Dragon Age Inquisition Banned In India Over Gay Character? A Small Look Into The Indian Obscenity Laws That Influenced EA's Decision

By Steve Buja , Updated Nov 19, 2014 10:54 AM EST
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Dragon Age Inquisition has been released here in the States to near universal acclaim. Some players have, in fact, already beaten the game's main storyline. However, it is becoming more and more likely that customers in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will only ever get to the enjoy the game via Youtube videos.

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EA will not be releasing Inquisition into those countries. EA wrote to Kotaku that "the decision here is in relation to local obscenity laws, but not specific to same gender romance." As with most things, the devil is in the details. Just exactly which local obscenity laws are being breached is left deliberately vague.

As written in Indian law, obscenity is defined as the "tendency to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall."

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The definition was upheld in the Supreme Court stating:

"Obscenity without a preponderating social purpose or profit cannot have the constitutional protection of free speech and expression and obscenity in treating sex in a manner appealing to the carnal side of human nature or having that tendency."

This leaves a lot of wiggle room for any person or corporate entity to find offense. But don't get on your high horse yet. The Indian court applies the three-pronged Miller Test for obscenity. And guess where that came from? That's right. America. The Miller Test itself has its own set of vagaries, as well:

1. Whether the "average person", applying community standards would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
2.Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically denied by state law;
3.Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic,political or scientific value.

On the second part of the test, in 2013 the Indian Supreme Court reinstated a previously defunct statute in the country's Penal Code effectively criminalizing sodomy. The statute reads: "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."

So, it stands to reason that Dragon Age: Inquisition, which has the series' first openly gay character (previous titles featured bisexual characters), and features gay intercourse, can meet the condones set forth in the law.

Given that India is a very conservative country, the average person will likely view homosexuality as an imprurient interest. As for the third condition, Dragon Age is a video game and let's face it, most people still think of them as games for children and therefore it will lack any "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value."

All of this is to say that EA was working against a very stacked deck. The company's response to Kotaku does not state the homosexual content in Inquisition as the deciding factor, but it is easy to read between the lines.

Nor is this the first time EA has not shipped games to the Indian market. According to Milestone Games, Inquisition's publisher in India (via NDTV), "In the past Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas never made it to India. This is because Bethesda, the series' publisher didn't want to offend Indian sensibilities due to the game's portrayal of cows."

Know your market. India does not boast a large RGP market according to Milestone and so EA weighed the cost of distribution, marketing and support against the potential backlash and possible court cases and decided to pull out. It was at its core a marketing decision bludgeoned into existence via cultural differences.

It is a minor loss in the march of progress. But a loss nonetheless.

Players who pre-ordered the game via Origin or other online store will receive a full refund. The game will not be distributed in India; however, players can still gain access to the game and play it via VPN or other services.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is out now.

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