Australian ban of Disco Elysium: The Final Cut overturned

Disco Elysium protagonist
(Image credit: ZA/UM)

The expanded edition of the best RPG there is, Disco Elysium: The Final Cut, was refused classification in Australia earlier this year. That didn't stop it from being available on Steam in Australia, however, as digital distribution sometimes flies under the radar—refusal of classification only bans sale within the country, preventing shops from stocking physical editions, while digital storefronts run overseas remain a gray area that can go either way seemingly at random.

It's an embarrassing failure of Australian law that even after fighting to get an R18+ rating for videogames, anything that features drugs with stat boosts—in Disco Elysium, taking speed increases motorics and psyche, though there are also negative consequences—will be refused classification. Now, after Za/um Studios applied to have the refusal reviewed on April 16, that refusal has been overturned and replaced with an R18+ rating.

The Australian Classification Board is usually blamed for decisions like this, but they're limited by the rules they're obliged to follow. The real problem is that thanks to a quirk of Australian law those rules can only be altered with the co-operation of every single state government, which is not exactly a priority right now. Until it becomes one this cycle will continue to repeat, with the Board initially refusing classification as the rules say they must, then reversing the decision in response to changes made by developers or an application and re-review, as in this case.

The document explaining the revised decision is an interesting one, once you get past the boilerplate, clearly written by people who understand Disco Elysium. They write that while it does contain drug use and explores themes of addiction, "The themes are related to the detective investigating a murder while also attempting to manage his own alcohol addiction, and getting his life back together after his substance abuse. The themes and drug references are inextricably linked." The conclusion calls it a "complex and nuanced representation of the subject matter which tailors the storytelling to a mature audience". Honestly, slap a score on the end and that's a review to be proud of.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.