Drug Free In Fallout 3

By John Walker on September 10th, 2008 at 1:44 am.

I have some Vicadun. Almost as good.

Fallout 3 has removed all references to real-world drugs, in order to appease the Australian classification boards, and in turn, the rest of the world’s. Edge Online reports that Bethesda, needing to get around the decision to refuse to even rate FO3 down under, has agreed to remove names of drugs like morphine from the game.

The Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification (there’s a clue in the name) had announced that they would be refusing FO3 a rating due to its content, which in turn would have meant it wouldn’t be stocked and sold in Oz. The office explained, “material promoting or encouraging proscribed drug use” is refused classification. Not material in film and literature, obviously – that would be crazy! But in games it’s simply too much.

With the news that the Australian version was being toned down in some ways to ensure a classification, it was then assumed that the antipodean game would be different than that released to the rest of the world. Not so says Bethesda PR man, Peter Hines. He told Edge,

“We want to make sure folks understand that the Australian version of Fallout 3 is identical to both the UK and North American versions in every way, on every platform.”

Which means that, yes, all versions will lose the drug names.

“An issue was raised concerning references to real world, proscribed drugs in the game, and we subsequently removed those references and replaced them with fictional names. To avoid confusion among people in different territories, we decided to make those substitutions in all versions of the game, in all territories.”

Well I'm too busy listening to this rock and roll music that's destroying my mind.

Amongst the muddle over this was the belief that the Oz board was refusing the rating over issues broader than drug use, but it seems removing these names was enough, and FO3 has now been awarded an MA15+ for the game. At the time Edge reported that they said,

“The board… found that [the] relationship between drug use and incentives and rewards is not such that it promotes or encourages the use of prescribed drugs. Therefore the game does not warrant to be Refused Classification and can be accomodated at MA15+ with a consumer advisory of ‘stong drug references.’”

Fictional names of drugs now stand in, meaning the game still includes the use of liquid painkillers, presumably opium derivatives, injected intravenously to cause pain relief. But, you know, not “morphine”. Carry on.

What’s most stunningly peculiar about all this is that the morphine was never being used recreationally in the game. It was being used for its intended purpose – as an extremely powerful painkiller, albeit in somewhat less than pharmaceutical circumstances. I’m just dumbfounded by this. While I could not sympathise with an argument that said the depiction of drug abuse within a game was cause for adult concern (especially when declared by a body that would never think twice about awarding a rating to a film that contains the same, nor even need to rate it when it happens in a book), I can at least stumble a few steps down the train of thought that could lead to such a decision. But morphine applied with its intended use, and not, say, for chipping a methadone script… Huh?

I don’t blame Bethesda for just swapping out the name of the drug. It’ll clearly have no significant impact on the game, beyond unnecessarily fictionalising that which could have been a window to realism. If that’s all it takes to get around such a draconian and mind-boggling ruling, then hell, whatever you need.

I can’t be bothered to write out a paragraph about the duplicity of imposing such wildly different standards upon games – we all already know it. But hopefully this example will stand to exploit the immaturity and bureaucracy of certain classification boards.

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95 Comments »

  1. Fumarole says:

    Boo.

    At least we can still use Jet.

  2. Dead Fish says:

    Mind officially blown.

  3. adam says:

    As an Australian, this is embarrassing and annoying.

  4. JulianP says:

    Sad. I shall continue to wait for the day when the cultural value of video games will be recognized as equal to that of film and literature.

  5. Trousers says:

    I don’t like to call people pussies, but this just reeks of stale fish.

    I will now hug my rig everytime I hear “morphine administered”, as it is from here on ruled too indecent for my virgin ears.

    edit: IB get the sand out of your vagina AU, “something something darkside”

  6. Ben Abraham says:

    I wonder if this story will get any traction around the rest of teh interwebs.

    I wish I could realistically hope for an outraged response to get something done (It’d read: “ZOMG Australian Classifications are censoring my US free speech rights!!!!!!!!!1!”) but in reality I know that our best hopes are middle aged men in suits who currently hold the gaming population to ransom… *I’m looking at you Mr South Australian Attourney General Michael Atkinson*

  7. Esha says:

    I really hope they’re going to call it Murfine or something like that. That would not only be highly entertaining but it would be believable, too.

    A lack of education within any culture causes words to gain new meaning, a fine example of this was seen in Firefly (gorram this and shiny that) and even within our day to day lie today as average test scores continue to plummet.

    Therefore, naming it something like Murfine could have arose from someone trying to market the drug after The Apocalypse.

    “I got yer Murfine right ‘ere, y’all. S’good fer what ails ya an’ it’ll fix up a mess o’ things, sort y’all out right proper if ya get mah meanin’. Murfine, that’s right folks, Murfine’ll see ya through.”

