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article imageBan Lifted on 'Mass Effect' video game that includes Lesbian Scene

By Chris Hogg     Nov 18, 2007 in World
An Xbox video game that includes an "intimate" scene between two female characters has been given the go-ahead for distribution in Singapore. A ban that was initially placed on the game was lifted and a "mature" label applied.
Digital Journal - Video games are no strangers to controversy; games like Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt 2 have bled massive amounts of headline ink for extreme gore and hidden sex scenes with prostitutes.
But a game called Mass Effect was recently banned in Singapore for containing a lesbian love scene. Regulators, however, have since lifted the ban, saying it should be sold with an "M18" label so that nobody under the age of 18 can buy it.
AFP reports it is not known when the ban was imposed on the "futuristic space adventure," but it was first reported Thursday.
Under Singapore guidelines, video games cannot show "exploitative or gratuitous sex and violence, or denigrate any race or religion," AFP reports.
Singapore does not currently have a classification system for video games. The city-state plans to implement one in January, so censors gave the go-ahead on Mass Effect so that "the public may better understand why such a system is beneficial," BetaNews reports.
The game is scheduled to be released Nov. 20 and the Media Development Authority (MDA) says the agency will consider lifting bans on other games once a rating system is in place.
A video of the "sex scene" that sparked this controversy can be seen below:
For those who prefer not to watch it, The Australian describes it this way: "The scene starts with a conversation between two females, one human and one alien. As the music swells, the human places her hand on the alien's cheek. There is a close-up of them leaning in towards each other, then a Titanic-style shot of a hand pressing up against a window."
Kotaku reports the ban could have been lifted once regulators realized it wasn't all that bad: "Perhaps between Monday and today they caught a glimpse at one of the clips of the scene online and realized it wasn't so bad. Perhaps the MDA got a little overexcited. Either way, today they've reversed said ban, allowing implied cross-species lovemaking to rain over Singapore like fairy dust, along with an M18 rating."
Singapore's government enforces strict censorship laws, as the city-state banned God of War II for nudity and The Darkness for "excessive violence and religiously offensive expletives."
According to AFP, Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's second minister for information, has said Singapore is liberalizing but maintaining its"very strong conservative core."
According to BetaNews, section 337 of the Singapore Penal Code says: "carnal intercourse against the order of nature, is deemed a criminal offense with a penalty ranging in severity from ten years' imprisonment with or without a fine all the way up to life imprisonment."
The game's developer, BioWare, is no stranger to same-sex activity between characters. But in this case, BioWare is restricting the scene to lesbians only -- male characters can't engage in sexual activity together.
The popular video game website Joystiq describes the situation: "...Players using a female character can initiate a sex scene 'between her and male human or a female humanoid alien.' Male characters, on the other hand, can only initiate sex 'between him and a human woman or a humanoid female alien.' If we're reading that right, it means the game allows for alien lesbian sex, but not any type of male-on-male sex. Furthermore, all non-alien sex has to be heterosexual."
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