Could drug use get Cyberpunk 2077 banned in Australia?

CD Projekt Red's RPG is looking like one of the hits of E3 - but the game's depiction of drugs may see it refused classification in Australia.

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Could drug use get Cyberpunk 2077 banned in Australia?

When Cyberpunk 2077's first trailer dropped in what seems like ages now past, it was clear that CD Projekt Red was taking the game's dark yet neon-lit source material very seriously. When it was announced that pen-and-paper RPG creator Mike Pondsmith was being brought on board, it become clear there was a serious commitment to keeping the game authentic.

Given the roleplaying game's unapologetic references to drug use, it's a commitment that may see the game fail Australia's stringent classification regulations. Here's a quote from Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook:

Question: What's a Cyberpunk game without drugs?

Answer: A lot healthier.

This is how Section 9 of the rulebook opens, and while it is only a short, four-page section, the fact that drugs get a dedicated chapter (complete with rules for nine different substances, from SynthCoke to Black Lace, and notes on how to create your own in-game) says a lot about the setting. And initial reports from E3 show that CD Projekt Red is not shying away from that part of the game's genre:

Drugs in Night City? What a surprise! But it could get the game in trouble. Here's the relevant passage from the recent classification decision regarding We Happy Few, which was RCed late last month:

The Games Guidelines state for all classification levels from G up to, and including, R 18+ that: Drug use related to incentives and rewards is not permitted. ‘Incentives’ or ‘rewards’ may include, but are not limited to: the awarding of additional points; achievement unlocks; new skills or increases in attributes such as strength; making tasks easier to accomplish; accumulating rare forms of game equipment; plot animations and pictures as rewards following an event/action.

Which makes me more than a little bit worried. If drug use gives you buffs in-game, then that's a clear incentive for using them, and that means Cyberpunk 2077 is skating very close - or in fact right over - the line.

Interesting fact: while it appears that drugs are ingested using an inhaler in 2077, in the pen-and-paper version an "air hypodermic" is used, which has the nickname, the 'Bones McCoy'.

I bet that's not in the game.

UPDATE: And now one of our own correspondents has seen the game's extended, hour-long demo, and agrees:

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