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The most controversial Video Games of all time
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Old 08 Mar 2004, 12:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The most controversial Video Games of all time

Well I am the Creator of the Thread" Top 20 Worst Video Games of all time" So I'm creating now "Most controversial Video Games of all time"

Source: Gamespot

Death Race

Platform: Arcade
Publisher: Exidy, 1976
Developer: Exidy

Midway through the 1970s, the first universally accepted controversial video game reared its head. Should we be surprised? Like many of the byproducts of this bygone era, the game was banned but not forgotten.


Yes This caused a national outcry

Death Race was an arcade game based on the movie Death Race 2000, which starred David Carradine as Frankenstein and Sylvester Stallone as Machine-Gun Joe Viterbo. The movie's tagline, "In the year 2000, hit and run driving is no longer a felony. It's the national sport!" rang true of the video game version as well. The objective of the lo-fi black and white game that looked like a slightly more advanced version of Pong was to earn points by running over as many "gremlins" as possible within a given time frame. If you successfully pulverized your prey, a cross would appear where the being was trumped. If you failed to kill passersby on the first run, you could reverse your vehicle and finish them off.

Death Race was so aggressively rejected by the public that shortly after its release, Exidy pulled the game off store shelves. Web lore claims only 500 copies of the game were made with only several known to exist by the late 1980s. At the time of this writing, an eBay search on Death Race turned up more than 100 versions of the DVD or VHS movie and surprisingly one offering for the game--an arcade machine in "decent" shape, needing "work," and listed at $157 with four days remaining in the auction.



A Death Race arcade cabinet

While it's also widely acknowledged that Death Race was originally called Pedestrian, Steve L. Kent, author of The Ultimate History of Video Games, freelance writer, and speaker for Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Herb Kohl's (D-Wis.) annual Video Game Report Card event held in the Senate Judiciary Chambers, said the game was first titled Demolition Derby, a game Exidy created for Chicago Coin Machine Co. The company defaulted on payment to Exidy, so Exidy CEO Pete Kaufmann pulled the game and rereleased it later as Death Race. "What got everyone upset about Death Race was that you heard this little 'ahhhk' when the person got hit, and a little gravestone came up," Kent said. "That was big enough to make 60 Minutes."

Kent also spoke of a sign Kaufmann apparently kept on the back of his office door, bearing the number "8999." As the story goes, Exidy planned to sell about 1,000 Death Race machines, but when controversy struck, the number rose to 10,000--there's no such thing as bad press.

Death Race was to originally have featured humans, not gremlins, although they undoubtedly would have looked the same onscreen--like stick figures. Authors John Borland and Brad King wrote in their book Dungeons and Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic that Kaufmann explained the gremlin/human difference between the versions; however, his reasoning did not save Death Race's day. "The game quickly triggered national attention, garnering write-ups in the National Enquirer and other, more serious newspapers. It even prompted a segment on TV's 60 Minutes probing the psychology of video game players," the pair wrote.

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Old 08 Mar 2004, 01:04 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Custer's Revenge

Platform: Atari 2600
Publisher: Mystique, 1983
Developer: Mystique/American Multiple Images

There's little to defend in Custer's Revenge, other than the fact that it serves as a remarkable example of just how early video game controversies existed and how controversy alone can sometimes make a game--but not always. The Atari 2600 game shipped in the early '80s and pushed all the wrong (or possibly right) buttons. The gameplay, graphics, and technical merit of the game were so bad, that were it not for the explicit nature of the game, it's doubtful anyone would even remember it.

In the game, you played as a comic facsimile of General George Armstrong Custer, the infamous 19th-century military officer who contributed to a seedier side of American history until he met his (and his entire unit's) death at Little Big Horn in 1876 at the hands of Native Americans. As the game version of Custer, you embarked on little more than a rape romp, as you ran literally across the screen from "enemy" arrows toward a Native American woman strapped to a pole. Once there, Custer would get it on with (or, according to many critics, "rape") the woman for points. Game over.


This screenshot speaks for itself.

Author Tom Moriarty reported in the October 1983 issue of Videogaming and Computergaming Illustrated ("Uncensored Videogames: Are Adults Ruining It For The Rest Of Us?") that in October 1982, outside the New York Hilton, where retailers and the press were gathered to see Custer's Revenge, "250 women and men gathered to protest that activity." Kristen Reilly, a leading member of Women Against Pornography, organized the protesters, with help form the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the American Indian Community House. Reilly told Moriarty, "The game features an enactment of a white male, General Custer, ravishing an Indian Woman who is tied to a post. Once there was a lot of furor over the game, the company (American Multiple Industries) denied that it was rape. They claimed that it was mutually consenting visual images, which is really asinine."

Being that console games were so new to the public, angry protesters and disenchanted parents weren't entirely sure where to point their fingers in the case of Custer's Revenge. Many pointed at Atari, holding the console maker responsible. According to Moriarty's article, Atari filed a lawsuit against AMI/Mystique for "wrongful association" of Custer's Revenge to the Atari 2600.

While Custer's Revenge sat in court and (if it sold at all in retail venues) sat behind the counter, Mystique released two additional "X"-rated games. One was Beat 'Em and Eat 'Em, somewhat styled after Kaboom, only giving way to another sexual-antics-for-scoring play motif. Bachelor Party was the other, involving hitting on women in mass quantities. Mystique closed its operations shortly after the release of Bachelor Party
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Old 08 Mar 2004, 01:06 PM   #3 (permalink)
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so, lieberman started out trying to stop deathrace, and 30 years later we get GTA3. LMAO. I love progress.
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Old 08 Mar 2004, 01:07 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Duke Nukem

Platforms: PC, Mac, Game.com, Saturn, N64, Game Boy Color, PlayStation, coming to PlayStation 2 and Xbox
Publisher: GT Interactive/Atari/Apogee, 1991
Developer: 3D Realms/n-Space/Eurocom Int./Apogee

When Duke Nukem launched in 1991 as a PC side-scroller whose only controversy might have been in its horrifying graphics, its future as a dominant shooting game was not yet visible. Fans of shooters rarely credit the trigger character's personality as the reason they play the game. In fact, most FPS trigger personalities seem deliberately homogenized so that the player might better envision him or herself as the one behind the gun. Not so with Duke Nukem in its later incarnations. In 1996, Duke's vision of the future came into dimension with a pseudo-3D release on the PC and Mac. Hence, the antihero was (re)born.


