Banned Games of 2021 to 2022

Four games were banned in Australia between 2021 and 2022.

DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT (2021) was Refused Classification in March and MARY SKELTER FINALE (2021) in June.

These were followed in February 2022 by DEATHSMILES I・II (2021) and RIMWORLD (2016).


Disco Elysium – The Final Cut

Developed by Zaum Studio OÜ / 2021 / MobyGames

DISCO ELYSIUM was first released in October 2019 for PC.

A ‘definitive edition’, titled DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT, was scheduled for worldwide release on 30 March 2021. This brought the game to PlayStation and included new quests, improved playability and full voice acting.

Disco Elysium - The Final Cut (2021) - Game Cover 1
Cover

Twelve days before the planned release, this version was banned for drug use related to incentives or rewards.

March 18, 2021
Gameplay consists of the player assuming the role of an amnesiac detective charged with solving a murder case by controlling the character from a third-person isometric perspective in order to investigate and interact with environments and non-player characters. Action is presented primarily through text describing the environment, objects, characters and events, viewed in a panel on the right side of the screen, which is accompanied by narration. Dialogue is also presented as text viewed in a panel on the right side of the screen, accompanied by audio. The player progresses the story by making selections from a list of options presented through text, the success of which often relies on passing skill-checks. The player is able to buy and use consumable items, including drugs, which are available for use in the player’s inventory and give the player a boost to character statistics in order to allow them to pass particular skill-checks.

Players are able to access a number of items in their inventory including a substance called “Speed “Saint-Batiste ‘Preptide!'”” depicted as a pill bottle with white triangular pills next to it and accompanied by text which explains the substance user effects include “+1 Motorics” and “-1 Morale”, as well as an item called “Speed Bottle” depicted as a brown bottle with a straw inserted into it. Accompanying text explains that the substance user effects include “+1 Motorics” and “-1 Morale” and the item description reads, “How convenient! Someone has equipped this tiny bottle of amphetamines with a straw. It’s the lorryman’s speed on-the-go.”

In one sequence the player is able to select an option to use a stimulant by selecting “Okay, my body is ready. Let’s do this. (Try some speed.)” In a distant rear perspective an orange pill bottle is raised to the player-character’s face as they lean forward. The text description explains, “You raise the Preptide bottle, press one nostril closed, and inhale *furiously* with the other. The rush is almost immediate. It tastes bitter and caustic, and stings a bit inside your nose.” The text is accompanied by narration. A yellow effect frames the screen and the sign “Motorics Raised” appears on screen as a yellow tint flashes over the screen and a sniffing sound is heard as the player character is depicted bending backwards with the pill bottle positioned against their face. A sign reading “Damaged Morale -1” appears on screen following the depiction. The sign is followed by a sign reading “Secret Task Complete: Find Speed and Sniff It +30 Experience”. The text also appears in the panel on the right side of the screen. The “Tutorial Agent” explains through text and audio that: “In the bottom right corner of the screen there’s a SPEED button! It gives +1 to MOTORIC skills: Perception, Reaction Speed, Hand/Eye Coordination, Savoir Faire, Interfacing and Composure. This is good before a White Check – but damages your Morale.”

“Speed” is a common street name for stimulant drugs, particularly those from the amphetamine drug family (including methamphetamine). They are proscribed drugs, as specified in Schedule 4 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations.

In the Board’s opinion, due to the implied textual and graphic reference (in the form of the pill bottle and bottle with an inserted straw) to the use of a group of proscribed drugs, the insufficient delineation between the “Speed “Saint-Batiste ‘Preptide!'”” and “Speed Bottle” consumable items available in the game and real-world proscribed drugs, and the game’s treatment of implied drug use as both a reward and an incentive within gameplay, the game warrants being Refused Classification for “illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards”.

Decision:

This game is Refused Classification.

– Classification Board report

The applicant was Zaum Studio.

IARC RC

A couple of weeks later, a second RC rating for DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT was added to the National Classification Database.

This time the applicant was Disco Elysium UK Ltd who classified it under the automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system.

The decision date was listed as 7 December 2020; however, the entry only appeared in late March/early April 2021.

Zaum Studio challenges RC

April 20, 2021
The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification of the computer game, DISCO ELYSIUM—THE FINAL CUT.

DISCO ELYSIUM—THE FINAL CUT was classified RC (Refused Classification) by the Classification Board on 18 March 2021.

The Classification Review Board will meet on Tuesday 11 May 2021 to consider the application. The decision and reasons will later be published on www.classification.gov.au.

If an individual or organisation wishes to apply for standing as an interested party to this review, please write to the Convenor of the Review Board. The names of interested parties will be disclosed in the Review Board’s final decision report, unless requested otherwise.

