We Happy Few Has Been Reclassified R18+

We Happy Few Has Been Reclassified R18+
Image: YouTube

The Classification Board has reversed their original ruling on We Happy Few, giving the dystopian adventure a R18+ rating following a review.

The board announced through their website this afternoon that a three-member panel “unanimously determined” We Happy Few would receive a R18+ rating, reversing the RC ruling that would have seen the game banned from Australia previously.

We Happy Few Developers: The Classification Board 'Made The Best Decision They Could'

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. While the studio -- and Aussie gamers -- are glad that the RC rating was overturned, one We Happy Few producer isn't sure the Board could have ruled any other way.

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The ‘Fantasy violence and interactive drug use’ moniker will be applied to the game’s classification rating instead. In a further release, the Board’s acting director, Margaret Anderson, noted that “drug use related to incentives and rewards” was banned amongst all classification levels:

In the Board’s opinion, the game’s drug-use mechanism of making game progression less difficult, constituted an incentive or reward for drug-use. Therefore, the game exceeded the R 18+ classification because of the drug use related to incentives and rewards.

The Games Guidelines state that computer games that exceed the R 18+ classification category will be Refused Classification. If the Games Guidelines did not contain this restriction in its current form, then We Happy Few would have received an MA 15+ classification.

Anderson’s release also noted that games that are refused classification “cannot be sold, hired, advertised or imported into Australia”. It adds that clarification was sought from Gearbox Publishing, the publishers of We Happy Few, around the use of Joy in the game, although no further detail was provided on Gearbox’s reply or what questions were asked.

Further information about the We Happy Few reversal will be published by the Classification Board at a later date.


    • The system didn’t work, they reclassified it without addressing the fact that they ignored their own guidelines in issuing the initial classification. “Drug use related to incentives and rewards” is not banned. “Illegal or proscribed drug use related to incentives and rewards” is banned. Those are two very, very different points, and they have conveniently ignored the fact that have slipped from one to the other.

      • I’m quoting from the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 in relation to R18+ category:

        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.

        • The term ‘drug’ in this instance is clearly intended to apply to illicit or proscribed drugs, consistent with popular usage of the term, otherwise half of all games would be banned because of medpacks and Rad-X.

          • I don’t think so. I mean, it says ‘Drug use is permitted.’ That would cover your medpacks and stuff. Only two things are prohibited:

            1. Detailed and realistic use of illicit or proscribed drugs; and
            2. ANY drug use related to incentives or rewards.

            I think it’s number 2 that is the problem. Taken in isolation, it is incredibly broad. An incentive or reward could mean almost anything. In this case, the ACB thought that allowing the player to blend in and not be ‘outed’ as a dissident was an ‘incentive’.

            As we’ve seen, context is critical in establishing that, whilst there might be the perception of incentive, the overarching goal in the game is to escape this drug-using society.

          • Please see my above comment regarding the guidelines issued by the board and why you are incorrect. The agreed guidelines published by the board specifically outlines the following under the Refused Classification category:

            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.

          • https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2012L01934 – this is the actual legislation

            You are right in terms of the RC category, but I quoted from the R18+ category. And naturally, if it can’t fit in the R18+ category it is going to be RC anyway. That’s why I said any drug use related to incentives or rewards is prohibited.

            R18+ says:

            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.

            Doesn’t say anything about illicit or proscribed drug use relating to incentives or rewards. Ergo, any drug use related to incentives or rewards will bump a game out of the R18+ category and into RC, *unless* context permits the ‘incentives’ or ‘rewards’ to be justified within a larger narrative (such as in We Happy Few).

          • You’ll have to forgive the formatting of the quote. I can’t get a multi-line quote going for some reason…

      • I was thinking similar. They originally made the wrong decision for the right reasons (drug use is bad, m’kay), but maybe they’ve now made the right decision for the wrong reasons (drug use is still bad, but we’ll ignore it this time).