    But then, I just have a colourful imagination.

  8. Trousers says:

    Everyone go vote it 1 out of 5 stars.

    Down with DRM, up with freedom of virtual drug use.

  9. Esha says:

    Or rather, a lack of education causes new words to gain old meaning, which is more precise.

  10. Cedge says:

    It’s not really a big deal. If anything, it’s more in line with the old Fallout games, which didn’t use real-world drug names, either.

  11. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Australia:

    Wow, and here I thought Germany was bad.

  12. Lh'owon says:

    @Cedge: Before this gets completely derailed, no-one is saying the change is a big deal for the game. It’s the reasons for the change that are drawing criticism.

  13. Derek K. says:

    Also, it’ll probably cost AU users about $100 to buy the game.

    I don’t think I’m ever going there. At least, you know, gaming wise.

  14. lethu says:

    Sad but true. (Not a Metallica fan)

  15. Weylund says:

    They also have some of the world’s most dangerous snakes and biggest spiders.

    Just sayin’.

    I always have to laugh when Yahtzee at ZP says he can’t get a game because he’s in Australia. I feel bad, but I still laugh.

    Edit: Even if you don’t like Metallica, you still have to give them props for some of their best stuff — Master of Puppets is one of the single greatest tracks post-classic rock has produced.

  16. NegativeZero says:

    As an Australian, I’d like to personally apologise for our retarded censorship board’s inability to be remotely progressive and as a result cause unwarranted, unnecessary and frankly absurd changes to be foisted off onto the rest of the world. It’s bad enough when they’re only screwing us over.

  17. Chris Hepner says:

    Therefore the game does not warrant to be Refused Classification and can be accomodated at MA15+ with a consumer advisory of “stong drug references”.

    Thank God for that!

  18. Shawn says:

    Jesus Christ ….you’ve got to be f’ing kidding me. Human beings really suck, and the older I get the more I realize this.

    This has “religious right” written all over it, if it was in the States that’s the first thing I would take a guess at.

  19. lethu says:

    Sure I give them props, I should have added “…anymore)”.

    PS: No offence to current fans o7

  20. suchchoices says:

    thanks for showcasing our bizarre classification board’s decisions, John.

    perhaps if we had an 18+ rating for games that would go some way to mitigating this kind of debacle in future, but i guess ultimately we need a complete reform of the classification process.

  21. Andrew Doull says:

    I’m confused: John Walker put up a story about the Spore prototypes 2 hours ago, but it appears to have disappeared. So I’m going to randomly comment on this story instead (Hint: get forums). I’m guessing that it was because it was a massive dupe of stuff posted elsewhere… or is there more censoring in Spore than Sporn?

    [This was because it turned out Alec had mentioned them in a post a month ago, and I was a lame-o - John]

  22. Weylund says:

    @lethu: Ahh. “…anymore)” also applies to me, I just grew up learning to play guitar, and Master of Puppets (along with a couple of their other good songs) was a stumbling block for a good six months when I was nine-ten or so. So I have great respect for them… but not much fanly love. :-)

    @Shawn: I dunno, man, lots of countries tend to be very conservative when you look at their political bases. If the US was allowed to do stuff like this, religious right or not, you’d be looking at many of the same changes, if not more.

  23. Cibbuano says:

    I remember when I first played Fallout 2… I was housesitting for a family friend, and played it on his computer. His teenage son had a save game and I loaded it to play from there…

    ..only I couldn’t really do anything. Every character in the game was massacred and everyone ran away from me. I had all the worst reputations and seemed to possess a lot of drugs.

    Now, probably that kid just thought, ‘let’s see how bad we can get’ in a clinical way, but I knew him and he was cold-hearted before I stumbled on his save game. He’s probably hoping for a little apocalypse.

  24. Vagabond says:

    Down here in Australia, everyone wants this changed. The majority of the public, the OFLC itself, and the majority of our politicians all support fixing this problem.
    Unfortunately, our computer game classification rules were written way back when you could almost understand the fact that they left out an “18 years or older” rating. Basically, our constitution requires amendments to the legislation in question to be unanimously supported by all State Attorney Generals, plus the Federal AG. As other commenters have alluded to or guessed at, the AG for South Australia, one Michael Atkinson, is opposed to the introduction of an R-18 rating for Computer Games for more or less conservative religious reasons (“wont somebody think of the children”). I believe he has even stated on the record that if he had his way the R-18 rating for films would be removed as well (to further “protect the children”). Unfortunately this guy holds his seat in Parliment by something like a margin of 25%, so he isn’t going out of office, or likely to change his mind anytime soon.
    I guess this is a chance for the rest of the world to experience the “WTF! are these guys smoking crack?” moments that we get at least half a dozen times a year when something has its drugs, prostitutes, or over the top violence removed…
    Although, my main question is how many minutes after it is released do you think it will be before the mod that replaces the fake names with the real world versions is available?

