Compulsion Games’ We Happy Few has been denied a rating by the Australian Classification Board, more or less banning the game until changes are made. Despite the fact that Australia has added an 18+ classification to its list of ratings, We Happy Few is the latest in a number of games that were initially declared unsuitable for a rating. The decision was published on the classification board’s website, stating that the game was refused a rating under its Games 1(a) section.
In words taken directly from the posted decision: “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.” When refused a rating, developers are still given the chance to cut content and re-submit, although it can’t always be done.
Compulsion Games has recently responded to the decision on their website, writing, “As many of you may know by now, yesterday the Australian Classification Board chose not to classify We Happy Few, effectively banning We Happy Few from sale in Australia. We are looking into it, and have asked for more information on the decision. To our Australian fans, we share your frustration. We will work with the ACB on the classification. If the government maintains its stance, we will make sure that you can get a refund, and we will work directly with affected Kickstarter backers to figure something out. We would appreciate if you give us a little bit of time to appeal the decision before making a call.”
While We Happy Few absolutely covers a wide range of ‘difficult’ topics, Compulsion maintains that they’ve handled these themes with care in the game.
We Happy Few is set in a dystopian society, and the first scene consists of the player character redacting material that could cause offense to “society at large”, as part of his job as a government “archivist”. It’s a society that is forcing its citizens to take Joy, and the whole point of the game is to reject this programming and fight back. The game explores a range of modern themes, including addiction, mental health and drug abuse. We have had hundreds of messages from fans appreciating the treatment we’ve given these topics, and we believe that when players do get into the world they’ll feel the same way. We’re proud of what we’ve created.
With that, Compulsion has promised to speak more at length about the game’s thematic elements at a later date, writing that it “deserves more attention than a quick PR response.” Meanwhile, the company will continue to explore its options with the Australian Classification Board. Hopefully, we’ll be hearing more about the future of the game soon.
We Happy Few was released as an Early Access title in 2016, with a full release expected to follow later this year for Xbox One, PlayStation4, and PC.