Oh, Australia, country of my birth. I love you, but you are a bit weird about those videogame things.
Australia’s Classification Review Board – responsible for deciding what age rating things get – previously deemed Saints Row 4 unsuitable for the Australian public for two reasons: first, because it had a Rectifier anal probe weapon which “implied sexual violence,” and second, because alien drugs gave you superpowers. This is after Australia finally added an R18+ rating for games, for what it’s worth.
Today, Australia has once again refused classification to Saints Row 4 for much the same reasons (PDF) – “drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted.” A game that’s been refused classification can’t be sold, hired, demonstrated, or advertised in Australia, which essentially means that Saints Row 4 is a no-go in the region – for now, anyway. It’s the unedited version that’s once again been refused classification, and Volition are reportedly still working on an edited version for release in the region.
Other games Australia have refused classification to over the past few years include Fallout 3 (drug use; fixed by renaming real-world drugs to fictional ones; awarded MA15+), Grand Theft Auto (see the comments for an explanation courtesy of reader Jessica), Left 4 Dead 2 (violence), State of Decay (drug use), The Witcher 2 (sexytime as an incentive in a quest), and – most hilariously – Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Under Pressure (originally passed uncut, later appealed by the attorney general’s office for glorifying graffiti).
For what it’s worth, Saints Row: The Third passed with an MA15+ rating.
I can’t honestly decide whether this is stupid or not. On the one hand, Australia now has an R18+ rating, and if 18 year olds are impressionable enough to think that drugs will give you superpowers then they have far more problems than games. On the other hand, much as I’m vehemently opposed to nanny states, I can sort of understand – in a devil’s advocate sense – a country not wanting any form of media that glamorises drugs.
That’s assuming they really do want no media that even remotely glamorises drugs, though. After all, Tender Loving Care – a dreadful sexytime interactive movie starring John Hurt – was refused classification as a game, but once it was resubmitted as an “interactive DVD”, it was rated under different guidelines and approved for sale with an MA15+ rating. The exact same product, on a different medium. Sigh.
I suppose this means that Australians will have to resort to getting superpowers from real-life drugs instead. And if you’re stupid enough to believe that’s possible, then you’ve just proven that the Classification Review Board made the right decision.