GTA V Nabs R18+ Rating

GTA V Nabs R18+ Rating

A classification for Grand Theft Auto V appeared on the Classification Board’s website yesterday, and it appears the game will be available for sale in Australia under an R18+ rating.

The rating takes into account what the Board deems a “Strong Impact” across most themes, and “High Impact” drug use. The main point of difference between this and, say, Saints Row IV, is that it’s unlikely GTA V will have any rewards or beneficial effects for said drug use.

Thanks, AusVGClassifications!


    • Yeah, was going to say thank goodness they haven’t run into the troubles of Saints’ Row. GTAV is a def purchase. Saints Row was a maybe.

  • So what I take from this is that we have the same action (taking drugs) with the differing piece being real effects vs fictional effects… Say no to virtual fiction alien drugs kids, its worse than the real thing.

      • So you turned a blind eye to the player character buying drugs in the trailer during an open world section? Sure, if you buy it then it goes to a cutscene to use, you as the player still have to prompt the actions, thus is interactive.

        • there’s no rules about buying, selling, or doing drugs. Eg: even if it has something like “press x to insert needle, or dragging the right stick across to do a line of blow” it can be as interactive as it wants, as long as no gameplay benefits come from doing the drug.

        • you might find that wasn’t a playable character. Also as long as the character does not TAKE the drugs its fine. If they pass it on, its fine. Thats the rules. If the rule eats drugs and it makes them perform worse THAT IS ALSO FINE.

        • SR:IV was RC’d in part because of an ‘Alien Anal Probe weapon’, & because using drugs gives you positive and enhanced effects. So the game REWARDS you for using the drugs. I remember getting high of numerous different drugs in my play through of Far Cry 3, yet the game doesn’t reward you for it, it makes it slightly more difficult. Just like drink driving in GTA:IV.

          I expect that if drinking in GTA:IV, then driving, resulted in being able to drive faster, better handling etc…. It would have been RC’d here for that alone. Just for promoting it so blatantly.

          • Not just that there was such a weapon, but that it was graphically used.. as you’d expect one to be used.

    • You should probably know what you’re talking about before you jump to any conclusion.

    • So I’ll go ahead and bat at your little strawman for a sec.

      The difference is the in-game usage of drugs being linked to rewards. The “alien narcotics” in SR4 give you superpowers. The in-game drug usage depicted in GTAV probably does not, despite strongly depicting drug use. Hell, I’ve been playing GTAIV lately and last night I had a cutscene where Elizabeta does four lines of coke because she’s freaking out about her impending bust (for dealing coke). She doesn’t, for instance, gain the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound or move faster than a speeding bullet. And that game was rated MA15+ in 2007, likely because there was no R18+ rating available at the time.

      People keep complaining that shows like Breaking Bad are considered ok despite glamourising drugs but games can’t get away with the same thing. The only way Breaking Bad and Saints Row would be comparable would be is anytime Jesse did a hit of meth he had some kind of Popeye transformation where his muscles swell up and someone rear-projects an image of a WW2 era tank onto his bulging biceps. Instead, Breaking Bad goes to great lengths to make the negative effects of meth use apparent, in an attempt to reinforce the fact that by producing and dealing it in, Walter White is a terrible, terrible person. For some reason, people overlook things like his poisoning of a child and detonation of an incindiery device in a nursing home and continue to think of him as the hero of the show.

      • And him letting a woman who had been taking drugs choke on her vomit in her sleep. Her boyfriend unable to help as he was passed out next to her, also on drugs.

        Walter White started as an anti-hero, but now he’s the villain.

        • Having never heard of it before now, all I know about it is the imdb synopsis, as follows:

          With the help of a mysterious pill that enables the user to access 100 percent of his brain abilities, a struggling writer becomes a financial wizard, but it also puts him in a new world with lots of dangers.

          “Mysterious pill” doesn’t overtly imply narcotic. note how State of Decay just had to change their drugs to supplements to get cleared for sale in Australia. That reduces the impact somewhat. It seems like the pill is a narrative tool to set up the concept of someone accessing 100% of their brain, much like the medication/virtual reality combination used in Lawnmower Man, rather than being the focus of the story itself. As I’ve not seen it, I could be wrong, but I feel like the “drug” impact is probably not substantial. I don’t know if I’d say PG is appropriate, but I wouldn’t give it an R. I might not even give it an MA. I’d have to watch it to be sure, it would depend on the impact level of other elements of the story. Lawnmower Man for instance is pretty scary, or was by the standards of the day. Even if you took out the drug aspect, I probably wouldn’t show it to kids.