[color=yellow]Bird watching with Duke - from Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes (PSX)[/b]

Duke Nukem is to games what Jim Carrey is to film. You want to take him seriously and possibly even find him repulsive, but you really can't. He's too corny for any degree of scrutiny. A company like Nintendo, known for its historic prudence and antiviolence stance (until that became a topic of controversy, too), would be expected to have an opinion of the game, if not to flat out reject it. Not so. In 1997, Duke made his way to the N64, leaving the strippers and suggestive visuals behind, bringing only the violence and gore to the new world--and there was plenty of it. Duke moved deeper into the console world, one occupied by a younger gaming audience than arcades or PC games, and brought pig cops, pipe bombs, necrobrains, and dynamite with him. Yet Duke Nukem received very little hassle of the serious kind in the States.

Duke Nukem, as a character, is brash and full of machismo. He's abrasive and sexist. He is corny and primal. He's cliché and full of innuendo. Germany and Australia banned Duke Nukem for its violence and degrading attitude toward women. In December 1999, Brazil banned Duke Nukem (as well as Doom, Postal, Quake, Mortal Kombat, Requiem, and Blood) for allegedly inspiring a violent shooting rampage carried out by one man in a cinema in November. Various publications report that the incident was to have been re-created from a scenario in Duke Nukem. According to an article in The Register (UK) on December 23, 1999, the games had been evaluated by a team of psychiatrists in the UK and determined to be "too violent."

GameSpot's Sam Parker said, "There's nothing at the core of Duke Nukem 3D that's any more controversial than Doom. Running around in networked deathmatches produced battles as fast and gory as any game at the time." Parker admits that he was "somewhat surprised to see the dancers. ... They certainly stood out from all the shooting, even though the types of interactions fit with the game's unusually interactive environments. And after all, there was an 'adult mode' switch to turn down the gore and remove the women--but who'd ever tell their parents it was there?"
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Old 08 Mar 2004, 01:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Night Trap

Platforms: Sega CD, Sega 32X, 3DO
Publisher: Sega, 1992
Developer: Digital Pictures

More than 15 years after Death Race was released, Night Trap appeared, making all the moderately sadistic games that bridge the gap nearly forgettable (though discussed later in this feature). Night Trap was not only controversial, but also a good example of how many games perhaps destined for anonymity gained otherwise unattainable success once heralded as violent or questionable in terms of content. This is especially true of games that were innovative, decent technically, or quirky enough to catch the eye of retailers, the media, and marketers, who in return brought them to a greater number of people--individuals who might not usually hear of a fringe game or those otherwise poorly situated in the market. While it's arguable whether or not Night Trap was actually a good game, it was innovative enough to make people pay attention. Those paying attention found the game threatening and quickly set their sights on what the games industry was capable of distributing.

Night Trap was targeted for featuring young girls in nightgowns with death as the thematic next-door neighbor. This is hardly different from just about any B-movie plot, but the game was attacked nonetheless. Perhaps because of the popsicles made of blood.


Your love is like a Night Trap!

The game wasn't particularly violent. In fact, the premise is innocent enough--players were required to save five college-aged girls who were staying together in a house haunted by vampirelike creatures. The game featured full-motion video, with vignettes starring the deceased former star of Diff'rent Strokes, Dana Plato. Night Trap was a semipremature version of a reality-show game. As a commando for a secret organization called S.C.A.T., you monitored the house through its closed-circuit TV-camera-based surveillance setups in eight of the house's rooms. The rooms were also rigged for traps originally designed for the innocent girls, but you used them in a chivalrous way, to capture the vampires when they appeared. You could also watch the inner workings of the house in its day-to-day facade, minus the vampires. These surveillance sweeps were sure to turn up (A) pillow fights, (B) entertaining little sing-alongs, or (C) absolutely nothing. They did not reveal nudity or excessive violence, rape, or anything of the sort.

Author Steve Kent said, "To this day, the people who are attacking Night Trap really don't, to me, seem like they've played the game. They still talk about this game where you were killing co-eds, but you're not; you're saving co-eds."

Yet, Night Trap joined the ranks of other banned games and was pulled from stores to assuage public concern over its message. To this day, the game is recognized on most lists of controversial or banned games. Fair comparison to more recent controversial games makes one wonder why. Night Trap was used as an example, alongside Mortal Kombat, in the 1993 congressional hearings, addressed next.

How In hell this piece of shit game was offensive?
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Old 08 Mar 2004, 02:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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How Would Night Trap Be Offensive is Right. It's a Cornyy Horror Game, and By the Sounds of things there isn't a trace of Gore in it.

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Old 08 Mar 2004, 03:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Okie dokie.

Castle Wolfenstein and Wolfenstein 3D

Platforms: Apple ii, Commodore 64, Atari 800, PC, Mac, Xbox, PlayStation 2
Publisher: Muse, 1981; Apogee 1992; Activision 2001
Developer: Muse, id Software, Grey Matter Studios


Where it all began.

The first appearance of Castle Wolfenstein was as an 8-bit game in which you worked your way through "rooms" of the castle killing Nazis or fleeing from them, when possible. In the DOS version, the Nazis wore yellowish uniforms with swastikas on their chests. It was rudimentary, but it established the storyline and tone that would remain with the game through its lifetime.

