Mortal Kombat: Flawless PR Work, But…

Warner Brother Interactive Entertainment’s approach of “we failed the first time, but here is the same thing again but this time we’ll point out how wrong you are” around getting Mortal Kombat classified in Australia hasn’t worked, with MK being refused classification a second time.

Sub Zeros fatality from the very first Mortal Kombat.

Twenty years later and things haven't changed much.

WBIE then thanked “the thousands of Mortal Kombat fans in Australia and around the world who have voiced their support”, said fans see the decision as some sort of assault on democracy / mature gaming / their freedoms / everything good in the world. I still can’t help but see a PR drive that costs WBIE very little but gains a lot of press attention.

Whether by planning or just luck, an article on how bringing MK into Australia could see the importer hit with fines up to AU$110 000 was also very effective at riling up gamers. It’s also wrong – that’s the fine for commercial importers who bring in 25 or more copies of a Refused Classification item or plan to sell / hire it.

If (and this is a big if) the single copy you buy online is picked up by Australian Customs, it is going to be confiscated, but huge fines are highly unlikely. (I also saw that Wikipedia has Mortal Kombat listed as “the first game to be made illegal to import” which ignores that every RC title is illegal to import into Australia.)

Again, it is sad that MK is being used as the poster child here for the introduction of an R18+ classification. It’s everything that is wrong with so-called ‘mature’ titles – overly bloody, overly gory and with a garish hint of cheap sexualisation. Here are some of the fatalities the game contains:

Looking at the fatalities, it is fairly clear to me that this title doesn’t fit into the MA15+ classification category. It’s also exactly the kind of game that is easy to rally a media cause around AGAINST implementing an R18+ rating – recognisable brand with negative associations from previous versions, little redeeming artistic value and visually explicit.

At a time when the R18+ classification appears to be  closer to implementation than ever before, having MK as an example of the kind of games it will make available within Australia is easy fodder against such a move. It is going to cost political capital to implement such a change and Federal Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor may like to talk tough, but bullying states into doing anything at a time when he is part of a minority Federal Government could be more trouble than it is worth.

(The actual worse case scenario here is that not only would the R18+ video game classification be knocked back, but the MA15+ classification would be repealed in preparation for “a crisper delineation between adults-only games and games that are for children”. Unlikely, but a possibility that would leave Australian gamers worse off.)

Here’s hoping that WBIE’s flawless PR milking of this decision doesn’t end up causing a fatality in the development of Australia’s R18+ classification for video games.

2 thoughts on “Mortal Kombat: Flawless PR Work, But…

  1. WOW! I am 44 yrs old and ex military and that those fatalities are a bit much for me. There is no, and I repeat, NO reason for such graphics in video games. Give them an XXX rating and count them as porn.

    I also think that the “PR” work will backfire on them in the long run.

  2. There’s always the chance that even with an R18+ classification, that extreme violence and sexual content can still be refused classification. Films like “Baise-Moi”, “Ken Park” and “A Serbian Film” all received the RC classification and legally unavailable in Australia.

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