“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.”
Bohemia specifically mentioning morphine mirrors the classification problem Bethesda had with morphine in 2008, and State of Decay in 2013. Morphine is an opioid that may be addictive, but it’s available via prescription in Australia.
The Australian Classification Board has refused classification for Bohemia Interactive’s long-gestating survival shooter DayZ, creating a confusing scenario IGN is still attempting to unravel.
DayZ was refused classification on June 4 this year due to “illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards,” a video game rating hurdle that has persisted in Australia despite the major reforms of 2013.
“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,” explains the report, via Kotaku.
“The use of drugs (marijuana) as an incentive or reward during the gameplay exceeds what can be accommodated within the R18+ classification and therefore must be Refused Classification.”
Games containing drug use related to incentives or rewards have historically had problems being rated in Australia. In 2018 We Happy Few was initially refused classification because progress relied on hallucinogenic drug use, but that decision was overturned on review after more context was provided to the board. In 2013, State of Decay was temporarily refused classification in Australia for namechecking methadone, morphine, and “amphetamines” as health and stamina boosts. A modified version was successfully rated R18+ a month later (the sequel was also rated R18+). In 2008, Fallout 3 fell foul of the guideline, prompting Bethesda to steer clear of using real-world terms like morphine in its game. A modified Fallout 3 was rated and made available for sale. In 2007, Blitz: The League was refused classification for steroid use and remains forbidden from sale in the country. The difference between these examples and, say, the drug use and drug effects in the likes of Far Cry 3 or GTA V is that there are gameplay benefits (and presumably the reason Max Payne can munch as many painkillers as he desires is because they’re not specifically identified as an illicit or proscribed drug).
What’s mystifying here is that, according to DayZ users, cannabis hasn’t actually been officially implemented into the game at this stage and only appears to be available via PC mods. Despite this, the game is now unavailable from both console storefronts in Australia. IGN has contacted Bohemia Interactive for clarification.
While DayZ was classified RC by the Classification Board on June 4 in preparation for its retail release, it’s been available digitally for years on PC (and for several months on Xbox One and PS4) and was previously rated MA15+ a baffling three separate times via the IARC classification tool (and one more time since the RC rating). The International Age Rating Coalition classification tool is an online questionnaire where developers answer a series of questions about content. In Australia the free tool can only be used for digitally-distributed games; all physical releases are still required to be rated by the Classification Board itself (a process that can cost over AUD$2000).
UK publisher Sold Out confirmed in June this year it would be releasing DayZ for console at retail later in 2019, and it would appear Australian distribution was set to go through local distributor Five Star Games (the listed applicant on DayZ’s unsuccessful classification request). Five Star Games referred IGN to the contents of the Classification Board’s report.
DayZ began life in 2012 as a mod for Bohemia’s 2009 tactical shooter ARMA 2. The follow-up standalone version of DayZ was first made available via Steam Early Access back in December 2013.
DayZ was officially released for PC in December 2018 after five years in Steam Early Access, and a pair of poorly-received console versions for Xbox One and PS4 quietly arrived in 2019 (DayZ hit Xbox in March 2019 after a stint in Xbox Game Preview, and on PS4 in May).
Luke is Games Editor at IGN’s Sydney office. You can find him on Twitter every few days @MrLukeReilly.