Wolfenstein 3D was created by id software in the early 90s, influenced by the old Muse game. It is credited by many as a game that launched first-person shooters into what they are today. In the game, as William "BJ" Blascowicz, your goal was to shoot Nazis--as many as you could--and this was fun and well executed. But it was also extremely violent. The Nazis would emote violently (in German) when hit by your bullets. Also note that the PC version of Wolfenstein 3D came out around the same time that Mortal Kombat was being scrutinized by congress (1993)--perhaps violence critics were too busy with MK to note the level of violence in Wolfenstein. Germany, however, noticed and banned the game entirely.

In November 2001, to the excitement of fans who had anticipated a sequel for years, Activision released Return to Castle Wolfenstein, built on the Quake III engine on the PC. The game was later released on PS2 and Xbox. Germany banned the subsequent releases of Wolfenstein as well.
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Old 08 Mar 2004, 03:47 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Mortal Kombat

Platforms: Arcade, Genesis, SNES, Sega CD, PC, MAC, Game Boy, Game Boy Advace, Game Gear, PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube
Publisher: Midway Games, 1992
Developer: Midway Games


Plan to clean that up.

Mortal Kombat made its debut in 1992 in arcades and arguably influences games to this day. The classic fighting game placed players against one another or the CPU in arena settings ripe for medieval death fantasy. Brutality was the order of the day, and some found this disturbing. In fact, many did. GameSpot's executive editor Greg Kasavin said Mortal Kombat was the first time many people got to see "lifelike, realistic violence in a video game...whether they liked it or not." He continued, "While MK fans will tell you that it's the gameplay that kept them coming back to this classic fighting game, many (overly) concerned adults jumped to the conclusion that the game's extensive amount of blood and gore was 'obviously' what enticed all those impressionable children and teenagers to keep playing it. These concerned people were half right; MK's sheer audacity was hard to ignore, even in the midst of a crowded, exciting arcade setting."

Jeff Greeson, the editor in chief and site manager for The Realm of Mortal Kombat , a Web site dedicated to the game franchise, said it is important to note that Mortal Kombat launched in the competitive world of arcade games, all vying for the same quarters, and that standing out amid the competition meant survival. "Mortal Kombat not only stood out, it grabbed you by the shirt collar and demanded your attention. Mortal Kombat had the biggest and most realistic characters ever featured in a video game at that time. You were literately watching digitally animated photographs of people flying through the air and beating the living hell out of each other."

What made it stand out? "Everything was over the top," said Greeson. "From the pools of blood spewing from your character, to the outrageous gruesomeness of the game's fatalities. Mortal Kombat not only shocked anyone who had ever played the game, but those who simply walked by the game were mesmerized by its gore."

Mortal Kombat was generally quiet in the arcades, at least as far as lawmakers were concerned. "Once Acclaim received the rights to bring the game to the home console markets, they brought [it] into the spotlight of the general public," noted Greeson. "The media picked up on the fears that the public had of bringing such violent imagery into their homes through a device that children played with. ... When you pinpoint and highlight the game's violence and nothing else, it was hard to be a defender of the game during that time."

Video and PC games got a taste for the hot seat long before Mortal Kombat, but the Interactive Digital Software Association or IDSA (now the Entertainment Software Association or ESA) formed the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) at the tail end of 1993 to offset the impending congressional hearings mounted against the games industry and spearheaded by Senators Lieberman and Kohl.



Graphic fatality moves brought all kinds of attention on Mortal Kombat.

Borland and King wrote in Dungeons and Dreamers of a highly publicized notion that Nintendo was "angry" with rival Sega for trumping Nintendo's sales by selling violent video games. "In the hearing, a Nintendo representative attacked Sega for its release of violent games and said his own company had tried to mitigate the industry's worst excesses. In response, the Sega representative pulled out a prop--a bazooka-style gun accessory used by some Nintendo games--and asked if that was the appropriate means to teach nonviolence to children," Borland and King wrote.

The formation of the ESRB as a self-regulated entity deflected potential government regulation, and Mortal Kombat stayed in stores. The ESRB serves as an alert system for parents interested in buying appropriate game software for their kids by ranking games "E," suitable for everyone; "T," appropriate for teens aged 13 and older; "EC," for early childhood; and "M," for mature or 17 and older. The "Adults Only" or "AO" rating is for people 18 and older, although the major difference between "M" and "AO" is not age but rather the fact that retailers won't generally carry AO-rated games. The group's ratings are presented as boxed-in, black and white scorecards on the packaging of most retail games. Game companies present their products voluntarily for ratings, similar to how movie studios submit to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Before the ESA formed the ESRB, Sega and Nintendo had agreed to their own ratings system, similar to the ESRB's, but neither successfully came into fruition. Another ratings board was the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RSAC), which became the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) in 1999, whose goal is to "protect children from potentially harmful content while preserving free speech on the Internet," according to the organization's Web site.

The ESRB reports that only 8 percent of the video and PC games rated in 2002 received the "Mature" title. Sixty-three percent received an "E" or "Everyone" rating, while 27 percent received a "T" for "Teen." While there are few AO-rated games, most of them are published by MacDaddy Entertainment or Peach Princess and involve strong sexual content or nudity. In August 2003, Peak Entertainment published Peak Entertainment Casinos, which received an AO for gambling, the first of its kind listed on the ESRB Web site. Companies creating and distributing AO games have a tendency to reliably submit their titles for rating, if anything, as a fail-safe in case their games fall into the wrong hands. Steve Kent said, "As long as you have that 'M' or that 'AO' or that 'T' on there, and you've done everything you can, when some parent screws up, which they sure seem to have a great proclivity for doing, you can say, 'You know what? We did everything we could possibly have done.'"