          Contrast with something like SR4 where the alien narcotics directly impact the way you interact with the game world, where interactivity is the key element that distinguishes games from films. I am not saying that the use of drugs in an interactive medium in and of itself increases the impact (which is a mistake I feel the ACB keeps making), but when the consequences of the usage is to literally make your in-game avatar more powerful and inherently affect the way you interact with the game world, that can send the wrong message.

          Now, do not think that it’s necessarily correct to not allow adults (you know, the only people who SHOULD be playing R18+ games) to not access this material as the message the game is sending is really unlikely to influence someone of 18 years of age or older to try meth because he can kill people more effectively, but that’s just how the rating works.

          • TV Tropes has a bit of a more in depth description:
            Aspiring author Eddie Morra (Cooper) is suffering from chronic writer’s block, but his life changes instantly when an old friend introduces him to NZT, a revolutionary new pharmaceutical that allows him to tap his full potential. With every synapse crackling, Eddie can recall everything he has ever read, seen or heard, learn any language in a day, comprehend complex equations and beguile anyone he meets as long as he keeps taking the untested drug. Soon Eddie takes Wall Street by storm, parlaying a small stake into millions.

            I still think the SR4 situation should have been allowed simply because it was so absurd nobody could reasonably assume that there is any connection to any real life action. Limitless might be dumb but you don’t have to look hard to find people drawing links between NZT (the mystery pill) and Adderall/cocaine.

            Quite simply, the Classification Board’s approach to drugs is dumb.

          • The attorney-general’s approach is dumb, they created the guidelines, the board only follows them and they have training which they didn’t create either.

          • That’s a fair point. I’m not critical of the board or the persons on the board that make the rating decisions, but the fact that the rating system itself has issues.

          • “Quite simply the Government’s approach to drugs is dumb” – Fixed that for you. ACB works within the framework provided to it. They probably also think its preposterous.

          • I’m aware but there is a difference between the government’s approach to drugs in general and the government’s approach to drug as handled by the Classification Board.

            Even if the ACB doesn’t have direct control over the guidelines that they operate under, they are still the guidelines that they operate under.

          • Trjn, I agree. The ACB makes no allowance for context. The context being that it is the VG equivalent of a Wayans Bros film.

      • Didn’t one of the Fallout games or something get RC’d because it featured morphine as an in-game item you could use? And that fell under the “drug use for benefits” thing. But then they changed it to some fictional substance and it was ok. As far as I’ve read, Saint’s Row’s thing it got nailed for was some kind of alien narcotic, ie a fictional substance as well.

        • I think the phrasing threw them off there. Med X (which increases damage resistance) was originally branded morphine and there was an animation accompanying the application which was somewhat graphic (probably similar to when you inject new plasmids in Bioshock, which is a whole other issue).

          They modified the game (globally) to change the name back to Med X (which was the traditional name from Fallout 1 & 2, IIRC) and removed the animation. Since Med X was no longer blatantly narcotic (despite obviously being so from a mere overview of the game’s lore, alongside other “chems” like Jet and Psycho), it passed.

          It was probably also helpful that the game included some drawbacks, such as relying too much on chems giving you an addiction and suffering withdrawl symptoms if you didn’t feed the addiction, but I don’t know how strongly that affected the rating decision.

          A couple of years after Fallout 3 we saw Velvet Assassin, which also heavily featured morphine use. In this case, the world became a grainy black and white, and the protagonist became temporarily invulnerable as she drifted etherically through the battlefield. In this case I guess since they took a real drug but applied some heavy artistic license to the effects of usage, they got away with it.

      • Ok, so you’re playing the effects card here. So because one gives a player super powers and the other gives them the realistic high or whatever normal drugs do, then that makes it ok? Realism of getting high, or dying from drugs is fine in a game, but create a fictional effect and suddenly it’s the worst thing ever? Games are meant to be fictional, they are not meant to make real world logical sense.

        • I am not saying that I agree with the handling of narcotic-like substances in game fiction by the ACB, just that when you follow the rating description the classification (or refusal of same) is appropriate.

          Your oversimplification of the rating decision failed to acknowledge this, so I felt compelled to correct you. I don’t know if you saw my other post in response to beavwa, but I explain my thoughts in a little more detail there.

          • I know I oversimplify the decision, but in it’s simplest form, you can clearing see the issue at hand. As with your Med X example, it seems that a simple name change and animation removal is enough to make the ACB happy, while it keeps all the beneficial effects from what is basically the same drug. In SR4’s case, it’s a completely fictional drug, which probably had a completely stupid fake name attached (poor phrasing of it is what probably caused all this to being with in SR4’s case) with completely fake effects attached. It SHOULD be obvious to anyone with a brain that it’s all fictional.

