Last Friday, the exceptional Disco Elysium – The Final Cut became that last in a tragic line of banned games in Australia. The game was refused classification Down Under on the grounds that is was found to “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena” in way that offended “against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults”. That’s quite a mouthful, and “abhorrent phenomenon” is no way to talk about the Insulindian Phasmid.
This is, to be absolutely clear, a decision as ridiculous as the rationale provided. Disco Elysium is an exceptional game, and we stand by the perfect score we gave it back in 2019. Since launch, it was won more than a dozen awards. Even more ludicrous, the game has been available in Australia for two years via the Steam store. But the developers ZA/UM are planning to launch The Final Cut on console this month, which would determine its availability in physical stores in Australia. This requires classification and it seems, was a step too far.
The boys return to the beat in Disco Elysium – The Final Cut
This is just the latest incident in a string of bans that highlight the double standards applied to video games in Oz. One example is the consumption of drugs, an action whilst not encouraged in Disco, is one certainly not discouraged. This is fine in movies and TV, but seemingly pushes the envelope beyond the pale in video games. In a game that, at it’s heart explores the human condition, warts and all, this is just one example of the darker side of humanity to which Disco shines a light. The ban, it seems, was all but inevitable.
Chief Executive of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association, Ron Curry was not surprised.
“Games are treated differently and the classification guidelines do not hide it. In spite of the government’s own research to the contrary, when an R18+ classification was introduced for games they still insisted on making interactivity a determinant in classifying games, unlike film and publications,” he said. “There are also other restrictions levelled at games around violence, sex, drug use and incentives that aren’t applied to film.”
Curry goes on to agree that the current classification system is out of date,
“The sad reality is that the national classification system applies a stricter set of rules for video games than it does for pretty much every other kind of content, reflecting the early 1990s era in which those rules were written, when video games were associated with a moral panic and certainly not treated as the mainstream medium and artistic discipline that they are.”
And they say you cant “hear” images
Whilst the federal government launched a consultation reviewing Australia’s games classification system in January last year, it has ye to reach a decision. If anything, Australia seems to be moving in the other direction. In February this year, the government introduced new legislation giving the eSafety commissioner powers to enforce the classification scheme on Australian based websites. This surprised many in the sector, who questioned why an increase in power was determined prior to concluding the redetermination of the classifications themselves.
Watchdog body the Australian Lawyers Alliance commented that the online classification system required review. This, they said should have occurred before the extended powers are handed over via the online safety bill.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance said the online classification system needed review, which should be done before the online safety bill passes.
“This bill should not be reliant on such an out-dated classification system. The ALA therefore submits that this legislation should not proceed until such a review into the [classification scheme], incorporating community consultation, has been undertaken. The review of the classification regulation has not concluded and, accordingly, it is not clear how potential findings of this review will interact with the proposed new Online Safety Act,” the Communications Alliance said in its submission.
Curry affirmed the statement made by the commission. He attests that the government needed to announce its decision on the review, as soon as possible,
“IGEA praised the government for undertaking this review and were closely involved in the entire review process,” Curry said. “However, some time has now passed since that review was completed, so we urge the government to maintain progress in implementing it this year.”
Disco Elysium – The Final Cut launches on March 30 for PS5, PS4, Stadia, and PC. It is also coming to Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and Switch, but those versions are launching this summer. Just not in Australia. We’d suggest they take a chill pill, but then I guess they’d have to ban themselves.
Source; The Guardian