Why Australia’s Game Classification Laws Are So Weird

by : Ewan Moore on : 27 Mar 2017 10:58

You may remember that last week, upcoming horror game Outlast 2 was banned, only to be un-banned a few days later. 


Naturally, this led many people (myself included) to wonder exactly how Australia’s classification laws actually work – other recent titles to get hit with a ban, refused classification, or censored down under include State of Decay, South Park the Stick of Truth, and Manhunt.

Below are the guidelines for what you’ll have to include in your game, book, or film if you want it to be refused classification, according to Wikipedia:

  • Detailed instruction or promotion in matters of crime or violence.
  • Depiction of rape.
  • The promotion or provision of instruction in pedophile activity.
  • Descriptions or depictions of child sexual abuse or any other exploitative or offensive descriptions or depictions involving a person who is, or appears to be, a child under 18 years.
  • Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:
    • (i) violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed;
    • (ii) cruelty or real violence which are very detailed or which have an extremely high impact;
    • (iii) sexual violence
  • Depictions of practices such as bestiality
  • Gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of:
    • (i) activity accompanied by fetishes or practices that are offensive or abhorrent;
    • (ii) incest fantasies or other fantasies that are offensive or abhorrent

Nothing in those guidelines seem unfair or overly strict, and there’s an emphasis on context (ie, there has to be a reason for the horrendous thing, you can’t just chuck in loads of horrendous things).

Kotaku spoke to Chris Wright, founder of Australian indie publishing label Surprise Attack, who said:

It’s actually a very sensible and straightforward set of rules, and has an admirable emphasis on context and nuance. In quite a few recent RC [Refused Classification] cases, in my opinion and admittedly as an outsider to those games, I suspect they could probably have passed if they had paid more attention to explaining context and preparing the submission with an authorised assessor that knew how to present and explain the game properly.

In essence then, the stricter classification laws seem to boil down to a relatively simple reason: Australia has its own social and cultural climate.

While those of us in the US and UK might look at Australia’s classification laws as a bit strict, it’s a different place with different views.

Hell, just look at Australia’s stance on gun control when compared to America – it’s worlds apart in every sense of the word.


On the bright side, at least they are getting Outlast 2 now, so we can all shit our pants together.

Ewan Moore

Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn't gotten out of his mid 00's emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.

Topics: Gaming


  1. Kotaku

    What's Up With Australia's Draconian Classification Laws?