Back in May, Australia’s Classification Board announced that the BioShock-inspired adventure game We Happy Few was refused classification in the country. That meant it was effectively banned, which is a big bummer for Australians hoping to play the game. At the time, developer Compulsion Games said it was upset and frustrated by the decision, adding that it planned to work with the classification board to have the decision overturned.
That has now happened, with a three-person panel at the Classification Review Board unanimously stating that We Happy Few will be classified R18+ in Australia. That is Australia’s highest rating level, with the official word being that “the content is high in impact,” and specifically restricted to adults. Retailers may ask consumers to provide a proof of age document to purchase R18+ games in Australia.
We Happy Few’s R18+ rating will come with a content description noting that the game has “fantasy violence and interactive drug use.” The drug use appears to have been the sticking point in the Board’s original decision to refuse the game for classification. In its original ruling, the Board specifically mentioned the in-game drug, Joy, which players take throughout the game. In some parts of the game, taking the drug reduces the difficulty and makes the game appear more colourful and vibrant. The Board said “the game’s drug-use mechanic making game progression less difficult constitutes an incentive or reward for drug-use” and was therefore refused classification.
In its decision to overturn the ban, the Board said it determined We Happy Few’s drug use elements were actually “no greater than high.” The Board said it considered Australia’s Classification Act 1995, the National Classification Scheme, the National Classification Code, and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games when making its decision to give We Happy Few a classification.
Bethesda’s Fallout 3 was banned in Australia due to its depiction of drug use as well.
We Happy Few is published by Borderlands studio Gearbox, which is the company that asked the Board to reconsider its ruling. Compulsion Games said in its own statement that it went through a “great deal of effort” to get the decision overturned. Another big part of this announcement is that Compulsion Games was not forced to modify We Happy Few to meet the Classification Board’s guidelines. That’s a big deal, as other big-name games like Call of Duty: WWII, Saints Row IV, and South Park: The Stick of Truth were all edited to make it through the classification process in Australia.
“We are extremely pleased with the decision of the board and excited that our Australian fans and new players will be able to experience We Happy Few without modification,” Compulsion Games said in a statement. “We want to thank everybody who got involved in the discussion, contacted the board and sent us countless messages of support. Your involvement made a huge difference.”
Compulsion producer Sam Abbott told Kotaku that the Board’s original decision to refuse We Happy Few for classification made sense based on the information it had to go on at time. He added that the studio could have done more to make sure it provided the right context for the drug-related scenarios in the game when submitting it for classification. Abbot went on to thank publisher Gearbox for its help with the appeal process as it relates to the advice it gave Compulsion and the money it provided for the effort to overturn the decision.
GameSpot has reached out to Compulsion in an attempt to get more details about this situation. Keep checking back for more.
We Happy Few has been announced for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It was already playable on PC (and Xbox One) through Early Access, but in January when the game was delayed to summer 2018, Compulsion removed the ability to pre-buy the game.
The game is set in an alternate-history version of 1960s England in the fictional town of Wellington Wells. Players take on the role of characters who refuse to take their mind-altering happy pills and must find a way to escape from the town without being caught by its citizens.