AFP: Singapore bans Xbox game over lesbian scene (Nov 15)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Singapore bans Xbox game over lesbian scene

SINGAPORE (AFP) — Singapore has banned the sale of an Xbox video game that features an intimate scene between two female characters, a statement received Thursday said.

The "Mass Effect" game, a futuristic space adventure, contains "a scene of lesbian intimacy... as such the game has been disallowed," the deputy director of the Board of Film Censors said in the statement.

The board is part of the Media Development Authority (MDA), Singapore's media watchdog.

Under local guidelines, video games sold in Singapore cannot "feature exploitative or gratuitous sex and violence, or denigrate any race or religion," the official said.

"Mass Effect" is to be launched globally next week.

US software giant Microsoft, maker of the Xbox gaming console, said it respected the media watchdog's action.

"We strictly adhere to the laws, regulations and norms of the markets we operate in," the company said in an e-mail reply to AFP.

MDA said a new video games classification system to be introduced next year could allow titles such as "Mass Effect" to be passed and classified appropriately.

Singapore is Southeast Asia's most advanced economy but the government maintains strict censorship laws.

Earlier this year the city-state banned two other video games, "God of War II" for nudity and "The Darkness" for excessive violence and religiously offensive expletives, the statement said.

Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's second minister for information, communications and the arts, has said the city-state was liberalising but retained a very strong conservative core.

As part of major revisions to the Penal Code approved by parliament last month, Singapore legalised oral and anal sex between heterosexual couples but retained a law which criminalises intercourse between gay men.