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CLASSIFIED - our blog

A blog by members of our Information Unit

We provide information to other staff at the Classification Office, to the public, and to industry members - we are not involved in assigning classifications. The content of our blog posts will be wide-ranging - for example we'll be discussing censorship and freedom of speech, pornography, research, or other aspects of our work at the Classification Office. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Comment moderation

We want discussion to be as free and open as possible, but please be aware that we will not approve any comments that:

  • contain personal attacks against individuals, groups or organisations
  • use highly offensive language or terms of abuse that target specific groups (unless use of this language is clearly relevant to a post or discussion)
  • encourage others to view objectionable content, or provide links to this content or to other graphic or explicit content
  • include personal information such as home addresses or phone numbers
  • include information about anyone involved in an ongoing court case relating to offences under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act
  • are clearly and intentionally off-topic
  • contain spam, or are sales pitches, promotions or links to commercial sites
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Monte Casino

Posted on 08 November 2017 by Paul

We’ve had a few emails about loot boxes lately – mostly to do with their similarity to gambling, and that they’re accessible to children.

Loot boxes have become increasingly visible in the videogame landscape, and are included in big budget games such as Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Overwatch, and the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront 2, with little examination of the potential harms that can arise from such systems

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Man sits in a casino surrounded by electronic slot machines

Taking control, part deux: It's a jungle out there

Posted on 03 November 2017 by the Information Unit

We know that people like seeing our official, trusted classification information on online streaming platforms, but unfortunately the law hasn't kept up with the times. And so there's currently no legal enforcement of this. 

The good news is that many entertainment platforms do choose to use our classifications for their NZ storefronts - because this is what their customers want. Two good examples are Google Play Movies and movies on iTunes: when you sign in from a New Zealand account, it's our home grown classifications you see. 

Unfortunately, glitches in the matrix do occur from time to time. Sometimes we find that the classification being advertised isn't the classification we gave it. 

This happened recently with the film Super Dark Times on Google Play and iTunes when it was advertised with a G rating but actually classified as R16.

Continue reading Taking control, part deux: It's a jungle out there

Picture of person holding a skateboard in front of a colourful mural

Chief Censor: Porn, jobs, money – the real story

Posted on 02 November 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks

The future of censorship has been in the news again. A Stuff article titled “Classification Office refocuses future due to lack of pornos and an evolving digital future” has attracted some attention lately.

This article is long on potentially confusing comment and light on facts. Let me put the record straight. Most people don’t realise that we are both government and industry funded. The Classification Office has received just under $2M in government funding since it was established in 1994. This reflects the work we do for government officials – examining and classifying material that has been seized by the Police, Customs or other authorities.

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David Shanks publicly presenting our Young New Zealanders Viewing Sexual Violence research

Hallowe’en Horror Survival Guide For Parents

Posted on 20 October 2017 by Lily

With Hallowe’en coming up, horror movies will be creepy-crawling onto screens everywhere. As parents trying to guide our children through their media experiences with as little emotional fallout as possible, we need to remember the effect that horror movies can have on kids. They can cause vivid nightmares, a fear of the dark, trouble sleeping, refusing to sleep alone. Or in the case of eleven year old me, a bladder infection because I didn’t want to pee in case there was a clown in the toilet.

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cartoon jack o'lanterns

3 banned books by New Zealand authors

Posted on 27 September 2017 by Lily

September 25 marked the start of International Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates our right to read. As RuPaul has taught us, reading is fundamental. So here at the Office of Film and Literature Classification, we decided celebrate some very special banned books. What follows is a list of three books by New Zealand authors that have had some dubious encounters with local censors over the years

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A pile of books with their spines facing outwards

Taking control

Posted on 22 September 2017 by Paul

Restricting access to movies, games and other entertainment media is a lot more difficult than it was in the days before online streaming, and we’re looking to focus more on education and better information to help young people build resilience and the ability to critically engage with the media they choose to view.

Having said this, some kind of restrictions on content are definitely still important, and children especially need to be protected from upsetting and harmful content. So what can parents do? Is the online space really a free-for-all?

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Woman wearing a VR headset looking upwards

Chief Censor: Censorship – where to now?

Posted on 13 September 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks

After 90 days in the role of Chief Censor, I have been pausing for a moment to reflect on what the role means, and where it might be headed.

I have had a few people ask me the question about relevance of censorship in a digital age. Today, many of us always have our phones with us. Phones (along with tablets, laptops, and PC’s) provide us and our children with a window into virtually any content imaginable.

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Chief Censor David Shanks

What do young people think about sexual violence on screen?

Posted on 20 July 2017 by Paul

We’ve just released the final report for our research project about the impact on young people of viewing sexual violence in entertainment media. You may know all about why we undertook the project and what it’s all about by now. The point of this post is to share some personal takeaways and observations from my own experience of interviewing young people for the research project.

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Teenage girl using a laptop

What does RP mean?

Posted on 20 July 2017 by Henry (updated post)

RP labels aren't used very often, so why do we use them and what do they mean? You will sometimes see an RP13, RP16 or RP18 classification label on entertainment media like a movie or show (for example a series on Netflix or on DVD). An RP classification means that someone under the specified age must be supervised by a parent or guardian when viewing entertainment media. A guardian is considered to be a responsible adult (18 years and over), for example a family member or teacher who can provide guidance.