The closing date to lodge your application for standing as an interested party and any submissions is 4 May 2021. Please note that the Review Board can only consider submissions about the computer game (DISCO ELYSIUM—THE FINAL CUT) itself and not any other matters relating to computer game classification policy or issues generally.

Submissions should be emailed to crb@classification.gov.au or sent to:

The Convenor
Classification Review Board, Locked Bag 3, Haymarket NSW 1240

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. It makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

– Classification review announced for the computer game Disco Elysium—The Final Cut
– Classification Review Board

Dropped to R18+

Zaum Studio’s appeal against refusal was a success, with the rating dropped to R18+ (High impact themes, Coarse language, and Drug references).

The extended classification information described,
High impact: themes, language, drug use
Strong impact: sex
Moderate impact: violence
None: nudity

This was only the second time that an RC decision, based on drug use related to incentives and rewards, was overturned. The first had been WE HAPPY FEW (2016) in 2018.

May 13, 2021
A three-member panel of the Classification Review Board has unanimously determined that the computer game, DISCO ELYSIUM—THE FINAL CUT, is classified R 18+ (Restricted) with the consumer advice High impact themes, coarse language, and drug references.

In the Classification Review Board’s opinion DISCO ELYSIUM—THE FINAL CUT warrants an R 18+ classification because the themes, coarse language and drug references have a high impact. The overall impact of the classifiable elements in the game was high. The Review Board also considered the appeal of the game to be skewed to an adult audience.

In the Review Board’s opinion, while drug use linked to incentives and rewards cannot be accommodated at R 18+, this game does provide disincentives related to drug-taking behaviour, to the point where regular drug use leads to negative consequences for the player’s progression in the game. It was, specifically, the disincentives for drug use that influenced the Review Board in making their decision. Drug use is not explicitly depicted within the game. The game contains frequent strong coarse language, often used aggressively, which has a high impact. The themes within the game are related to a detective investigating a murder while also attempting to manage his own alcohol addiction, and getting his life back together after his substance abuse. The themes and drug references within the game are inextricably linked.

Computer games classified R 18+ are legally restricted to adults. Persons aged under 18 years cannot purchase computer games classified R 18+. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community. Consumer advice is additional information about the main content of a computer game which is intended to help consumers decide if they want to view this type of material.

The Review Board convened on 11 May 2021 in response to an application from the original applicant, Zaum Studio OU, to review the decision made by the Classification Board on 18 March 2021 to classify DISCO ELYSIUM—THE FINAL CUT RC (Refused Classification).

In reviewing the classification, the Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the ‘Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995’, the ‘National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012’. This is the same framework used by the Classification Board.

The Review Board is an independent merits review body. It makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

The Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the Classification website when finalised.

– Disco Elysium—The Final Cut classified R 18+
– Classification Review Board

Full R18+ report

May 13, 2021
Members:
Sue Knowles (Chair)
Peter Price AM
Adam Davy

Applicant:
Zaum Studio OU

Interested parties:
none

Business:
To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the computer game DISCO ELYSIUM—THE FINAL CUT, RC (Refused Classification).

Decision and reasons for decision

1. Decision

The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) unanimously classified the computer game R 18+, with the consumer advice ‘high impact themes, coarse language and drug references’.

2. Legislative provisions

The ‘Classification (Publications, Computer game and Computer Games) Act 1995’ (Cth) (the Classification Act) governs the classification of computer games and the review of classification decisions.

The Review Board

Part 5 of the Classification Act outlines the provisions relevant to the Review Board and its procedures.

Section 42 of the Classification Act sets out the persons who may apply for review of a decision:

a) the Minister

b) the applicant for classification of the computer game, or the likely classification of the computer game under section 33

c) the publisher of the computer game, or

d) a person aggrieved by the decision.

Section 43 sets out the conditions regarding the manner and form of applications for review, including time limits. Under section 44, the Review Board must deal with an application for review in the same way that the Classification Board deals with an application for classification of a computer game.

Classification of computer games under the Classification Act

Section 9, subject to section 9A, provides that computer games are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines. Section 9A states that a computer game that advocates the doing of a terrorist act must be classified RC.

Section 11 of the Classification Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a computer game include the:

a) standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults, and

b) literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the computer game, and

c) general character of the computer game, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character, and

d) persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

The National Classification Code

Relevantly, the Computer games Table of the National Classification Code (the Code) provides that computer games (except RC computer games) that are unsuitable for viewing or playing by a minor are to be classified R 18+.

The Code also sets out various principles to which classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible:

a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want

b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them

c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive

d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

(i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence and,

(ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

The Guidelines

Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer games 2012 (the Guidelines), determined under section 12 of the Classification Act, the:

– importance of context

– assessment of impact, and

– the six classifiable elements—themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

A further consideration in classifying computer games is interactivity. Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.

