We Happy Few Denied Classification In Australia, Developer Responds

Not so happy.

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[UPDATE] Developer Compulsion Games has now written a blog post in which it said it is frustrated by the news. In getting denied a classification, that means We Happy Few is effectively banned in the country (though of course enterprising gamers will find a way to play it either by importing or other means). Still, it's a roadblock that Compulsion is upset over. The studio said it is currently looking into the matter and has requested more information.

"To our Australian fans, we share your frustration," the studio said. "We will work with the [Australia Classification Board] 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."

"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. In this context, our game's overarching social commentary is no different than Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, or Terry Gilliam's Brazil."

"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."

"We would like to respond to the thematic side of We Happy Few in more detail at a later date, as we believe it deserves more attention than a quick PR response. In the meantime we will be talking to the ACB to provide additional information, to discuss the issues in depth, and see whether they will change their minds."

The original story is below.

We Happy Few, the BioShock-inspired game that entered Early Access back in 2016, is finally coming out this year, but its road to release may be rockier in Australia. The game was refused classification in the country under the Games 1 (a) clause. Here is the official wording, pulled from the Classification Board's website (via Kotaku):

"Reason: Games 1(a)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.'"

Neither developer Compulsion Games nor publisher Gearbox Software (which is handling the physical edition) has yet to respond to this refusal notice in Australia; keep checking back for more.

We Happy Few has been announced for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It was already playable on PC (and Xbox One) through Early Access, but in January when the game was delayed to summer 2018, Compulsion removed the ability to pre-buy the game.

The game is set in an alternate-history version of 1960s England in the fictional town of Wellington Wells. Players take on the role of characters who refuse to take their mind-altering happy pills and must find a way to escape from the town without being caught by its citizens. Players can get Early Access to the title right now on PC and Xbox One for $51. Compulsion released a new update for it today dubbed "Life in Technicolour," which adds new Joy effects and improves other aspects of the game like UI and AI.

We Happy Few joins Saints Row IV, State of Decay, Hotline Miami 2, and South Park: Stick of Truth in being initially refused classification by the Australian Classification Board. Modified versions of some of those games were subsequently submitted to the board and granted ratings, the highest of which is the R18+ adult rating for video games.

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