Top 10 Controversial Games
10. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was shaping up to be one of the best games ever, with only good things being written about it. Then came the day when footage was released showing the player taking part in a massacre at an airport, gunning down helpless civilians.
The outrage was almost tangible and all too soon the ill-informed were joining the battle. Keith Vaz, a Labour MP with a long-term hatred of computer games, launched himself straight into the breach and said how ‘shocked’ he was at the level of violence in the game.
For Vaz, and other knee-jerk reactionaries, Modern Warfare 2 was simply too realistic. Quite what this statement implies we have no idea. After all, the scene in the game features you as a good guy infiltrating a terrorist ring in order to gain vital intelligence. Are people that speak out against this game really expecting that thousands of gamers will suddenly be pulled in by the realism, join a secret-service division and infiltrate a terrorist organisation?
The outrage and controversy missed one important fact: you don’t have to shoot any civilians. If you don’t, the airport scene turns from one of abject violence to a rather shocking piece of game play that few games can touch upon.
In this case the controversy wasn’t warranted and Modern Warfare 2 remains one of the best first-person shooters ever created.
If ever a game was destined for controversy it was Manhunt. In it, you assume the role of a serial killer who’s saved from Death Row by the mysterious “the Director” who tells you that you’ll get your freedom by following his instructions. As you can probably guess, these are to gruesomely dispatch people.
The real controversy in the game surrounds the fact that you have to kill people close-up using a variety of grim methods from plastic bags to crowbars. With brutal over-the-top violence, it was never going to be a game that impressed everyone.
In the UK the big turning point was the tragic murder of Stefan Pakeerah by his friend Warren Leblanc. During the trial it was claimed that Leblanc was influenced by Manhunt – something that Keith Vaz was all too keen to believe. Ultimately, it emerged that the only person in the trial who had Manhunt was the victim and that Leblanc was acting of his own accord.
Manhunt gathered positive reviews and went on to sell 1.7m copies. The controversy didn’t stop there, as the Manhunt 2 (a slightly rubbish game) was initially banned in the UK, before the courts overruled the decision.
8. Leisure Suit Larry
While most role-playing adventure games were centred around heroic characters, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards was a little different: the lead, Larry Laffer, was a 40-year-old virgin (purely coincidental to the recent film) that lived in a basement.
Your job was to help Larry find the woman of his dreams from four possibilities: a nameless prostitute, a club-goer, a receptionist and a bathing beauty. Sierra, the game’s publisher, was a little unsure how to deal with it and decided that as an adult game it required some kind of age-verification system. Unfortunately, this was in for the form of questions that only adults would know that answer to. Sadly, the questions were US-centric and dated too easily, making it incredibly hard to play the game at all in some circumstances.
Sierra eventually released the game with no publicity and many computer stores refused to stock it, finding its subject matter too raunchy. It was a little unfair, and the game was actually a smart and funny adult game. Fortunately, it received decent reviews and sold more than 250,000 copies. Several sequels followed and Larry cemented his place in adventure game history.
7. Night Trap
Night Trap was released on the Sega CD in 1992 and contained live-action footage. The plot involves a group of co-eds staying at the house of Mr and Mrs Martin’s for the night. So far, so boring, but five girls who’d previously stayed at the Martin’s had disappeared. As the Sega Control Attack Team it’s your job to monitor the home using hidden cameras. As you do so you see that vampiric Augers are attacking the house to drain the girls of their blood.
This caused hideous outrage, where the game was labelled as “shameful”, “ultra-violent” and “sick”, and encouraged players to “trap and kill women”. In particular, a scene where the character Lisa is captured by Augers while wearing a nightdress was highlighted as the sick pinnacle of this game.
In reality, there are no shots of nudity and no extreme violence. Rather than being a game where you get to perve on young women, the aim of the game is save, not capture, them from the vampires.
On the face of it, Carmageddon’s quite a simplegame: you have to race against other cars across various settings including, a city, mine and industrial areas. However, rather than just winningraces, you could also win by smashing up all of your opponents and, more controversially, running over all of the pedestrians in the level.
Hitting pedestrians caused them to explode it a shower of fake blood. This was – apparently – too upsetting and many countries insisted that the game was changed to include zombies or robots instead of real humans. The UK eventually capitulated and allowed the original game to be released.
Rather than being a shocking gore-fest, it’s actually a fun car-racing game with a bit of twist.