3. Procedure

Three members of the Review Board met on 11 May 2021, in response to the receipt of an application from Zaum Studio on 16 April 2021, to conduct the review of the computer game, DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT, which had previously been classified RC (Refused Classification) by the Classification Board. The Review Board determined that the application was a valid application.

The Review Board was provided a written submission from the Applicant.

The Review Board viewed the computer game.

The Review Board heard an oral submission from the Applicant.

The Review Board then considered the matter.

4. Evidence and other material taken into account

In reaching its decision, the Review Board had regard to the following:

(i) Zaum Studio application for review

(ii) Zaum Studio written and oral submissions

(iii) the computer game, DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT

(iv) further information requested from the applicant to support their submissions

(v) the relevant provisions in the Classification Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and

(vi) the Classification Board’s report.

5. Synopsis

DISCO ELYSIUM is a game that has been available since 2019 on online platforms, contains online interactivity in the form of integration with the streaming platform Twitch, which allows streaming viewers to vote on dialogue options. The game also contains in-game purchases in the form of purchases of objects.

DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT is the version under consideration by the Classification Review Board. It is a single player isometric fantasy role-playing game set in a fictional world called Elysium in which the player assumes the role of an amnesiac detective charged with solving a murder mystery.

6. Findings on material questions of fact

The Review Board found that the computer game contains aspects or scenes of importance under various classifiable elements:

(a) Themes—there are pervasive themes related to the narrative elements of addiction and alcoholism.

The impact of this element is no higher than high and can be accommodated at the R 18+ level.

(b) Violence—there is moderate violence justified by narrative context

The impact of this element is no higher than moderate and can be accommodated at the M level.

(c) Sex—there is implied sexual activity not linked to incentives or rewards

The impact of this element is no higher than strong and can be accommodated at the MA 15+ level.

(d) Language—there is frequent strong coarse language, often used aggressively

The impact of this element is no greater than high and can be accommodated at the R 18+ level.

(e) Drug Use—there is actual drug use that is not detailed and realistic and not linked to incentives or rewards.

The impact of this element is no higher than high and can be accommodated at the R 18+ level.

(f) Nudity

This element is not present in the game.

7. Reasons for the decision

In the Review Board’s view, this game warrants an R 18+ classification, as in accordance with item 2 of section 4 of the Code, it is unsuitable for viewing or playing by a minor. Under the Computer Games Guidelines, at R 18+, themes and language have virtually no restriction. Drug use is permitted, however it should not be related to incentives or rewards.

The primary means of interaction with the game is audio and text-based, while the visual aspect is secondary and stylised. Due to the primary interactive vehicle, and the complex and nuanced representation of the subject matter which tailors the storytelling to a mature audience, the Review Board considers the appeal of the game to be skewed to an adult audience.

The themes are related to the detective investigating a murder while also attempting to manage his own alcohol addiction, and getting his life back together after his substance abuse. The themes and drug references are inextricably linked. The language includes frequent strong coarse language which is often used aggressively, leading to a high cumulative impact, which can be accommodated at the R 18+ classification.

The game provides depictions of the consumption of a drug labelled “speed” and other terminologies. In the Review Board’s opinion, this game provides disincentives related to drug-taking behaviour, to the point where regular drug use leads to negative consequences for the player’s progression in the game. The game mechanic is designed to disincentivise and penalise increased consumption of drugs. The drug use is depicted at a distance through an isometric perspective, and is depicted in a stylised form, largely through text, accompanied by simplistic illustrations which depict the drug product. Players may choose for the character to consume drugs and alcohol but the act of consumption is not explicitly depicted. After the consumption of drugs, visual effects on screen implicitly depict the effects of the drug, and there are subsequent changes to character statistics, including negative outcomes.

The Review Board notes that the game contains sexual references which can be accommodated at a lower classification.

8. Summary

In the Review Board’s opinion, DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT has sufficient disincentives to drug use to enable it to be accommodated within the R 18+ classification with consumer advice of ‘high impact themes, coarse language and drug references’.

– Classification Review Board report

IARC RC to R18+

Following the overturning of the ban, the automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) decision was also changed.

The 7 December 2020 RC entry had only appeared in late March/early April 2021. Although the date remained the same, the rating was now modified to R18+ (High impact themes, High impact coarse language, High impact drug references).

Again, the applicant was Disco Elysium UK Ltd.

Gamer grievances

September 15, 2021
The Board received 201 complaints about computer games, of which 199 were about DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT.

– Classification Board
– Annual Report, 2020–2021

Mary Skelter Finale

Developed by Idea Factory / 2021 / MobyGames

In June 2021, MARY SKELTER FINALE was banned because of implied sexual violence and sexualised depictions of child-like female characters.