        End of the day, we get to play the game. The 18+ rating is appropriate, and hopefully will let them use it for similar issues in the future. For me, it just shows that zero tolerance isn’t always the right answer.

  • This has been the best publicity and marketing We Happy Few could possibly ask for.

    Great outcome though!

  • “cannot be sold, hired, advertised or imported into Australia”.
    Haha yeah, nah mate. Just like the websites that got blocked for streaming there is always a way around it.

    • I remember when they said MK9 couldn’t be imported into Australia and they’d be making sure none got in, man I’m so glad they were so efficient about that…

      I mean, they must’ve started AFTER mine got through right?

      • I used to buy from ozgameshop, mainly because it was cheap, had a few games that were refused classification.

      • I remember those days… I sent a reader review into this very site about that game. Remember those days?

        • *sigh* Yep. “The glory days” of Kotaku, before everything became about which way you leant politically, where you aligned yourself…

          When it was all about the goddamn games 🙂

          • Sigh, I’ll bite… it still is “all about the goddam games”, the difference is we are now seeing increasingly diverse perspectives from people who didn’t typically have a voice in the earlier days of online game journalism, and games are being discussed in a deeper and wider context. These are both good things, I believe. You don’t have to agree with everything you read, but it’s nice to try and engage constructively. YMMV.

          • I do engage and encourage engagement, however what I see regularly, as @wisehacker points out, as a long term Kotaku-ite, has been a decline in the standards in conversation with people inevitably shoving politics of some sort into any conversation. While not overtly bad, 90 (made up but it’s the clear bulk) percent of the time people don’t wish to converse, just but heads. No points of view are weighed and analysed or considered, people are just shouted down or downvoted into oblivion. I’ve been guilty of all of this before myself which is why in the last year or so I decided to actively not partake in it anymore, to try to tidy up my “little corner” of it as such. That’s all I can do at least.

          • I woz tiping onn a fone. Eet mee.

            I’m also an English teacher. Double bad for me. 😉

          • @weresmurf hehe, double fail then. All good though, I agree with what you posted anyhow. These days, peoples opinions either agree with you completely, or you’re the worst thing ever. EVER!!! Its either zero or eleven. And it reflects in the conversations that happen online.

            In semi-related news, theres a fun little Trump story doing the rounds today on a similar topic. He’s boasting about how well he writes, yada yada yada, then has a typo…

            No real news, just a little fun.

          • I thought your were referring to editorial content, not the comment section conversations. So yeah, I’m tending to agree with you there. The majority of comments on any opinion pieces that are even slightly controversial devolve into polarised capslock and down-vote contests with little to no constructive discussion (I too have been guilty of this and trying it I abstain from chiming in with my two cents every time). That is an unfortunately trend.

          • And they had neat competitions that had people making cool things and pictures and stuff.

          • I still feel Kotaku is about the games.

            It’s the comment section where it’s “shoot first, bury then maybe contemplate thinking about becoming motivated to form questions to ask”.

            Disagree with someone and immediately one is accused of either being mentally impaired or on the opposite political side.

            Even if there is no politics some feel they have to force their own political views into the discussion despite being irrelevant.

            Pretty much conversation and actual discussion here became virtually impossible once the voting system was added.

          • It’s a shit fight now, man. The comment sections are more about competitive argument than likeminded discussion. I know this because I am acutely aware that my own behaviour started to deteriorate here within the past 18 months (yes, that is on me).
            I think the voting system sucks and somewhat reinforced negativity in some situations and feeds group mentality where it is not helpful.
            Basically, I wish Kotaku had more Mike Fahey optimism and less Heather Alexandra pessimism.
            Some of the articles are akin to dustbowl era Catcher in the Rye outrage. Like, if you came back to an article talking about Detroit BH being a mysoginistic tale 40 years from now, it’s going to read like an 80’s article by Tipper Gore on why listening to Iron Maiden makes you a child sacrificing satanist.

