Section 377 of Indian Penal Code is the provision of India’s penal code that criminalises gay sex. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act can be used to punish people for publishing “objectionable content” in cyberspace. Though neither of them is invoked frequently, they have created the potential to scare anyone who think they may be potentially violating these laws.

That's why Electronic Arts withdrew "Dragon Age: Inquisition" from India. The video game maker announced on Saturday that the critically acclaimed fantasy game would be withdrawn from Indian shelves, because it is likely to fall afoul of the country’s laws.

“In order to avoid a breach of local content laws, Electronic Arts has withdrawn 'Dragon Age: Inquisition' from sale in India,” the company said, as it pulled the product from Origin, its online marketplace.  "Unfortunately, that means we’re unable to fulfill your Origin order."

No clarification

Electronic Arts did not clarify its decision to withdraw the game beyond this statement about “local content laws”, but it’s not hard to guess what might have prompted this. The game, which has received rave reviews from across the board, made news earlier because of its progressive approach to romances.

In particular, the game features the first fully gay male character that its developer, BioWare, has ever written. “Dorian is gay ‒ he is, in fact, the first fully gay character I've had the opportunity to write,” wrote David Gaider, the lead series writer for the game on the DragonAge website.

The game will also offer a chance for the characters to have straight, bisexual and gay romances as they move through the fantasy world. This, means that it could easily be considered obscene according to Indian laws and could also qualify as “offensive” material.

Electronic Arts, however, told gaming website Kotaku that homosexuality had little to do with the withdrawal, pointing instead to general obscenity laws in India. The developer recommended a look at the game’s Entertainment Software Ratings Board evaluation, which assigns age and content ratings for video games.

Cries of pain

“Violent sequences are often highlighted by cries of pain, gurgling/gushing sounds, and large blood-splatter effects; blood remains on the ground in several environments,” the ESRB description reads. “The game includes some sexual material: a female character briefly depicted in front of a man's torso (fellatio is implied); characters depicted topless or with exposed buttocks while lying in bed or after sex; some dialogue referencing sex/sexuality.”

Again, that description could easily fall afoul of India’s obscenity laws, because of the lowered bar provided by Section 66A. However, hundreds of video games are released in India every year that feature similar sexual references and large amounts of violence, including the hugely popular "Grand Theft Auto" series. What’s different this time is the fact that the game not only includes a gay character and bisexual romances, it has also received a lot of press for this fact.

Considering the apparent rise of cultural intolerance and the ease with which protests over books, movies and other creative endeavours have erupted, it seems like Electronic Arts has decided to take the cautious way out and withdraw the game altogether. The developer has promised that all those who preordered "Dragon Age: Inquisition" will get a full refund.