Australia bans Fallout 3

UPDATE: Upcoming Bethesda game refused classification Down Under by ratings body; OFLC report confirms banning is due to showing positive effects of in-game drug use.

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Rumours were swirling late last week that Australia's strict games classification regime had struck its highest-profile victim for 2008, with Fallout 3 apparently being refused a rating. It seems the rumours were true, with confirmation coming tonight that Bethesda's upcoming postapocalyptic action RPG has indeed been banned for sale in Australia.

The most recent update for the Web site of Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) shows that Fallout 3 has been refused classification. Unlike films or DVDs, the highest rating allowable for a game in Australia is MA 15+, which means any title that has content deemed unsuitable for a 15-year-old is illegal to sell or promote in this country.

While the OFLC website has no details on why Fallout 3 was banned, a user in GameSpot's PC forum last week suggested it could be due to the use of the drug morphine within the game. Australia's game classification rules state that titles 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" will be refused classification.

Fallout 3 is the third game in 2008 to be banned in Australia. Dark Sector was originally refused classification, although an edited version has recently been resubmitted and passed with an MA 15+ rating. Last week, Shellshock 2 was banned due to graphic violent content.

UPDATE: Australia's OFLC has provided GameSpot AU with a copy of its Board's ruling on Fallout 3, which states that the game was indeed refused classification because it contains "material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use".

In its ruling, the OFLC states that "the game contains the option to take a variety of drugs known as chems using a device which is connected to the character's arm."

"These chems have postive and some negative effects (lowering of intelligence, or the character may become addicted to the chem). The positive effects include increase in strength, stamina, resistance to damage, agility, and hit points. Corresponding with the list of various chems are small visual representations of the drugs; these include syringes, tablets, pill bottles, a crack-type pipe, and blister packs. In the Board's view, these realistic visual representation of drugs and their delivery method bring the 'science-fiction' drugs in line with 'real-world' drugs.

"The player can also select and use Morphine (a proscribed drug) which has the positive effect of enabling the character to ignore limb pain when the character's extremities are targeted by the enemy." In Fallout 1 and 2, players could take a wide range of drugs both to boost health and character attributes. Both games were freely available for sale in Australia and were rated M.

And despite the violence in the game, the OFLC's ruling is solely concerned with drug use in Fallout 3. In the ruling, the OFLC states that "the violence throughout the game could be accommodated at an MA 15+ level of classification".

A Bethesda spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by GameSpot AU. Fallout 3's Australian distributors Red Ant also refused to comment. The company suffered a similar setback with another game it was distributing in Australia last year, when Blitz: The League was refused classification due to similar in-game drug issues. For more information on Australia's game classification system, check out our special Censory Overload feature.

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