Mortal Kombat 2 Game Deck

Kent believes the ESRB is "skittish" to assign the AO rating and said what's the point of having it if it isn't used, citing Manhunt as an example of a game that he felt should have been rated Adults Only. Kent also defended the games industry for doing all that it can to prevent games from crossing the wrong set of eyes. "The real problem for me is the parents. And this is speaking as a parent, not a gamer. I can't tell you how many parents I know, especially here in Microsoft country, whose elementary-aged child is playing Halo every night. You have to say, 'What the hell is that?' What could the ESRB possibly do when intelligent, educated, thinking parents are letting their kids play Halo every night? These are 5- and 10-year-old kids playing Halo. That's a real problem."

Greeson said that while the ESRB may have formed out of necessity, "it was one of the smartest moves the industry has made. Not only did it avoid government regulation of its content, it finally brought forth the image that games aren't just for kids and that all games are not appropriate for everyone. It also gives parents a valuable tool for understanding the content of games and enables them to make a decision on whether [or not] the material is appropriate."

The ESRB, in Kent's opinion, is about 90 to 95 percent effective, while Greeson said the lack of enforcement at the retail level damages the ESRB's effectiveness. "This is no fault of the ESA or the ESRB, but of the major retailers who do not have policies [in place to] enforce the sales of M-rated and T-rated games to children under the age of the rating. This problem has been brought up what almost seems to be annually since the creating of the ESRB. While the retailers are in the business of making money, they do have a responsibility to the communities that they serve." Greeson suggested that large monetary fines, such as those that convenient-mart owners succumb to for selling cigarettes to minors, are a possible way to monitor the situation more closely, hence removing pressure and liability from game developers. The Federal Trade Commission reported in December 2001 that nearly 80 percent of retail stores let minors buy M-rated games, according to its "undercover" study.



Congressman Joe Baca (D-Calif)

In May 2002, US Representative Joe Baca (D-Calif.) worked to change that by proposing a bill to Congress that would make selling or renting video games to minors a federal crime. The bill was aptly named the Protect Children from Video Game Sex and Violence Act of 2003. The fines would run about $1,000 the first time and up to $5,000 and jail time for repeated offences. Baca's office produced a press release, in which he pleaded for parental support--the hard way: "Do you really want your kids assuming the role of a mass murderer or a carjacker while you are away at work?"

Washington introduced a similar law, which would fine retailers about $500 for selling violent games to minors. Economist, Web blogger, and Washington state spokesman on issues of violence and youth, Amitai Etzioni wrote on August 5, 2003, in his blog:

"Three cheers for the Washington State Legislature. They just passed a law that bans retailers from selling video games depicting violence against police and children. ... Video game industry executives claim that the industry's rating system already serves to keep violent games from being sold to children. The rating system designates some video games 'M' for mature; retailers are not supposed to sell 'M' rated games to unaccompanied minors. However, an undercover shopping survey sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission in 2000 found that 85% of the time, retailers did sell M-rated games to the underage customers."

On December 8, 2003, the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) published a press release that announced a new initiative to help prevent the sales of M-rated games to minors and to also increase awareness of the ESRB. In the release, IEMA President Hal Halpin said, "A national carding system will help ensure that games that are not appropriate for children will stay out of their hands."

The carding system will purportedly be in place for the 2004 holiday season and will include the following retailers: Best Buy, Blockbuster, Circuit City, CompUSA, Game Source, Electronics Boutique, Hastings Entertainment, Hollywood Video, KB Toys, Kmart, Meijer, Movie Gallery, Music Land, Shopco Stores, Target, Toys "R" Us, Transworld Entertainment, and Wal-Mart, the release stated.

Halpin said that he believes these changes will make a difference and added, "but retailer enforcement is only part of the equation. Parents need to be actively involved in their children's entertainment choices, and retail enforcement cannot replace sound parenting."

ESRB President Patricia Vance credited the ESRB with taking "the parents' guesswork out of game purchase decisions. Consumers today can learn about a game's content before setting foot in a store, and parents can decide what's right for their children based on their own personal views and values. It's a huge advance for parents, and I believe it has benefited both families and the computer and video game industry," she said.

Did the controversy help Mortal Kombat's sales? Not necessarily. Mortal Kombat was a good game to start with, not a Night Trap or Custer's Revenge, destined for obscurity without the controversy to hold it up. "Mortal Kombat, at the foundation, was a great game with great value," said Greeson. "Without all of the media attention and the scrutiny, I believe Mortal Kombat would still be the hit game it is today, but it would have never have reached the heights of popularity it did without all of the attention it received."
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Doom

Platforms: PC, Mac, NES, SNES, Saturn, 32X, 3DO, PlayStation, N64, Game Boy Advance, coming to Xbox,
Publisher: id Software/Activision, 1994
Developer: id Software

"The hearings had just started for Night Trap and obviously Mortal Kombat when Doom came out. If somebody wants to believe that they can spit fireballs at me and jump 30 feet through the air while kicking me, staying aloft for 10 minutes while they're kicking me, more power to them. But the dangers of a game like Doom are a lot more pronounced. They sailed all the way through that 1993 hearing without ever mentioning the word Doom. Curiously, though, they never mentioned Castle Wolfenstein, either." --Steve Kent.

The Texas-based id Software ironically hails from the same Dallas suburb, Mesquite, that once tried to run all arcades out of town, claiming that video games were violent and damaging to kids. A city ordinance passed in 1976, preventing anyone under 18 from entering an arcade. A state court overturned the ordinance, and gamers have called Mesquite home ever since. Besides housing id Software, Mesquite is home to the annual QuakeCon competition. Doom, however, unlike its brethren Quake and Castle Wolfenstein, has not skirted scrutiny from video game critics and censors.


Doom and Doom II offered quite an arsenal of weaponry.

