Here are some answers to the many questions surrounding the Australian banning of the game We Happy Few.
We Happy Few, a game by Compulsion Games, was recently refused classification in Australia.
It makes me wonder: Why was We Happy Few banned in Australia? According to the Australian Classification Board’s document titled GUIDELINES FOR THE CLASSIFICATION OF COMPUTER GAMES, “drug use related to incentives and rewards is not allowed” (a direct quote).
This is a problem because it’s a lot harder (and maybe impossible) to finish We Happy Few without using a drug called ‘Joy’.
But it’s also just inconsistent. It seems the ACB don’t understand their own guidelines, leading to a whole lot of inconsistency.
Still, stupidity or not, We Happy Few has been banned in Australia. Here are some solutions for Compulsion Games.
The Bioshock Solution
Bioshock very clearly features “drug use related to rewards and incentives”.
Specifically, your ‘magic’ skills come from injecting drugs called ‘Plasmids’ (or ‘Vigors’ in Bioshock Infinite). As the player character, you never experience any negative effects from this – apart from trying to harm yourself (to stop the pain) the very first time you inject yourself, and only in the very first game in the series.
Perhaps the Australian version of We Happy Few will show the negative effects of Joy on the Non-Player Characters in the same way that Bioshock does, or simply show the player having one adverse reaction to it the very first time they take it.
The Captain America Solution
I’d like you all to imagine a Captain America game where you play a young Steve Rogers before he became Captain America.
“WHAT?” I hear you say all the way across the Bass Strait (I’m in Tassie at the moment and you probably aren’t) “WHY WOULD I WANT TO PLAY AS THAT SCRAWNY NERD?”
An excellent point, dear reader! Why indeed?
We’d want to play Captain America after he received the super-soldier serum, naturally.
But Steve Rogers was promised enhanced strength and speed. That’s his incentive. He received them, with no drawbacks. That was his reward for taking the risk.
So, in other words: “Any game which features Captain America as a playable character is allowing you to enjoy the benefits of drug use related to incentives and rewards.”
Why is this allowed?
Well, based on the Marvel games I’ve played, it’s because we don’t see the moment he received his drug injection. Multiple games reference it in text, but they don’t show it, so that’s fine.
Perhaps the Australian version of We Happy Few will simply say you were genetically-enhanced at the start to produce your own Joy, internally.
This will mean that the player never needs to take Joy because they’re literally a walking Joy factory.
That’d be kind of ironic, no?
The Bethesda Fallout Solution
I’m inclined to simply type: Release the game in an unfinished state and let the modders finish it for you because that’s the real Bethesda solution to everything.
This would actually be an ideal fix in this situation – because mods aren’t covered by legislation, at all.
This is why it’s perfectly legal to have a mod which allows you to kill children in Bethesda games, but the devs themselves can’t allow you to do that.
However, there is an actual solution for drug usage that Bethesda have already used.
Have you ever wondered why the screen fades to black whenever a doctor cures your rads in Fallout 4?
That’s so that they never actually show the player receive drugs, which means it’s ambiguous. I mean, sure – the doctor flicks the needle a few times and moves it towards you, but you never see the moment it happens.
Also, while we’re at it – Australia is the reason that Morphine was changed to Med-X for the Bethesda Fallout games. I’m not quite sure why that was allowed in the first two (Interplay Fallout) games and not the Bethesda series but it’s probably the result of the old legislation giving way to the new.
So, perhaps all that Compulsion Software needs to do is fade to black every time you take Joy, making the consumption ambiguous.
That should win the ACB’s approval. ‘Should’ being the key word there. Me? I just hope they don’t realise that medkits in most games actually contain drugs – I’d hate to try and play through, say, Doom II without health pickups.
If you’re into the nuts-and-bolts of Aussie video game legislation, why not check out this article about Steam and how they had to change their Aussie storefront? Or, if you’re into games, then why not check out this article about PUBG Vs Fortnite?