A new computer game called "Rape Day" lets you play a sociopathic rapist for kicks - and it's set to be available for download worldwide, including New Zealand, through the popular online gaming service Steam next month.
The Rape Day promo page on Steam says the game lets you "Control the choices of a menacing serial killer rapist during a zombie apocalypse. Verbally harass, kill, and rape women as you choose to progress the story."
A series of stills from the game includes one with a gun being shoved into a woman's mouth.
The Herald was able to log on to Valve and confirm its pending availability with no age verification - though there is a requirement to be logged via an account with a credit card loaded.
Steam, owned by US company Valve, has emerged as one of the main ways to buy games in the online age. If one of around 150 million Steam users worldwide wants to buy a hit game, such as the latest instalment of Activision's best-selling Call of Duty service, they logon to Steam, pay for it with their credit card then download it. A trip to the mall to buy game on disc is largely a thing of the past.
In the US, Steam seems to be readying a free-speech defence. That might pass muster in North America. Or it might not. But as things stand, Rape Day will be available for download here
"Digital games like those available on Steam are not required to be classified before being sold - unlike games that are physically sold here," Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen says.
However, Mullen says his office will assess any complaint submitted by a member of the public, the police or the Department of Internal Affairs.
Mullen says a game's rating - for example (R16), R18 or "Objectionable" (that is, banned) will then be relayed to Steam.
The Deputy Chief Censor says Steam has proved cooperative with other controversial games, labelling "Dead by Daylight" R16 and "Hatred" R18 for New Zealand users of its service.
And two games that were banned here, "Criminal Girls"; and "Gal Gun: Double Peace" do not display for Steam's NZ users.
If an offshore service like Steam did not cooperate, Mullen says his office would turn the matter over to police and the DIA. He notes that if a game was classified Objectionable, it would become illegal to download. If a court judges you downloaded objectionable material without knowing it was classified objectionable, you can be fined up to $14,000. If you're found to have consumed it knowingly, you can be jailed up to 14 years.
The DIA has the power to block sites via the filter it has installed at all major ISPs, although the filter is primarily aimed at child exploitation material.
Mullen says a member of the public who wants to complain about a computer game should use the submission form at www.classificationoffice.govt.nz
Steam did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
What about Netflix?
Streaming video services like Netflix are in a similar situation, Mullen says.
Unlike a physical DVD disc sold in NZ, their content does not need to be classified by default - but the Chief Censor will respond to complaints from the public, police or the DIA.
Mullen says this process let to both series of the Netflix original series 13 Reasons being classified R18.
Unlike a video or computer game store, there's no equivalent to an adult behind the counter to run an age check.
But Mullen says classifications do carry legal weight. He also says that part of his office's role is to alert parents and the public in general when it has rated a series like 13 Reasons or banned a game.
If you're in danger NOW:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault.
Where to go for help or more information:
• NZ Police
• Help Auckland 24/7 helpline 09 623 1700
• Rape Prevention Education
• Wellington Help 24/7 crisisline 04 801 6655, push 0
• Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz