Here in Australia the government are pretty willing to decide what video games you play.
DayZ is the latest game to be denied a classification from the Australian Classification Board, meaning that it’s effectively banned here (although if you rush you might be able to download it from Steam before it’s pulled, should you wish to).
Mind you, it’s far from the first game to a non Australia’s notoriously persnickety censors, or for video games to be blamed for things governments have decided to take a stand against. Hey, remember that time when then-attorney general Phillip Ruddock had a Marc Ecko skateboarding game banned because it glorified graffiti? Oh, what a time to be alive!
And dozens of other games have made the authorities sad in their banning-place.
Why? Well, here are a few examples of video games you couldn’t play – at least, for a while…
Mortal Kombat (2013)
Reason: oh, the violence
This kind of started the whole R-rating for games in Australia, with the super-explicit gore of the various fatalities being pure censor-bait. When the ratings were changed in 2015 was eventually released, two years after its initial release. Thanks a bunch.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
Reason: pixels doin’ it
There are many, many, many things about the GTA series which are deeply questionable and which aren’t easily glossed over with “it’s a satire, man, it’s not meant to be real!” Like, you know, getting a health boost from hitting a sex worker, who you can then rob and murder. Satire!
Bizarrely, though, that wasn’t the issue with GTA: San Andreas.
It was something that wasn’t even in the game, but was buried deep in the code: the “hot coffee mod” that would have been a sex-themed rhythm game. The fact that it wasn’t even in the actual game didn’t stop censors forcing a recall in 2005.
The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings (2011)
Reason: consent-related curiousness
Specifically, the ratings board had a problem with the playable character being offered to accept or reject sex as a reward for a quest – which you know, isn’t entirely unreasonable since there’s something undeniably icky about the commodification of sex.
However, the game was deemed fine when the developers removed the choice and just made the sex an automatic reward. So… so negotiated sex is unacceptable, but when it happens without choice that’s fine? That seems to raise more questions than it answers.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (2014)
The idea that a South Park game would be gleefully tasteless is hardly a shock, but Australian players were denied levels where characters had their butts probed by aliens (not a surprise) and where characters impregnated with alien foetuses have them aborted (which… that seems more sinister).
We Happy Few (2018)
We Happy Few was massively anticipated for its stylised artwork and a plot which suggested a fascinatingly British flavour of fascist dystopia. However, the plot device of the populace being kept docile via a drug called Joy (shades of soma from Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’) meant it fell afoul of the censors.
However, the developers argued that the drugs were not shown in a positive light and that the player was actually encouraged not to use them in-game, and the ban was overturned.
And then Australia learned that the game was a bit rubbish. So… yay?