Banned Games of 2019-2020

Two games were banned in Australia between 2019 and 2020.

DAYZ (2019) was Refused Classification in June 2019. This was followed by WASTELAND 3 (2020) in February 2020.


DayZ

Developed by Bohemia Interactive Studio / 2019 / MobyGames

DAYZ was initially classified four times under the automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system.

On 10 October 2018, and 2 March, 30 May, and 16 July 2019, it received an MA15+ (Strong violence, Online interactivity) rating.

In all cases, Bohemia Interactive was the applicant.

Refused as a Multi-Platform title

In June 2019, it was banned after Five Star Games Pty Ltd submitted it for a physical PlayStation 4 release.

June 4, 2019
Decision Report

Classification decisions are made in accordance with the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act), the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines.

Production Details:
Title: DAYZ
Alternate titles:
Publisher: SOLD OUT
Programmer: BOHEMIA INTERACTIVE
Production Company:
Year of Production: 2019
Duration: VARIABLE
Version: ORIGINAL
Country/ies of origin: CZECH REPUBLIC
Language/s: ENGLISH
Application type: CG2
Applicant: FIVE STAR GAMES PTY LTD

Dates:
Date application received by the Classification Board: 29 May 2019
Date of decision: 04 June 2019

Decision:
Classification: RC
Consumer advice:

Synopsis:

DAYZ is a survival computer game set in the fictional post-Soviet Republic of Chernarus, where a mysterious plague has turned most of the population into zombies. The game is set in 1st and 3rd person where, as a survivor, the player must scavenge the land for food, water, weapons and medicine while killing or avoiding the ‘infected’ The game also includes online interactivity, in which the player can kill, avoid or cooperate with other players in an effort to survive the outbreak.

Reasons for the Decision:

In making this decision, the Classification Board has applied the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 (the Guidelines).

In the Board’s view this game warrants an ‘RC’ classification in accordance with item 1(a) of the computer games table of the Code:

‘1. Computer games that:

(a) 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;’ will be Refused Classification.

Computer games that exceed the R 18+ classification category will be Refused Classification. Computer Games will be Refused Classification if they include or contain:

‘(1) illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards.’
The examples described below do not represent an exhaustive list of the content that caused the computer game to be refused classified.

The aim of DAYZ is to stay alive and healthy during the conditions of the outbreak. The player’s health is measured by vital statistics, including food, water and temperature. When these statistics are low, a player is closer to death, and when they are high, a player’s chance of survival is stronger. Throughout general gameplay, the player is able to collect and use a variety of equipment, supplies and weaponry. One of the options to restore the player’s health is a marijuana joint, labelled ‘cannabis,’ which is denoted by a cannabis bud in the player’s inventory. The player is able to select and use it when their vital statistics are low. When the player smokes the cannabis, their vital statistics of food and water increase and their temperature decreases. Therefore, in the Board’s opinion, cannabis use during the game acts as an incentive/reward to boost overall health and survivability. The Board notes, there is no instance of intoxication resulting from this drug use depicted within the game.

The Guidelines state, ‘interactive illicit or proscribed drug use is not permitted’ within the G. PG. or MA 15+ classification. The Guidelines further state. ‘drug use is permitted’ within the R 18+ classification, provided any ‘interactive illicit or proscribed drug use’ is not ‘detailed or realistic’. The Board notes that if the use of cannabis within the context of this game did not act as an incentive or reward, its impact could therefore be accommodated within the R 18+ classification. Further, if this instance of drug use was absent from the game, the game would be able to be accommodated within the MA 15. classification, with consumer advice of strong themes and violence.

Pursuant to the Guidelines, ‘drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted’ at any classification level. In the Board’s opinion, the use of drugs (marijuana) as an incentive or reward during the gameplay exceeds what can be accommodated within the R 18+ classification and therefore must be Refused Classification.

Decision:

This game is Refused Classification.

– Classification Board report

MA15+ revoked & dropped digitally

The decision was made on 4 June 2019, however, it is unclear how long it took to appear in the National Classification Database. The RC and four automated IARC MA15+ ratings were noticed by us on August 3. This confirms that the Classification Board do not closely monitor the IARC decisions.

Between August 3 and 11, the first three IARC MA15+ ratings were removed from the National Classification Database. The final July 16 one remained but was changed from MA15+ to RC.

Since 2013, DAYZ had been available on Steam, and for several months prior to the ban, digital versions could be found in the PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox One stores. Following the refusal, these two platforms removed it from their Australian stores. It remained on Steam a little longer before being dropped.