            On the flip side though, we have GTA 5, which shows the ability to buy drugs in game and shows characters using those drugs. There is a possibility of interaction here too btw, we just won’t know for sure till the game comes out. However, the fact that we’re seeing real world drugs bought and used in GTA 5 should be enough to get it banned under the same guidelines as SR4 has been, but it didn’t.

            On a personal note, I’ve got no issue with what you have said Matthew K, if fact it’s the best arguments I’ve seen on Kotaku in years, but I think, as usual, my message and meaning got lost somewhere.

          • I think the word “narcotic” was the trigger. People have joked that if they were called “alien vitamins” there would be no issue and the resubmission and classification of State of Decay which was RC’d under similar circumstances bears that out.

            I will be astonished if SR4 is not modified and resubmitted accordingly, it seems like a very easy fix.

            The fact that they can do that and get away with it is proof that the system itself is pretty broken, but that’s the wording we have, and I don’t think there’s any current dissonance between the way games are currently being rated in contrast with TV and film.

            We are still being babied despite R18+ content being explicitly intended for adults, but since I saw a lady in EB Games two weeks ago buying a copy of The Last of Us for her 12 year old son, Australian adults as a whole have clearly demonstrated a lack of ability to conduct themselves responsibly, and legislation in most cases has to cater to the lowest common denominator.

          • I’ll agree with the trigger word being “narcotic”. But I’ll give Deep Silver credit for stating things truthfully rather than what a lot of other publishers do and lie about it. I did talk with the reps at PAX AUS about the resubmitted version, but they couldn’t tell me exact changes to avoid leaks, but I was informed that the changes would not be noticeable to anyone who just gets our version.

            Buy yeah, the fact that a few minor changes to wording is all that is needed to change the rating is a big piece of proof that the system is flawed and needs an update to reflect changes to the rating structure. Adults need to be treated as such and games should be classified on the same level as film and television… Impact studies be damned.

            Don’t get me started on parents ignoring rating labels. Talking to a manager friend of mine at an EB store when a kid, about 10 years old, and his father came up and went to buy Gears of War 3. Luckily he father messed up and asked the kid if “this is the game you wanted?” right in front of us. My friend put the game down, looked at the father and said “You do realize this game is rated MA15+ and is unsuitable for your child” and refused sale based on those grounds; even after the father said he was buying it for himself to. Because we both knew that the father was full of crap, he was asked to leave the store.

          • Doesn’t really mean the system is broken, just that there’s a line. There’s a place just before it, and a place just after it. Sometimes all you need to do to get over a line is take a single step, right?

      • Not agreeing or disagreeing with you but if the same logic was used in other games then shooters should be RC too as they reward you for killing with a gun especially online multiplayer. Guns do kill people in real life right? So surely gun games should be RC too.

        Sorry but our ratings are just inconsistent. I personally dont care if games are banned here since i import as its much cheaper anyway but when one game is banned due to graffiti tagging (Mark Eco) and another isnt (The Warriors) something aint right. Ninja Gaiden 2 dismemberment and beheading, thats fine for MA15? Okay then!

        • You’re not wrong, but the fact is that violence is not classified the same way as drugs are. For whatever reason, and we should probably be grateful for this given how violence-centric modern games are, the classification board considers acts of violence to be a necessary tool for gameplay and doesn’t rate it as harshly.

          Narcotic drugs that provide a benefit or reward, that does attract concerns on the part of the ACB. Under MA15+ we couldn’t have sex as an incentive or reward either.

      • “For some reason, people overlook things like his poisoning of a child and detonation of an incindiery device in a nursing home and continue to think of him as the hero of the show.”

        This is that sickening part of the internet where you realise all faith that you could have had in an anonymous individual was all for nought. There’s this absolutely disgusting tenet of commentors where everything is based around the writer being able to stand on their soapbox. What a vapid analysis of story. The whole idea of creative work is for the viewer/player to take away what they will. Some will be offended by a character by Walter, some won’t. Some WILL find redeeming qualities or insights in a character that commits atrocities and NONE of these are “wrong”. The point where this actually matters is that because of the subjective and interpretive nature of story, it’s impossible to tell people what to think (like you are), it’s ridiculous to judge them (like you do) for enjoying a part of a story you find untoward because maybe they saw something different when they experienced it. If the point of Breaking Bad was just that Walter was “terrible” (as you put it) and to judge everyone who does something bad, I and probably a lot of other people would never watch it.

