So R18+ still means something different for games in Australia

Once again, proof that our government doesn’t entirely give us what we ask for.

A few years ago, games lobbyists in Australia seemed to finally have a win in regards to adult content in games. By adult content, I am not talking about porn in video games, but adult topics that are shown on primetime TV and movies.

But as I discussed last year with the refusal of classification of We Happy Few, what we can see on TV for 20+ years still isn’t acceptable for games.

A large part of this is because games are still thought of as politicians as a child’s pastime. The fact that repeated surveys show the average age of gamers in Australia is closer to 35 than 15 doesn’t seem to be a factor in changing the rules.

The description is that same as for films, but it's not the case

What we got was the R18+ rating, sure. On the surface what we asked for. What we didn’t get was a change to the rules for Refusing Classification – the regulations that banned more games than the lack of an ‘adult only’ rating.

Like Fallout 3 years ago, We Happy Few was refused classification last year because of drug use. Not just drug use, but the fact you are seen by the rules as rewarded for taking drugs. If you look at the context of the game, this is not the case, and the classification was revised.

This was still an issue more than 10 years ago. How?

The change was only skin deep.

An update is coming for We Happy Few that required the game to resubmitted. Now the original Refused Classification rules have come back into play.

DayZ, a zombie survival shooter that has been digitally available for years, has been refused classification. Why? Because the players could use marijuana. And the bigger joke was marijuana didn’t do anything yet – the devs hadn’t implemented the feature.

Today this has been revised because the devs changed the game to remove the drug.

Don’t misunderstand, rating DayZ R18+ because of illegal drug use I consider reasonable. What isn’t is that adults can watch shows like Weeds or Narcos as a choice.

The problem is the base rules for refusing classification didn’t change. So if you have a game aimed at children where they get medicine from their parent to heal boo-boos, and that shows incentivized drug use. The refused classification verdict must be handed down.

DayZ. I never played it, but why should grown adults be refused the choice?

Why are you talking about We Happy Few again?

I keep talking about We Happy Few, and that is for a good reason. The gameplay is similar to A Clockwork Orange, considered a film masterpiece. But add ‘Hit X to take Joy’, and all bets are off.

Both A Clockwork Orange and We Happy Few are a known quantity to the mainstream, so that makes it handy as a quick example. But what about the last few weeks?

Rocksteady has been refused classification for Bonaire – and we don’t even know what it is. The thinking was a Red Dead Redemption 2 expansion, but only Rocksteady knows for sure.

Another high profile game coming up with various drug use is Cyberpunk 2077. With this recent spate of refusals, there is once again a genuine chance Australians will not be able to play it. Legally, anyway.

Cyberpunk 2077 Paramedics
Not the drug use the board is worried about, but drugs are a huge part of the Cyberpunk RPG

The biggest joke to me? I don’t even play We Happy Few. Reviews came out that things weren’t great, so I didn’t play it. I was going to play it sometime on Game Pass, but it looks like that might not happen now.

But it’s only a few games – what’s the problem?

Yes, it’s only a few games. There are so many other vitally essential fights happening at the moment. But it also shows what the Australian government and we as people have become. The message we sent previously was to rate interactive media (video games) the same as film and literature. What we got was a rating (yay) that because of a completely different set of rules means nothing. It was lip service to the majorities wishes.

It’s the same as when you only have $50, and a salesman offers you a new Tesla for half price. It doesn’t matter what the price is. I don’t have the money. Make the game adults only? That’s fine, but because the classification board can’t classify the game, it doesn’t matter what the rating is.

And if the government does this for simple things, think about what they do for things that matter. Yes, this is a political rant. But if you think I am picking on a party, remember that we didn’t get R18+ for years because of one man – South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson. He didn’t want it, so it didn’t happen. What finally got through was a flawed bill that showed action but did nothing.

Sure it would be nice, but you can do a lot with the asking price

The video game rating issue demonstrates beautifully has become of the Australian political system. And everyone in the system seems to be fighting tooth and nail to keep it that way.

So what can we do about this?

We need to be aware that the Australian system has problems. Australia has the most closed democracy system anywhere. We are one of the few democracies that doesn’t have protected freedom of speech for its population. For politicians, there is protection.

The party system has demonstrated more and more that the system is there for the politicians first. The NBN is a simple example of this. How much money has been wasted following the existing US system of multi-vendor technology?

New Zealand proved that the original fibre plan costings were correct. Implementation was expensive to begin with but got cheaper as the rollout continued. New Zealand is now ranked 17th in the world for internet speeds. Australia is 50th and doesn’t meet the definition of ‘high-speed broadband’ anymore.

Now the fibre plan had problems as well, and this is important to remember. Because of Australia’s widely spread population, rural areas did need something else to connect them, but well over 90% of the country would have been better off. The people winning with the multi-vendor solutions? Companies, and mainly Telstra at that. Why is Telstra more important than 90% of the people the government is supposed to represent?

These are landline speeds. We are great at wireless speed, but think of mobile data plan costs.

I have given two examples of things that are important to me personally. Games are admittedly a luxury. Internet in today’s world is a need.

Look at what issues are important to you, and look at what your representative is doing about it. If you don’t know, ask. It is their job to answer you.

I’ve said it before and will continue to do so. If we can come together on the little things, imagine what we can do for the important ones. A simple view of democracy is majority rules, but the top 10% seems to be controlling this country.

OK, rant over. Back to games with tomorrows review 🙂

Until then,

JohnHQLD