The applicant was Reef Entertainment.

Mary Skelter Finale (2021) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 4 Cover

The National Classification Database gave the following reason for the RC-rating.

June 16, 2021
Games 1(a)&(b): 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,” and
(b) “describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not).”

– Classification Board

June 25, 2021
…according to the official decision report.
“The game features frequent examples of sexualised imagery throughout, with female characters in tight and sometimes revealing clothing which emphasises the shape of their bodies, especially their breasts,”

The Board report says.
“Some images feature more overt sexual poses, such as a female in a nightdress on all fours who leans forward to lick the fingers of an outstretched hand. As well as sexualised imagery, cut scenes and dialogue sequences also feature examples of innuendo and sexual suggestion.”

The report then lists content from two separate scenes to make its case, although as is customary, it notes that the examples “do not represent an exhaustive list of the content” that warranted the refused classification rating.

“A depiction of implied sexual violence occurs when Gretel imposes non-consensual sexual attention on a fantasy version of Jack, named Nightmare Jack. Two characters in a corridor have heard the sound of Jack screaming and have stated that this sound is coming from Gretel’s room. A still image then depicts a close-up of Gretel, wearing a blue lacy bra, as she looks down at Jack’s body. Her right hand is pressed against green tendrils which appear to partially cover his abdomen and she smiles and looks down at him. Jack’s right leg is bent and raised to her left, creating the impression that she is kneeling and looking down between his legs. Jaunty music plays continuously and the image remains onscreen while dialogue between Gretel and another female character, Otsuu, scrolls across the bottom of the screen. Otsuu asks, ‘What are you doing?’ and, ‘Why are you attacking Jack like that?’ Gretel replies with, ‘You’re making it sound worse than it is. I’m just trying to hold him down by force’.”

“Otsuu says that this actually sounds worse and Gretel explains that she needed him to stay calm for her experiment. Otsuu asks her what this experiment is and Gretel replies, ‘He is a male, so I was experimenting to see how he would react to a female’. She then goes on to clarify that her intentions are sexual by saying, ‘Which is why I dressed in this way so that I could arouse his sexual desire’. Otsuu then refers to Jack’s lack of consent, saying, ‘But look at Jack. It’s obvious he doesn’t like what you’re doing! Isn’t that right Jack?'”

“Jack responds with, ‘Ggh…shht…pp’ and Otsuu adds, ‘See? He’s asking you to stop!’ The still image then changes to a scene in a bedroom which begins with Gretel saying, ‘See, I know why Jack isn’t sexually aroused by me,’ continuing ‘I lack the sexual appeal as a female,’ implicitly referring to the small size of her breasts. In the Board’s opinion, this sequence consists of a still image and an ongoing dialogue which together constitute a visual depiction of sexual violence, with clear reference made to Jack not consenting to Gretel’s unwanted sexual advances.”

The Board’s report then goes on to note a “gallery of still images” featuring various characters in “underwear or nightwear”:

“Each character is seen individually, first wearing items of clothing or underwear which place emphasis on their body or breasts. A second image then immediately follows in which the clothing has been rendered transparent, with black shading over the nipples and genital area. In the second image of each female, their cheeks have been shaded pink to give the impression that they are blushing from the removal of their clothing. In several instances, a character is depicted who is much shorter than the other women and who has a distinctly pre-pubescent body, with barely developed breasts and slimmer hips. Their hair is in pigtails and their eyes and facial features are more overtly childlike than some of the other female characters. One such character who appears to be younger than 18 years old, has long blond pigtails and is kicking a leg into the air with her arms outstretched.”

“In the Board’s view, the game contains a visual depiction of implied sexual violence, in addition to multiple examples of imagery that constitute sexualised depictions of child-like female characters,”

The board says that “implied sexual violence that is visually depicted” is barred under Australia’s guidelines for video games, and that any “exploitative of offensive descriptions or depictions” of persons that appear under 18 will also be refused classification.

“In the Board’s view, the game contains a visual depiction of implied sexual violence, in addition to multiple examples of imagery that constitute sexualised depictions of child-like female characters,”

– Here’s why Mary Skelter Finale was banned In Australia
article @ kotaku.com.au

Deathsmiles I・II

Developed by CAVE Interactive / 2021 / MobyGames

In 2021, DEATHSMILES I・II was rated three times under the automated International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) system.

On August 3, it was classified M (Sexualised Imagery). The following day it received both PG (Sexualised Imagery, Mild Nudity, Scary Scenes) and M (Horror Themes) ratings.

In all cases, the publisher and production company was listed as City Connection Co., Ltd.

Refused in Australia

In February 2022, DEATHSMILES I・II was banned by the Classification Board.

The applicant was Clear River Games AB.

