Board describes as being “significantly different”.
Within the character menu, the player can also touch the head, hips and legs of a character and a voice clip plays in reaction. When the player touches Connie in this mode it prompts verbal responses from her – either, “So flat. Super-flat.”, “Smooth”, “Just a little squishy” or two variations of a perturbed “Woah” sound. The application accompanying the game states there is a reaction to either the breasts, head, hips or legs of a character being touched. The touch response to each is indeterminate, as the gameplay footage does not indicate which area of the body is being touched when a response is heard.
As the Board has decided Connie appears to be under 18 years of age, this gameplay feature constitutes a “simulation of sexual stimulation of a child”, which means MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death deals with matters of sex (in this case, a fantasy of sexual stimulation of a child) “that is offensive or abhorrent in such a way that it offends against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that it should not be classified.”
A common topic that springs up around decisions like these is the notion of interactivity. The Classification Board has gone on record saying that the interactive nature of video games means that they may have a higher impact than “similarly themed depictions” in film.
Idea Factory, the game’s publisher, has released a statement saying that MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death will not be released in Australia and that they will not be appealing the decision.
Unfortunately the Australian Government Classification Board (AGCB) has chosen not to rate our upcoming PS Vita title, MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death, due to an interactive touch system on the character menu. As a result, MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death will not release for this region. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this may cause Australian fans.
MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death was released in Japan in December 2015, with an international release planned for later this year. It is in the same series as Trillion: God of Destruction, but the two do not share any story or gameplay elements.