Australia has long had an issue with video game classification.
Thanks to legislation initially put in place in the ’90s, Australia didn’t have an “adults only” or equivalent AO rating until 2013. Until then movies, TV shows and most other media could be rated “R18+,” but not video games.
But even after the addition of an R18+ classification for video games, video games are still treated differently in Australia, mainly as a result of the idea that “interactivity” adds impact to any sex, violence or drug use featured. Since the introduction of its R18+ rating, Australia has still banned a significant number of video games.
This week has been especially strange.
It started with DayZ earlier this month.
DayZ, a precursor of games like Fortnite and Apex Legends had been available digitally for years, but as a result of an official retail release, Five Star Games, the local distributor of DayZ, had to go through Australia’s government run classification process, where it was refused classification — effectively banned in Australia.
Five Star Games did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Now today, Kotaku Australia has found three more titles that have also been refused classification in Australia. We Happy Few, Hotline Miami and the codenamed “Bonaire”, which is thought to be downloadable content for Red Dead Redemption 2.
Interestingly, like DayZ, We Happy Few and Hotline Miami had already been classified in Australia, but as a result of either re-releases or upcoming DLC had to be re-classified.
Unlike in regions like Europe or the US, in which industry bodies like the ESRB are trusted to self-regulate the classification of video games or movies, Australia’s classification is government-run. Ratings are provided by the Australian Classification Board.
But the board is, for the most part, the messenger, working from guidelines agreed upon by government. Video games in Australia are most frequently banned as a result of drug use. According to the classification guidelines, any video game where drug use is incentivised (as a “power up” that benefits the player for example) can result in a ban. That’s almost certainly why We Happy Few’s DLC was refused classification and it appears to be the reason why DayZ was banned earlier this month.
The Australian Classification Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.