Over at joystiq, Mark Methenitis ponders whether banning of games is a form of trade protectionism. I think he’s way off track here.

Of course, censorship in video games exists. Over here, officials get antsy over sex; in Europe and Australia, they’re upset about violence. But in both cases, few games are “banned” outright.

We’ve seen this many times: “Country X Bans Game A”. Typically, that means “Game A” was refused a rating. What happens? The “offending” content is modified or removed.

Fallout 3 is a recent example. Some countries objected to the use of “real world” drugs, such as morphine, being mentioned. So all references to such drugs were changed to fictitious ones. The stuff still worked the same; only the names were changed to protect the innocent minds of gamers.

The game was also modified for the Japanese market through the removal of the “nuke Megaton” quest. I still don’t understand that one, given the milieu, never mind all the nukes set off in the first Fallout products.

In similar fashion, the “score cards” in The Witcher, handed out for sexual encounters, were removed in American editions of the game. Presumably, offscreen sex was okay, but bare-breasted women were just too erotic.

Changes were made by Rockstar to Grand Theft Auto IV, so the game could be marketed in Australia. That caused an uproar among Aussie gamers, but it sold anyway.

Yes, some games do get banned permanently in some countries. Overall, though, a refused rating lasts only until the company makes some changes in the product. So it’s a form of censorship rather than “protectionism”.

Tariffs would be another matter entirely. Given the global reach of games these days, it would be the depth of stupidity for such a tax to be put on them. Then again, politicians have never been especially noted for brains.

Is game censorship the new trade barrier?