Deathsmiles I・II (2021) - Game Cover 1
PlayStation 4 Cover

The National Classification Database gave the following reason for the RC-rating.

February 28, 2022
Games 1(b): The computer game is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Computer Games Table, 1.
(b) as computer games that “describe or depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not).”

– Classification Board

RimWorld

Developed by Ludeon Studios / 2016 / MobyGames

In February 2022, RIMWORLD was banned due to ‘illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards’. The decision of the Classification Board’s three-member panel was unanimous.

The applicant was Double Eleven Ltd.

RimWorld (2016) - Game Cover 1
Cover

Why was it banned?

September 27, 2022
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: RIMWORLD
Alternate titles:
Publisher: DOUBLE ELEVEN LTD.
Programmer: LUDEON STUDIOS / DOUBLE ELEVEN LTD.
Production Company:
Year of Production: 2022
Duration: VARIABLE
Version: ORIGINAL
Country/ies of origin: UK
Language/s: Chinese, Dutch, EFIGS, Japanese, Korean, POLISH, PORTUGUESE, RUSSIAN, SWEDISH
Application type: CG2
Applicant: DOUBLE ELEVEN LIMITED

Dates:

Date application received by the Classification Board: 07 February 2022
Date of decision: 27 February 2022

Decision:

Classification: RC
Consumer advice:

Synopsis:

RIMWORLD is a single-player, science fiction colony simulator game driven by an intelligent AI storyteller that generates stories by simulating a vast array of details including psychology, ecology, combat, climate, biomes, diplomacy, medicine, trade, and interpersonal relationships. The game does not include any online interactivity.

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 R18+ classification category will be Refused Classification. Computer Games will be Refused Classification if they include or contain “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 classification.

RIMWORLD is a single-player, science fiction, colony simulator game with gameplay depicted in a distant, top-down view of a map as player expands and makes improvements to the colony. At the beginning of the game, the player chooses three starting colonists, each with randomly generated personalities and ability statistics.

Once the colonists have been chosen, the aim of the game is to build up a colony, assigning priorities to the colonists’ work schedules in order for them to complete tasks such as base building, farming and research while surviving random events created by the game’s AI system. Successful colony management requires players to balance and regulate the health, moods, and needs of the colonialists while increasing their abilities in various tasks such as combat, building, crafting and farming.

Colonists are able to manufacture and consume a variety of drugs in the game including several that are analogous to real world proscribed drugs, as specified in Schedule 4 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations. This includes ‘yayo’, a reference to cocaine that is depicted as a line of white powder; ‘flake’, a crack cocaine-like substance that is depicted as a pipe; and ‘smokeleaf’, a cannabis-like product depicted as a hand-rolled cigarette.

In order to use a drug, the player is able to direct a colonist to an icon representing the item. For example, the player can select an icon depicting a joint and the colonist avatar then picks it up, holding it to its mouth as smoke appears accompanied by a caption noting that the colonist is ‘smoking smokeleaf joint’. The ‘mood modifier’ statistics for the colonist are then updated to note a positive increase alongside with a note that they are ‘high on smokeleaf’.

Similarly, when a colonist is directed by the player to use flake, the colonist picks up a pipe and the sound of a lighter sparking is heard before smoke appears around the colonist’s head. The ‘mood modifier’ statistics for the colonist are then updated to note a positive increase alongside a note that they are ‘high on flake’. Colonists can also be directed to ‘snort yayo’ and sniffing sounds are heard as the colonist implicitly ingests the drug.

In addition to the positive enhancement to the colonist’s mood statistics, drug use has other positive effects including reduced damage and increased focus when working on tasks around the base. However, repeated use of drugs can result in addiction and associated negative effects including overdose death.

Colonists using drugs are able to build up a tolerance, which is inversely proportional to body size. This means that smaller colonists, including teenagers, gain more tolerance with use. Colonists can become addicted to a drug once they cross a certain tolerance threshold. When this tolerance is achieved, the effect of each dose of the drug will decrease by a fixed amount, resulting in a decrease to the time period that the effects remain and an increase in the amount of the drug that a colonist will need to consume in order to replicate the initial effects.

Addiction acts in a similar fashion, requiring the colonist to get a regular dose of the drug in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms and associated negative effects on the colonist’s mood statistics. Drug addictions can be managed by the player by limiting or regulating access to the drug in the colonist’s assigned schedule, which, after a period of time, can result in the addiction weakening and eventually disappearing from the game.

In the Board’s opinion, the items described above clearly reference a group of proscribed drugs in appearance and effect and their use is associated with rewards and incentives during gameplay. Therefore, under the Guidelines, the game must be Refused Classification for “illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards”.

Decision:

This game is Refused Classification.