            Some of the views and opinions are so contemporary that they cannot feasibly belong to the author so much as they do to the public conscience. And that shit doesn’t take a writer’s mind to communicate because the narrative is prebuilt. That means the lack of critical thinking based on reason innately belonging to the author gives the work a lifespan, whilst making it possibly laughable to a future reader.
            Some of what we have here now is abrasive for the sake of stirring the readers to respond emotionally. I truly believe this.

          • Yup, been on the blunt end of those ‘opinions’ more than once. Those attacks have driven me off other websites before (*cough* whirlpool), and some here have gone close to doing the same, but its a few of you guys that I enjoy debating with, even when we disagree.

          • Same, bruss. I was nearly driven off by my own behaviour (I’m sure you all recall my Darwinian cancer survivor logic…) but at the endiof the day it helped me address something I was struggling with (massively life changing! Quit my job and started seeking mental health assessment because of what I came to realise from the reactions). Yeah, sometimes being wrong SUCKS, but it beats people letting you languish up your own arsehole. So thanks to all who kicked my arse that day. I needed it and despite being on a Kotaku forum, it was the step that got me on track in the past two months.

    • I don’t know if I’d say it works completely, but I’d say at least the appeals system works?

      • but the review process is part of the system as a whole.

        The original application process doesn’t allow for as much context to be provided. The applicants send in a copy of the game and a media pack with footage of the objectionable content. They’re allowed to write some description of the gameplay but they’re not in the room or part of the process.

        The Classification Reviews Board is a separate body within the Department, made up of different individuals and has their own process that allows for the applicants (or a rep for them) to be in the room for the demonstration. It also allows for much more detail and context to be given with additional oral and written submissions that can be considered by the board.

        Alex is a little off the mark, the Classification Board didn’t reverse anything. The “Classification Review Board” made a fresh decision after a review of the Classification Boards decision.. but perhaps being a Canberran I’m the only one here who cares for the semantics of Federal Government bureaucracy.

        • If the system worked out of the gate all factors would be taken into account and a review would not have been needed. It’s that simple. The review process works, this is for sure, however the system itself still needs fine tuning.

          • If this was more common I’d agree with you. but I’m fairly certain this the first game that’s needed to go to the review board this year.

            for all we know Compulsion Games didn’t provide enough context in the original application for classification when they had the chance to do so.

          • They said as much in a follow up article. I can see why it would be a problem. You can’t ask a panel of reviewers to all play through a 30+ hour game to look for anything that breaks the rules. They can only make their assessment based on the information provided by the publisher, who in this case may not have argued their case sufficiently the first time around.

  • A win for gamers… Not sure about the game though. Played a beta a while back, and while the aesthetic was cool, can’t say I enjoyed the game

    • Yeah I’ve never been interested in the game. Even from when it was first announced I didn’t think I’d enjoy it.

  • I’d like to think I helped! …

    To whom it may concern,

    I wish to express my concerns for what constitutes freedom in our country. This should be as simple as slapping on an R18+ rating on the game and allowing adults to decide for themselves. This is another form of nanny censorship, “A man can’t eat a steak because a baby can’t chew it.”

    The other concern raised is the encouragement for illegal downloads as this will be the only way to acquire the game. Taking money from retailers and hard working developers simply due to adherence to obsolescent scripture.

    It is time Australia embraced its democratic order and allowed people to decide for themselves without being told what we can or can’t enjoy. We need to evolve as a developing nation alongside the rest of the world not limit our opportunities because of trivial offence and a fallacy of control. Please remember that ‘1984’ was a warning, not a how to guide.

    • Reading 1984 at the moment actually, and yeah definitely see parallels with the way society is heading.

      The best argument was the money one though, hit the Government where it hurts most there tax revenues.

    • This wouldn’t have been the dumbest submission received from someone who didn’t read what the submissions process requires, but it would have been close.

