The Internet Reacts To We Happy Few's Australian Classification Refusal

Image: YouTube

We Happy Few, a game set in an Orwellian future where freedoms are severely restricted, has been effectively banned in Australia. Once again, the decision came down to 'drug use related to incentives and rewards' - in this case, an entirely fictional sedative called Joy. Aussie gamers have some thoughts for the Classification Board, in Tweet form.

For those who missed yesterday's news, Gearbox Publishing will not be allowed to sell We Happy Few In Australia after it failed to pass classification due to depictions of drug use.

"A player that takes Joy can reduce gameplay difficulty, therefore receiving an incentive by progressing through the game quickly," the Classification Board explained. (You can read more of the decision report here.)

Why We Happy Few Was Refused Classification

The latest game to be banned in Australia. We Happy Few. The announcement was a shock, but a reading of the board's report reveals that the decision is one gamers have become accustomed to from the country's censors.

Read more

As the news broke, Aussie gamers were quick to take to Twitter. There was anger (natch):

The irony of the Classification Board banning a negative depiction of drugs was not lost on you:

Although some people saw a deeper conspiracy afoot:

Others were confused as to where this left game previews and pre-orders:

At least there's some good news for our Antipodean neighbours:

What are your thoughts on We Happy Few being refused classification? Let fly in the comments!


    Serious question, I bought this on game preview so am I entitled to a refund on the basis that a) it may never ship or b) the version that ships will be compromised??

      I've never known steam to ban / RIP out a game after you've bought

      if my research yesterday is any indication, it doesn't affect you. anybody who tries to buy the game now can't that's all (not legally in AU anyway, they can just waltz over to NZ and pick it up for example)

        Wait a ages ago I locked in game preview through the Xbox store, but despite the ban my account will still be able to download it?? That would be siiiick

          is that the full game?

          I don't how it works on Xbox. on Steam it's an Early Access game, but the only different in EA and release candidate is just based on developer decision, the product doesn't change unless the developers resubmit the game to Valve if I understood correctly

    I'll admit I have no intention to play the game at all, not one that grabs me as a must play for me personally. Interesting premise but one that could be explored better in another medium without all this rating hoo ha around it.

    I believe it all comes back to drugs, and the outdated view that kids are the only target audience of video games. I don't think we'll see true change until we get a generation in Parliament and on the ACB that grew up playing games or seeing them being played. Just my opinion

    The worst part about stuff like this is it doesn't stop Australians from accessing the game, just stops us from paying the devs for their hard work.

    Anyone can obtain a pirated copy of the game pretty easily and if that's the only means of obtaining it for those keen to play...well...

    The unfortunate result of that though is not being able to support the devs who have created a game that you (potentially) love. Although I guess if they aren't able to sell to Australians to begin with then they aren't missing out on income from Australian pirates....ahh the morally grey world we live in.

      are you actually stealing something if that something isn't legally available for sale? =p

        Yes, but a more morally correct approach would be to purchase from somewhere where it *is* legally available for sale, and then import it yourself. Sure, you'd still run the risk of getting it confiscated and being charged by the AFP but at least the publisher and devs would be getting paid. I suppose for digital you'd have to use a VPN?

          not sure about XBL but you can't just by pass steam with a simple VPN

          I wonder if gifting still works

            I've bypassed Steam with a VPN before so I could dodge their Australia tax....have they closed the loophole since then?

              I opened my steam client with my VPN turned on and noticed no difference in terms of pricing or accessing "We Happy Few" (I normally point to Norway or Germany)

              aside from the VPN, it could just be as simple as changing my profile country which I think is flagged to AU

        This is basically why the Pirate bay is still relevant today, Think deeper like Chinese censorship & The Pirate bay because a samizdat newspaper (Underground Newspaper).

    I think the internet is fed up with being told how to adult.

      I think Australia is fed up with being told how to adult.
      Fixed it... The Internet still needs to learn how to adult...

        How about we compromise and make it Australians on the internet?

