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Australian Classification Board overturns ban on controversial video game after successful appeal

Here’s something video game publisher Gearbox and their fans should be… happy about.

The Australian Classification Board has announced that they’ve overturned their ban on We Happy Few following a successful appeal by Gearbox and developer Compulsion Games. The title will now get an R 18+ classification, allowing it to be sold in the country.

We Happy Few takes place in an alternative world set in the mid-1960s. In nods to famous dystopian tales like Brave New World and 1984, society is on the verge of collapse due to a hallucinogenic drug called ‘Joy’ that shields the population from reality and keeps them docile and easy to control.

The protagonists have to escape the fictional city of Wellington Wells alive without being captured while fighting against their own addiction to this government-enforced drug.

Back in May, the game was banned due to its themes around drug use, and how using ‘Joy’ incentivises or rewards taking drugs in real life. But Alex Epstein, the title’s narrative designer, begged to differ saying that the game is about rejecting mandated drugs, not getting addicted to it.

“I guarantee you people miss the point,” he told Polygon. “Some people will always miss the point. If you can provide them with an experience so that they can talk about it, then we did our job. That’s our job: to get people talking about this stuff. Our job is not to sell an ideology.”

In its final report, the board said, “A three-member panel of the Classification Review Board has unanimously determined that the computer game We Happy Few is classified R 18+ (Restricted) with the consumer advice ‘Fantasy violence and interactive drug use’.”

Compulsion, on their part, lauded the decision in a statement: “We went to a great deal of effort to get this decision overturned. We want to thank everybody who got involved in the discussion, contacted the board and sent us countless messages of support. Your involvement made a huge difference.”

We Happy Few is scheduled for release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on August 10.

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros

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