Top 12 Most Controversial Games
We’re all familiar with controversy over movies, television and books, but interactive media can have a similarly profound effect on people. Games have always been influential, and the darker side of the spectrum is something I’ve tried to explore in creating this list. In part, this list counts down from the controversial, yet popular, to the controversial and extremely unpopular. I have left out traditionally controversial games (with the acceptance of number 12) such a Grand Theft Auto, because these are simply widely regarded as some of the best games ever made, and only controversial because of their use of violence, sex and occasionally racism. There are plenty of games out there that have been made with a sole purpose of inciting racism, or exploiting crimes and sexism, murder, and rape. Note: This list contains content that may be disturbing.
Manhunt is a third-person stealth horror game, released in 2003. A sequel, Manhunt 2, was released four years later. Since 2003, the games have stirred incredible amounts of controversy, as well as gaining large success for the creators, Rockstar. The games center around your character being forced to kill numerous different people (called “hunters”), over several different levels (or “scenes”); with the gruesomeness of your kills affecting your ‘rating’ at the end of the scene. Each kill is shown during a short cut scene, in which your character murders the victim with the weapon selected. These weapons include hammers, knives, carrier bags, crow bars, chainsaws, guns, cheese wire and others. The kills can vary in their grittiness, which is down to player to choose as he approaches the victim.
The game’s apparent glamorization of violence gives it the feel of a snuff film, with the glorification of vigilantism and voyeurism. The game was linked to the 2004 murder, in Britain, of Stefan Pakeerah, who was killed by his best friend in a method similar to those in the game (with a claw hammer). The killer, Warren LeBlanc, had been found to be an obsessive player of the game, which his mother admitted in court after he had pleaded guilty. After this case, it was taken off the shelves in UK stores such as GAME and Dixons, as well as being banned in several countries. Despite its controversies, it is still a successful franchise.
Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a real-time strategy game, released in 2006 for Windows. It is based on the ‘Left Behind’ series of Christian novels and features the ‘Tribulation Force’ – a Christian group whom the player fights for in New York, as they combat Global Warming and a world government run by an Anti Christ. The game can be likened to other strategy games such as Age of Empires, or Command and Conquer. However, in Left Behind, the Christian mass fight various enemies using their faith as you try to convert everyone in order to be saved. Conversion is encouraged first; however lethal force is authorized when necessary. This provided the basis for the negative reception the game got, with it being accused of inciting a “convert or kill” message. It was branded as a “violent Christian video game” that promoted “Religious bigotry, intolerance and warfare”. The Anti Defamation League – a Jewish organization defended the makers of the game by stating “Conversion to Christianity in the game is not depicted as forcible in nature, and violence is not rewarded.”
This game was released in 1982 on the Atari 2600 by a company called Mystique; the same company who also released number 9 on this list in the same year. The company later went out of business during the video game crash of 1983. The idea of the game is to control 2 nude women, who move back and forth across the bottom of a building, catching semen from a man on top of the building constantly masturbating. Catching semen gives you points and you gain an extra life for every 69 points you get. Another, gender-reversed version of the game was released later, called “Philly Flasher”. In this game, you play 2 nude men who move across a building catching breast milk from a witch (you read that right). Upon catching all the milk, the men masturbate and ejaculate. Although it was unbelievably risqué as well as becoming rated as one of the worst games of all time, it became infamous.
Among the three sex games that were released by Mystique on the Atari 2600, Custer’s Revenge is perhaps the most notorious. It was the center of an $11 million dollar lawsuit, as well as numerous protests from Native American groups, woman’s rights activists, and critics of the video game industry in general. It is widely regarded as one of the worst games of all time, in both appearance (with the characters looking like Lego blocks), and gameplay. The idea of the game is control General Custer as he moves across the screen bearing a large erection, avoiding arrows, in order to make it to a nude Native American woman tied to a post, and then rape her.
The game Battle Raper, (as well as number 6 on this list), were made by a Japanese games company called ‘Illusion’. Illusion are famous for developing 3D ‘eroge’ games; a game genre and portmanteau of Erotic Game, (erochikku g?mu). Games in this genre feature anime-style eroticism and are usually either visual novels or romance simulators. There are numerous games released under this pretense, some are harmless such as girlfriend simulators, whilst others include voyeurism, rape and molestation. Battle Raper is, as the name suggests, a fight game (which has been likened to Tekken 2), with moves involving molestation and humiliation, as well as taking off your opponent’s health, along with the usual punches and kicks. The winner of a match can then rape the loser how he/she wants, with rape cut scenes being unlocked at the end of the game.
This game was released for download in 2004 by Scottish company ‘Traffic Games’, the release date coinciding with the 41st anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in 1963. The game puts you in the position of Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, as he attempts to assassinate Kennedy. The playability of the game comes from a points system, where you must try and accurately recreate the actual bullet path of the assassination, and the events described in the Warren Commission report. It has been argued that JFK Reloaded isn’t so much a game, as a historical simulation. Either way, the company ran a competition in 2005 to see who could get the highest score and get closest to a 100% accurate simulation of JFK’s death. A man from France won $10,000 with a score of 782 out of 1000. A spokesman for Edward Kennedy, John Kennedy’s brother, has been quoted as calling the game, “…despicable. Why would someone make this game? This should have never been allowed on the market.”