        The whole spectrum of human reaction and story is so stupidly vast that it’s almost impossible for someone to enforce a meaning upon someone else’s work. I mean something like Requiem for a Dream or Trainspotting are a great example. Trainspotting never overtly, actually criticises heroin because the main character seemingly (in some interpretations) never learns anything from his experience. He continues to indulge his desires. The depiction of heroin in the movie almost deems it refusal by the standards our games rating system has set. Fortunately, people tend to go deepeer into a film because they understand the medium, games are awarded no such dignity. The problem here isn’t Saint’s Row or drugs, it’s that we’re relying on people who don’t seem to understand the human, active storytelling element inherent in games. It seems like even satire is held to these stringent rules, as if there is no understanding of exactly HOW a game can tell you it’s story through experience, action and reaction. It’s difficult enough that the vast majority gamers don’t even seem to get it. Sometimes a film, novel, song, sculpture, painting etc. can tell you it’s story by the act of denying the viewer/player/reader something like satisfaction or information and can be heralded for it. If a game does that we get a petition with thousands of signiatures and ridiculous demands to bow to the mob. Then it happens and we can’t say it’s “entitled”. When games are actually understood and respected as an intelligent and subversive medium, this isn’t anything but censorship.

        • You make valid points, but, much like I said when the classification decision for SR4 was originally made, I decided that there wasn’t enough artistic merit for me to go to the battlements over weaponised sodomy. Same goes for alien narcotics. You can lament over how games are underappreciated as an intelligent medium, but that doesn’t always mean there’s some deeper meaning that people simply aren’t getting.

          As for your concerns about my view of Breaking Bad, I think the show is wonderful, But that doesn’t make Walter a good person. Why you choose to watch the show is your business, as why I watch the show is my business. You could argue that he’s simply gotten in too deep and being driven by his own mistakes, and the collateral damage was unavoidable in the course of keeping himself and his family alive and safe – which is why he started making meth in the first place. And that’s why we’re still rooting for Walt five seasons later. But from any objective standpoint, Walter has clearly done terrible things, and very little good.

    • It says right there in the article, “The main point of difference between this and, say, Saints Row IV, is that it’s unlikely GTA V will have any rewards or beneficial effects for said drug use.” This implies that you are given drugs in SR4 as a reward, and that these drugs (whether they’re actual real drugs or false ones) gave a positive boost. It’s promoting that drugs are good for you, where in GTA5, it’s most likely that yes drugs are used but in context and not as a booster. Thus why we get the R18 rating rather than a refusal.

      • Its a little different in SR4 than you describe, the “Alien Narcotics” supposedly give you the super -powers the trailers and gameplay videos depicted. They are given to a protagonist as part of a mission or at the end of a mission as a reward (not sure which). I believe its the effects of the drugs “giving you super-powers” as the “reward” that caused the RC again. No mention about “alien narcotics being good for you”, just plain and simple giving you super powers.

        GTA V on the other hand may contain drug taking in the cut scenes or as an actual push button action, but its far from likely that there will be a “reward” attached to it.

  • I have to wonder if they submitted the normal version or if like with GTA IV they submitted an already edited version.

    • Rockstar would have submitted the normal version…The edited version of GTA IV was submitted because at the time we didn’t have a R18+ classification and Rockstar knew that the normal version would have been RC’d – funnily enough the PC version was uncut and passed as MA15+ and the original PS3 and 360 versions have been patched to go uncut (where as the Complete Edition are uncut from the word go)

        • Some of the blood was cut out (blood puddles and blood trails left by car tyres for example) and prostitute scenes were censored in that you couldn’t move the camera around to look in the car windows. In the uncut version you can see the fully clothed sexy times.

    • Well, on the Board’s post it is listed as the “Original” version, which is encouraging.

      • “Original” version just means it’s the first version of the product they’ve seen, it doesn’t tell you if the game is actually original / uncut or not. When it says “Modified” version it means they’ve already classified an earlier version of the game/film/publication and the Modified one is somehow different; it might be the inclusion of extra material for instance, or director’s cut, GOTY edition, censored or just an alternate version.
        Classification Board doesn’t care if what they’re dealing with is uncut or censored and won’t make a note of it.

  • “The game that Australia gets will also be the same version shipped internationally, too, as Rockstar Games showed off the original version to the Classification Board, rather than a version modified for questionable content.” – Gizmodo Article. Kotaku get yourself together.

  • It’s still weird that “Drug Use” is the only warning of note on a GTA game… Kinda implies a skewed set of priorities imo…

    Will we henceforth have to account for the skewed perspective of the guidelines when we read these “advisory” warnings? We shouldn’t have to second guess these warnings – they’re there to be helpful, not to further obscure the issue.

