We Happy Few Developers Respond After Being Refused Classification

Following the Classification Board's decision to refuse a classification to We Happy Few this week, the developers have responded, saying they share fans' frustration.

Compulsion Games, makers of We Happy Few, wrote in a blog post that they would be consulting with the Classification Board to see what options are available for an Australian release.

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.

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

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.

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"If the government maintains its stance, we will make sure that you can get a refund, and we will work directly with affected Kickstarter backers to figure something out," the studio wrote. They asked that fans not submit refund requests just yet until they have had more discussions with the Classification Board.

Compulsion also emphasised a point many gamers made this week, saying that the point of We Happy Few was to reject the dystopian society and the Joy forced upon citizens. "It’s a society that is forcing its citizens to take Joy, and the whole point of the game is to reject this programming and fight back. In this context, our game’s overarching social commentary is no different than Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or Terry Gilliam's Brazil."

"We would like to respond to the thematic side of We Happy Few in more detail at a later date, as we believe it deserves more attention than a quick PR response. In the meantime we will be talking to the ACB to provide additional information, to discuss the issues in depth, and see whether they will change their minds."

Kotaku Australia has contacted Compulsion Games for further comment, and we'll let you know if they respond and whether the Classification Board changes their mind in the coming days and weeks.


    If you look at the Classification Board, it seems most of them are essentially contract volunteers. They only serve the role for a relatively short period of time (and I think part time at that), so I wonder how much experience they actually have with the process.

    It only takes one trainer overemphasising 'drug use bad' and underemphasising 'context important' for seemingly ridiculous decisions to be made.

    Coming from a public service mentality, the justification for a decision is usually pretty well written, even if its wrong. So a quick QA of the reasons will most likely show an emphasise on the drug use, and undersell the anti-drug message the game is pushing.

    As a career public servant, this ones a tricky one. The core message of incentivising drug use being banned doesn't cover the scenario, so theres no guidance that meets their process. That happens more than people realise as our world evolves.

    So one of two things happens. The board either sticks with their current process, and ignores the context and lesson the game has, or they learn and adapt, and reconsider the message.

      So one of two things happens. The board either sticks with their current process, and ignores the context and lesson the game has, or they learn and adapt, and reconsider the message.

      In other words, we've no hope?

      Jokes aside, I do hope they do put a bit more focus on this game, because the ruling is quite absurd and seems more like a misunderstanding of the nuance of the game, rather than an "oh, drugs, bad, no."

        On the jokey comment, and being serious about it, maybe not. My job sees a lot of how the ATO learns in similar situations, and theres a very real consideration given to how people are effected by our processes. We don't always get it right, but we try to.

        Point being, the system is changing, at all levels. In this context, I don't know how fast or willing they are to change, so cant comment but as you say, the ruling appears quite absurd when considering the nuances.

        As a public servant, I hope they use this as a learning experience and try to be better for it. Its a perfect example of where strict rules can fail to give a proper outcome. I fully understand where the rules about incentivising drug use come from, but that's not what the game is trying to teach you. Quite the opposite.

        Nobody would go into this game clean and come out an ice addict, which is what the rules are trying to prevent, so to block it on those grounds misses out on an opportunity to push the agenda the rules are trying to promote.

    Joy™ Brand single use contact lenses. It's definitely the contact lenses affecting your vision and not a fictional drug being used in a thought-provoking fictional construction that has absolutely no correlation to real-world drugs whatsoever.

    And with only 30 hours of gameplay, We Happy Few will still be shorter than the film Brazil ;)

    I don't understand how this long after passing an R18+ rating, we still get games refused classification. If a game has objectionable content, slap an R18+ rating on it with details of why it got classified that, and let the adults of the country decide what they want to play!

      Because the 18 rating we got is just the MA15 rating, except it allows a higher degree of violence.

      R18+ was not introduced just to give free reign on anything and everything being allowed.

