The Australian ratings board has denied an age classification certificate, required for a game to be published legally, for Xbox zombie survival game State of Decay.
Because the game features real-world drugs which are used to buff and restore health, their use being depicted by the swallowing of pills, the ratings board believes that the game encourages drug use by associating it with reward. Because of this perceived incentivisation of drug use, the game will not see the light of day in the territory without some serious alterations.
The full report explaining the move was obtained by Koataku Australia and is reproduced below.
"The game contains the option of self-administering a variety of "'medications' throughout gameplay which act to restore a player's health or boost their stamina. These 'medications' include both legal and illicit substances such as methadone, morphine, amphetamines, stimulants, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, codeine, aspirin, 'trucker pills"', painkillers and tussin. Of these, methadone, morphine, and amphetamines are proscribed drugs and the term 'stimulant' is commonly used to refer to a class of drugs of which several are proscribed. Players obtain drugs by scavenging for them in the environment or by manufacturing them in a 'Medical Lab'. When players find drugs in the environment the name of the drug appears onscreen and the drug is also represented by a visual icon such as a pill bottle or syringe. Within the 'Medical Lab' players are prompted to make substances such as 'Potent Stims', 'Mild Stims' and 'Painkillers'. The laboratory includes a 'research library' and 'chemical dictionary'.
"When administering drugs, the player is briefly depicted moving a pill bottle toward their mouth. The sound of pills rattling in the bottle accompanies the depiction. The name of the drug appears onscreen along with its representative icon. Consumption of the drug instantly increases a player's in-game abilities allowing them to progress through gameplay more easily. The Applicant has stated that a 'player can choose not to make any drugs or scavenge for them, but it would be very difficult to complete the game without some form of medication'. In the Board's opinion, the game enables the player's character to self-administer proscribed drugs which aid in gameplay progression. This game therefore contains drug use related to incentives or rewards and should be Refused Classification."
Australia's ratings system recently underwent a major renovation, with legislation enacted six months ago which introduced a 'mature' rating for game featuring heavy violence, sex or other social taboos. Whilst it was hoped by many that this would fulfil the same function as the '18' classification in the rest of the world, allowing Australians access to adult games, it seems that some games are still deemed inappropriate. Yesterday, Saints Row IV, bought by Deep Silver in THQ's pre-bankruptcy fire sale earlier in the year, was refused classification too, on the basis of "sexualised violence."