In the US the term ‘going postal’ refers to the propensity for mailmen to lose the plot and go on massive killing sprees. It was this aspect that Running with Scissors decided to turn into a computer game.
The original Postal game uses a 3D isometric view. You control ‘Postal Dude’ as you move round the weapons killing anyone and anything. There’s little plot, and the violence in the game sickened many.
However, there was more to come with Postal 2. This game was a first-person shooter with a little more plot to it and some objectives. It was the shocking violence that really got people’s attention. Some disturbing scenes included chasing terrified people out of their homes and battering them to death with a spade, setting people on fire, stun-gunning people into quivering wrecks wetting themselves on the floor, and Gary Coleman of Diff’rent Strokes.
The game was banned in New Zealand and Australia. Unlike many of the other games in this Top 10, Postal isn’t really much of a game once the controversial elements have been removed.
4. Custer’s Revenge
If ever there was a tragically misconceived game, it was Custer’s Revenge. In it, you play General George Custer, who was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. In this variation, you’re dressed in nothing but a cavalry hat, boots and a bandana.
Your ‘mission’ is to make your way from one side of the screen to the other, avoiding falling arrows, and have your way with a native American, called Revenge, who’s tied to a pole. The gamesdevelopers claim that Custer is merely wooing the woman, who’s a “willing participant”.
It doesn’t come across that way, particularly as the packaging contained the lines, “She’s not about to take it lying down, by George! Help is on the way. By God! He’s coming.”
A pointless and worthless game, Custer’s Revenge is nothing without the controversy and a title with no redeeming qualities.
Doom was the first first-person shooter to really grab attention. Its groundbreaking visuals and gameplay quite rightly made it one of the best games ever and a clear influence on every single other first-person game made since.
In it, you play as a marine trapped on Mars surrounded by demonic forces that you need to destroy with an array of ever-more-powerful weapons. When it was released it immediately courted controversy. It was repeated criticised for its demonic imagery and branded a “mass murder simulator”.
It was even blamed for high-school shootings. In particular Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who committed the Columbine High School massacre, were avid players of the game. It was even claimed that Harris practiced the massacre after making levels in Doom that looked like the school. This was later proved false.
In reality, Doom is none of these things. It is, however, a classic. It defined the first-person shooter genre and it remains one of the only games to cleverly mix insane action with heart-pounding scenes of suspense and fear.
2. Super Columbine Massacre RPG!
While games have been credited with inspiring horrific events, Super Columbine Massacre RPG! has the dubious pleasure of being a gameinspired by an horrific event: the eponymous high-school massacre. Controversy would never be far away from this title.
Released in 2005, the game, created by Danny Ledonne, sees you play as Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. You have to plan and carry out the massacre on the high school. Understandably, the game wasn’t at all well received in the general press and it was denounced as being sick by newspapers, TV stations and survivors and family members of the victims.
Ledonne never set out to create this controversy and has stated that he wanted to use a computer game to highlight the feelings of being an outsider he suffered while at school. Slowly, some positive reviews started to appear from people who agreed with Ledonne. Patrick Dugan of website Gamasutra even went as far as saying, “it regardless is a work of art. It puts you in the mindset of the killers and provides a very clear suggestion of why they did what they did; they were enacting an ideological demonstration through a terrorist act, and the game shines light on this as an indictment of the American dream and way of life painfully close to the main nerve”.
1. Grand Theft Auto
Few games have courted as much controversy as the Grand Theft Auto series. Originally released as a top-down game in 1997 for the PC, the game saw you steal cars and perform a variety of jobs for underworld characters.
What was shocking to many was the depiction of violence, particularly as you got points for running people over. A special Gouranga! Bonus was obtained for running over an entire line of Hari Krishna followers.
As the game moved into 3D the controversy increased. The new more detailed graphics allowed the violence to become more real. With each progressing title, the game become more and more freeform, allowing players to rob, kill and steal to their heart’s content.
Soon, the game was littered with sexual references (including the infamous Hot Coffee mod, which let you play a mini-game where you have sex with your in-game girlfriends). By Grand Theft Auto IV the list of crimes had been added to with the option to get hideously drunk and then drive a car.
Along the way, the games have attracted plenty of lawsuits including those that claimed that the games were the cause of cop killing and other murders.
Despite these claims, Grand Theft Auto is and has always been a fantastic series of games. Its involving game play and incredible action make it one of the best games ever made. The action is at times a bit shocking, but it’s a game designed for adults.