Here’s The Official Reason Why Disco Elysium Was Banned

Here’s The Official Reason Why Disco Elysium Was Banned
Image: ZA/UM

Australians were supposed to get access to Disco Elysium on consoles next week with the RPG’s re-release. But a refused classification rating has basically ground that to a halt. And while the reasons for Disco Elysium‘s effective ban have been fairly obvious — I called it two years ago —  we can now reveal the more precise reasoning for the rating.

The game was officially banned under the Games 1(a) clause, which states that games cannot “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena” that would offend what most adults would consider standards of morality and decency.

In plain English: any game that lets you split a gram of cocaine with an underage kid, after stealing the coke from their abusive father? Probably not OK in Australia.

That’s especially with the guidelines for refused classification, which states pretty explicitly that “illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards” will be refused classification.

So Disco Elysium‘s writing was always on the wall, really. What saved it up until this point was its digital-only release on Steam, where games can be released to Australians without having been classified first. It’s still available online, although as was the case with DayZ, there is every chance that may change once the Final Cut edition ships next week.

Interestingly, the first thing the Classification Board’s report mentions is a new feature. “[Disco Elysium] contains online interactivity in the form of integration with the streaming platform Twitch, which allows stream viewers to vote on what dialogue options the player should choose. The game also contains in-game purchases in the form of the purchase of objects,” the report begins.

disco elysium
Image: Disco Elysium

It then outlines the Games 1(a) clause again, and outlines a few examples of precisely how Disco Elysium violates Australia’s refused classification guidelines:

Players are able to access a number of items in their inventory including a substance called “Speed ‘Saint-Batiste ‘Preptide!’” depicted as a pill bottle with white triangular pills next to it and  accompanied by text which explains the substance user effects include “+1 Motorics” and “-1  Morale”, as well as an item called “Speed Bottle” depicted as a brown bottle with a straw inserted into it. Accompanying text explains that the substance user effects include “+1 Motorics” and “-1  Morale” and the item description reads, “How convenient! Someone has equipped this tiny bottle of amphetamines with a straw. It’s the lorryman’s speed on-the-go.”

In one sequence the player is able to select an option to use a stimulant by selecting “Okay, my body is ready. Let’s do this. (Try some speed.)”

In a distant rear perspective an orange pill bottle is raised to the player-character’s face as they lean forward. The text description explains, “You  raise the Preptide bottle, press one nostril closed, and inhale *furiously* with the other. The rush is almost immediate. It tastes bitter and caustic, and stings a bit inside your nose.” The text is accompanied by narration. A yellow effect frames the screen and the sign “Motorics Raised” appears on screen as a yellow tint flashes over the screen and a sniffing sound is heard as the  player character is depicted bending backwards with the pill bottle positioned against their face. A sign reading “Damaged Morale -1” appears on screen following the depiction.

The sign is followed by a sign reading “Secret Task Complete: Find Speed and Sniff It +30 Experience”. The text also appears in the panel on the right side of the screen. The “Tutorial Agent” explains through text and audio that: “In the bottom right corner of the screen there’s a SPEED button! It gives +1 to MOTORIC skills: Perception, Reaction Speed, Hand/Eye Coordination, Savoir Faire, Interfacing and Composure. This is good before a White Check – but damages your Morale.”

“Speed” is a common street name for stimulant drugs, particularly those from the amphetamine  drug family (including methamphetamine). They are proscribed drugs, as specified in Schedule 4 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations.

It seems Disco Elysium: The Final Cut has specifically added extra text and audio to point out that there’s a speed button now, which the original game didn’t have. Not that it would have helped: secret quests and achievements for taking drugs, which explicitly can be of benefit in passing certain skill checks, was never going to pass Australian guidelines.

I emailed the Classification Board to ask whether ZA/UM, or a representative on their behalf, has applied to have the decision overturned. I didn’t get an answer to that at the time of writing, and I’m yet to hear from ZA/UM or their PR representatives on whether they’re going to challenge the Australian ban (or if they will take the Hotline Miami approach).

