There's little point in denying that gratuitous violence and sexually explicit material turns a profit. More or less every sector of the entertainment industry has come under fire for its use of such vices at some point, and video gaming is certainly no exception. From Mortal Kombat's overzealous use of blood to Duke Nukem's depiction of women, some games have caused as much of an uproar as their film and television counterparts. With a new entry in the Mortal Kombat series just arrived and the Duke's long-awaited return almost upon us, we take a look back at some of the most controversial titles ever developed.
Manhunt (PS2, Xbox, PC)
Although Manhunt received generally positive reviews, some publications lambasted it for wearing its snuff film influence firmly on its sleeve. The game was banned in several countries, but achieved a greater level of notoriety when it was implicated in a murder by sections of the media. Police later dismissed the link and the presiding judge placed sole responsibility on the offender when passing sentence.
Carmageddon (PC, PSOne)
Upon release, Carmageddon was censored in many countries, including the UK. Its pedestrians were replaced with zombies and robots, because there's never been a taboo about slaughtering mechanical beings or the undead. In a bid to gain infamy, SCI submitted the game to the BBFC, expecting it to be slapped with an 18 certificate. This plan failed spectacularly when the watchdog refused to certify it at all unless all of the gore was removed. It took ten months of appeals to get the title passed uncut.
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Segments of the media (many of whom failed to take the scene in context) launched a scathing attack on developer Infinity Ward and called for the title to be banned. Although the mission is optional and comes pegged with a content warning, it was completed removed from the Russian edition of the game, and heavily modified in Japan and Germany. In the UK, the scene was brought to the attention of the House of Commons by longtime violent video game opponent Keith Vaz. The matter was discussed only briefly, with fellow MP Tom Watson countering Vaz's criticisms by pointing out that it was no worse than scenes depicted in literature and cinema.
Grand Theft Auto (Series)
Some of the most high profile cases involving the series centred on former lawyer Jack Thompson, who was behind multiple attempts to implicate the game in murder cases. In a particularly contentious 2005 lawsuit, Thompson alleged that GTA was behind teenager Devin Moore's murder of two police officers. The case was dismissed the following year and appeal denied. Thompson was later disbarred and fined more than $100,000 (£60,500) for his conduct in related suits.
Grand Theft Auto has been tailed by controversy since the day the original landed on shelves. Every addition to the fold has been met with similar uproar, and the latest instalments are no exception. Vice City was criticised for supposed ethnic discrimination, and San Andreas was branded indecent for its sex minigame. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hit out at GTA IV for its depiction of drunk driving, and even the series' DS entry Chinatown Wars managed to offend some with its drug dealing side quest.
Custer's Revenge (Atari 2600)
Custer's Revenge wasn't just slated for its highly dubious plot, it was hit by allegations of racism and angered women's rights groups across America. The media attention did at least help the game shift around 80,000 copies, making it Mystique's bestselling title by a considerable margin. However, due to dire graphics and gameplay it fast became known as one of the worst games of all time. For a crude mess of pixels, the title launched with a surprisingly high price tag of $49.95 (£30)... and your dignity.
First-Person Shooter (Genre)
Several years on from Doom, another FPS caused contention over its liberal use of strippers and other such material. When Duke Nukem 3D was released in 1996, pockets of the media campaigned against the game, claiming that it promoted pornography and murder. Although the content was presented in a tongue-in-cheek manner, censored versions of the title were released in response to the outcry. Duke 3D was banned altogether in Brazil, refused classification in Australia and placed on the 'List of Harmful Media to Young People' in Germany. As well as being infamous for its ridiculously-lengthy development cycle, the game's sequel Duke Nukem Forever has already been accused of sexism for its Capture the Babe multiplayer mode. We can probably expect a string of other allegations to be added to the list when the title finally launches.
Contemporary shooters have attracted as much controversy as their previous gen counterparts. We've already mentioned the stir that Modern Warfare 2 caused, but the likes of the BioShock series and more recently Bulletstorm have been tarred with the immoral brush.
Mortal Kombat (Series)
The Mortal Kombat franchise consistently found itself at the centre of debates on violent video games. In 1997 it was alleged that the third entry in the series influenced the killing of thirteen-year-old Noah Wilson, who was stabbed in the chest by a friend who was claimed to be imitating the character Cyrax. However, the case did not hold up in court and publisher Midway Games was exonerated. A brand new addition to the MK fold has just arrived, remaining true to the series' bloody roots. Perhaps the fact that there has been no uproar around this latest release proves that society is becoming desensitised to such things?
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Which games do you think are the most controversial? Write a comment in the space below