Payday 2 has already been reviewed by the Australian Classification Board and was issued with an R18+ rating for “high impact crime themes, drug references and violence.”
Here’s where we got confused.
In the video above, not only are you referring to meth (which seems to be okay, especially given that it’s referenced in the ACB’s ruling of the game), but you are COOKING it. As in, actively creating an illicit drug in-game.
The Classification Board recently refused classification for (the now revamped) State of Decay. In their initial report, the Australian Classification Board had this to say of the XBLA title:
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.
So, State of Decay was banned because players “obtain drugs by scavenging for them in the environment or by manufacturing them in a ‘Medical Lab’.” Like in Payday 2.
Here’s the only discernible difference we can see between the games and their similar scenarios. In Payday 2, you can’t inject the meth into your character’s body; you merely trade it for information and cash. In State of Decay however, you can administer drugs you create, and moreover, “the player is briefly depicted moving a pill bottle toward their mouth.” As a result, “consumption of the drug instantly increases a player’s in-game abilities allowing them to progress through gameplay more easily” In the ACB’s opinion, State of Decay “enables the player’s character to self-administer proscribed drugs which aid in gameplay progression.”
If you ask us, selling meth for cash or popping pills for perks both mean that the games contain “drug use related to incentives or rewards and should be Refused Classification,” in the words of the Board. But, only the game where you ingest — or “self-administer” — the drugs has been banned. A mistake on the Board’s part, or a very fine line that Payday 2 managed to stay on the right side of?
In conversations with Joab and the AUSVGClassifications Twitter account creator @noreasonspec, it’s also been pointed out that similar themes existed in the then-rated MA15+ Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. As Joab says, “clearly the taking of drugs is worse than the making of drugs to the ACB.”
We’re almost too terrified to contact the ACB for comment, in case we get the rating revoked.
*If Joaby didn’t call himself that, we sure as hell would have. Thanks for the video!