    • Just putting it out there that *it doesn’t matter* what the quality of the game is when it comes to whether or not it should be sold here.

      Hell, if I had the power to ban games based on their quality, the entire Dynasty Warriors series would be permabanned here.

  • great news, but I think they still need to revisit these guidelines… sex and drugs as rewards or incentives shouldn’t be grounds for a game to be banned. Especially when such content is clearly aimed at adults. Adults with their own common sense of whether or not it is appropriate for them.

    • Yeahhhh, nah. Australian adults are still shithouse at not being shithouse. We ought to keep that R18+ criteria exactly as it is so that people get to chuck a wobbly every time a game gets RC and then they get that hit of elation when it’s inevitably given R18+.

      Perfect system.

  • An interesting juxtaposition of thoughts lately

    As an adult, I need someone to review a game to ensure its content is OK for me to play, yet as an adult I am also encouraged by the major newspapers to crack an absolute hissy fit about the removal of plastic bags from supermarkets.

    And strangely, only one of those things is considered an “adult” thing to do (guess which one)

    What a weird country we live in…

  • It’s a puzzling statement.

    The clear part, at least, is saying that the original classification was correct, IF you consider that ‘making the game easier’ (in places) is seen as ‘an incentive or reward for drug-use’ instead of a fail-state/negative consequence, which the classification board (not the review board) did when they arrived at their initial decision.

    That would IMPLY that the review board has taken context into account and decided that ‘incentive/reward’ isn’t really relevant to making the game easier if it also results in a fail state of the overall objective of the game – to break free of the drug regime – or a ‘bad ending’.

    What’s puzzling is what’s NOT said; they’ve ignored the precedent of other games, for some reason, with no mention made of a drug’s fictional nature or its in-game legality. In-game, Joy is not a narcotic, and outside of the game it can’t be because it’s fictional. Avoidance of revisiting previous bad decisions that shouldn’t have got by? Too hard basket/can’t close pandora’s box?

    They appear to have added that without the drug-related criteria, the game would’ve qualified for M15+. Which… I dunno, cool story bro?

    Why include that? Are they trying to imply that there might be something wrong with that criteria applying to all categories, that R18 isn’t filling a gap between banned and teenage-suitable content?

    • I actually think all they are saying is that they were working within the guidelines they were given, and it’s actually kind of a subtle jab at the guidelines themselves – almost as if they are acknowledging that the system should probably be changed. They don’t have the power to change it themselves though and seem to be just as frustrated as some of the public are. It’s a difficult position to be in actually, where you need to enforce rules that you don’t necessarily agree with.

      In this case, the decision seems to have been reversed by the review board due to the publishers themselves providing more material and information than the classification board had at hand. I’m sure if the board had that information when they were first considering the game the initial outcome would have been different.

    • I don’t think the Review Classification Board has any ability to refer to precedents of previous classifications within their decision making. They have to make their decision based on the evidence supplied by the applicant and the legal framework they have.

      They appear to have added that without the drug-related criteria, the game would’ve qualified for M15+. Which… I dunno, cool story bro?
      similar references are in a lot of the Review Decisions I’ve read, so I wouldn’t read into it too much other than they probably have a decision template they have to follow.

      • Not directly maybe, but referring to precedents is pretty much mandatory across the public service frameworks I’m aware of, if only to remain consistent.

        Fallout 3 had a drug – morphine – used to heal. That’s incentivised drug use, its not a real surprise it originally got RC’d. But the solution was to merely change ‘morphine’ to ‘stimpack’, which was enough.

        That’s a precedent. By making the product a fantasy item, the issues that led to the RC classification went away. Yet the next big name event with the same issue, where they had already addressed the real drug problem, didn’t get the same treatment.

        If they aren’t consistent, how can you rely on them to get it right? And consistency means using precedents to base your decisions on as much as the law. Those precedents were based on the same legal framework, the only difference since FO3 being the introduction of the 18+ rating.

