Australia's Classification Review Board has unanimously overturned the ban on the video game, We Happy Few by the main Classification Board. The appeals boards has now passed the game with the adults-only R18+ for Fantasy
violence and interactive drug use.
The game's developer, Compulsion Games, has expressed sympathy for the censor board saying it wasn't sure the Board could have ruled any other way.
In an email with Kotaku Australia, Compulsion Games chief operating officer and producer Sam Abbott said he wasn't sure that the Classification Board had any room to move, given the constraints of the rating guidelines:
I think originally the board made the best decision they could given (a) the guidelines they work within, and (b) the information we provided them, Abbott said. I'm not sure I'd make a different original decision given those constraints.
Abbott went on to explain that Compulsion Games could have outlined more information about Joy -- the drug that is a centrepiece of the dystopian society in which We Happy Few is set -- including the positive and negative aspects of its
The censor board banned the game for its use of drugs in-game, under the clause about incentivised drug use including:
New skills or attribute increases, extra points, unlocking achievements, plot animations, scenes and rewards, rare or exclusive loot, or making tasks easier to accomplish,
The latter of which was the reason We Happy Few originally fell foul of in the rule. In the Board's opinion:
The game's drug-use mechanic making game progression less difficult constitutes an incentive or reward for drug-use and therefore, the game exceeds the R 18+ classification that states, drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.
Therefore, the game warrants being Refused Classification.
The Classification Review Board will issue details reasons for its decision in due course.
The Classification Review Board has now published its reasons for
overruling the censorship board's ban of We Happy Few and awarding an uncut R18+ rating instead:
Reasons for the decision
The premise of this computer game is for the playing characters to escape a fictional town where the inhabitants are in a state of Government mandated euphoria and memory loss. Although the non -playing characters appear to be happy due to their
continual use of the Joy drug, the computer game quickly establishes that this state is undesirable and the playing characters are on a quest to avoid the use of the Joy drug. The actual use of the fictitious drug as a game progression mechanic,
questions the viability of such a gameplay decision at each stage/level. The character's action in taking the drug is usually the only viable option given and while it may enable the character to pass a stage/level of the game, the benefit is
short term and is followed by a loss of memory and a reduction in health points, the depletion of the body and/or withdrawal symptoms. In the Review Board's opinion, the use of the drug is not presented as an incentive nor does it constitute a
reward for the player in achieving the aim of the computer game. In the Review Board's opinion, the interactive drug use does not exceed high, therefore the computer game can be accommodated at R 18+.
In the light of Australia's Classification Review Board overturning the Classification Board's ban of the video game We Happy Few , the
Australian government is now considering whether games censorship rules need 'modernising'.
The Department of the Communications and the Arts has confirmed that talks have begun to modernise the classification guidelines. Any adjustment to the classification guidelines for computer games must be agreed by classification ministers in all
Australia's states and territories. The department also said it will consult extensively with industry stakeholders and communities.
We Happy Few an indie game, was initially banned over the prominence of the drug Joy, which underpins the game's dystopian society by being used as a method of controlling the populace. The Board's initial finding found that the presence of Joy
violated the clause on incentivised drug use:
The games developer appealed against the ban and the Classification Review Board - a separate statutory body the unanimous overturned the Classification Board's original ban resulting in an adults-only R18+ classification.
The department did not provide a timeline as to when said discussions might take place.
The Australian Censorship Review Board is currently reviewing the ban on Compulsion Games' upcoming dystopian adventure game We Happy Few .
The review is the result of an appeal from Compulsion Games, as the decision was made due to the appearance of the incentivization of drugs in the game. As the Cesnorship Board's report explained, A player that takes Joy can reduce gameplay
difficulty, therefore receiving an incentive by progressing through the game quickly.
The appeal argued that the usage of Joy is indeed negative, as Joy itself is a product of a dystopian society that exercises drug-induced control over its population, and should not in fact be seen in a positive light.
The Board has scheduled a meeting for July 3, where it will review public submissions from those who want to discuss the matter as a interested party to this review, specifically as the process relates to We Happy Few. From there, a decision will
be made in the coming weeks following the review.