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RP13 classification label
RP16 classification label

To The Bone

Posted on 15 July 2017 by Kim

Netflix’s To The Bone has received media attention and criticism prior to its release on July 14. The film is based on the experience of the director and follows Ellen, a 20-year- old woman with anorexia, played by Lily Collins. There have been concerns about the film glamorising eating disorders and triggering body image and eating issues in vulnerable young people.

We received inquiries from a teacher and a psychologist who were concerned after seeing the film’s trailer. The trailer shows a gaunt Ellen counting calories, skipping meals, exercising excessively and fainting from starvation, all the while pretending to have her life under control. The people who approached us were worried that eating disorders could be glamorised and could potentially trigger body image and eating issues in vulnerable viewers.

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To The Bone

Chief Censor: Let's look at the issues

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks

After fewer than two months in the role as Chief Censor, I have had the privilege of launching the final report my office has produced on the impacts on young people of viewing sexual violence on screen.

I was hugely proud to be able to present this work and to talk about it on a national stage. It is important. It is relevant. And it explores issues that touch so many of us, but are often left in the too hard basket.

Continue reading Chief Censor: Let's look at the issues

Chief Censor David Shanks

Modded video games

Posted on 14 June 2017 by Paul

A mod is a modification that is made to a game by changing aspects of the game’s coding. They are files that are easy to download and install. These changes can impact games in various ways: these can be minor changes, such as adding more sophisticated lighting effects into the game; major changes, such as changing the entire story of the game; or somewhere in between. We answer an email asking whether it would be illegal to allow a child to play a restricted game if they used a mod to take out all of the restricted content from it.

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A mod that changes Cammy's model in Street Fighter 5 to one of Tracer from Overwatch

Yarr!! Here be strangers

Posted on 31 May 2017 by Paul

We recently got our grubby little mitts on the technical alpha of Sea of Thieves (which looks excellent), a whimsical game about sailing the high seas and looking for treasure. The game is played ideally with a group of crewmates as much of the gameplay involves mundane tasks (changing the length and angle of the different sails, raising and lowering the anchor, and holding a lantern to see at night). Players can either work co-operatively, or competitively (through combat and attacking other players’ ships). What more could a kid want?

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Sea of Thieves cover art

13 Reasons Why: our reasons for the RP18 classification

Posted on 27 April 2017 by Lily

SPOILER ALERT: This blog post includes some discussion about the plot of 13 Reasons Why.

The Classification Office has created a new RP18 rating specifically for the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The classification recognises that teens are watching and will continue to watch the series, while signalling the strong content and emphasising the essential role of parents and caregivers in discussing this material with young people in their care. In this blog post a Classification Officer explains our reasons for the new classification.

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Official poster for 13 Reasons Why

Violent play - classifying violence in video games

Posted on 17 March 2017 by Hayden

Put into law in 1993, the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act (FVPC Act) requires the Classification Office to examine all sorts of media and classify it for New Zealand audiences. The video games that we classify almost always contain violence. So let’s look at that.

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Still from Grand Theft Auto V - man with gun running from explosion

Gamers have their say at the Classification Office

Posted on 24 February 2017 by Paul

Hatred, Dead by Daylight, Postal III - titles many gamers know well. All three games have attracted a lot of attention for various reasons, but mostly due to the levels of violence in each game. So when the Chief Censor called them in for classification recently, we expected some robust debate - not just within the Classification Office itself but with the wider gaming public.

It's helpful for our censors to hear opinions from other gamers, including those most affected by the classification system - young people under age 18. For this reason, we recently invited young gamers to spend time playing and viewing the games at the Classification Office.

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Dead By Daylight, Hatred, and Postal III Games

Safer Internet Day 2017 - be the change: unite for a better future

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally each year on 7 February to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology among children and young people. Safer Internet Day New Zealand is coordinated by online safety organisation Netsafe. In this blog post, Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker writes about the importance of online safety and Safer Internet Day.

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Safer Internet Day 2017 logo

Life as a censor: Reflections of a new Classification Officer

Posted on 14 December 2016 by Lily

"99% of the time I have the job that everybody wants, and then 1% of the time I have the job that nobody wants at all". What's it like to work at the Classification Office? In this post a new Classification Officer ('censor') explains how she got here, what she does and why it's important.

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M label on DVD

Young people's views about sexual violence

Posted on 08 September 2016 by Henry

Earlier this year we asked Colmar Brunton to carry out focus group research with young people to learn about their views on sexual violence in media entertainment like movies, games and television shows. Some initial findings show that young people's views on the subject are varied and complex — and they often found conversation about the topic difficult.

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stylised image of people talking around a table

It's only entertainment - what's the harm?

Posted on 01 August 2016 by Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen

Our intuition tells us that it can't be good for kids to be exposed to excessive aggression, gore, torture and brutality. We worry that they might be shocked and disturbed by what they see. We may also fear that our children could copy the behaviours that they see on screen, or perhaps even grow into overly aggressive and uncaring people. Are we being over protective?

Continue reading It's only entertainment - what's the harm?

Still image of person being beaten in 'The Walking Dead' Season 5