Telltale Games, the developer of upcoming TV show video game tie in The Walking Dead, have confirmed that their latest creation will not be sold in Australia or New Zealand.
Why? Because of the Australian Classification Board, of course. You see, Australia doesn’t have a rating for mature games, and since The Walking Dead was specifically developed for adults, the developers feel that putting it through the long and expensive process of getting it classified, only to have it rejected, is too depressing and not worth the paperwork.
Of course, this isn’t the first high profile video game to not see the light of day in Australia, but it is probably one of the first confirmed cases of a publisher not bothering specifically because of the classification board. The fact is that it’s simply too expensive to go back and censor the game to make it suitable for young people.
But more than that, it’s artistically barbaric for a government body to even expect that in the first place.
Apparently, progress on the classification system has been underway for some time – at least that’s the story when you take the time to question anyone in the Australian government. In actual reality, there has been a decision to over-look the draft of the changes before a meeting can be arranged to give the go-ahead to vote on if those changes are okay.
It could take until 2014 before there’s a vote to actually implement those changes – and even then we’re not guaranteed adult-designed games will get in. One idea, for example, is to simply change “MA15+” games to “R18+” games, meaning no new content will become available (as “R” will now be rated “X”, technically), and games already available to young people will be off limits until they’re 18. This may not end up being the case, but the Attorney-General in South Australia is pushing for this outcome.
Yes – the entire classification system in Australia is screwed, with a capital F. And if you think lobbying, protesting, writing letters to government is going to help change things in the classification legislation; guess again. By some loophole of the constitution, the decision to change the classification laws requires a unanimous vote between all Attorneys-General in the country.
Majority doesn’t rule here. If one person on the panel votes “No” and the rest “Yes” to reform, then reform wont happen.
Getting back on topic; this decision by Telltale Games is a dangerous one, and hopefully isn’t a sign of what’s to come. Australia has only recently become relevant to video game publishers abroad – our country was mentioned in Nintendo’s Wii U announcement, we gets games like Elder Scrolls IV: Skyrim on the same day as every other country in the world (technically meaning we get it first, because of the time difference). Only 5 years ago this would’ve been a completely alien concept.
But is it all about to go backwards? Will big players like Activision opt not to submit the next Call of Duty for fears it wont get classified? Will we miss out on artistically or socially relevant games just because the publisher is afraid that it’ll get banned in Australia? After all – the submission isn’t refundable even if it gets refused.
To have the government’s classification board refuse classification to a game is one thing, but for developers to fear the system so much they don’t even try to get it classified is sick.
This country needs to crawl out of the dark ages.