Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has today handed down a decision refusing classification to upcoming next-generation RPG Fallout 3.
Under state and territory law, games refused classification in Australia cannot be sold or advertised. The decision has the effect of banning Fallout 3 from the Australian market.
While the OFLC does not provide reasons for its decisions to the public, speculation is that the ruling is based on the extensive drug use running through the Fallout franchise. In previous games players have had the option to use a variety of pharmaceuticals including morphine, usually with realistic consequences, to negotiate the post-apocalyptic Fallout world. If this is the case, it seems unlikely that the game can be edited for the Australian market so as to fall within classification guidelines.
Previous games banned by the OFLC have by and large not been top-quality titles, including names like Manhunt 2 and Shellshock 2. While censorship in this fashion is unjustifiable wherever it occurs, those games have boasted little in the way of compelling gameplay or artistic merit. However, Fallout 3 was expected to be a top seller, and judging by the history of the franchise and the back catalogue of developer Bethesda it seems likely to have boasted an impressive and relevant plot and a visually breathtaking setting.
The remit of the OFLC is to assist the Australian public in making informed decisions about their media consumption; however, more and more in the realm of gaming they are acting as censors. Not only are Australians prevented from engaging with the thoughts and ideas contained in these games, but they are prevented from deciding for themselves the merits or otherwise of these titles.