We Happy Few Refused Classification In Australia, Developer Responds

by Imran Khan on May 23, 2018 at 08:23 PM

We Happy Few, the fascist nightmare about oppressive drugs and the oppressors who distribute them, has been refused classification in Australia, leaving the developers baffled about what to do next.

The game appeared on Australia's ratings board's website yesterday, stating that the title was refused classification. This effectively means that the game can't be sold in Australia, which is especially an issue since the game was crowdfunded. It isn't clear why the game was denied classification, but the website states that the rating is reserved for 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."

We Happy Few is about a dystopian society where people take a drug called Joy to distract themselves from the horrors of society, but the drug use also mollifies people. Drug use has prevented some games from classification in the past, with Fallout 3 being the most notable example, where the Med-X item had to be renamed from Morphine due to the Australian ratings board's ban on the use of real drugs. Joy, however, isn't real, and it is impossible to know what the issue is without the board releasing a statement.

Developers Compulsion have released a statement also expressing confusion and asking backers not to seek refunds quite yet.

"As many of you may know by now, yesterday the Australian Classification Board chose not to classify We Happy Few, effectively banning We Happy Few from sale in Australia," Compulsion wrote in a blog post. "We are looking into it, and have asked for more information on the decision. To our Australian fans, we share your frustration. We will work with the ACB on the classification. If the government maintains its stance, we will make sure that you can get a refund, and we will work directly with affected Kickstarter backers to figure something out. We would appreciate if you give us a little bit of time to appeal the decision before making a call."

Compulsion also slyly took an implied shot at the banning with a reminder of the game's themes being somewhat ironic to this decision.

"We Happy Few is set in a dystopian society, and the first scene consists of the player character redacting material that could cause offense to 'society at large', as part of his job as a government 'archivist'. It’s a society that is forcing its citizens to take Joy, and the whole point of the game is to reject this programming and fight back. In this context, our game’s overarching social commentary is no different than Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, or Terry Gilliam's Brazil."

The game was originally scheduled for release in April, but was delayed into the summer for fine-tuning. The title is being published by Gearbox for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.


Our Take
This is certainly odd, but I think the thing I find most odd is the board not effectively communicating their issues with the developers. You would think that would be part of the board's function.