        In this instance, there is nothing even close to objectionable.
        Drugs exist, violence exists, sex exists.
        All of which are reflected through art.
        Censoring art is abhorrent.
        These are morally precious and out of touch people telling everyone else what they can consume. It is outrageous.

          In this instance yes.

          But some people seem to think when R18 was introduced it meant nothing would ever be refused classification again and would just get an R18 rating.

          R18 was introduced due to the fact a majority of gamers are adults. And Parents needed to be made aware when a game is aimed at adults and not children.

    Refuse classification was never updated for the R18 rating... and is outdated that implies interactivity will adversely effect society.

    Its odd that despite R18, most games that have recieved classification are for bloody and gore only (the one thing RC doesnt mention)

    RC needs updating.

    This is a sad day. Games are just that - games! It is a temporal escape from the day to rigours of life. We can watch tv shows or movies that show extreme drug use and ultra violence, but a game that has a depiction of "drug" is not acceptable.
    Should be noted, a lot of gamers are adults and we are able to discern between the real world and fantasy.
    Sad day when censorship affects art.

      What you're not taking into account there is that the classification board can't just say "a lot of the people who play this will understand it". Their responsibility is to the people who don't fit into the norm, the ones who won't understand, the ones who might play it too young. They have to move with the slowest members of the pack.

      We can think it's ridiculous, but they aren't allowed to think of just people like us.

        R18+ rating says "Some material classified R18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community." which means that if adult themes offended some people then an adults classification is appropriate.

        However, RC over-rules that statement by saying "if adult themes that they offend.... (any) reasonable adult" are refused classification.

        So an R18+ can only offend people, if those people are completely unreasonable???

        Absolutely this. People seem to forget that the laws are there to protect people who DON'T have good decision making, not the majority that generally do.

        They don't have a responsibility to anyone, their responsibility is simply to classify in compliance with Commonwealth legislation. And that Commonwealth legislation is complete bullshit.

        So we pander to a minority basically.
        Sorry but this explanation is bullshit.
        This doesn’t happen with film, tv, music.
        It’s specific to video games.
        Imagine if a film that was critical of religion was banned because it *may* offend religious people...
        the ACB are basically telling grown adults that they are incapable of making a decision about which creative media they can consume.
        It is insulting.

        Bullshit. Being that it's voluntary and not a career means that it's usually morally indignant wowsers on a crusade. I know someone who work for film classification board (as a career, not a volunteer) and I'm told the game censorship "candidates" are often usually disgruntled, evangelical types who have been kicked out of their PTA, Country Women and Rotary groups for being zealots. So friends with the same agenda (hatred of change, progress or just those damn kids on my lawn again) tell them of a place they can volunteer and have an actual affect on society (and show us who's boss, dammit). And these people are on rotation, doing their bit then recruiting pals for their "greater good".
        Now the person telling me this IS prone to exaggeration, I admit, but a scenario like this seems plausible. It should be a job, not a brief voluntary role. Choosing what us responsible adults can and can't watch and play is too important a task for someone who is cranky and bitter at this modern world leaving these do gooder, glad hands behind and want a parting shot before they shuffle off the coil. And should be done by someone preferably under 40 and over 25, savvy to the industry and how society really is these days, not how they idealize it.

    If i'm not mistaken I believe because I have already purchased it on steam I can still play it...

      Can you? I would've thought Steam would simply not release it and you would need to seek a refund.

        It's in early access, it's all ready been released. I'm curious about this too.

    So ridiculous. They are completely ignoring narrative context and once again, treating adult gamers like imbeciles.
    It is insulting and embarrassing for everyone.

    I’m a grown up. I can make rational decisions just fine, and don’t need to be ‘protected’.

    In this context, our game’s overarching social commentary is no different than Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World...Well there's your problem, that book was banned in Australia for a time as well. Kidding aside this is why I don't use the double speak name for the ACB. I call it what it is the Australian Censorship Board.

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