        • I can’t find any precedents referenced in any of the decisions available to the public.
          Fallout 3 can’t be directly applied to the same scenario as here as it never went in front of the Review Board, it was modified and a new submission was made to the Classification Board.

          • But Fallout 3 CAN be directly applied.for the reasons you state – it was a decision made by the board, not a review. So that decision should apply to future classifications in similar circumstances, which is what we have here.

            Lets put it this way. Why was Fallout 3 accepted and We Happy Few not? Both were submissions to the Classification Board, both used drugs to provide a benefit – in the 2nd iteration of Fallout 3 it was a fake drug known as a stimpack (previously just morphine), in We happy Few its a fake drug known as Joy.

            Apply the decision of We Happy Few to stimpacks, and the second submission of Fallout 3 should have still failed. There’s no consistency.

            As a career public servant, precedents matter with law. Its what our system is based on. Most of the time you have the legislation to refer to, but the rulings on that legislation put the words into real world effect.

            In the Tax Office there are ATO ID’s which are sanitised versions of rulings that the public can rely on. That’s common across Govt departments in one way or another. There needs to be consistency in decisions.

            There are times you might refer to the precedent itself (happens in Court all the time), there are other times you might just refer to the legislation they based their decision on. But the previous decisions still play a part whether you see them referred to or not.

          • they might, but we can’t see that they considered precedent in any of the decisions that are currently available to the public. So I’m not going to claim they do.

          • And I ask the same question. With identical processes in place, why did the second submission of Fallout 3 pass, and We Happy Few fail?

            Even ignoring precedents, why did that happen? If the rules are consistently interpreted, as they should be, they should have the same logic applied to them. Drug use is either acceptable or unacceptable in both situations, not acceptable in one and not the other.

            Using precedents or not, interpretation of law needs to be consistent. Its one of the most fundamental things Govt departments need to deal with – making sure similar situations are ruled on similarly.

          • and I’m saying without availability of the documents pertinent to the original decision I can’t answer that for you, but what I can say is that I can’t see any reference to precedent in any of the documents for previous decisions.
            I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying I don’t know because I’m not the ACB.

          • @beatsbynelly

            You’ve presented yourself very differently to that. Your first response in this line starts with the belief they dont have the ability to use precedents. I’m telling you from experience they can, and do. All decisions on law are based on prior history, its the foundation of our legal interpretation system.

            That doesnt mean they name those decisions. But the reasoning and legislative referencing should be near identical. Legal decisions dont reinvent the wheel, they recycle the standing opinion, and most of the time just cut and past a lot of the referencing.

            If you dont know how the system works, dont comment like you do.

          • @grunt I don’t doubt you’re a career public servant and you’re qualified to make your statement and apply that to the vast majority of departments. But the ACB aren’t public servants. They make a decision based on the legislation and their interpretation of the material demonstrated.
            I don’t doubt that the Director might be able to talk to them about previous decisions and to ensure that the decision they make fits within the confines of the legislative instrument… but there is still nowhere in that instrument or any of the publicly available decisions that I can find that makes reference to a previous decision as a legal precedent to impact the current decision. Let alone one from 10 years prior under a previous version of the act.
            And I’m not sure if I’d want them to. What was indecent 10 years ago to one board member might be decent today to a current member.

  • I don’t know if i’m missing something or if its not made clear. but how did it get re classified to R?

    If it was refused for drug use giving in game incentives (easier game play) and the game remains unchanged then how did the rating change?

    Don’t get me wrong i’m glad it changed i just feel a little confused about how the classification system is supposed to work at this point.

    • The publishers provided more information about the game, basically, that allowed the board to consider the context of the drug use in a better way. The original decision was based on not having that extra information.

  • This game seems to cover many of the same themes as Bioshock. Almost to the point where I thought it was a spin off. I don’t really understand why this game would be refused classification for themes that are pretty well covered at this point.

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