Bohemia Interactive responds

August 9, 2019
The Australian player base is a big and very important part of our community. At the moment we are looking for the best solution to keep the game on the Australian market and pass the classification according to all regulations.

We will do everything in our power to keep the game playable and available for Australian gamers.

– Twitter @DayZ

The IGEA responds

August 11, 2019
Recently the Australian Classification Board issued a ‘Refused Classification’ (RC) for the boxed version of the video game DAYZ, despite the game being available digitally within Australia with an MA15+ classification. There has also been reporting that following this RC decision, the classification for the digital version of the game has been revoked.

Over the last few days we have been in dialogue with the local distributor of DAYZ as well as the Classification Board to clarify the situation and we would like to provide an update.

Regarding the RC decision, based on the Classification Board’s decision report we can confirm that the version of the game submitted for classification was RC due to cannabis in the game which, when consumed, the player’s ‘vital statistics of food and water increase and their temperature decreases’. While there has been some media and community criticism of the Classification Board for this decision, we can see how the Board felt it had its hands tied in this situation as the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 states that ‘illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards’ will be RC.

The RC determination for DAYZ therefore rests on the use of drugs for incentives and rewards, a classification quirk that is unique to Australia and, to our mind, not representative of what a reasonable Australian would see as a reason to effectively ban a piece of creative content. Our latest research report, Digital Australia 2020 highlights that drug use is one the least concerning elements of media content to parents and adults in general. The DAYZ decision highlights this problem even more given that cannabis has legal therapeutic value in many parts of Australia and is rapidly being legalised around the world.

The current Guidelines are also unhelpfully vague and inflexible. For example, given the drug type, the miniscule role it has in the game and the fact that the drug’s consumption has a ‘restorative’ rather than ‘boosting’ effect, we think that the applicant had a reasonable hope that the game could be legally classified even under the current Guidelines. The $10,000 fee to challenge classification decisions is also simply unfair for publishers and distributors selling boxed products. There is clearly a problem here and this decision highlights the desperate need for the reform of our Classification Guidelines and the importance of our classification regime to keep pace with community standards.

IGEA has continually called for Australia’s Classification Guidelines to be agile enough to adapt to changing community standards, which is very difficult when our regime is tied to such specific legislation and the difficulty that brings for timely amendment. However, we are encouraged by the fact that the Australian Government has recently announced a review into the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games. Just like how IGEA drove the introduction of an R18+ classification category for games in 2012, we will advocate for a classification system that reflects contemporary Australian community standards so that Australian gamers can continue to play the games that they love.

A check of the National Classification Database today also confirms that the classification status of the digital version of DAYZ, made through the IARC classification tool, have been revoked and replaced with RC. Let’s start by stating IGEA’s total support of the IARC tool – a tool designed by industry in collaboration with relevant classification authorities (including the Australian Government) and global digital storefronts to deal with the hundreds of thousands of games being released digitally. IARC has allowed hundreds of thousands of digital games to be classified since its adoption in Australia, thereby providing accurate and familiar consumer advice to adults and carers at the point of purchase.

The fact that the IARC system has operated for years and made hundreds of thousands of decisions with little fanfare shows that it is working. While it is not clear why the IARC decision was revoked in this instance, if it was due to an ‘incorrectly’ answered question about the drug use we are not surprised given the Guidelines around drug use linked to incentives and rewards are nonsensical to anyone outside Australia. Nevertheless, the speed at which the revocation was made shows that the system is responsive, and this revocation is therefore more a reflection of outdated Guidelines, rather than a problem with the system itself.

Not only do we support IARC, but we have continually advocated to the Government that IARC (or an alternative tool) should also be able to be used for physical product. The high cost, lengthy process and compliance burden that local companies face with the traditional Board applications, compared with the speed, efficiency and low cost of digital classification through IARC, places an unfair impact on local applicants. It is simply illogical and places local Australian companies at a commercial disadvantage.

– Interactive Games & Entertainment Association statement
igea.net

The Censor responds

The confusion surrounding the refusal of DAYZ forced the usually muted Classification Board to issue a statement.

August 13, 2019
DAYZ is a survival computer game set in the fictional post-Soviet Republic of Chernarus, where a mysterious plague has turned most of the population into zombies. The game is set in 1st and 3rd person where, as a survivor, the player must scavenge the land for food, water, weapons and medicine while killing or avoiding the ‘infected’.

