Following the overturning of We Happy Few‘s RC rating by the Classification Board’s review panel, the Department of the Communications and the Arts has confirmed that talks have begun to “modernise” the classification guidelines.
The department’s media team confirmed that talks had begun with states and territories. Much like the implementation of the R18+ rating, any adjustment to the classification guidelines for computer games “must be agreed by classification ministers in all jurisdictions,” the department told Kotaku.
“The Department is currently examining how the National Classification Scheme can be modernised,” the department said. “The Department has commenced discussions with the states and territories, which are joint partners in the National Classification Scheme, and will consult extensively with industry stakeholders and community organisations.”
Confirmation of the talks has followed the initial ban, and subsequent review, of We Happy Few. The indie was initially given an RC rating over the prominence of the drug Joy, which underpins the game’s dystopian society by being used as a method of controlling the populace. The Board’s initial finding found that the presence of Joy violated the clause on incentivised drug use:
A player that takes Joy can reduce gameplay difficulty, therefore receiving an incentive by progressing though the game quickly. Although there are alternative methods to complete the game, gameplay requires the player to take Joy to progress.
– Classification Board’s report on We Happy Few
As part of the review process, the Classification Review Board – a separate statutory body – took submissions from the developer, publisher, and the public. Around 88 submissions were received, the department said, adding that those submissions “are not made public”.
This is especially helpful for fans of We Happy Few: as part of the appeals process, Compulsion Games provided additional video and context that spoils part of the plot and lore. Producer Sam Abbott also told Kotaku that the appeal cost $10,000, a hurdle they wouldn’t have been able to surmount without the support of publisher Gearbox.
Following the unanimous overturning of the Classification Board's original RC rating for We Happy Few, Compulsion Games has expressed sympathy for the statutory body. The studio -- and Aussie gamers -- is glad that the RC rating was overturned, but one We Happy Few producer isn't sure the Board could have ruled any other way.Read more
The department also said that they would “consult extensively with industry stakeholders and community organisations” in any amendments to the guidelines around video game classifications, but did not provide a timeline as to when said discussions might take place.