Australia Just Banned The Game Made By The Dev Who Threatened Gabe Newell

Mike Maulbeck courted a fair amount of controversy in late 2014 after going on a Twitter tirade that resulted in the unwise posting that he was going to "kill Gabe Newell" after the game his studio worked on, Paranautical Activity, was incorrectly listed as an Early Access title.

Unsurprisingly, the game was pulled from Steam and it wasn't until February last year that the game reappeared on Steam as a "Deluxe Atonement Edition". But that's unlikely to matter to Australians, since the game has been refused classification.

The Classification Board listing has only popped up in the last 24 hours, with the author and publisher (Code Avarice, Digerati Distribution) matching up with the details on Paranautical Activity's Steam listing.

Ouch

According to the board's reasoning, the first-person rogue-like received an RC rating because it fit within its parameters for games depicting, expressing or otherwise dealing with "matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified".

The current owner of the rights are Digerati Distribution, which purchased them from Code Avarice following the aftermath of Maulbeck's tirade. Doug Lombardi revealed that Valve had stopped talking to the developer following the posts, and it wasn't until Digerati bought the IP, code and rights to the game that it was able to be listed on Steam once more.

Digerati told me via email that they would "look at removing the 'offending item'" to comply with the Classification Board's requirements. "The reason they gave was 'illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives and rewards' - the prescribed drug in game is Adderall and picking up the item gives you a 15% speed increase," Digerati's Nick Alferi said.

"I have asked if we can resub [Paranautical Activity] without the item, waiting for a reply," he added. Alferi also confirmed that while Code Avarice and Maulbeck are no longer affiliated with the game.

I've reached out to Code Avarice and Mike Maulbeck for comment regardless, but had not heard back at the time of writing. Given history and the language on Maulbeck's Patreon, however, I wouldn't bet on Maulbeck's response being conciliatory.


Comments

    Ah, the first game of the year to go down the route of 'classification controversy makes good PR for our product.' 2016 is still but a pup.

    It's a different kettle of fish, but surely this is (part of) why region locking exists, and is only going to stick around, right? To ensure digital shopfronts can operate within different countries rules and regs?

      Nah. As long as they don't actively market it here they're fine.

      Regions are mostly for pricing and distribution rights, since different publishers may control different regions.

    Just change the name from "Adderall" to "Addersome" and it'll get through with an MA15+ rating. Yay ratings board!

      That's what went down with fallout 3. Australia nanny state world police.

        Med-X instead of Morphine, Buffout instead of Steroids... that was it right?

      Using a different name didn't help Saints Row 4. In that game it was an alien drug, but was shown being smoked like crack.

      It'll depend on what exactly is in the game, and who reviews the game.

        I think the issue there was more that using the drug gave the character superpowers, and it was promoted as being super positive and awesome if I'm remembering correctly.

          You see the characters smoke the alien drugs out of a broken light bulb, which is one of the ways people smoke crack.

          Similarly the morphine/med-x injection animations were removed from Fallout 3 prior to release, so presumably they tripped up on the same rule (while there was no R18+ back then, the same drug use related prohibitions were in place).

    Dammit, @cakesmith! This is totally an example of our government's lack of respect for adult freedoms!

    And you owe me an as-yet-undefined number of monies for the bet.
    ...Which I am now defining as 'all of them'.

    That "drug-use tied to reward" part of the classification system bugs me. Realistic drug use is the one that pisses me off the most. There's a great case to be made for an educational game based around drug use and addiction. There's a plethora of other media on the subject. Games can reach people in a way no other media can, and we should be taking advantage of it.

      I doubt an educational game is going to give you a speed boost from taking amphetamines.

        No, it's not. But the code also bans "realistic drug use." That part is the restricting part. It's not spelled out if that means a realistic depiction of drug use, or realistic consequences of drug use.

          Not really. The guidelines to the Code state that:
          [Refused Classification] DRUG USE:
          Detailed instruction in the use of proscribed drugs.
          Material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use.
          Computer games will also be Refused Classification if they contain:
          (i) illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards;
          (ii) interactive drug use which is detailed and realistic.

          Legislative interpretation is a kinda detailed and boring topic, but it's pretty clear from those guidelines, read in conjunction with the Code, that the line is in illegal/controlled drugs being tied to an in-game boost. It's easy to disagree with that being the line, but it's also pretty clear that games often take a pretty juvenile approach to drug use.

    In my opinon, if we add a multitude of sniffer dogs and police to the areas of the game where the Addserawl is there, it will tell the young people that they shouldn't take the Addserawl and will stop them taking the Addserawl and that they won't get away with it.
    This is the young people's last chance before we shut down these videogames for good for their own good.

