DayZ will be censored globally over Aussie ban, and nobody will say it’s because drugs, but it’s probably because drugs

    
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Remember last week when we mentioned that DayZ was running into regulatory problems down under? The reigning Australian games rating board – the newly formed International Age Rating Coalition – denied the now aging zombie-apocalypse title its classification in the country on the grounds that it’s among games that “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”

According to Kotaku, the de facto Aussie ban will drive Bohemia Interactive to change the game for everyone, not just players in the affected region:

“We don’t want to separate Australian players from the rest of the world, since many people play cross-region. […] We love that DayZ is the place to meet with friends and experience the game without dramatic regional lag. We don’t want to change that. […] At the moment, we are editing the global version of DayZ so it will fit into the Board’s requirements. The key objective is to keep the gameplay as authentic as it was, so players are not affected by this change.”

So what exactly is the problem? GIbiz speculated last week that it may be the game’s drug content specifically, as Australia denied ratings to State of Decay on those grounds years back. While the board and Bohemia are mum on the topic (apparently the board said they needed to file the equivalent of a FOIA request) and Kotaku’s author didn’t directly draw any conclusions, one Aussie games journo came right out and blasted the country for “reefer madness.”

Parallels to similar nonsense here in the west immediately come to mind. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go blow smoke rings in Middle-earth before ingesting some Star Wars spice.

Source: Kotaku AU, Twitter via VG247
Update August 23 2019
The ban has apparently now been lifted “as a result of modifications made to the survival shooter,” Gamasutra reports.

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Jfrog137

If only they knew the amount of games already out there that has more then just weed in it already. Let me list a few starting with the biggest game I can think of GTAV which has scenes of Franklin, Michael and Trevor all using drugs at some point from weed all they way to cocaine and possibly a meth lab. Then we have Garry’s Mod thanks to the community has everything from Beer to LSD, Cocaine and needles. And last but not least my current favorite low end game Unturned which also depicts Weed, Beer, Cocaine, LSD etc…

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Jfrog137

If you ban a game solely based off of drug use and illegal activity, just remove half of the Steam market as everything is leaning towards RPG (role play gaming) now days!

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MilitiaMasterV

offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults

Amusing how it’s usually the people who are usually so ‘behind the times’ that are usually also the one’s decrying ‘morality’/’decency’/’propriety’….not that they ever really knew what any of those things were to begin with…one person’s ‘this is right’ is another person’s ‘Oh heck no!’…

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Bruno Brito

Man, aussie players don’t get a break, do they? It’s either weird bans, terrible servers or big spiders.

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Frank White

I prefer Dune Spice, but to each his own

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Jack Pipsam

There’s two things that hit games these days, Drugs and Sexual Violence. South Park: The Stick Of Truth got hit with a censor over a scene where an alien anal probed one of the main characters. In the most literal interpretation of the scene (which is almost always what the Classification Board goes f0r), this was considered child rape and hence the scene had to be cut (I think the European version also hit this snag).
It’s also why a few visual-novel Japanese games can get hit with a censor, the loli stuff which if actually fully explicit, is illegal here.

But more often than not, it’s drugs or more specifically, drugs a mechanic. If a game has say cocaine on a table or if NPC jacks-up in a cutscene, I don’t believe this is considered a problem. The issues comes in the explicit guideline of “Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.
This famously came to the forefront last year with We Happy Few, a game explicitly about drugs.
In the case of We Happy Few, an appeal was lodged, something few publishers actually attempt. The appeal goes to a different committee and the public could submit. In the end they overruled the original ban and allowed the game to be sold uncensored citing context of the game being anti-drug in its narrative.

So why is drug use for reward still a problem? It’s the nature of how changes are actually made to the Classification Board or rather, how difficult it is.
The Classification Board is a government authority, but it’s independent to the parliament to the day.
This is a safe-guard and it’s a good thing in many ways, it means that if a new parliament gets elected, then a new Prime Minister can’t just go ahead and ban things he/she doesn’t like. They can’t for example, demand that nudity is no longer allowed in film or whatever. It’s outside of their power.
Instead changes are made with a unanimous agreement of all the states by their governor general.
The (normally correct) assumption is all the states aren’t controlled by the same party, normally there’s a mix between Labor and Liberal states. For example we currently have a Liberal Prime Minster, but I live in a Labor State.
So the theory goes that all the states agreeing to a change in the classification guideline is done by majority interest.