DAYZ was initially put through the IARC (International Age Rating Coalition) Tool (the IARC Tool). A computer game developer answers an online questionnaire and the IARC Tool generates a rating and consumer advice which is consistent with current Australian classification guidelines. Based on the information provided by Bohemia Interactive in relation to drug use when completing the IARC questionnaire, the IARC Tool generated an MA 15+ classification with consumer advice of ‘Strong violence, online interactivity’ for the digital version of DAYZ. The IARC Tool produces classifications for digitally delivered games for Australia.

When Five Star Games Pty Ltd applied to the Classification Board for a classification for an upcoming PlayStation 4 release of the game in Australia, they advised that drug use in the game included cannabis. The aim of DAYZ is to stay alive and healthy during the conditions of the outbreak and the player’s health is measured by vital statistics. Throughout general gameplay, the player is able to collect and use a variety of equipment, supplies and weaponry, with one option to restore the player’s health being a marijuana joint, labelled ‘cannabis,’ which is denoted by a cannabis bud in the player’s inventory. The player is able to select and use it when their vital statistics are low. When the player smokes the cannabis, their vital statistics of food and water increase and their temperature decreases. Therefore, in the opinion of the Classification Board, cannabis use during the game acts as an incentive or reward to boost overall health and survivability. The Board noted that there was no instance of intoxication resulting from this drug use depicted within the game.

The Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 (the Games Guidelines) state ‘interactive illicit or proscribed drug use is not permitted’ within the G, PG, M or MA 15+ classification. The Guidelines further state, ‘drug use is permitted’ within the R 18+ classification, provided any ‘interactive illicit or proscribed drug use’ is not ‘detailed or realistic’. Pursuant to the Games Guidelines, ‘drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted’ at any classification level.

Accordingly, on 4 June 2019, the Classification Board had to classify the computer game, DAYZ, RC (Refused Classification). The RC category is commonly referred to as being ‘banned’. This means that the game cannot be sold, hired, advertised, or legally imported into Australia. The IARC Tool classification has been updated to RC (Refused Classification).

The Board noted that if the use of cannabis within the context of this game did not act as an incentive or reward, its impact could have been accommodated within the R 18+ classification.

Further, if this instance of drug use was absent from the game, then DAYZ would be able to be accommodated within the MA 15+ classification.
On 28 June 2019, the Council of Attorneys-General agreed that the Australian Government will coordinate a public consultation process on reviewing the Games Guidelines to ensure they reflect contemporary Australian community values. The review will be undertaken by the Department of Communications and the Arts.

– Classification history of the game DAYZ
– Margaret Anderson, Director, Classification Board

Australian censorship goes global…again!

August 13, 2019
Bohemia Interactive confirmed to Kotaku Australia late Monday evening that DAYZ would be getting modified globally to comply with the Classification Board’s requirements. Bohemia could have opted to exclude Australians from DAYZ’s next major release to give themselves time to work out another solution, but in an email the studio explained that they did not want Aussie gamers to be separated from the rest of the world.

‘We don’t want to separate Australian players from the rest of the world, since many people play cross-region,’ the studio said. ‘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.’

– DAYZ is getting changed worldwide because of Australia
article @ kotaku.com.au

Australia, the laughing-stock of the world

The decision was discussed in the Parliament of Victoria.

August 15, 2019
Mr Quilty (Northern Victoria) (18:15): My adjournment item is for the Attorney-General. DAYZ is an open world video game, the kind of game that lets people live out their fantasies—fantasies like struggling to avoid being eaten by zombies, always being short on ammo, being killed on sight by people who turn out to be basement-dwelling video gamers and listening to those same people lose their minds when they hear a girl in the voice chat.

There are plenty of bad experiences to be had in DAYZ, yet the one that attracted a ban was far less sinister. The developers planned to include cannabis to heal the player’s character—medicinal cannabis. This was seen as encouraging drug use and attracted a refused classification rating, which is a ban in Australia. What makes this ban especially absurd is that Australia has an R18+ classification for video games. If the game is too mature for young audiences, the classification system has a place for it. Despite this, the classification board refused classification for DAYZ. This is a ban.

Refusal of classification should be reserved for illegal materials, things like child pornography and snuff films that should never have been created in the first place. It should not be used for zombie survival video games. Sadly the developers of DAYZ have caved and they are removing cannabis from the game worldwide. Australia is once again the wet blanket and laughing-stock of the whole world. It is an embarrassment that we obediently let our government treat us like children. While the rest of the world is legalising cannabis, we are banning representations of cannabis in video games.

Though the actual classification of video games is federal, the enforcement of classifications is state based. I call upon the Attorney-General to explore and implement options that would allow games that contain adult themes, including showing drug use, to be sold for adult consumption here in Victoria.

