Disco Elysium Has Been Unbanned In Australia, Gets R18+ Rating

Disco Elysium Has Been Unbanned In Australia, Gets R18+ Rating
Image: ZA/UM

Disco Elysium has been cleared for release on all platforms in Australia once again, after the Classification Review Board overturned the original refused classification rating for Disco Elysium: A Final Cut.

The game was banned in late March, preventing the critically acclaimed RPG from being released on consoles in Australia. Disco Elysium had already been available for two years beforehand through Steam and other digital platforms, but the game had never been submitted for a formal classification rating.

But given games cannot be sold physically in Australia — or on console platforms — without a classification rating, Disco Elysium was always liable to run into trouble. The game’s prolific usage of drugs, despite the overarching narrative of the main character and the self-inflicted wounds he creates, was always going to have a hard time skating around Australia’s restrictive classification guidelines for video games.

That ban, however, has since been overturned. “In the Classification Review Board’s opinion Disco Elysium—The Final Cut warrants an R 18+ classification because the themes, coarse language and drug references have a high impact,” the Classification Review Board, a separate body that reviews all classification ratings formally challenged in Australia, said in its report.

The Review Board found that Disco Elysium‘s narrative disincentivises players more generally for taking drugs, despite the short-term benefits players can receive for passing certain checks:

In the Review Board’s opinion, while drug use linked to incentives and rewards cannot be accommodated at R 18+, this game does provide disincentives related to drug-taking behaviour, to the point where regular drug use leads to negative consequences for the player’s progression in the game. It was, specifically, the disincentives for drug use that influenced the Review Board in making their decision. Drug use is not explicitly depicted within the game. The game contains frequent strong coarse language, often used aggressively, which has a high impact. The themes within the game are related to a detective investigating a murder while also attempting to manage his own alcohol addiction, and getting his life back together after his substance abuse. The themes and drug references within the game are inextricably linked.

The report noted that the developers, ZA/UM, directly challenged the original classification rating, and the ban was reviewed on May 11 as reported by Kotaku Australia.

“Computer games classified R 18+ are legally restricted to adults. Persons aged under 18 years cannot purchase computer games classified R 18+. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community,” the Review Board added.

Comments

  • I was thinking this was how it would shake out. Yeah, you can get some benefits from using drugs in the game, but the game goes to great pains to communicate to you very early (and often) that drug use (legal or otherwise) has to this point ruined your life – financially, emotionally, socially, and physically – and will absolutely finish you off, if you continue. It’s not really subtle about it.

    That same reasoning was why We Happy Few got un-banned: the narrative made it clear that avoiding drug use was the entire objective of the game, and the Review Board acknowledged as much. So this is just consistent with that reasoning.

    It’s a heartening result that context has been shown to matter consistently, rather than just a one-off.

    • (Also I love that last quoted paragraph. Now there’s a diplomatically-worded ‘fuck off, wowsers’ if I ever saw one.)

    • It’d be nice if the unbanning didn’t have to happen in the first place. Just goes to show what happens when you put muppets in charge of applying legislated criteria to factual situations. It’s not just a matter of ticking boxes, since the criteria are somewhat elastic.

  • A common sense outcome … eventually. Hopefully future decisions looks to this outcome first when making a decision, rather than banning and requiring an appeal.

  • Surely all this piss around will eventually warrant an update of the archaic legislation the board enforces. Then again I guess that’s not how government works….

    • Only if people contact their local MPs. The politicians aren’t mind readers, they need letters to persuade the rest of the party to act as a priority instead of ignoring it.

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