  25. Chris Charabaruk says:

    If BethSoft allows Fallout 3 to be extensible like it did the last two Elder Scrolls games, no doubt one of the first mods will be to give morphine its name back.

  26. lethu says:

    @Weylund, That’s nice, I however grew up within an atmosphere mostly composed of metallica among other things (I used to like G’nR too), my brother’s atmosphere… so I guess I was forced to like Metallica too. I think he can consider himself as a fan, he has been to their last concert in Ireland, I wish I had attended that with him.
    I used to play guitar too, but it was for a short period and it was the acoustic one, we call it “dry guitar” here, don’t ask me why :)

    PS: sorry fo the ‘lil hijack.

    [Edit]@Chris, Very well thought, guess they must have re-used atleast a part of the previous game engine (Elder Scroll’s), so the extensibility might be part of that.

  27. groglvr says:

    its their game and they can do what they want but i find it weak to change your vision to suit someone elses. that is, you know, if we’re actually talking about videogames as an art form.

  28. harrumph says:

    I imagine the logic behind holding games to a different standard is that the medium is interactive: “I used morphine in my video game and it made me stronger; I shall use morphine in real life as well, as I am an idiot and cannot tell fantasy from reality.”

    That said, and simply putting double standards aside, I can’t abide censorship under any circumstances.

    Do you mean “expose,” not “exploit,” in that last paragraph?

  29. wcaypahwat says:

    They’ll probably confiscate my bobble-head next… :(

  30. SixStringSamurai says:

    I’m not australian, but I live here. I’ve been waiting for fallout 3 for 11 years and OMG that was a close one. Hell i even ordered the survival edition off my friend in the states in case that censorship thign went through and i got screwed to playing the game later than everyone else in the rest of the world as I waited for it to be delivered here.

    whew. close. and now i’ve got two copies. yays.

  31. araczynski says:

    retarded, disappointed in bethsoft for just bending over. i believe this game is open to modding correct? i’ll be in line for the mod that puts things as they were meant to be.

    perhaps i’ll ‘stick it to em’ even more by just buying a used copy…. still have to finish off that damn shivering isles…

  32. Esha says:

    @Those apologising for Oz.

    Don’t.

    Every country has a grand measure of mooncalfery (to put it mildly) in its ruling bureaucracy and it’s generally almost always pretty much the same amount, it’s just in different areas. The problem with a ruling body is that it often embodies the very worst and the very best of any given culture, and rarely any logic or reason to balance that out.

    So if you’re going to apologise, I say we compare national embarrassments and I’ll raise you Margaret Thatcher.

    Seriously, despite any jokes we might make, I think everyone realises that a ruling body does not represent the people that live in any given country – wherever you’d care to name.

    Every nation has its embarrassments, but we’re not responsible for them. I just look forward to an age where we stick all these embarrassing bureaucrats into a rocket and fire them into the nearest applicable star when that happens.

  33. Nick says:

    Hmm, I don’t care.. I can’t think of any real life drugs in Fallout 1 or 2 either.

    Stim-packs and jet and buffout and psycho and mentats and all that.

  34. Thiefsie says:

    Don’t have to order it from overseas now (apart from the substabtial savings to be had)

    Still… I don’t trust this for one minute. It reeks of last minute defense (and publicity) to garner up some more local sales. I bet they have adjusted more than just the names of drugs.

    Anyway the real question with Fallout 3 is whether it can be modded or not. If not, it’s not nearly worth as much as it could be.

  35. watever says:

    Vagabond hit it on the head!
    There is no R rating for games in Oz and since the country is run by old farts who think games are for kids, it wont change any time soon. Only the AG in SA has a clue.

    I’m just surprised such a small game market would have any bearing to overall sales.

    Gamers with a clue import games or *drumroll* pirate them.

    The “fuck u we have the best beaches tax” still stands.

  36. Alex says:

    According to the Fallout 3 wiki page it isn’t just about renaming – “.. the animation showing the actual usage of the drugs was removed”.

    Well, that won’t do. I want to see ALL intravenous action or I’M OUT!!

  37. Nick says:

    They should replace it with the use animation from Fallout 1 & 2!

    Fumbling your hands in front of you for a second.. that would be great.

  38. sigma83 says:

    Silly though it may be, it doesn’t really have a significant impact on the game, so not a big deal for me. The dealbreaker is the precedent; is this behavior okay?

