The 10 Most Overblown Video Game Controversies

August 23, 2010

So-called "responsible" adults have always tried to find scapegoats for bad behavior since the dawn of time. These days, video games take the most heat, even though some controversies just aren't very well thought out.

Source: Digital Pictures

By Danny Gallagher

10. Night Trap

The Sega CD system used live action film to turn games into realistic feeling adventures, if "real life" featured fuzzy views and dialogue so cheesy that it contained three times the recommended allowance of vitamin A.

Night Trap stood out as a source of controversy because it featured scenes of extreme violence towards young, scantily-clad women, particularly a scene in which a hot blonde in a nightgown is dragged offscreen in a shock collar by a group of henchmen. Unfortunately, it was the only scene of violence in the whole game.

Other reports said the object of the game was to trap and kill the coeds when, in fact, the object was to trap the evil “Ogs” meandering through the house who were actually trying to kidnap the coeds. All of this could have been avoided if professional outrage artists like Sen. Byron Dorgan had actually played the game, but asking any politician to thoroughly research an issue before speaking out about it is like asking a monkey to do your taxes. Both produce the same results, although the monkey usually has more legible handwriting.

9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Source: Atari

Turning a villain into the hero of a video game was unheard of in the days of the Atari 2600. So when horror movie auteur Charles Band got his bloody hands in the video game market, he caused a bigger stink than your Dad in the bathroom on Thanksgiving.

He turned the classic slasher masterpiece The Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a grind-'em-up game that puts the player behind the human skin mask of Leatherface and lets them chase down innocents with a gear-grinding chainsaw for points. Stores either refused to stock the game or hid it behind the counter where only adults could purchase it.

The concept of the game may have sounded violent, but the rest was far from bloody. Thanks to the limited graphics and extremely crude sounds, Leatherface just looked like a walking Jack-o-Lantern with a hot dog shaped tumor sticking out of his gut. So really, the only people who had a right to be offended by it were people with encephalitis or victims of kielbasa impalement.


8. The Getaway

Source: Team Soho

Games have long used corporate and business brands to gain a few extra advertising dollars to help developers go from “super mega mighty rich” to “super mega colossal mighty rich.” That only works, of course, when you get their permission.

The makers of the British crime thriller The Getaway used the name of “British Telecom” in one of the game’s more violent levels in which the player must steal a BT van and go on a murderous rampage through the streets of London at the behest of a crime boss.

No one, however, really would've noticed it or even seen it since the game is harder than a diamond with a Viagra boner. The first level was next to impossible to complete without taking the disc out of the console and replacing it with something relatively easier like Sim Rocket Scientist or Calculus Wars: Journey to the Tangent Line

7. Grand Theft Auto IV

Source: Rockstar Games

Just about every time Rockstar releases a game, someone is bound to find some moral flaw or objectionable material in it. Even some 90-year-old, do-goody, namby-pamby probably filed a complaint with the SEC about the overly-meaty pecs of the athletes in their Table Tennis title.

GTA, however, has always been a lightning rod for whining and complaining since the open sandbox nature of the game lets players do everything from throw grenades into a busy intersection or force-feed the business end of a rocket launcher into the "business end" of an old lady’s cat.

The latest installment brought the wrath of New York City who claimed that Liberty City’s eerily similar appearance to the actual Big Apple portrayed their homestead as a crime-ridden cesspool where only thugs, murderers, and thieves lived, thrived, and survived. Of course, NYC never had any problems when it came to edgy movies like The French Connection and Midnight Cowboy or TV shows like NYPD Blue that portrayed them in a similar light. And say what you will about violent video games, but GTA IV never subjected their viewers to the unrelenting horror and sheer terror of Dennis Franz’s naked ass.


Source: Acclaim Entertainment

Sometimes, outraged parents who are shocked to learn that they have to be parents and politicians looking for an easy way to win “the ol’ fogey vote” are right. It happens about as often as an entertaining and thought-provoking Hee Haw reunion show, but it still happens.

This sandbox sports title was supposed to star BMX superstar Dave Mirra, but he pulled out of the project when he learned that developers decided to change the title to an edgier game with tons of potty humor, sexual innuendo, and footage of strippers as rewards for beating the game. Parents were similarly outraged for fear of having to actually monitor what their child consumes instead of having that afternoon martini during Maury.



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5. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Source: Bethesda Games Studios

Ahhh, naked boobies, where would America be without you? Under a communist zombie Nazi-loving dictator, that’s where!

