Games Censorship in Singapore

Singapore introduces game censorship

15th April

Age Old Censorship...

Singapore introduces games classifications

Gamers in Singapore can look forward to a greater variety of video games with a new two-rating classification system that will be launched end April, the Board of Film Censors (BFC) under the Media Development Authority (MDA) announced today.

With effect from 28 April 2008, the new video games ratings are:

  • Mature 18 (M18) – For persons 18 years old and above. M18 is a restricted category and retailers will need to conduct age checks at the point of sale.
  • Age Advisory – Suitable for persons 16 years old and above. This is an advisory category to assist consumers in making informed choices. While retailers need not conduct age checks at the point of sale, they are encouraged to exercise responsibility by not selling these games to those below 16 years of age.
  • Games that do not fall into the above two categories but are approved for general consumption are not required to carry any rating stickers.

The video games classification system was developed over a two-year period involving detailed research and extensive consultation with key stakeholders, including members of MDA's advisory committees, representatives from the video games distribution and retail sectors, as well as parents, academics and gamers.

The new guidelines build upon the interim M18 rating, which was introduced in November 2007 to prepare the industry for the video games classification system. Since then, eight games, such as Conan and God of War: Chains of Olympus , have been brought into Singapore under the interim M18 rating.

In line with the BFC's practice of co-regulating with the industry, the classification system requires companies to declare all games meant for local distribution and sale via an online questionnaire. Companies will be required to submit physical copies of the titles only when the game contains mature content. In addition, the BFC will conduct periodic checks on games declarations to verify accuracy of declarations.

In explaining the benefits of such a co-regulatory system, Amy Chua said, Getting the industry to declare information about the games will speed up the classification process and facilitate time-to-market for new titles. Such industry involvement is crucial to the classification of video games due to the amount of time required to assess each game. This will also help BFC to focus on content that is not suitable for the young and keep compliance cost affordable. Under the system, it costs S$50 and takes six to 10 working days to rate a M18 game. A premium service is available for companies looking to shorten the processing time.

Classification Guidelines:

An Age Advisory label indicates that the game contains some contentious elements that are not recommended for the young. Games that contain the following elements may be required to carry an age advisory label:

  • Violence
    Moderate level of violence. This refers to realistic but not excessively graphic violence with depiction of blood which may be included in the gameplay.
  • Sex
    Portrayal of implied sexual activity.
  • Nudity
    Nudity without details, e.g. no nipples, genitalia or pubic region (includes hair).
    Still or moving images which may be mildly suggestive may be featured, e.g. scantily-clad women in bikinis or lingerie.
  • Language
    Coarse language should generally be limited to the use of words like “fuck”.
  • Drug Use
    Depiction of illegal drug use which is incidental to the game and not realistic. Content of the game does not encourage drug use.

The M18 rating indicates that the game is restricted to persons 18 years andabove. These games may contain the following:

  • Theme
    - Treatment and exploration of mature themes appropriate to 18 years and above.
    - Content that requires the player to engage in illegal activities or play the role of a criminal so long as it does not contain detailed instructions for committing crimes.
    - Some homosexual content, provided it does not glamorize the lifestyle or is exploitative.
  • Violence
    Depictions of realistic violence, such as killing, maiming or causing other serious injury to humanoid characters if the violence is not sadistic, cruel and abhorrent.
  • Sex
    - Portrayal of sexual activity with some nudity, both topless and frontal, if not detailed.
    - Homosexual activity should be limited to kissing and hugging.
  • Nudity
    - Depiction of topless nudity or occasional full frontal nudity, if not exploitative. Nudity should not titillate or be the main feature of the game.
    - Still or moving images which may be sexually titillating (but does not contain nudity), e.g. scantily-clad women shown in a manner that is sexually suggestive, if not excessive or gratuitous.
  • Language
    Frequent use of strong coarse language, such as “motherfucker", "cunt", and "cocksucker”.
  • Drug Use
    There may be realistic depiction of illegal drug use, but portrayal should not include instructive details. Games should not glamorise or encourage drug taking or the primary intent of a game should not be to encourage the consumption of drugs to achieve success, e.g. kill the enemy or complete a level.

Banned : Not Allowed for All Ratings (NAR)

  • Content which denigrates any race or religion, or undermines Singapore's national interest.
  • Content that glorifies deviant sexual behaviour or activities such as paedophilia or bestiality. Games dealing with alternative lifestyles such as sadomasochism and group sex.
  • Clear instructional details of criminal activities, such as step-by-step guide to making a bomb.
  • Detailed and bloody depictions of sadistic and cruel violence, including horrific, brutal or repulsive depictions of death, injury, dismemberment or torture.
  • Depiction of sexual violence, including rape.
  • Content where the primary purpose is for the players to engage in sexual activity.
  • Detailed and frequent depiction of sexual activity, such as depictions of actual sexual intercourse including content which depicts explicit sexual activity where genitals may not be visible.
  • Exploitative and excessive depiction of nudity. This refers to male and female nudity where genitalia are clearly depicted. This would include content where the presentation of nudity is exploitative and nudity is a constant feature of the game.
  • Coarse language which is religiously offensive and denigrative.
  • Content that glamorises or encourages the use of illegal drugs. Or serve as a step-by-step guide to preparing and consumption of illegal drugs.


24th April

Update: Discriminatory Themes...

Singapore gays unimpressed by being lumped in with criminals

As reported recently, Singapore has adopted a rating system for video games.

While the move seems like a step in the right direction, not everyone is pleased with how the new ratings are to be assigned. People Like Us , which describes itself as a Singapore gay and lesbian group focused on advocacy and public education notes that that the government's Media Development Authority (MDA) lumps homosexuality with crime in an “Adult Theme” rating category:

People Like Us considers this new rule unjustifiably strict. Children should not have to be kept ignorant about the presence of gay people in society any more than they should be shielded from people of other faiths and ethnicities. The path to acceptance of gay people is through teaching children about diversity from a young age.

It is pejorative to lump gay sexual orientation with crime and drug use as the MDA's new guidelines do, as if gay orientation is some kind of social threat.


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