    Im looking at it in steam right now

      A RC rating would definitely block a physical release, if they were doing one. However, Steam's not Australian owned nor operated - so they have no real need to comply with the ratings board. Games published by major companies that do operate in Australia (e.g. Activision, Ubisoft, EA, etc) generally still abide by our rules on Steam.

        The Classification Board's rulings have had an impact in the past. See Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead 2 and South Park: The Stick of Truth, whose Australian versions remain sanitised in order to comply with the Board's demands.

          Which is very weird to be honest. Games Walking Dead was released and playable before classification.

          Apparently not the case with L4D2.
          http://www.kotaku.com.au/2014/09/uncensored-left-4-dead-2-finally-gets-classified-in-australia/

            Point was that Australia had the censored version for ages as a result of the board's ruling (and that Stick of Truth is still censored for Australian users)

          Let's not forget Hotline Miami 2, which is completely unbuyable in Australia
          (unless you use a simple trick like I did, hyuck hyuck
          but even if you own the game on Steam, you still can't see the store page or the community pages for the game)

        There is a console version of the game and this rating will stop its release on XB1 and PS4 as both systems tend not to allow the game on the platform without a formal rating.

    So who wants to explain how FarCry 4's drugtrip activities didn't get its classification refused?

      Those sequences were properly contextualized and the drug is never given a name (and if it was a fake name would be fine). The board generally comes down on something when it's more a matter of it simply being a case of "take the real world drug, get powers without negative consequences".

      It's a silly hair to split but that's how it is.

    Already in my library. Must have got it in a bundle a while back. Another in my huge pile of shame.

    The ACB hasn't been relevant for years now. I was importing back in the PS2 era and started downloading shortly after. Dunno who thought drug use should get ANYTHING banned, especially when games like MKX and Outlast get released uncensored, but Australia in general has always had issues with it's priorities.

    Literally, if it was called Adderwall, there'd be no issue. Laughable.

    Oh and the ACB has no clue about *realistic drug use* - speaking from experience, a bunch of sheltered pen pushers wouldn't know the first thing about drugs.

    Move along. Just more irrelevant redtape. In the real world people just use torrents, netbiz or a VPN . This ain't 1995 with 28k dialup.

    Makes our country look extremely petty and prude - which it is. Australia has much growimg up to do if it's still trying to ban video.games for mentioning an ADD medication. Just call it Mentats or MedX like Fallout and you can have all the perks.you like lol.

    Between this and Saints Row 4, looks like they're taking this pretty seriously. Not like back in the day, with Grand Theft Auto 3's bullet time pills, Mario's "super" mushrooms, and any AFL game's featuring of the Essendon football club...

    But drugs in the binding of Isaac are OK? damn, the rating board is so inconsistent.

    RC in Australia != the end of my gaming.

    Doesn't look like a game I'd bother with though...

    So much for the R18+ classification we championed for.
    The gaming industry is going to have to self regulate at this rate.

    Honestly the game devs need to be more creative with getting stupid things pass the ACB. Like for example Stanley Kubric managed to convince the classification board that all the blood in the movie 'The Shining' was just rusty water :P

    It doesn't even have to be a real world drug to be RC..

    "and the drug is never given a name (and if it was a fake name would be fine)"

    Oh really?

    See here:
    http://ow.ly/gjwi301wGLR

    ^ The Review Board's report for Saints Row 4:

    "Drug Use—During the course of the game, there is an option for a ‘side mission’
    where the Player can achieve an unlimited sprinting power or superpower. Having
    acquired alien narcotics, the Player then has to inhale the drugs to gain the necessary
    superpower.
    "The game directly links drug use to incentives and rewards. The fact that at another point in the game, these superpowers can be acquired in a different manner is irrelevant to the fact that in this option the drug use directly achieves the incentive of acquiring superpowers. Though the drugs are referred to as ‘alien’ their usage is represented in a realistic manner using realistic drug taking methods. The means by which the drugs are obtained from a street dealer parallels reality. The dialogue of the Player and other characters underlines the link between the drug use and the achievement of superpowers e.g. “This alien shit should give us an edge" (spoken by a female character)."

    "The board generally comes down on something when it's more a matter of it simply being a case of "take the real world drug, get powers without negative consequences".

    You can remove 'negative consequences' because they don't consider whether that is or isn't there.

    https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2012L01934

    Games guidelines - R 18+

    "Drug use is permitted".

    "Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted".

    "Interactive illicit or proscribed drug use that is detailed and realistic is not permitted".

    Doesn't even have to be contextualised.

    Games guidelines - RC

    "Detailed instruction in the use of proscribed drugs".

    "Material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use".

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