The never-ending clash between “The Jugglicans” and the “The Decency Police” fired up again when a renegade modder created a patch that could be installed in this fantasy title that would turn all of the females into topless characters. The female code cracker behind the mod claimed she was trying to make a statement on the ridiculous outrage surrounding the shape of the female body, but no one could hear her because their ears and eyes were bleeding from having to endure such sinful flesh.

Of course, the only way you could actually see it is if you installed the code and modified file into the game. If a parent's child can do that, they might also want to make sure they aren’t hacking into the Pentagon to obtain their launch codes for a game of Global Thermo-Nuclear War with their Facebook friend “Joshua.”

4. Bully

Source: Rockstar Vancouver

It’s natural for parents to want to prevent their kids from becoming a victim of unnecessary humiliation and pain at the hands of an evil, uncaring bully. I’m referring, of course, to frivolous video game attorney Jack Thompson.

The crusader against fun tried to file an injunction against this Rockstar game because he claimed it promoted the practice of childhood bullying by letting players abuse and tease younger kids for points and street cred. He may have had a leg to stand on if he prepared his case beyond learning how to fake outrage at a game he never played.

Even though he claimed the game would be a “public nuisance” if the judge did not rule in favor of a “temporary injunction” to prevent stores from carrying it, he filed it before the game had been released to the public. Take Two Interactive didn’t send him a copy until he took them to court, so he never actually played the game. Thompson’s angry reaction prompted the judge to file a criminal complaint with the Florida Bar Association, thus completing Thompson’s cycle of crazy.

3. Mass Effect

Source: BioWare

Are you the head of a national broadcast news operation? Are there not enough house fires or mosque openings to fill your evening newscast? Then turn your nose for needless news to sex in video games and tell your wife you’re coming home early.

The FOX News Channel filed an exclusive report on the graphic sex scenes in this sci-fi RPG that no other news outlet would dare cover. That’s because it was utter bulls***.

Despite the anchor’s aghast claims, the game did not let the player control the sex and the scenes themselves weren’t even hard enough for the likes of softcore pornography. Of course, they would have known that if, once again, they actually played the game. I’m starting to see a pattern here. Something tells me that if cable news outlets were around in the 1980s, we would have seen a thousand shocking reports on the graphic scenes of “rampant drug abuse” in Pac-Man.

2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Source: Rockstar Games

Video game controversies reached a fever pitch when (guess who?) Grand Theft Auto returned to the store shelves for its third edition to the next-gen franchise. This time, however, it wasn’t for its unique ability to create more destruction and mayhem than Altamont.

Then Senator Hillary Clinton stuck her big butt in everyone else’s business when she discovered that the game had a hidden mini-game nicknamed “Hot Coffee Mode” that simulated the sexual act. The discovery prompted Mrs. Clinton to ask her fellow senators to “probe” the game, prompting a flutter of suppressed laughter and a ratings change from “Mature” to “Adults Only.”

The mini-game, however, was not part of the initial game. Instead, it was buried deep within the program’s coding and could only surface through an extremely intricate knowledge of hacking tools or a long and tireless series of cheat codes. Most hardcore gamers had a better of having sex with an actual woman than with one of the virtual ones in the game.

1. Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse

Source: Wideload Games

Just about all faulty outrage still has some logic behind it. Something as simple as "If kids see violence, they’ll mimic it" or "If kids are subjected to scenes of graphic sex or nudity, they’ll become mutant, DNA-slinging horndogs with an appetite for mindless intercourse and unfiltered cigarettes." This one, however, defies just about any kind of logic you can throw it and, before you ask, it involves politics, a place where a lack of rational thought actually serves as a special skill on your resume.

Stubbs the Zombie took a novel approach to a tired franchise by letting the player control a brain-eating zombie set loose on the streets of a thriving metropolis being constructed over his grave. It’s violence and depiction of cannibalism made the list of “Games to Avoid” by the National Institute on Media and Family.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, a noted advocate of entertainment regulation and discourager of fun, said the game and others like it sent “the worst kind of message to kids.” So now games have gone from encouraging violence to encouraging children to act and walk like zombies. Of course, Ol’ Frumpy Face’s argument is dead in the water when you realize rather quickly that there are no such things as brain-eating zombies. Even if there were, something tells me that Mr. Lieberman’s noggin would be safe from any cranial invasion.



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