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Game case study - Naughty Bear

Murderous teddy

This controversial game was given the classification R13: contains violence.

Naughty Bear was released in New Zealand with an M classification from Australia. Under New Zealand's Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, unrestricted video games (games with content that fits G, PG or M classifications) are not required to get a New Zealand label. Instead, they are allowed to carry classification labels from other countries. This is how the game Naughty Bear came to New Zealand carrying an M label from Australia.

Find out more about the cross-rating process

Concerns

The Inspectors of Publications submitted Naughty Bear for classification.

The Inspectors of Publications work in the Censorship Compliance Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs. They are one of the authorities enforcing the classification law (along with the New Zealand Police and Customs). They have the power to submit unclassified games to the Classification Office.

The Inspectors were concerned that because the game had received higher classifications in other countries it might not meet New Zealand's unrestricted threshold.

Learn more about how the classification system is enforced

The game

The game is set on Perfection Island, and the player takes on the role of Naughty Bear.

Various bears live on the island, including Naughty Bear. The bears decide to have a party, but don't invite Naughty Bear. He is very upset by this, and decides to get revenge on the other bears.

As Naughty Bear, the player's goal is to kill the other bears using things on the island, such as bear traps, barbecues, machetes and guns. The amount of points the player gets increases when they hunt and kill the bears in more brutal ways.

During the game a narrator instructs the player on how to systematically catch and kill other bears. The narrator enthusiastically praises the player for committing violence and driving other bears insane. The more sadistic the violence the player engages in, the more encouraging the narrator becomes.

Classification considerations

The game combines teddy bears and violence - an unusual mix.

In the classification decision on the game, we noted that the characters and animation were the sort you would expect to see in a game made for children, yet the game contains a lot of violence and cruelty. However, the violence is very unrealistic and is sometimes funny.

There is no blood in the game, but the game does include themes of self-harm.

When Naughty Bear hits, stabs or shoots a bear, fluff flies into the air or the bear falls to the ground.

In the game, the player is rewarded with a large amount of 'naughty points' by scaring other bears so much that they become dazed and insane. Once a bear has been driven to insanity it uses any weapon it has available to harm itself, or, if it does not have a weapon, it explodes in a flurry of stuffing.

Classification Office decision

The Classification Office assigned the game an R13 classification.

The Classification Office concluded that an age restriction was necessary:

Unless restricted to persons 13 years of age and over, this material is likely to be injurious to the public good because the general levels of emotional and intellectual development and maturity of persons under that age mean that the availability of the publication to those persons would be likely to cause them to be greatly disturbed or shocked.

Office of Film and Literature Classification, 2010

The way the game deals with cruelty and violence led to the restricted classification. In its decision, the Classification Office pointed out that the game rewards the player for being more and more violent. However, the decision also notes that teenagers and adults have a greater level of maturity which will help them to put the violence in the game into context - that is, they will realise it is satirical and unrealistic and as a result will be less likely to be disturbed by, or desensitised to, the violence.

Classification Office's R13 classification decision for Naughty Bear (PDF, 181KB)

Game case studies

Naughty Bear cover art

As Naughty Bear, players will wreak havoc on every stuffing-filled foe that crosses their path. Featuring an array of weapons, objects and scare tactics, gamers strive to earn Naughty Points as they inflict physical and psychological harm on Naughty Bear's enemies.

This all-new scare-based points system means players will win the most rewards for being deviant and maniacal. The variety allows for a completely new experience every time players pick up a controller and the ill-fated bears become more difficult to harass and terrorize as the game progresses.

Greg Miller, IGN.com

Useful links

Screenshots from the game

A screenshot from the game of Naughty Bear standing in front of a TV emitting white noise
Naughty Bear and the TV
A screenshot from the game of Naughty Bear brandishing a baseball bat, creeping up on another bear
Look out behind you!
A screenshot from the game of Naughty Bear using his machete to remove petals from a daisy
Loves me... loves me not

Classification

R13 classification label
R13: contains violence

Glossary

Descriptive note
The extra wording on a classification label which warns people of content in the film e.g. 'M: contains sexual references and offensive language'.
Cross-rating
A system of rating unrestricted films where the unrestricted classification from Australia or the UK is given to unrestricted (G, PG, or M) films in New Zealand.
Rating
A consumer advice statement given for films and DVDs by the Film and Video Labelling Body: G, PG, or M. Ratings can be overturned by classification decisions from the Office of Film and Literature Classification.