    • I assume that it’s because drugs are the only “high” impact content and that’s what pushed it into R18+. Because everything is only “strong” it falls below the scope of R18+ so doen’t need to be mentioned – if you took out the drugs entirely we’d probably see an MA15+ game with the commentary “Themes, Violence, Language, Sex, Nudity”.

      • I’d assume so. There’s always the possibility that the “drug use” far outweighs the violence in its impact… but I’ve yet to see any scene of drug use that has more impact than seeing someone get shot… hence, “skewed”. Take the torture scene from Sleeping Dogs, for example. What drug use scene could possibly top that for impact? Or are we saying it’s “high impact” for what it is, kinda like an angry chihuahua is terrifying, for its stature? I suppose that’s the case…

        • It seems a bit stupid to me that drug use is considered grounds for R18+ at all. What will happen when cannabis is decriminalised and eventually legalised, will it still be grounds for R18+? You can have a character drink alcohol in games and only get an M rating.

          • Doubtful, as the classification scheme specifically states “illicit drug use”. If it were legalised, it would technically no longer be illicit; it would still be restricted (I’d imagine), in a similar manner to alcohol and tobacco, and would therefore merit a similar rating with the classification board – ie. still would likely warrant a minimum of M.

  • I am SO happy to hear this. Will be buying as soon as I possibly can.

    That is, if R* and everyone else survives the wave of “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!” groups that start with the word “Family” and believe in raising children by ruining the lives of everyone else.

    • i’m drinking a drug called coffee, being adult i know it’s name is coffee. GG world, GG life. stay based. TYBG.

      • But children can’t drink coffee, so we have to take the necessary step and ban it. Why? Because that’s how parenting is done.

        (But seriously, ever see that episode of Daria where she becomes friends with a home-schooled kid? His parents flip out over the stick of gum and the cassette of The Beatles Daria gave to him? Or the episode of The Simpsons where Flanders is sitting in front of the TV, playing back tapes and reporting the moral outrages he sees? That’s what the upcoming months of GTA: V are going to be like)

  • the triviality of renaming drugs is pretty pathetic, considering this change is related to R18 which is exclusive for adults… umm we’re discussing the content as it’s refused, the exact content we as adults are supposedly to be refused, it’s a hypocrisy and it needs to change. We need to reach a point when we are as sensible with our ratings as New Zealand has been for years. GG OFLC now all us adults know about alien anal probes and alien drugs more than we know about the game itself.

    • It’s like the L4D2 saga of a few years ago. Original game gets submitted to OFLC, gets reviewed and RC’d on the premise of extreme violence (not the reason) and because the violence is “inflicted upon ‘the Infected’ who are living humans infected with a rabies-like virus that causes them to act violently.” (which I think was the real reason – call the infected Zombies and they may have gotten away with it). Mind you L4D1 passed with no changes but L4D2 didn’t and got resubmitted as the German version and passed (and since the R18+ people have been asking Valve to re-submit L4D2 again to get the “uncut” version into Australia.

      Most ratings boards will frown upon rewards for drug use but ratings boards around the world view it differently….Remember the console gaming companies (for the US market anyways) don’t licence games that the ESRB rates as AO (Adults Only) which effectively bans the game…so games like GTAV and SR4 would have built to push the boundaries of the M17+ rating…If the console companies allowed AO rated games on their consoles you could imagine just how far GTAV and SR4 could go and they would definitely be RC’d here in Australia

  • Saints Row 4 looks like a piece of crap. Sorry but it does. They rush through those games and it shows in the end result. That’s why GTA will always be better, because Rockstar doesn’t see the point in releasing another game so quickly. They take the time with their games and the end results are always. That said, I don’t agree with it being banned because as an adult I don’t think it’s right that other adults tell me what I can and can’t watch. But to me it’s not a total loss. I’m just glad Australia isn’t stupid enough to ban a brilliant game like GTA V. Also Saints Row 4 was not only banned for the narcotics but also the alien probe gun. Which really has no real purpose to be in a game in the first place. It’s like the creators of SR want to cause controversy.

  • All part of the plan. GTA would cause people to actually get upset, instead of taking their medicine like good little children. Saints Row was the whipping boy this year, given a few lashes to show the “family” lobbies how well this new system works. I guarantee we will have at least one more RC later this year. By then people will simply say “At least we got GTA”.

  • The ACB can get fucked. Local businesses hence, are fucked because I’ll just buy an unrestricted version of the game from another country. One that will not force their fascist rating system onto me.
    R18+ my arse. It’s just the same as MA15+

  • This has definitely made the game a must purchase for me, after the SR4 incident this is good news.

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