  39. Caiman says:

    I think if all Bethesda had to do was change the name slightly so that it became a “fantasy drug” and not a real one, then good on them for getting past the draconian rules in the simplest manner. Only particularly anal people are going to be bothered that it’s not called “morphine” and, given that it’s set in a fantasy environment anyway (I use the word “fantasy” loosely of course) there’s absolutely zero loss in renaming the drug. Bethesda are probably happy that the whole incident got them some extra publicity without any actual loss.

  40. suchchoices says:

    alex: ideally all intravenous action would be seen in extreme close up, with quick cuts to animations of dilating pupils.

  41. Alex says:

    alex: ideally all intravenous action would be seen in extreme close up, with quick cuts to animations of dilating pupils.

    YES with Clint Mansell mangling the Kronos Quartet YES!

  42. Jetsetlemming says:

    “it promotes or encourages the use of prescribed drugs. ”

    I assume Captain Novolin is banned in Australia as well.

  43. Muzman says:

    This is annoying because I can’t order it from overseas and get the full/unedited version like a good little armchair subversive.
    But this is also great tactically speaking. Previously, overseas people had no reason to complain about our ratings idiocy except on principle, as it only affected us. Now, everyone who hates this from absolutely everywhere should write to the OLFC and complain immediately. (it’ll probably just swell Atkinson’s head at his influence but you never know)
    OLFC

  44. Kevin Lee says:

    As long as I get my Jet, Mentats, Buffout, Psycho and of course, Stimpacks :D

  45. Satan says:

    Weylund says:

    They also have some of the world’s most dangerous snakes and biggest spiders.

    Just sayin’.

    I always have to laugh when Yahtzee at ZP says he can’t get a game because he’s in Australia. I feel bad, but I still laugh.

    Edit: Even if you don’t like Metallica, you still have to give them props for some of their best stuff — Master of Puppets is one of the single greatest tracks post-classic rock has produced.

    Not necessarily. I can think of a lot of single tracks post classic rock that have been wickedly superior to anything Metallica has done. say for example – Legions of the Black Light by the band Watain off of their latest album: Sworn to the Dark. Theres countless others but this sticks out at the moment. Great album by the way. And Metallica is fairly mediocre. Even for their time there were far more intense and inspiring bands one could listen to within the US (Death, dare I say… Slayer, etc) or across the seas.

    As for on topic BS… all this does is make me think Australia is full of wimps… plus the shit Stallone went through recently.. im not so sure about wanting to visit Australia anymore.

  46. fanciestofpants says:

    Also apologizing for our retarded censorship board.

    I’m getting my copy of FO3 from a friend who will be leaving canada for here on the 28th, so I might actually get my copy before it’s released here :3 $40 cheaper to boot.

    On topic: Seriously though? A re-naming of the drugs couldn’t be THAT hard to mod in. I’d give it a week.

  47. Rii says:

    Why are Australians apologising to others for the decisions of the OFLC? The OFLC didn’t force these changes to the game through, nor did the OFLC cause said changes to be applied to versions of the game sold outside Australia. Those decisions were made by Bethesda, and the OFLC bears no responsibility for them.

  48. fanciestofpants says:

    @Rii:
    Your right that it was Bethesda’s decision to apply the changes to all versions, but the OFLC is absolutely responsible for being stuck up it’s own ass about drug depiction in games, among other things.

    I’m sorry but i can’t even count the amount of films and literature that is fully endorsed by the OFLC that not only starkly depicts drug use, but in many cases glorifies it, promotes it even. In contrast to fallout 3′s(former) use of real-world drugs; it’s hardly recreational or promoting their use in anything but a wholly appropriate context(ie: as life-saving pain relief). There’s no incentive to say, drop acid and drive to Las Vegas with your lawyer, for example.

    So the OFLC bearing no responsibility for the changes? While technically true(in that they didn’t flat out say “change the names of the drugs to fictional ones”), they forced Bethsoft’s hand, who would be stupid to let a whole potential market go by the wayside over such a trivial change. And that’s why it’s absolutely pigheaded; it’s trivial and it’s a double standard which belies the OFLC’s utter ignorance when it comes to media.

  49. Turin Turambar says:

    @Satan: Or you have shitty taste. :P

  50. An hero says:

    Hey kids! Are you so ghetto that you’re still playing Max Payne on cold-water-extracted codeine? Do you fancy an upgrade in time for FALLOUT 3? Try J Collis Brownes mixture! It’s MORPHINE, neither proscribed nor prescribed, over the counter and for less than the price of a pack of smokes! That’s right! And it’s peppermint flavoured too! Yum!

    And for those of you reading from Australia: 404 bitches.