Doom spawned on December 10, 1994--the brainchild of John and Adrian Carmack (no relation), John Romero, and others to varying degrees of involvement. The first-person shooter gained instant respect among gamers as a fast, serious, thrilling game. It had depth and was well designed. You played as a Marine, trapped on Mars, whose only hope for survival was to slash through hordes of aliens as hungry to waste him as he was to waste them. From this initial installment, Doom grew into an online mecca, and at the time of this writing a new edition is being produced for the Xbox and PC, due "soon."

Besides the controversy surrounding the grisly departure of id's John Romero, the game has been drop-kicked for its level of violence and its potential, detractors say, to lure youth into real-world violence.


A chilling security camera still of Harris and Klebold on that tragic day.

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went to their high school, in Littleton, Colorado, and killed 12 classmates and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves. The Columbine High incident raised a panic level already high in the United States, and, most would say, rightfully so. People realized then, if they hadn't already, that kids have access to guns and that the results can be grim. The Rocky Mountain News covered the incident in depth, reporting on August 22, 1999, "His [Eric Harris] nickname, Reb, was inspired by a character in one of his favorite computer games, Doom, where the goal is to score high body counts." The paper pointed out "one of the game's slogans: 'Doom -- where the sanest place is behind a trigger.'" It was widely publicized that police had found a videotape that showed either Harris or Klebold with a sawed-off shotgun on his lap that he called "Arlene"--a Doom reference.

People wanted answers, and as with any such incident of violence before or after Columbine, video games, TV, music, and movies would take the heat until (if ever) people understood what actually went wrong. Harris was also on Luvox, an antidepressant. Harris was rejected from the military--getting in apparently meant a lot to him, according to the Rocky Mountain News. But Doom gave the media a direct hit: Harris played Doom. Harris shot and killed people. Therefore...

Doom does not need defending here. Thousands if not millions of Doom fans nationwide supported the idea that Harris and Klebold's problems were bigger than their interest in playing Doom. And the issue is larger than defending the game, because most people who play it don't kill their classmates.

Gus Van Sant's film Elephant is a fictionalization of Columbine filmed in Portland, Oregon. The movie doesn't directly deal with the issue of video games inspiring the murders or Doom having any role in the killings. Nor does the movie directly deal with any sort of real-world issues surrounding Columbine. In Elephant, there's a brief sequence in which one of the shooters (possibly a representation of Eric Harris) is lying on the bed of the other shooter (possibly Dylan Klebold) playing a computer game. The game is definitely not Doom but rather a game created solely for the movie, wherein uniform male characters that look like thin men in white dress shirts run away from the shooter as he shoots them in the back. As one falls, several more, who look exactly like him, appear--faceless men running away scared. This image suggests that we have little understanding of how the games we like for social or competitive reasons affect others who may not process entertainment the same way or who may not so easily separate fantasy from reality.


And these are just the spiders - taken from the upcoming Doom III

The Associated Press reported on April 24, 2001, that several families of victims of Columbine, including students and teacher Dave Sanders, filed suit against 25 entertainment companies seeking punitive damages of $5 billion. Game companies named included Nintendo, Sega, Sony, id Software, Acclaim, Activision, Capcom, Interplay, Eidos, and GT Interactive.

On July 19, 2001, the AP reported that the named video game companies sought to have the case thrown out of court based on the fact that "lawyers for the companies said the class-action suit should be dropped because it doesn't allege that any particular game led Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to go on their rampage." Id Software, in September 2001, asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit that claims the product influenced the Columbine High School gunmen. Updating further, on March 5, 2002, the AP reported that a federal judge had dismissed the lawsuit against the video game distributors and moviemakers named in the suit.

The suit against video game companies linked to Columbine by accusers remains dismissed. In August 2002, the AP reported another federal court decision to dismiss a $33 million lawsuit that claimed that video game makers, among others, were to blame for a 1997 shooting spree at Heath High School in which three students died.

"We find that it is simply too far a leap from shooting characters on a video screen (an activity undertaken by millions) to shooting people in a classroom (an activity undertaken by a handful, at most)," Judge Danny Boggs said in the ruling from a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, the AP reported.
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Postal series

Platforms: PC, Mac
Publisher: Ripcord Games, Panasonic, 1995; Whiptail Interactive, 2003
Developer: Running With Scissors

Postal arrived in 1995 on the Mac but really didn't seriously make waves until its PC release in 1997 as a third-person action game. This was the year that even game reviewers referred to the game as "a little disturbing." GameSpot's review began, "It's finally happened. The game that will make the entire Christian Coalition explode in an immense mushroom cloud of religious fervor is finally here. Mortal Kombat can't touch its hemoglobin content. The teenage hijinks of the much-denounced Night Trap are nothing compared to the all-out psychopathic killing spree of Postal. Even Carmageddon isn't quite in its league of violence."

The premise is simple: The player character comes home to find his house repossessed and, to make an innocuous descriptor an egregious adjective, goes "postal," killing everything that moves.


The controversy is no mystery.

Upon the game's 1997 release, retailers and the public protested madly. According to GameSpot news, the game was banned in 10 countries and "blacklisted" in the US. Vince Desi, the lead designer at Running With Scissors, appeared on televised debates and confronted the media at every opportunity and even debated the governor of Arkansas following a school shooting in that state. But the public wasn't the only detractor. The US Postal Service filed suit against the developer for allegedly damaging the organization's image. In June 2003, the case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it was settled or discontinued without the opportunity to bring the case before a court again. There was no word on what type of settlement was reached between the organizations.

By May 1998, the headlines started again. GameSpot reported that an eighth-grade student from Half Moon Bay, California, had been suspended for writing a school essay he titled "Goin' Postal," perhaps after the video game, or more likely after the common phrase used to describe a situation in which a gunman or gunwoman takes his or her angst out on an unsuspecting public audience, usually of coworkers. The situation is deemed "postal" due to the alarming number of postal workers who did this in the late 1980s. In the eighth-grader's essay, the fictional character killed a policeman and two school faculty members, including the principal. Here's the essay:


The Postal series has always been irreverent.

