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In light of the Supreme Court recently hearing arguments on the constitutionality of California’s law regarding violent and inappropriate video games, the PS3 team decided to look back and remember some of their favorite games to cause uproars among some of the more uptight members of our society. Whether it’s violence, profanity, sexuality, or anything else, these are games that people have claimed are harming our children, regardless of if they actually understand the extent of the content or not. These games are also a lot of fun, and often smarter than a lot of the safe stuff parents think is fine for their kids.
3. Killer 7 (Gamecube) – Killer 7 was released for both the Playstation 2 and the Gamecube consoles, but the controversial version is the Gamecube version simply because of Nintendo’s audience at the time. Nintendo decided to move in a new direction and offer mature content for their system. Capcom had released an updated version of the smash hit survival horror game Resident Evil for Gamecube in 2002. Three years later, Capcom and Suda 51’s Grasshopper Manufacture released Killer 7. The game was heavily post-modern with self- referential plots and metaphysical ideas about split personalities and political stagnation. You played as an elderly, wheelchair bound hitman who had six other personalities which included young men, a woman and a Mexican wrestler. The woman could reveal secret doors by slitting her wrist and spraying blood on walls. One of the men could pick locks by suggestively fondling padlocks. The game had puzzles where you needed to find rings inside the mouths of severed heads and find messages from pigeons. This game would have been number one on my list had anyone played it.
2. Wolfenstein 3-D (PC) – No need for special glasses with this one. Released on the PC in 1992, Wolfenstein 3-D pitted an American-Polish soldier, B. J Blazkowicz, against an entire Nazi prison. The game pioneered the FPS genre while gloriously fusing the occult, Nazis and freedom into one episodic package. The game’s limited graphical capabilities left only blue walls covered in swastikas and candles. The game is officially banned in Germany for its references to Nazism while SNES version has all blood, dogs and swastikas removed. The game was distributed like cocaine on the PC; the first episode was free while later episodes had to be paid for and allowed you to progress. Eventually the game ballooned into 60 levels and the madness was topped off with a boss fight against Adolph Hitler in a robotic suit equipped with four chain guns. Awesome.
1. Mortal Kombat (Genesis) – A title that cannot be uttered silently, Mortal Kombat defined a generation of violent videogames by bringing attention to itself through practically every media source available at the time. The game that gave us “Finish Him” was insanely bloody and allowed players the opportunity to kill their opponents at the end of the final round. The game’s animation was created using actors in ridiculous costumes which gave Mortal Kombat a fake sense of realism. It stole character concepts from movies like The Terminator, Big Trouble in Little China, Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon and Blood Sport. The game’s only original character was Goro, a boss that had four arms and no pants. Mortal Kombat is now used as a litmus test to tell just how old a politician is when asked to name a popular video game and is, to this day, still featured in stock footage regarding debates on violent videogames whenever there is a slow news day.
DOOM – It’s hard to image now but the visuals on DOOM really were ground breaking at the time, and it stands as one of the first ever games where blood really looked like blood. It also marks the period when games first started getting linked by sensationalist members of the press to real world violence, and was even blamed for a high school shooting at the time.
Grand Theft Auto – The very first game in the series looks fairly basic now, with its top down view and tiny sprites. But almost all of the element that made the sequels as popular as they have been were already in place back on the 1997 PC original. It may not have been able to give us some of the more explicit details that excited the press so much in the games that followed, but running strings of people over in a fast car has never been more satisfying.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – As most people still remember, the level “No Russian” was a hot topic a year ago. The optional level has the player taking control of a deep-cover CIA agent, working with a group of Russian terrorists who massacre civilians at an airport. As you are essentially a passenger in the events it has been suggested that it was included simply as a way to get the game more publicity. If that is true the phenomenal sales Modern Warfare 2 enjoyed might just encourage other developers to keep testing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable.
Grand Theft Auto III – Actual content-wise, GTA3 has a lot in common with previous games in the series. The storm of attention it caused though was about a million times bigger, thanks almost entirely to the much improved graphics, which not only made everything more real and obvious, but also transformed the series from a cult hit to a gigantic phenomenon. Even though the series has never asked you to kill an innocent person, it was one of the first to allow you to with impunity, and there was all sorts of hand wringing about what this murder simulator was doing to our children. I don’t see what the big deal is, I was 14 when it came out and played the crap out of it, and I turned out to not be a mass-murdering psychopath.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – Seems a bit cheap to use this series twice, but it seems like every time a new game came out there was a new thing to be furious about. Vice City got in trouble for telling you to kill Haitians (Haitian gang members specifically, but let’s not let facts get in the way of shouts of racism), and San Andreas was responsible for what might be the biggest controversy of all, the Hot Coffee scandal. During the game’s development they were working on a mini-game that let you have sex with your various girlfriends, but decided to abandon it without bothering to remove the code. Of course some one found it, and parents were screaming about a game where there kids could push buttons to have sex, even though you had to hack the programming to get to it. Another game, another media shit storm for Rockstar.
Persona 3 – This is easily one of my favorite RPGs because of its mix of social interaction and a fun combat system, but it caused a stir even among niche gamers for the way you summon monstrous allies to aid you in battle – your teenage avatar shoots themselves in the head. Well, not exactly. It’s not a gun, just an Evoker, a piece of technology that just looks and acts exactly like a gun. You put it to your head and fire, and it allows the essence of the creature inside you to come forth. It made sense and had poignancy within the story, but even defenders have to admit it looks fairly disturbing in action. I can only imagine the furor if this game actually became very popular, and special interests groups found out you had to act out suicide repeatedly to win.
Mass Effect – The controversy surrounding the original Mass Effect was largely superficial, but it nevertheless cast a shadow on the game in the public eye for a few weeks. The cause of the commotion: An inter-species lesbian sex scene. Okay, so that does sound pretty raunchy, and I can see why Fox News pounced on the topic so quickly. Unfortunately, Fox failed to do their homework. They claimed that the game contained “full digital nudity and sex” when in fact the portrayal of sex was handled in a mature and emotional way and contained no visible nudity. It was a standout emotional moment in a game already full of jaw dropping scenes.
Resistance: Fall of Man – To most people, Resistance probably seemed like a pretty inoffensive first person shooter. For me, it was a gorgeous and fun game that gave me hope for the future of the PS3. For the Church of England, on the other hand, the game was a blasphemous piece of sacrilege. A level depicting American soldiers battling alien invaders in the Manchester Cathedral caused a firestorm of bad press from the church demanding that Sony remove that portion of the game. In the end, a simple apology from Sony sufficed and the controversy was diffused.
Bully – As the developer of such ultra-violent games as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt, it’s no surprise that Rockstar is a magnet for controversy. The Manhunt and GTA names are both associated as much with quality as with lewd behavior, but my favorite controversial Rockstar game is Bully, for the simple reason that it had no business being controversial in the first place. First came Rockstar’s public enemy number one Jack Thompson, who filed a lawsuit attempting to ban the game from Florida’s shelves before it was even rated by the ESRB. That attempt was of course met with failure. Further controversy was caused after the game was released, when it was discovered that players could engage in a little bi-sexual tongue wrangling with a few of the boys in the school. These controversies eventually blew over, and it became clear that Bully was just a bit of harmless fun.