– Classification Board report

For unknown reasons, this decision was removed from the National Classification Database sometime on March 3.

Steam blocked for Australia

Five days after the refusal, the developer, Ludeon Studios, made this statement on Steam.

March 5, 2022
Unfortunately, we’ve just been informed that RIMWORLD has just been made unavailable for new purchases by Australian customers on Steam.

This does not seem to affect existing owners – it only prevents new purchases. Anyone who already owns the game is still be able to play, receive updates and access community features like the forums and workshop. The Ideology and Royalty expansions are also not affected.

EDIT: Steam keys do not work in Australia. If you buy the game on the RIMWORLD website, you will not be able to register your game on Steam. Friends cannot gift you RIMWORLD on Steam either, even if they don’t live in Australia.

We don’t have a ton of information about this since it just happened within the last few hours, it’s Friday evening, and most people we could ask are not at work.

From the info we have, this happened because a few days ago, the Australian Classification Board classified a potential console version of RIMWORLD as “Refused Classification (RC)”, meaning it can’t be sold in Australia.

We did not expect this to affect the Steam version because in previous similar cases, as with DISCO ELYSIUM for example, an RC rating on a console version did not affect the availability of the PC version on Steam. We’re not sure why this decision was made in RIMWORLD’s case.

I’m sorry this news was so sudden and for anyone who is frustrated by this. We are working to resolve this situation and make RIMWORLD available to everyone again as soon as possible, but we don’t yet know what that might require or how long it may take.

– ‘RimWorld’ removed from sale in Australia on Steam, existing owners unaffected
RimWorld @ Steam

RC reasons

Presumably, media and public enquiries were behind the Classification Board releasing the following statement.

March 10, 2022
The Classification Act provides that computer games are to be classified prior to sale in Australia. Following application by the distributor, the Classification Board classified the computer game, RIMWORLD, RC (Refused Classification) on February 28 2022.

The Board’s decision is based upon the application of the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012 (the Games Guidelines). The Games Guidelines state “interactive illicit or proscribed drug use is not permitted” within the G, PG, M or MA 15+ classification, and that “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 an classification level.

The Board considered that the depiction of drug use in the game, RIMWORLD, did include “illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards” and that therefore the Board was required to classify the game, Refused Classification. A game that has received an RC rating cannot be sold, hired, advertised, or legally imported into Australia.

Board classification decisions may be reviewed by the Classification Review Board. On receipt of an application for review from the Applicant, or other persons defined in section 42 of the Classification Act, the Review Board will make a new decision which replaces the original decision by the Board. Applications for review generally need to be made within 30 days of the original Board classification decision.

– Classification of the game ‘RimWorld’
– Fiona Jolly, Director, Classification Board

Double Eleven challenges RC

Five weeks after the refusal, it was announced that an appeal would be heard by the Classification Review Board.

At this point, the RC decision was still missing from the National Classification Database.

April 7, 2022
The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification of the computer game, RIMWORLD. RIMWORLD was classified RC (Refused Classification) by the Classification Board on 28 February 2022.

The Classification Review Board will meet on Wednesday 20 April 2022 to consider the application. The decision and reasons will later be published on www.classification.gov.au.

If an individual or organisation wishes to apply for standing as an interested party to this review, please write to the Convenor of the Review Board. The names of interested parties will be disclosed in the Review Board’s final decision report, unless requested otherwise.

The closing date to lodge your application for standing as an interested party and any submissions is Monday 18 April 2022. Please note that the Review Board can only consider submissions about the computer game (RIMWORLD) itself and not any other matters relating to computer game classification policy or issues generally.

Submissions should be emailed to crb@classification.gov.au or sent to:

The Convenor
Classification Review Board, Locked Bag 3, Haymarket NSW 1240

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. It makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

– Classification review announced for the computer game RimWorld
– Classification Review Board

Revised to R18+

Double Eleven’s appeal against refusal was a success, with the rating changed to R18+ (High impact themes and drug use).

The extended classification information described,
High impact: themes, drug use
Moderate impact: violence, sex
Mild impact: nudity
None: language

It joined WE HAPPY FEW (2016) and DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT (2021) as the third ‘drug use related to incentives and rewards’ RC to be dropped to R18+ by the Classification Review Board.

April 20, 2022
A four-member panel of the Classification Review Board has unanimously determined that the computer game, RIMWORLD, is classified R 18+ (Restricted) with the consumer advice High impact themes and drug use.

In the Classification Review Board’s opinion RIMWORLD warrants an R 18+ classification because the themes and drug use have a high impact. The overall impact of the classifiable elements in the game was high. The Review Board also considered the appeal of the game to be skewed to an adult audience.

