Double R18+ fail: State of Decay banned



blog It’s times like these that we have to wonder what the point of Australia enacting an R18+ rating for video games is, when the Classification Board seems intent on banning popular games regardless. From the forums of State of Decay, an upcoming open world zombie survival game, comes the news that the game has received the big Classification Board seal of disapproval. State of Decay executive producer Jeff Strain tells us:

“I have bad news to share: State of Decay has been refused classification by the Australian Classification Board (ACB). We’ve run afoul of certain prohibitions regarding the depiction of drug use. We’re working with Microsoft to come up with options, including changing names of certain medications in the game to comply with ratings requirements. Whatever our path forward, it’s going to take a bit.

I know this is frustrating — believe me, we’re frustrated too — but each country has the right to set its own rules about content, and it’s our responsibility to comply with them. Rest assured we’ll do everything we can to find a way to get the game into your hands. Stay tuned.”

IGN has sourced a report from the Classification Board providing details on why the game has been refused classification in Australia, and as with several previous games banned locally, it has to do with drug use as an in-game reward element. The site quotes the report (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“The game contains the option of self-administering a variety of “medications” throughout gameplay which act to restore a player’s health or boost their stamina. These “medications” include both legal and illicit substances such as methadone, morphine, amphetamines, stimulants, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, codeine, aspirin, “trucker pills”, painkillers and tussin. Of these, methadone, morphine, and amphetamines are proscribed drugs and the term “stimulant” is commonly used to refer to a class of drugs of which several are proscribed.”

Quite frankly, we’re bemused as why Australia’s classification guidelines would object to this kind of thing. There are countless films, TV shows and books out there which include drug use in far more disturbing contexts. Your writer recalls watching classic heroin film Trainspotting when he was a teenager, for example. The drugs mentioned by the Classification Board are generally real drugs which do indeed generate an effect — stimulant or pain relief — in real life as they do in State of Decay. How can representing reality in a video game — the same reality that is often represented in films, TV shows or books — be objectionable content? I just don’t get it.

But then, as I mentioned yesterday when Australia banned Saints Row IV, I also don’t get why the Classification Board would ban a video game for featuring the amusing concepts of ‘alien narcotics’ or ‘alien anal probes’. Perhaps I’m just open-minded like that. I particularly like Digitally Downloaded’s take on the situation:

“For the love of all that is holy, Australian Classification Board, this is an R18+ rating you have at your disposal here. You are not the Censorship Board for a nanny state carefully screening material to control the population. So stop acting like one.”


Image credit: Microsoft Studios


  1. @Saints Row IV banning.

    I can see their point, sexual violence implied or otherwise is not a laughing matter. But the ACB sort of fails to see the duality of the game.

    It doesn’t take itself seriously, in fact it is being deliberate in how it is highlighting what is wrong with our society, its media and cultural short comings etc. THAT IS THE CONTEXT! This weapon shouldn’t be an issue.

    R18+ is a rating; meaning reasonable Adults should be able to play this game. Sadly it doesn’t appear that reasonable adults are rating it.

    As for the illicit drugs not allowed to be used. Thats just stupid and not even worth arguing about.

    Bunch of prudes.

  2. Absolutely agree zwan – we do need to be careful about it but what the board probably don’t realise is that butt probes have been a joke for about a decade, I think created originally by South Park (at least that was the first time I heard about the idea!). They’ve always been tongue in cheek and viewed in a humorous context because they’re ridiculous. The depiction of sexual violence not justified by context is no laughing matter but I don’t think this quite fits the bill.

  3. Kinda makes the R18+ rating the new MA15+ doesn’t it?

    I thought the point of getting an R18+ rating was so adults could play games like Fallout 3 in it’s original glory?

    • No, the point of R18+ was to provide a framework to appropriate rate games with very mature content.

      Not an automatic pass for everything, regardless of content. If developers go beyond the frame of reference for R18, then they risk the title being refused classification.

      It’s been two titles out of how many now? 17 or something? Not sure the sky’s falling yet. I’ve noticed that “beneficial drug use” has become a fairly key game mechanic in any number of games. The double edged sword of “realism” at play (to pardon the pun).

      It’s interesting that that there have been two titles back-to-back but there have been a rash of titles launched recently, so it’s not that surprising.

      • If you’re interested, you can view the guidelines for games here:

        But it’s specifically the section that says:

        Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines:

        · the importance of context

        · assessing impact

        · the six classifiable elements

        where they are going wrong with what is supposed to be an adult R18+ classification.

        I’m very aware what most of those drugs actually do and I’ve personally used at least 8 of the “medications” mentioned in the article (mostly proscribed to me) and am very aware of both their upsides and downsides. I think a lot of older adults will have actually had at least codeine, and quite possibly even morphine by “mid life” (50 odd).

        I also found out the “sexual violence” knock-back for Saints was an old joke from South Park (aired in 1997!) about anal probes, or specifically in SR4, Alien Anal Probes.

        it’s ridiculous that adults can watch that cartoon, and even use those drugs, but then need to be “protected” from a computer game that has some of those elements…

        Sorry about the rant (It’s not directed at you), but I’m fed up with them treating me like a kid when I’m a half century done :-/

        Perhaps they need an “R50+” classification :o)

  4. Mario should be banned, I want to eat mushrooms now to grow big and strong and collect flashy stars so I can run through stuff and be invincible!

  5. If it were not for the ACB we would have people running around killing each other with alien anal probes. I’m glad they banned this one too. Just think that we were this close to having people in Australia do drugs to get some sort of benefit! I don’t know about you all but I’m far too impressionable to play a game with drug use in it without going out the next day trawling the streets for crack dealers.

    In all seriousness though I think this is going to result in an increase in piracy even if they release a more sterilized version of the game for Australians.

  6. And the pure hypocracy is that Far Cry 3 isn’t banned, where you craft your own drugs and they are your primary source of health

  7. It may have been banned here, but can’t we just buy if from overseas? What about channels like Steam or EA, where you can download games directly, how does the Board control these channels? I would prefer that it was available here with the right age restrictions so it is more controlled and monitored.

  8. Oddly enough I kind of agreed with the Narcotics ban in Saints Row, but now I disagree with it in this game.

    I think they need to look at the Narcotics section of the R18+ rating. The naming is relatively meaningless as a rating point. Perhaps simply the way it is used is more appropriate.

    Altho I have to agree in general, it R18+ most of us can use the internet to look up how to use drugs properly(or improperly as the case may be). It’s not like they are hiding anything from us.

    Perhaps it is the repetitiveness of it. hmmm

  9. The point of the R18+ classification was to allow for _more_ censorship of videogames, not less, unfortunately.

  10. As an aussie this angers me beyond belief.

    If the game featured a “regular joe” at home taking these prescription drugs to get through the daily grind that would be one thing…. but this is a zombie apocalypse “SURVIVAL” game, the characters in this game are not abusing themselves by taking these drugs, they are using them to survive the bloody apocalypse… if that is not a reasonable context for drug use what is?

    just the fact that the ACB refers to these game as “Computer Games” just show’s how little respect and dedication they have for the games industry. Absolutely infuriating…

  11. I haven’t played games for years, but if I did I wouldn’t be buying games locally – the price alone makes gaming in this country through local distribution channels a sick joke. I find region locking of consoles amusing too – if you buy a console internationally (for a great deal less than the same thing costs here) you’re stuck with buying content from that region too. Oh no, you have to buy content at half the price from a more liberal regulatory regime? So sad!

    • I bought my current PS3 from Hong Kong, but it plays Aussie content (games and blueray) just fine…

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