That said, Hotline Miami is a good reminder of how these things can play out. You can still buy Disco Elysium on Steam for PC, and if you want it on consoles the Switch might be your best shot later this year. Hotline Miami Collection was available for Australians for a short while, until Nintendo quickly pulled it from sale for Aussies. But you could still grab it through, say, the American eShop. And by the time Disco Elysium hits the Switch, all this absurdity might be over.

As for those who already have Disco Elysium on PC, the ban shouldn’t affect you at all. You’ll still have the game in your library and it’ll still patch as per normal — but if the game is pulled from sale, it’ll just not be visible to Australian users and new accounts won’t be able to buy the game.

Comments

  • I’m hoping for another switch shop type situation, managed to snag Hotline Miami in the window where it was available.

  • “that would offend what most adults would consider standards of morality and decency.”

    What offends me is they think its ok to make that decision for me! A grown ass 40yo man! And their deciding what might offend me or not… GO F YOURSELVES GOV

    • There is definitely some.shit that shouldn’t be allowed.

      And I get the reasons for DE being banned and why they don’t want to encourage drug use, but this one isn’t really that bad, it’s exactly what R18+ is for

  • “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena” that would offend what most adults would consider standards of morality and decency.”

    If the above is true, then I want to see them justify applying the same rules to other media, because it’s bullshit and a made up lie. Plus our current (and for the last 10 years) government are living the first part, all the way up to the attorney general. So they should fucking well censor themselves. Fuck this nanny bullshit this country goes on with and it’s wowser mentality. It’s R18+ for a reason, so kids can’t buy it without parent approval, who the fuck are they to tell me a man who is nearly 50, what I can and can’t fucking watch or play. If I can find the listed in film, tv, books, comics, webshows, then it should also be allowed in games. Anything else is an excuse and all started with a man who wanted to “protect” his children, who were 24 and 26 at the time he said that.

  • What I want to know is why games don’t need to be submitted for classification for release on digital platforms like Steam of GoG? If they are being sold to Australians (assuming no VPN or anything like that), surely they should be subject to the same process as physical games?

    The fact that we’ve been able to purchase and play the game for 2 years already on PC, and only now is it refused classification because it was submitted for review on console, really highlights a major flaw in the system.

    • Because Steam operates in the US, where it’s a voluntary industry-based classification system. Australia is government mandated, so it’s a different kettle of fish.

      And it wasn’t always the case that it was just Steam doing this. You couldn’t buy the Jackbox Games on Xbox for a while because Sony would let unrated games on PSN, so PS4 users could play it, but Jackbox couldn’t stump up the money/get publisher support to go through the process, so Xbox users missed out for *ages*.

      If Steam was based out of Australia, it’d be a different story. But they’re not going to mandate that games on Steam have to get an Australian classification, or even go through IARC, because fundamentally they believe that’s the responsibility of the publisher/developer uploading the game, and not them. People can make their own choices, etc etc.

      They’ll comply with any legal requests when made, but they’re not going to proactively start applying the laws of individual territories unless they have to. Too much of a mess on a worldwide scale.

      • They might operate out of the US but they are still selling to Australians, and so are operating under Australian laws. That was the basis of the ACCC investigation into them not offering refunds a while back (and subsequent guilty verdict and punishment). If they are going to be selling here, they should be subject to the same classification laws as physical games.

        • Except unlike in America, games sold in Australia need to be specifically submitted for classification in Australia, have Australian forms filled in and a not insubstantial Australian fee paid for the privilege.

          Given these requirements the vast, vast majority of indie games on Steam just wouldn’t bother at all. Not to mention a site such as Itch.io which would essentially just be blocked entirely.

          I mean, seriously, the entire internet is full of shit, such as X rated porn and gambling, that would never get past Australian media laws or censors. Under the circumstances the government has very sensibly taken the view that there’s shit worth worrying about and there’s shit that’s far too much effort and too fiddly to pursue.

          It probably also gives you a hint about how committed the government really is to the current censorship regime. It only exists, after all, because you only need one hyper-conservative arsehole minister in one minor Australian state or the federal government to veto any relaxation in the criteria.

  • Meanwhile, Gotcha Games continue to rake in billions of dollars in “Not really, but actually casino’s”, aimed at children.

    Jesus the world is a backwards place. Put an R18+ rating on it and move on with life. These restrictions just seem utterly banal to me.

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