    Ok. Am getting sick of how misinformed people are. It's not banned. It's been refused classification, but it has not been banned. Each state has there own rules on what something getting RCed means to them.

    Kotaku, given the convention, I would suggest someone do some research into it so we can all see itch states its actually banned in. Last time I checked, RCed things are still allowed into Victoria, however, you can not publicly display them or have public viewings of them, so someone in Vic could not stream it on Twitch or Youtube, but owning it is fine. At least, that's what it was last time I checked.

      Actually, check this out:

      Can I import something that is banned in Australia?

      In short, no. If a film, computer game or publication has been classified RC (Refused Classification), or would be classified RC, it can be seized by Customs on the basis that it is a prohibited import. You should check the National Classification Database (NCD) to see if the product you plan on importing has been classified RC.

      Last edited 23/05/18 3:56 pm

      Refused classification is an effective ban.

      When a form of media is refused classification, it is illegal to buy, own and import.

      The content even gets added to the prohibited items list at customs.

      While very lax, if a customs (for example) open a parcel of mine and find a RC-ed game, the game will be ceased and a notice sent to me if it is a first time offence. Repeated attempts will result in a fine.

      In the end, it does not matter what each state thinks. The classification is nation wide thus the implications of an refused classification apply to all states, including Victoria.

    Didn’t the game Haze on ps3 use a similar premise? You basically couldn’t play the game unless you kept taking nectar. So how come a lousy game like that was allowed in back when we didn’t have an R rating for games but this one isn’t?

    When R18+ rating was created in January 2013... the Refuse Classification was NEVER updated.

    R18+ permits drug and sexual content, that would offend a subset of the adult community.
    RC doesn't permit drug or sexual content, if any reasonable adult would be offended. WTF!!!

      Not quite. The Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 state that for R18+:

      DRUG USE

      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.

      For RC it is:

      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.

        Sorry, the quote function is stuffing me about and I can't edit without waiting for moderation...SMH.

    "We Happy Few, a game set in an Orwellian future where freedoms are severely restricted, has been banned effectively in Australia."

    So it's ok for under age kids to be bombarded with alcohol advertising while trying to watch a sport game... Alcohol... a real drug that destroys countless lives every year. But 'adults' aren't allowed to play a video game because it features a completely fictional drug?

      Don't forget the constant gambling ads, another proven addiction that destroys lives, that run during primetime programming even in states where access to the actual gambling websites is restricted anyway.

    Isn't this like banning 1984 because it 'encourages' the writing of fake news?

    I think that the ACB has been too heavy-handed. They have ignored the legislation in one most important rubric: context. The Classification of Video Games Act 2012 states:

    Context is crucial in determining whether a classifiable element is justified by the story-line or themes. In particular, the way in which important social issues are dealt with may require a mature or adult perspective. This means that material that falls into a particular classification category in one context may fall outside it in another.

    Here we have a game that is about the evils of being brainwashed by a drug 'Joy'. The player takes the drug in order to 'blend in'. This can be perceived as commentary on life being made easier for cult members if they just 'follow the rules' and difficult if they try to break those rules.

    The ACB should re-examine the drug use in We Happy Few and pay particular attention to the context. I am convinced they would revise their ruling if they did so.

      EDIT: got the name of the legislation wrong. It is in fact Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012.

    So incentivising taking a "Drug" is bad but drinking Potions that help you in RPGs or the Stim Packs in FPSs that are in 1000's of other games is OK???

    Then of course, Alice in Wonderland has a little girl eating strange mushrooms, drinking unknown potions and hallucinating ( Seeing grinning cats disappear and a caterpillar smoking a water pipe ) but that is a Children's Classic...

    "therefore receiving an incentive by progressing through the game quickly". Using that definition, games with loot boxes should also be banned.

    They should make it so you can play all the cut-scenes at once on the disk and sell it as a movie, oh and btw it comes with a game you can play but we wont advertise it.

    Hilarious... More bad drug influences in Rugby League than there will ever be in games lol

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