"Goin' Postal 7:50 AM Martin has showered and has clean clothes on, and is now getting ready for school. He finds his shoes under his desk and puts them on, as well as his belt and hat taken off the coat rack. And then, the moment he's been goin over in his head as to whether or not to follow through with. He opens up his bottom drawer, sifts through his clothes and finds it. A spring shoulder holster, leather holster and leather straps, easily concealable by a jacket. And next to the holster, a loaded Smith & Wess 9-mm. automatic pistol, bought from a friend for $20, $10 for the ammo. He hesitated for a second, but then grabbed the holster and strapped on over his T-shirt, adjusting it a bit for comfort. He then grabbed the pistol, checked to make sure it was loaded, and slid it in the holster. He grabbed his coat and put it on, checked to make sure it was noticeable, and left for school.

"8:20 AM Martin arrives at his school and looks around to see what going on. After he's done checking for cops, he heads straight for the office, waving to a few friends as he passes them by. After what seems like an eternity, he finally reaches the door to the office. He takes one deep breath, draws his gun, and kicks open the door. The first thing he notices is a cop visiting the school. He takes aim as the pig turns around, eyes wide with fright. BAM! The pigs brains are splattered against the back wall. He looks to the right and sees the vice-principal hiding behind his desk. Martin takes one second to guess where the principal's head is, and BAM! Martin guessed right. And now, the moment he's been waiting for a long time. He heads straight for the principals office and busts in with his gun blasting. He hits the principal seven times before the principal drops, dead before he hits the ground. Martin hears a sound behind and begins to turn around. Yet it is too late. The cops partner, who was outside a minute ago has knocked Martin to the ground. The pig cuffs him and drives him to the police station. And yet Martin is smiling blissfully, because, you see having done away with the two people he hated most, Martin finally feels at peace."

Look Osama!!
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Phantasmagoria

Platform: PC
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment, 1995
Developer: Sierra Entertainment

Phantasmagoria, perhaps helped by sharing a name with an album by The Damned, sounds like a spooky game, but it doesn't sound particularly threatening. At least not if compared to Thrill Kill or Manhunt. And its "scary" nature isn't what put it on the censors' hot sheet.


All her mirrors were broken.

Game designer Roberta Williams (King's Quest) created Phantasmagoria--a game not too unlike Night Trap. Phantasmagoria, an adventure game, was also a live-action game, which used interactive sequences to advance the plot. Likewise, a female, Adrienne, is the central character in Phantasmagoria, creating another nervous environment of death and threat and the female gender. The game starts as Adrienne and her husband move into an old mansion. The gameplay rides along Adrienne's efforts to uncover the house's secrets as her husband, for one, slips into complete lunacy. The main difference between the games is that Night Trap was pretty much an innocent game, only suggestive, not explicative. Night Trap did not feature nudity or vulgarity, and it wasn't really gory at all. Phantasmagoria was extremely bloody, and sex and violence were closely linked--in fact, directly, as one video sequence was of a rape scene.

GameSpot's review begged the question, "So why is Phantasmagoria so darned popular?" While the controversy it generated is one thing, GameSpot elaborated, "It's accessible to newbies, it's a new genre, and Sierra has promoted the hell out of it."

As with many previously mentioned controversial games, players could elect to tone the violence down in the options menu, but alas, Australia wouldn't have it. The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) banned the game regardless of the option in Australia, and some retail outlets in the United States did the same.
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Resident Evil

Platforms: PC, Saturn, Dreamcast, N64, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Game Boy Color
Publisher: Capcom, 1996
Developer: Capcom

Resident Evil, in title, may sound worse than it actually is, at least to nongamers. Resident Evil is the localized name of Capcom's Japanese action adventure series called Biohazard. The original premise was straightforward: A police special tactics and rescue squad (S.T.A.R.S.) disappears from a truly creepy, enormous, dank, and downright nasty mansion in the middle of nowhere. You play as one of the replacement S.T.A.R.S. agents trying to figure out what went wrong in the mansion while finding your lost squadmates. There are mutant beings, zombies, strange herbs, and lots of things that go bump in the night. The game is bloody, and things, such as you, die slowly or quickly but always brutally with a large amount of moaning and screaming.


Carnage!

Many of the game's installments received high scores and favorable reviews, earning a place in video game history as one of the more notable games. It's moody and creepy, and Germany didn't like it. The US versions of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil: Code Veronica were banned in Germany for "extreme violence," but the German versions were allowed--with changes in tow. The German versions contained green instead of red blood--an option that the US versions of the game also included.

In October 2002, AP reported that Honduras, in an effort to curb rising street crime, intended to ban violent video games, including Resident Evil, as well as Doom, Quake, Street Fighter, Turok, and others. The Honduran congress passed the bill unanimously.
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Carmageddon

Platforms: PC, Mac, Game Boy Color, N64
Publisher: Interplay, Titus, Interactive Magic, Xicat Interactive, 1997
Developer: Sci, Beam Entertainment, Stainless Studios

The controversy surrounding the Carmageddon series lies right in the name: car and Armageddon, an amalgamation of the brutal end of the world and the automobile. This racing game asked players to complete racing checkpoints, terminate all racing opponents, and kill every last human being in their path on the way.


"Members of the public, you now have one minute to reach Minimum Safe Distance."

GameSpot's review read, "Carmageddon is visceral, violent, vehicular fun, no strings attached, no artificial morals or ethics added, and no artificial colors--just black, blue, and red all over." Not everyone was seeing red. In fact, critics in the UK wanted to see green--blood that is. Wired reported in December 1997, "Before the UK release of the hyperviolent racing game Carmageddon, for example, game producer Interplay was requested by the board to change the color of spilled blood from red to green, and make the human victims look less human and more zombie-like." England and Germany both required that the pedestrians become "zombies." Changing blood from red to green and making living, breathing humans zombie- or alienlike are common international peacekeeping tactics in the video game world. Brazil simply banned the game entirely.

When Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now arrived, it was clear developers had no intention of letting the controversy scare them away. GameSpot's Carmageddon 2 PC review read, "The original Carmageddon was banned in Brazil for inspiring road rage. Well, if you're the sort to play a game and apply those skills you've just cultivated to your real-life routine, then not only should you not come anywhere near Carmageddon 2, but you should probably just be locked up somewhere safe. However, if you're not adverse to a little lowbrow humor and a lot of violence and mayhem, you'll find plenty of action and still more fun in the visually refined sequel." You would earn money for kills in Carmageddon 2, which now included animals as well as humans and gut-busting violence as your vehicle ripped through them (to the tunes of Iron Maiden, among others).
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Grand Theft Auto

Platforms: PC, Dreamcast, Game Boy Color, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Publisher: Rockstar Games (ASC Games/Take-Two), 1998
Developer: Rockstar North

For those unfamiliar with the controversy surrounding Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, or even Doom, you would have had to be on another planet to miss the hype over Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series. The game launched on the PC in the US in early 1998 and was received encouragingly but cautiously by many PC reviewers. GameSpot's original reviewer noted, "GTA is a good game that is highly recommended at a bargain price, but won't win any awards. Wanna-be sociopaths who can deal with the shortcomings will have a lot of fun, and if you could save games within levels, it would come even more highly recommended."


Rockstar Games salutes you.

Then came the PlayStation version, just four months later, amid "great" reviews. GameSpot's Ryan Mac Donald wrote, "If you are a fan of R-rated action movies, then nothing in this game will shock or damage you. However, if you are a parent looking for a game for your 10-year-old, you may want to skip this one. I, however, loved the game and would recommend it to anyone who doesn't have any problems with violence or adult language."

The game earned notoriety for its theme and approach almost immediately after it was released. Innovative, excellent gameplay mechanics aside, the game is mission-based, and your missions include driving prostitutes around town, evading the feds, and running drugs and porn, and in the process, you end up killing lots of people. You don't start off with a car, so you have to jack one immediately so you can get around, hence the name, Grand Theft Auto.

In September 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks in New York City and the Pentagon, Take-Two Interactive announced that it would postpone its release of GTAIII in order to "alter" some content involving New York City. By the time GTAIII was released in 2001 and 2002, on the PlayStation 2 and PC, respectively, the game had fully reached its stride. The M-rated game was topping sales charts and served as an excellent example of a game with gameplay solid enough that the violence was just, to most, a perk. Nothing about the GTA series said that it was using controversy to make its name. Sure, the controversy helped. But those who bought the game were unquestionably satisfied with the product long after the shock wore off.


Sales of the GTA games were flying high.

And sales were and still are huge for Rockstar. In October 2002, GameSpot reported that Electronics Boutique sold more than 500,000 copies of Vice City, including preorders, on the first day. Electronics Boutique CEO Jeff Griffiths did not give exact numbers but told GameSpot "it was closer to a million than half a million." In November 2002, GameSpot reported that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City sold more than 250,000 copies in its first two days in retail in the UK. "To put that figure in perspective, the previous record was held by Konami's Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which sold more than 120,000 copies in the same amount of time," GameSpot reported.

While sales were tabulating, Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification, an entity that rates video and PC games, urged retailers in that country not to carry GTAIII due to its sexual nature and violence. GameSpot Australia reported, "Grand Theft Auto III has been pulled from retail shelves in the country, while its publisher, Take-Two Interactive, is seeking a second opinion from the Classification Review Board, which is a separate body from the OFLC. The second review may take up to two weeks."

GameSpot reported that GTAIII originally received an "RC" rating from the OFLC, which means "Refused Classification." This is similar to the ESRB's AO (Adults Only) rating, which means that retailers would not carry the game. The article stated that "games receiving the RC rating may not be sold, exhibited, displayed, demonstrated, or advertised, according to OFLC guidelines." GTAIII had actually received a more generous MA 15+, meaning "mature audiences" of 15 years or older, but then the Australian government upheld the original RC rating, on the condition that Rockstar would have to make necessary changes to the content to receive the more retail-friendly score. New Zealand gave GTAIII an R-18, similar to an "R" or "Restricted" movie rating according to MPAA guidelines.

But Grand Theft Auto wasn't only creating a stir overseas. On December 19, 2002, NBC reported that the National Institute on Media and the Family "handed down a failing grade [today] to the game industry." The network reported that Dr. David Walsh, the organization's president, "said it's based on the high level of violence against women, the sexual content of games marketed for youngsters, the high-tech improvements making them more attractive to youngsters, and other factors." The example cited by Walsh is one from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, wherein "players are rewarded for kicking a prostitute to death."

Walsh called for parents--who he said were largely unaware of game content based on his study of more than 600 parents and teachers, manufacturers, and retailers--to "wake up" to the problem. Walsh suggested that violent games' primary audience, preteen and teenaged boys, "reported no trouble buying the games."

Grand Theft Auto - cont.

Nearly one year later, in October 2003, two families from Tennessee filed a $246 million lawsuit against Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive, Sony Computer Entertainment America, and Wal-Mart. The families sought compensatory and punitive damages for one family's loss of a member who was killed and for the other's whose was injured when two teenaged boys fired upon their cars with rifles in the Smokey Mountains--an act the boys claimed they learned from GTAIII. The rifles were allegedly acquired from the boys' homes. They were 14 and 16 years old, too young for M-rated games. The boys are currently serving an indefinite sentence in state custody after pleading guilty to reckless homicide, endangerment, and assault in juvenile court in August 2003.


Mugging cab drivers for fun and profit.