– Tim Qulity (Liberal Democrat), VIC Legislative Council

Censored & rated MA15+

Bohemia Interactive prepared a modified version of DAYZ that removed cannabis from the game.

On August 20, the Classification Board awarded it an MA15+ (Strong themes & violence, Online interactivity) rating.

The extended classification information described,
Strong impact: themes, violence
Moderate impact: language

DayZ (2019) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 4 Cover

August 20, 2019
Decision Report

Classification decisions are made in accordance with the Classification(Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act), the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines.

Production Details:
Title: DAYZ
Alternate titles:
Publisher: SOLD OUT
Programmer: BOHEMIA INTERACTIVE
Production Company:
Year of Production: 2019
Duration: VARIABLE
Version: MODIFIED
Country/ies of origin: CZECH REPUBLIC
Language/s: ENGLISH
Application type: CG2
Applicant: FIVE STAR GAMES PTY LTD

Dates:
Date application received by the Classification Board: 16 August 2019
Date of decision: 20 August 2019

Decision:
Classification: MA 15+
Consumer advice: Strong themes and violence, online interactivity

Synopsis:

A modified version of DAYZ, a survival computer game set in the fictional post-Soviet Republic of Chernarus, where a mysterious plague has turned most of the population into zombies. The game is set in first- and third-person where, as a survivor, the player must scavenge the land for food, water, weapons and medicine while killing or avoiding the ‘infected.’ The game also includes online interactivity, in which the player can kill, avoid or cooperate with other players in an effort to survive the outbreak. The drug ‘Cannabis’ has been removed from this modified game.

Reasons for the Decision:

In making this decision, the Classification Board has applied the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), the National Classification Code (the Code) and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 (the Guidelines).
In the Board’s view this computer game warrants an MA 15+ classification as, in accordance with Item 3 of the Computer Games Table of the National Classification Code, it is unsuitable for playing by persons under 15.

Pursuant to the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games, this computer game is classified MA 15+ as the impact of the classifiable elements is strong. Material classified MA 15+ is considered unsuitable for persons under 15 years of age. It is a legally restricted category.

The classifiable elements are themes and violence that are strong in playing impact.

The examples described below do not represent an exhaustive list of the content that caused the computer game to be classified MA 15+.

THEMES & VIOLENCE

The game contains strong themes including a zombie apocalypse and suicide that are justified by context. The game contains violence that is strong in impact and justified by context. Strong and realistic violence should not be frequent or unduly repetitive. The game contains no sexual violence – implied or otherwise. The two elements are inextricably linked.

The player takes the role of a survivor of an apocalypse where a mysterious plague has turned the majority of the population into zombies. The player explores the world, in either a first- or third-person perspective, and gathers supplies and food while either avoiding or killing the zombie hordes. The player can choose, in the online multiplayer mode, to kill, avoid or cooperate with other players.

A variety of melee weapons, such as hammers, sledgehammers and axes, and ranged weapons, such as pistols, rifles and machine-guns, can be used to attack zombies or other players. Successful attacks are usually accompanied by sprays of blood and wounded characters often bleed profusely until their wounds are treated. When the player is hit, the screen flashes red, and when they are killed the phrase ‘You are dead’ is viewed, the screen goes black and the player respawns.

Players can choose to ‘Skin and Quarter’ other players that they have killed. A rudimentary animation, with no blood or wound detail, is accompanied by slicing noises as the corpse is implicitly cut up. The end result is pieces of flesh, called ‘Human Steak’ and viscera, called ‘Guts’. The player can then choose to eat the flesh, either cooked or raw, which restores their health.

Players can also choose a variety of gestures and actions such as ‘Dance’, ‘Wave’ and ‘Suicide’. If the player selects ‘Suicide’ with a weapon equipped, their character will kill themselves. For example, a character will turn a sword on themselves, stabbing themselves through the torso. If the character has a gun equipped, they place it under their chin and implicitly shoot themselves. There is no blood or wound detail depicted.

OTHER MATTERS CONSIDERED OR NOTED

The Board notes that section 21A of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 states that if the Board is of the opinion that a classified computer game contains contentious material (whether activated through use of a code or otherwise) that was not brought to the Board’s attention in accordance with subsection 14(4) or 17(2) before the classification was made and if the Board had been aware of the material before the classification was made, it would have given the game a different classification, the Board must revoke the classification.