The game includes fantasy drug use, but in the Review Board’s opinion, the game mechanic ultimately provides disincentives related to drug-taking behaviour, to the point where regular drug use leads to negative consequences such as overdose, addiction, and withdrawal. Players may choose for colonist pawns to consume drugs in certain scenarios, but this greatly hinders player progress, as characters will succumb to addiction and must deal with long-term negative impacts of their drug use. The drug use is depicted at a distance through a top-down perspective, in a highly stylised, simplified form. The game also contains high impact themes that are justified by the context of colonists surviving in an inhospitable fantasy world.

Computer games classified R 18+ are legally restricted to adults. Persons aged under 18 years cannot purchase computer games classified R 18+. Some material classified R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community. Consumer advice is additional information about the main content of a computer game which is intended to help consumers decide if they want to view this type of material.

The Review Board convened on 20 April 2022 in response to an application from the original applicant, Double Eleven, to review the decision made by the Classification Board on 28 February 2022 to classify RIMWORLD RC (Refused Classification).

In reviewing the classification, the Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games 2012. This is the same framework used by the Classification Board.

The Review Board is an independent merits review body. It makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. This Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

The Review Board’s reasons for this decision will appear on the Classification website when finalised.

– RimWorld classified R 18+
– Classification Review Board

Full R18+ report

RIMWORLD’s review attracted 23 written submissions from ‘interested parties’.

In comparison, WE HAPPY FEW (2016) had only Microsoft, and DISCO ELYSIUM – THE FINAL CUT (2021) had zero.

April 20, 2022
Members:
Sue Knowles (Chair)
Susan Bush
Adam Davy
David Toll

Applicant:
Double Eleven

Interested parties:
Jacques Bezuidenhout, Peter Skaltsounis, Finn McColl, Simon Green, Benjamin Locke, Brendan Sherrin, Shane Scriven, Josh Walsh, James Massey, Douglas Drak,e Alexander Lambert, Octavio Ferreira, Molly Pearce, Michael Main, Christopher Payton, Navrin Thomas, Mitz, Kyle Brown, EH, James Sadler, Phillip Boyack, Annamaria Quaresima, Amy Hightower

Business:
To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the computer game RIMWORLD, RC (Refused Classification).

Decision and reasons for decision

1. Decision

The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) unanimously classified the computer game RIMWORLD R 18+ with the consumer advice ‘High impact themes and drug use’.

2. Legislative provisions

The ‘Classification (Publications, Computer game and Computer Games) Act 1995’ (Cth) (the Classification Act) governs the classification of computer games and the review of classification decisions.

The Review Board

Part 5 of the Classification Act outlines the provisions relevant to the Review Board and its procedures.

Section 42 of the Classification Act sets out the persons who may apply for review of a decision:

a) the Minister

b) the applicant for classification of the computer game, or the likely classification of the computer game under section 33

c) the publisher of the computer game, or

d) a person aggrieved by the decision.

Section 43 sets out the conditions regarding the manner and form of applications for review, including time limits. Under section 44, the Review Board must deal with an application for review in the same way that the Classification Board deals with an application for classification of a computer game.

Classification of computer games under the Classification Act

Section 9, subject to section 9A, provides that computer games are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines. Section 9A states that a computer game that advocates the doing of a terrorist act must be classified RC.

Section 11 of the Classification Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a computer game include the:

a) standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults, and

b) literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the computer game, and

c) general character of the computer game, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character, and

d) persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

The National Classification Code

Relevantly, the Computer games Table of the National Classification Code (the Code) provides that:

Computer games (except RC computer games) that are unsuitable for viewing or playing by a minor are to be classified R 18+, and;

The Code also sets out various principles to which classification decisions should give effect, as far as possible:

a) adults should be able to read, hear, see and play what they want

b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them

c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive

d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

(i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence and,

(ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

The Guidelines

Three essential principles underlie the use of the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer games 2012 (the Guidelines), determined under section 12 of the Classification Act, the:

– importance of context

– assessment of impact, and

– the six classifiable elements—themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

A further consideration in classifying computer games is interactivity. Due to the interactive nature of computer games and the active repetitive involvement of the participant, as a general rule computer games may have a higher impact than similarly themed depictions of the classifiable elements in film, and therefore greater potential for harm or detriment, particularly to minors.

3. Procedure

Four members of the Review Board met on 20 April 2022, in response to the receipt of an application from Double Eleven on 29 March 2022, to conduct the review of the computer game, RIMWORLD, which had previously been classified RC (Refused Classification) by the Classification Board. The Review Board determined that the application was a valid application.

The Review Board was provided a written submission from the Applicant.

The Review Board viewed the computer game.

The Review Board was provided written submissions from the 23 interested parties listed above.

The Review Board heard an oral submission from the Applicant.

The Review Board then considered the matter.

