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.
According to the decision report from the Classification Board, which was provided to Kotaku Australia, the use of the drug Joy in We Happy Few was a chief reason for the refused rating. “Computer games will be refused classification if they include or contain ‘drug use related to incentives and rewards’,” the report reads.
Joy is a central mechanic in We Happy Few, which revolves around the town of Wellington Wells where citizens are required to take Joy on a regular basis. Not taking Joy makes the game substantially more difficult, with NPCs detecting the player’s presence more easily without the drug, and certain NPC characters can immediately spot whether the player has skipped their pill regime.
“A player that takes Joy can reduce gameplay difficulty, therefore receiving an incentiv by progressing though the game quickly. Although there are alternative methods to complete the game, gameplay requires the player to take Joy to progress,” the report reads.
In one sequence, an NPC is viewed on the ground, convulsing owing to a reaction from taking a Joy pill, which has subsequently turned bad. After several NPCs encourage her to take Joy and she refuses, fearing that it will have an adverse effect, they beat her with steel pots and a shovel, until she is implicitly killed.
In another sequence, the player is seen in first-person view, entering a telephone box that contains three large pill dispensers, each holding a different flavoured Joy pill. The player consumes a Joy pill and a swarm of brightly-coloured butterflies appear as well as rainbows and coloured pathways on the ground, improving speed and visibility for the player.
The clause around incentivised drug use was cited in the banning of Fallout 3, Crimecraft, and Risen. The Board also pointed to drug use as a reason for banning Saints Row IV, along with “interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence”, although a censored version of the game was later approved for sale locally.