The Board notes that the original version of this computer game was previously Refused Classification on 4th June 2019 for drug use (Cannabis) related to incentives and rewards. In the Board’s opinion, the modification to this game – the removal of the drug ‘Cannabis’ – allows the game to be classified MA 15+. The Board considers the use of other items remaining in the game, including morphine, codeine, epinephrine and tetracycline, to be medical in nature and therefore assessed under the classifiable element of themes. In the Board’s opinion, these medical drugs are able to be accommodated at a lower classification level.

The Board notes that the game contains coarse language that can be accommodated within a lower classification.

Decision:

This computer game is classified MA 15+ with consumer advice of strong themes and violence, online interactivity.

– Classification Board report

Feedback to the Board

September 16, 2020
The Board received 175 complaints about computer games… 26 were about DAYZ.

A modified version of DAYZ was submitted and classified in August 2019. The Board noted that the original version of this computer game was previously Refused Classification on 4 June 2019 for drug use (cannabis) related to incentives and rewards.

In the Board’s opinion, the modification to this game – the removal of the drug ‘cannabis’ – allowed the game to be classified MA 15+. The Board considered the use of other items remaining in the game including morphine, codeine, epinephrine and tetracycline, to be medical in nature and therefore assessed under the classifiable element of themes. In the Board’s opinion, these medical drugs were able to be accommodated at a lower classification level.

The correspondence received complained about the Board’s RC decision for the original game, which was required under the Games’ Guidelines.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2019-2020

Wasteland 3

Developed by inXile Entertainment / 2020 / MobyGames

In February 2020, WASTELAND 3 was banned because of ‘drug use related to incentives and rewards’.

February 26, 2020
Games 1(a): The computer game is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Computer Games Table, 1. (a) as computer 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.’

– Classification Board

Censored R18+

On March 13, a modified version was passed with an R18+ (Sexual activity related to incentives and rewards, Online interactivity).

The extended classification information described:

High impact: sex
Strong impact: themes, violence, language
Moderate impact: drug use
None: nudity

Wasteland 3 (2020) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 4 Cover

In both cases, 18POINT2 was the applicant.

What was censored?

September 16, 2021
WASTELAND 3 is a post‑apocalyptic turn‑based, role‑playing survival game where players control a party of Desert Rangers. Set in Colorado, a century after a nuclear war has wiped out most of known civilization, the player’s Ranger party has been tasked to work together to end the nation’s civil war, and in return gain supplies for the desperate Rangers in Arizona. The game includes online interactivity in the form of a co‑operative mode that allows two players to work together, each controlling a group of three rangers.

During the game, characters are able to smoke a drug known as ‘Rocky Mountain Moosegrass’, which appears to be a strain of cannabis. The drug is denoted by an icon of a cannabis cigarette or joint in the player’s inventory that is accompanied by captions that attest to the cannabis‑like effects of the drug. One caption features the text, “It’s like… man. It’s like a fresh mountain breeze. You gotta try some.” Another caption states, “Smoke to take the edge off. Like… way off.”

On selecting the item from the inventory, the sound of a lighter sparking is heard and the player character leans back, implicitly inhaling smoke. The player character then breathes out a plume of smoke. The use of the drug results in a positive effect known as ‘bouldered’ worth ‘1AP’ (Ability Point) being applied to the character, which is “usable in combat or exploration”. After using the drug, a text box appears on screen noting that the ‘bouldered’ effect lasts for 350 seconds and has a “strike rate” of +2%. These details are accompanied by the caption, “Hey man, like, just take the weight off, you know? Feel the world. Yeah.”

The Board noted that, although cannabis is not specifically named within the game, the name ‘Rocky Mountain Moosegrass’ is a clear reference to the drug and is accompanied by several signifiers that are obviously drug‑related including the joint icon and the references to the cannabis‑like effects of the drug – such as the resultant ‘bouldered’ or ‘stoned’ effect. The use of ‘Rocky Mountain Moosegrass’ within the game therefore constituted drug use (cannabis) related to incentives and rewards, which, in accordance with the Guidelines, is not permitted at any classification level.

The Board noted that if the use of cannabis within the game did not act as an incentive or reward, the game could be accommodated within the R 18+ classification with consumer advice of ‘sexual activity related to incentives or rewards and interactive drug use, online interactivity’.

A modified version of WASTELAND 3, which removed the interactive use of ‘Rocky Mountain Moosegrass’, was subsequently submitted. That modified version was classified R 18+. The consumer advice is ‘sexual activity related to incentives and rewards, online interactivity’.

– Classification Board, Annual Report 2019-2020

back to top of page arrow