The trailer for “DayZ,” an online multiplayer sandbox survival game set in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-strewn wasteland, says you can be a hero, a villain or anything in between. But one thing you can’t be, apparently, is a character who smokes weed. Or at least not in Australia, where censors have banned the physical sale of “DayZ” over the purported use of cannabis as an in-game item.
According to officials, “DayZ” presents players with an option to restore health by smoking a joint. The item, they say, is represented by a cannabis bud icon in the player’s inventory. And this medical or at least therapeutic use of cannabis in-game was so offensive to the folks who rate video games in Australia, that they decided to ban the online sale of the game entirely.
Australian Censorship Board Bans Game Sales Over Healing Cannabis
If you didn’t already know, Australia has its own agency for classifying films, video games and other publications. And this agency, the Classification Board, takes its job very seriously. Back in June, Australian game distributor Five Star Games applied to stock and sell “DayZ” at local game shops. The application required submitted the game for rating by the Classification Board.
But the Board refused to classify it, which, ironically enough, is an official form of classification called “RC,” or refused classification. The RC rating is basically a hard pass, and means the Board effectively banned the physical sale of the game in brick-and-mortar stores across Australia. And the reason the Board refused to classify “DayZ”? According to the report submitted to “DayZ” game developer Kotaku Australia, it was over “illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards“. Or in other words, over smoking some cannabis to regain some health points in the game.
Australian Officials Say In-Game Cannabis Item Offends Morality
Australia has one of the highest cannabis prevalence rates in the world, which means people there love their weed. But consuming cannabis for recreational reasons is still completely illegal in Australis—including, it would seem, in video games. You’d think it might matter that players in the game consume joints for healing purposes. Surviving in the hostile, zombie-riddled world can get pretty tough. Indeed, Australia recently legalized medical cannabis, but restrictions vary dramatically from state to state.
Despite changing attitudes toward cannabis use in Australia, however, the Classification Board will have none of it. Australian censors say they’ll refuse any game that “depicts, expresses or otherwise deals 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.”
Yeah, smoking a joint in a video game as a power-up is definitely an offense to standards of morality, decency and propriety…
You Can Still Smoke All the Cannabis You Want in the Online Version of “DayZ”
Not surprisingly, Kotaku tried to fight back. They submitted “DayZ” to the International Age Rating Coalition for a second opinion. The rating came back MA15+, essentially a “mature” rating, and an IARC rating should have the same force as a rating from the Classification Board. Unfortunately for “DayZ”, the Board has the power to override IARC classifications. And besides, in the Board’s view, “the use of drugs (marijuana) as an incentive or reward” would make it an R18+ game, or “Restricted” to adult audiences.
But here’s the kicker. “DayZ” has been available for six years. It’s one of those games developers are constantly working on finishing, even as players play it. So that cannabis bud that shows up in player’s inventory? You can’t even use it yet. It just sits there, promising healing stats that one day it might deliver. But that’s too “detailed or realistic” for Australia’s Classification Board.
So players won’t be able to buy “DayZ” in game shops. But they can still buy it online on Steam or the PlayStation or Xbox One stores. Rumor is the game will still be banned from those platforms in Australia eventually. So if you want to play a game that will one day let you regenerate health with a joint, time to subscribe to a VPN.