It’s good, but it’s also a problem in its own way. For years Australia refused classification (aka ban) to various games for violence, as for a long time there was no explicit adult-only rating.
All the states agreed to change the rule, expect for one. South Australia or more specifically the governor general of South Australia refused as he thought it would lead to this or that. Because he said no, it never went ahead until he was replaced and the new person agreed. With the drastic changes, the game ratings was upped to an R18+ and traditional violence no longer became an issue.
But… drugs were. I forgot if the guideline simply wasn’t updated or if they added it in at the time, but the rule about drugs was in there.

Why hasn’t it been changed? There most likely isn’t a large mood for it.
There was rallying calls for a long time to get an adult rating for games, it became a popular thing to say to appeal to the under-4o demographic. It was a debate on TV, it was in the papers, there was major petitions.
The same isn’t true for drugs.

Very few games get hit and most resolve themselves one way or another. There is a tendency of some sites like IGN to make a big deal and so I know some Americans think that we ban every game. This is far from the case, but because the story gets written when it does happen, it’s made to be a bigger issue than it is. It’s an issue in our bubble, but for the states of Australia, it’s no longer a hot-button issue worth investing the money or time in changing the guideline at a legal level.

After the We Happy Few situation, The Classification Board made some indication they would persuade the states in seeing if they could change the guidelines, but I don’t know if they were just saying that or what the status is. I don’t know if there’s been some talks, no talks, if some states disagree or what.
For the baby boomers in charge, it’s not exactly an easy sell to overturn the issue of drugs in games, not when the demand for it is in the grand scheme of governance, limit.

TL;DR: Changing rules is hard on purpose for the sake of democracy, because of it don’t expect changes anytime soon for an issue without much heat behind it.

PS. The International Age Rating Coalition and The Australian Classification Board are two entirely separate entities. IARC was made to streamline things and attempt to bypass submitting directly to the classification board. The Classification Board has the final say if they desire it. In the case of DayZ, I believe it passed IARC, but got overruled by ACB. But in reverse the other way, Devolver Digital has submitted games which have been rejected by IARC, but the ACB saw no issue in and granted a classification too. In fact Devolver made the mistake of thinking that Australia and New Zealand were the same country, hit a stumbling block on IARC then gave up until it was pointed out they were dumb for not actually submitting the game directly.

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rafael12104

Great info. Thank you.

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Utakata

While I can go for the creeper stuff not being acceptable, the drug stuff seems quite silly IMO. I mean if you have game where the NPC is getting high, is far better situation than the player getting high. Even then, the player is getting high in Rl is usually not an issue to the public as long as the player is managing it. While the player could never manage the creeper stuff in RL as it mostly involves other victims. So they have the focus a bit arse backwards IMO. /bleh

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Adam Russell

“Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.”

If this means you get a positive buff from doing drugs then Id agree with the ban. Its just a fantasy that you can see more clearly when high, and not true at all. At the very least a game with something like that should have verifiable blocking of minors.

edit: if you want stuff like that in game you gotta call it a potion.

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m not sure if history will repeat itself, but the start of the end for the Silver Age of US-created comics — when anything that could negatively influence readers even slightly, such as any depiction of drugs, was banned — happened because the entity that decided what could or couldn’t be published, the Comics Code Authority, decided that an anti-drugs Spider Man comic made at the request of the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare couldn’t be published because it depicted drugs. Marvel decided to ignore that ruling, and soon after was including previously banned subjects in their stories, opening the door for the rest of the industry.

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rafael12104

DayZ is being made the scapegoat example. Heh. It is very tame compared to other games.

So, the classification is being changed? But I’m not clear on the total impact. Is it that it will become an M rated game?

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Jack Pipsam

M rated in Australia is an rough equivalent of a T rating under ESRB I believe.
By itself without drugs I reckon DayZ would be an MA15+ game.