Rockstar fought the charges, and in November 2003, GameSpot reported that Rockstar had asked the judge presiding over the Greenville, Tennessee, case to throw it out for good. Rockstar alleged that the victims held the company accountable "based on the expressive content of the video game," and the company claimed that such "'ideas and concepts,' as well as the 'purported psychological effects' of the shooters, are protected by the First Amendment's free-speech clause." The victims' counsel, Miami lawyer Jack Thompson, dismissed Rockstar's claims and is seeking to move the case back into state court for consideration under Tennessee's consumer protection act.

Months after the game made its debut, GTA: Vice City made the press again in November 2003 when two Haitian-American interest groups, the Haitian Centers Council and Haitian Americans for Human Rights, protested in front of New York's City Hall and Rockstar's Manhattan offices. The group was up in arms over the line "Kill the Haitians," a directive found within the mission-based game but, to the game's credit, extracted from the greater context of the mission's storyline. In the original editions of GTA: Vice City, players were awarded, as rival gang members, points for killing the Haitian characters involved in the plot. The line fit into the greater whole as a rival gang's (the Cubans) wish to eliminate the competition (the Haitians). Out of context, a person suggesting she or he would "kill" someone for sharing a secret before divulging it would be incriminating, too. But kids say this sort of thing all the time. However, given the game's reputation, the media did not cut the game any slack.

According to a GameSpot news story, Henry Frank, executive director of the Haitian Centers Council, called the game a "cultural attack on the millions of Haitians living in the United States." Frank further noted in a press release that his group objected to the portrayal of Haitians as "thugs, thieves, and drug dealers."

On December 8, 2003, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a public statement in defense of the city's Haitian-American population, which had in the past faced numerous, notorious run-ins with the city government due to police violence against Haitian members: "If I don't get a decent response, we are going to do everything we possibly can," said Bloomberg. Take-Two announced that Rockstar would remove the questionable line.


The mayhem isn't without consequences.

In late December 2003, Vice City met the press again on this issue. Haitian interest groups, spearheaded by the Haitian-American Coalition of Palm Beach County, filed suit against Rockstar Games, Take-Two Interactive, Sony, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Best Buy, and Target for the "Kill the Haitians" line. CNN reported on January 1, 2004, "Earlier this month, about 100 Haitian-Americans demonstrated outside a Wal-Mart Supercenter in nearby Boynton Beach chanting, 'Stop Vice City.'" In late January 2004, the group dropped the federal case to pursue the case in a local Florida court, where the group said it suspected it would "avoid the more lenient federal freedom-of-speech standards."

As the battle ensued, in January 2004 the Miami Herald reported that the city of Miami would enact an ordinance that would make it illegal for retailers to sell or rent "violent" video games to anyone under 18 without a note from his or her parent. Three of the city councilmen who voted for the ordinance were Haitian-Americans. The two who voted against the ordinance were not of Haitian decent. Retailers and rental outlets would incur warnings or fines of $250 per day or up to $500 for repeated offenses. GameSpot reported that Mayor Joe Celestin, a Haitian-American who introduced the ordinance and who is also one of Vice City's most vocal critics, said, ''We don't believe the First Amendment was written to protect those who want to incite violence."

Although the game series had once again taken a tumble through the court system, it continued to sell extremely well; morality aside, people like to play the game because it is good. And it, too, isn't all bad. A little-publicized fact is that in GTA: Vice City, players may also be rewarded "good citizen" for helping the police catch muggers and petty criminals.

Senator Lieberman has been known to say that not all games are bad. He is not antigaming in general, he says. But Grand Theft Auto was on his list. In January 2004, the senator, as a democratic presidential hopeful, denounced GTA as "horrendous" while speaking at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

"The player is rewarded for attacking a woman, pushing her to the ground, kicking her repeatedly, and then ultimately killing her, shooting her over and over again," said Lieberman. "I call on the entertainment companies--they've got a right to do that, but they have a responsibility not to do it if we want to raise the next generation of our sons to treat women with respect."

That last staement is a load of horse shit. He sure doesn't know the difference between reality and fantasy.
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Kingpin: Life of Crime

Platform: PC
Publisher: Interplay, 1999
Developer: Xatrix

Even parents who don't read the ESRB ratings should know that Kingpin: Life of Crime is probably not a game they want to buy, if they are concerned about violence in video games. Kingpin, built on the Quake II engine, is developer Xatrix's follow-up to the also-controversial shooter Redneck Rampage. Interplay published both games, as well as Carmageddon.


Anytown, USA

What's notable about Kingpin, is that it's a game in which you play as a thug on a mission to work your way to the street boss and do him in. The characters are unsavory, by suburbia's standards, as urban street sorts that wear lots of leather, carry weapons, and utter expletives every few words or so. But Interplay and Xatrix warn players of this. From the minute you start the game, you must agree to understand or at least have glanced at several disclaimers. You must also agree to an age statement asking if the player is at least 18 years old. Once you're through it, GameSpot's Erik Wolpaw wrote, "after all the dramatic claims of impending immorality, you may be disappointed to discover that the hand-wringing is simply over Kingpin's inclusion of an absurd Smurf-esque hooligan dialect in which every second word is profane. That's it. There's plenty of violent content tossed in, but no more than in any other game in the genre. Whether the prerelease infamy and the embarrassment of disclaimers are a result of the current political climate or conscious hyperbole by the Interplay marketing machine, they tend to overshadow what is actually a decent shooter."

Like with most games billed controversial, players (or parents) have the option of toning down the violence. The "low violence" setting bleeps out the language some might find questionable, but who is going to tell his parents that? Certainly not the 18-year-old buying the game...

Again, option settings didn't hold off the censors. Germany banned the game entirely, and for those who believe controversy sells, Kingpin was Xatrix's last game--as Xatrix. The developer became Grey Matter, which went on to make Return to Castle Wolfenstein.
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