RapeLay is another Japanese 3D ‘Eroge’ video game, released for PC in 2006. It follows the story of a man who stalks and rapes a mother and two daughters, with the player, of course, helping him do this. The game is a sexual simulator with mouse clicks and scrolls allowing clothing to be removed and molestation to occur. Many different game modes are available, ranging from stalking the girls and watching wind blow up their skirts, to having full sexual intercourse with all three females at once. The game even features an “internal ejaculation” counter which can result in pregnancy, or ‘game over’. Obviously the game received a negative reaction from every critic that reviewed it with some even claiming to be “horrified” at the game content, and saying that games like RapeLay are the reason tighter laws must be applied to control game content. On the other hand, some people defending the game have argued that rape is considered a less-serious crime than murder, and that the majority of games out now feature the murder of numerous people in order to finish the game.
The idea behind ‘SCMRPG!’ was to, in part, parody video games and their supposed role in the 1999 Columbine shootings, as well as represent a critique on how media sensationalized the shootings. The opinions of this game differ greatly. Some believe it to be a sordid trivialization of an unjust crime and the impact it had on numerous victims. Others find the game’s cartoon graphics and side plot into the shooter’s perdition in hell, original and worthy of praise. Either way, the game puts the player in control of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in a 16-bit recreated high school. The majority of the game is carried out with an overhead view of your character as you move around, collecting weapons and experiencing flashbacks of the shooter’s lives including things that may have inspired them to carry out the shooting. “Battles” are fought with various people around the school, in a way similar to early Pokemon battles on the Game Boy games, with digital photos of the actual high school and sound clips in the background. In these battles, weapons can be chosen and used to take the “enemies” health.
It was created by Danny Ledonne in 2005, during which 10,000 downloads were made (in the first year). The game didn’t gain much media attention until 2006, after which downloads increased dramatically with 30,000 in the first half of May, 2006. By March, 2007, the game had been downloaded over 400,000 times. Most of the media coverage, as expected, was negative and was seen as a game that ‘glamorized murder’ and was an ‘example of a game that worships terrorism’. The small amount of positive feedback that the game got was due to the acceptance of Ledonne’s message. A survivor of the shootings even said, “It probably sounds a bit odd for someone like me to say, but I appreciate the fact at least to some degree that something like this was made”.
‘Baby Shaker’ was an iPhone application that had to be seen to be believed. As with most iPhone apps, the phone can be shaken and moved to control the action on screen. In this primitive “game” however, you were presented with a cartoon picture of a baby and had to shake the iPhone to stop them crying. When you had shaken them enough, red crosses appeared over their eyes, signifying the fact they had died. The game caused huge upset with the public and two parents, whose babies were victims of being shaken, protested outside an Apple store and subsequently, the application has been taken off the iPhone store as of 2009.
Full title: Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide. This game was made by a forum member under the name of “Sigvatr” in 2008. It is a top-down shoot ‘em up video game with the protagonist being an American hero parachuted into the Middle East with the aim of killing as many Muslims as possible. There are numerous weapons including pistols, a shotgun, a machine gun, grenades and rocket launchers, with some enemies being civilians (which you must also kill) and some being suicide bombers than can do damage to you. Each stage lasts around a minute with bosses being Osama Bin Laden, Mohammed and Allah. Game companies tried to ignore the controversial nature and branded it “boring and tedious”, while many Muslim groups branded it “unacceptable, tasteless, and deeply offensive” claiming it encourages young people to kill Muslims. Two days after a September 11th anniversary, the game was taken down and an apology issued, due to large amounts of negative comments. However, the apology was found to be fake and the game is still in circulation. An article in the LA times printed a comment by ‘anon’ stating, “If it were a game showing Muslims killing Israelis, the whole world would have sought revenge”.
The premise of this game is to control either a skin-headed white supremacist or a member of the KKK, moving through the ghetto, shooting and killing any black and Latino people you find. You then descend into the subway and kill Jewish people, before finding a Jewish Control Center, and killing the former Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. I found out about this game by watching a Louis Theroux documentary on white supremacists, and being shocked by this game being the only game a mother allowed her two young daughters to play and them both claiming to enjoy it. The game was released in 2002 by an underground record label specializing in Neo-Nazi and white supremacist music, called Resistance Records. The game has been protested over, and the game engine that was used to create it, Genesis3D, has even been encouraged to change their licensing to prohibit the creation of racist games. The game’s description is as follows: “The Race War has begun. Your skin is your uniform in this battle for the survival of your kind. The White Race depends on you to secure its existence. Your peoples enemies surround you in a sea of decay and filth that they have brought to your once clean and White nation. Not one of their numbers shall be spared….”
Numerous versions of KZ manager have been made since 1990 on the Commodore 64, Amiga, MS DOS and on Windows. The game is a text-based, resource management game which simulates the construction and running of a Nazi Concentration Camp. Many other management sims are hugely successful, such as the Sim City series, but instead of resources like water, electricity and food to manage, KZ Manager has the player manage the prisoners (Jews, Gypsies or Turks – your choice), poison gas and money, as well as monitoring public opinion and the camp productivity. Money can be made by forcing the prisoners to work, with public opinion being raised with regular killing of these prisoners. More prisoners can be bought, with the corpses of those you have killed being put on a garbage pile. Most versions of KZ Manager are in German, which is strange considering the modern day German regulations against the uses of Nazi symbols and practices. KZ Manager is freeware, and the latest Windows version, called “KZ Manager Millennium” is available through the internet.