The Classification Review Board - which operates as a separate body to the Classification Board itself - has finally published the reasoning for its decision to overturn the RC rating for We Happy Few. In its report, the review panel noted that the game "quickly establishes" that the hallucinogenic state induced by the drug Joy was "undesirable" and that the game's overall quest was to "avoid the use of the Joy drug".
Earlier this month three members of the oversight body oversaw We Happy Few's review, unanimously voting to reclassify the dystopian survival adventure R18+. The Classification Board had originally found that the game incentivised drug use through the benefits and easier gameplay afforded through the consumption of Joy, but that view was rejected in the Review Board's report.
"The premise of this computer game is for the playing characters to escape a fictional town where the inhabitants are in a state of Government mandated euphoria and memory loss," the review board's report reads. "Although the non-playing characters appear to be happy due to their continual use of the Joy drug, the computer game quickly establishes that this state is undesirable and the playing characters are on a quest to avoid the use of the Joy drug."
The report adds that written and oral submissions from Baker Mckenzie (lawyers representing Gearbox Publishing) were taken into account, as was material from the game itself, the Board's original report, a written submission from Microsoft (which was listed as an 'interested party') and 87 submissions from the public.
The review's procedure went as follows:
The Review Board was provided written submissions from Microsoft Pty Ltd and 87 members of the general public. The Review Board viewed a lengthy live demonstration of gameplay and viewed recorded gameplay footage. The Review Board heard an oral submission from the Applicant. The Review Board then considered the matter.
Ultimately, the Review Board found that any benefits from the use of Joy were "short term" and they were often followed by a drop in health, "depletion of the body" and "withdrawal symptoms".
The actual use of the fictitious drug as a game progression mechanic, questions the viability of such a gameplay decision at each stage/level. The character’s action in taking the drug is usually the only viable option given and while it may enable the character to pass a stage/level of the game, the benefit is short term and is followed by a loss of memory and a reduction in health points, the depletion of the body and/or withdrawal symptoms.
In the Review Board’s opinion, the use of the drug is not presented as an incentive nor does it constitute a reward for the player in achieving the aim of the computer game. In the Review Board’s opinion, the interactive drug use does not exceed high, therefore the computer game can be accommodated at R 18+.
The Review report also pointed out the various guidelines under the National Classification Code and the specific rules for computer game classifications under the relevant Act.
We Happy Few is due out for release on PC and Xbox One on August 10. The board's full report, including the names of each member of the public who filed a submission, can be read here.
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.
Thanks to reader Emme for the tip!