4. Evidence and other material taken into account

In reaching its decision, the Review Board considered the following:

(i) Double Eleven application for review

(ii) Double Eleven written and oral submissions, including expert opinions

(iii) written submissions received from 23 interested parties

(iv) the computer game, RIMWORLD

(v) the relevant provisions in the Classification Act, the Code and the Guidelines, and

(vi) the Classification Board’s report.

5. Synopsis

RIMWORLD is a single-player, science fiction colony simulator game driven by an intelligent AI storyteller that generates stories by simulating a vast array of details including psychology, ecology, combat, climate, biomes, diplomacy, medicine, trade, and interpersonal relationships. The game does not include any online interactivity.

6. Findings on material questions of fact

The Review Board found that the computer game contains aspects or scenes of importance under various classifiable elements:

(a) Themes— there are themes that include organ harvesting, slavery, and interactive cannibalism.

The impact of this element does not exceed high and can be accommodated at the R 18+ level.

(b) Violence— there is moderate violence justified by context.

The impact of this element does not exceed moderate and can be accommodated at the M level.

(c) Sex—there is sexual activity that is discreetly implied and justified by context.

The impact of this element does not exceed moderate and can be accommodated at the M level.

(d) Language—there is no coarse language present in the game.

(e) Drug Use— there is fantasy drug use that is not detailed and realistic and not linked to incentives or rewards in the context of the broader objectives of the game.

The impact of this element does not exceed high and can be accommodated at the R 18+ level.

(f) Nudity—there is infrequent nudity that is discreetly depicted and justified by context.

The impact of this element does not exceed mild and can be accommodated at the PG level.

7. Reasons for the decision

In the Review Board’s view, this game warrants an R 18+ classification, as in accordance with item 2 of section 4 of the Code, it is unsuitable for viewing or playing by a minor. Under the Computer Games Guidelines, at R 18+, themes have virtually no restriction. Drug use is permitted, however it should not be related to incentives or rewards.

The visual aspect of the game is simplistic, distant, top down, and stylised. Due to the complex and nuanced representation of the simulation, the Review Board considers the appeal of the game to be skewed to an adult audience.

The themes are related to the mechanics of survival in an inhospitable fantasy environment, and the difficult choices that need to be made, including moral dilemmas such as organ harvesting, slavery, and cannibalism.

The game provides depictions of the consumption of drugs labelled “yayo”, “flake”, “luciferium”, “smokeleaf” and other terminologies. In the Review Board’s opinion, the game mechanic ultimately provides disincentives related to drug-taking behaviour, to the point where regular drug use leads to negative consequences such as overdose, addiction, and withdrawal. Players may choose for the colonist pawns to consume drugs in certain scenarios, but this greatly hinders player progress, as characters will succumb to addiction and must deal with long-term negative impacts of their drug use. The drug use is depicted at a distance through a top-down perspective, in a highly stylised, simplified form.

8. Summary

In the Review Board’s opinion, RIMWORLD has sufficient disincentives to drug use to enable it to be accommodated within the R 18+ classification with consumer advice of ‘High impact themes and drug use’.

– Classification Review Board report

Steam news

April 21, 2020
Hello everyone! We have great news for our Australian players – RIMWORLD is once again available for purchase on Steam in Australia. This means Australians have access to the RIMWORLD Steam store page and can gift and receive Steam keys for the game. (It also means you can read this news update.) Everything should be back to normal!

For context: Back in February, the Australian Classification Board classified RIMWORLD as “Refused Classification (RC)” which banned the game from sale in Australia. This news was sudden and a surprise to everyone.

We appealed to the Classification Review Board and they agreed to review the game’s rating on April 20. We assembled a lot of useful evidence and had a great legal team to help us. Our community was also amazing and helped us by providing examples of games on Steam that had similar cases to us, like DISCO ELYSIUM and FALLOUT. The review concluded with a happy ending – RIMWORLD’s classification changed from “Refused Classification (RC)” to “R 18+ (Restricted)”, and now we’re back on Steam!

So a big thanks to everyone for your support, that was a wild couple of months!

– RimWorld is back on Steam in Australia
RimWorld @ Steam

Freedom of Information (FOI)

Some information above comes from FOI No. CB 22-008, which released documents related to the RC and R18+ ratings. A copy is worth downloading as it provides a window into the Australian censorship process.

The 162-page PDF was made available in July 2022 by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. The 45-documents, 22 of which were from interested parties, have minor redactions. They include Double Elevens’ application, e-mail correspondence, the classification panel’s handwritten notes and the Review Board process.

Three documents from expert witnesses were made on behalf of Double Eleven. One of these contains answers to follow-up questions from the Classification Review Board.

See our ‘Protest’ page for information on how you can make an FOI request to the Classification Board.


back to top of page arrow