This week the Australian Classification Board gave the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V an "R 18+" rating. The game's rating, Australia's highest for video games, was based mostly on the drug use seen in the game, which the board cited as being "high impact." Other factors cited in the slightly less-serious "strong impact" category include the game's violence, themes, language, nudity, and sex.
The ease with which GTA V sailed through the ratings board could be a bit surprising. The Grand Theft Auto games have a long reputation for content that has raised the hackles of government censors. Not only that, but the Australian Classification Board had seemed to have taken a harder stance with drugs in recent months.
The board in June rejected the upcoming Saints Row IV, a Grand Theft Auto-style game featuring over-the-top crude humor. Saints Row was rejected, said the board, for an "Alien Anal Probe" weapon and drug use "related to incentives or rewards." There is reportedly an in-game mission that allows players to smoke "alien narcotics" to obtain superpowers. The game was rejected again this month upon review.
While the approval of Grand Theft Auto V is, ostensibly, good news for Australian fans of the GTA series, it does raise questions about the game's content. Has Rockstar toned down GTA V's drug use from past games for the benefit of censors, or is Saints Row IV simply simply pushing that theme too hard? Another possibility is that GTA's publisher, 2K Games, simply has more experience passing games through these type of government censors.