Any notion that we don’t live in an overly litigious age went out the car-door window when that Albuquerque granny spilled McDonald’s coffee all over her aging pubic mound in 1994 and thought, “Gee, I think I have hundreds of thousands of dollars coming to me… also, ow, my pubic mound.” We love to get pissed off about the trivial and ideally grab headlines in the process.
Nowhere is this more evident, perhaps, than in the world of videogaming. Over the years there have been plenty of games boycotted and whined about for somewhat legitimate reasons like excessive and wanton sexuality and running really fast with really really sharp scissors. But these aren’t those games. These are games that were boycotted and bitched about for the dumbest, goofiest reasons anyone could imagine.
You mighta been in short pants or just an gleam in your daddy’s eyes when this game came out, but trust me: This 1973 arcade game basically pioneered the notion of electronic entertainment being offensive. But even for the times, why it stirred up so much poo-poo was laughable. You know how immature gamers snicker over joysticks looking like erect phalluses? Well, some very imaginative and no doubt sex-starved players thought the controls, pink rubber bulges were “meant to represent breasts.” These people are morons; those bulges obviously look just like a tasty pair of balls. Even though another version of the cabinet came out with standard black joysticks, the game was received poorly by its public and ultimately hasn’t been drudged up again until this blurb. And now… it’ll never be spoken of again.
11) Mortal Kombat
Before we all got desensitized to games that allowed us to curb stomp suckers and torch abortion clinics with tampon bombs, the depiction of violence and murder in Midway’s was a huge, huge deal. In ’92, there was no ratings system for games, and actually, this was the game that caused Congress hearings that ultimately yielded the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Even though Ed Boon later said he thought Mortal Kombat‘s outraged critics had a point — “I wouldn’t want my 10-year-old playing a game like that” — still, it was a big nothing. Violence in games was nothing new; pretty much every other arcade game was about shooting as many people in the face as you could. What people should’ve been offended by was the excessive use of palette swapping to make “new” characters.
The very obviously kid-friendly DS game lets players punch in any word they can imagine and it’ll pop up on the system’s pair of screens. But, someone, somewhere, probably a racist player, wanted to see what’d happen if they typed in “sambo.” It’s the only slur in the 2009 game that produces anything, and that word makes what appears to be a watermelon. Some game blogs picked up on it — Fox News didn’t touch it — and publisher Warner Bros. responded that “the word was included as a reference to a Spanish term for a fig leafed gourd.” Leave it to all those uneducated racist DS owners not to know the difference between a gourd and a watermelon, and then cause a stink about it. Also, there’s a difference between a digital fruit and Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories. Right?
9) Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto has always been something of a joke in the sense that its overt attempts to be mature make it come off as more immature than anything else. Regardless, if you plunk down cash for GTA, you know what you’re in store for: subtle satirical social commentary, a great soundtrack, and employing and then running over prostitutes. So, when the whole “hot coffee” mod scandal erupted, it was pretty embarrassing. Not only do you have to mod the game to even access it, but the offending sex act itself is pretty tame: it’s consensual and both participants are fully clothed. You can’t even learn how to have sex from it. More graphic content is aired to younger kids in sex education, and you don’t even need to download a patch to access Where Did I Come From?, which is far more pornographic and has connect-the-dots instructions on how to have sex.
The PlayStation 3 puzzle-platformer so saccharine it might as well have been coded with cotton candy and Skittles, the game was pre-emptively delayed just before its release but after it was in retail stores because the background music in the Swinging Safari level had “two expressions that can be found in the Qur’an.” The offending phrases were, reportedly, “all that is on earth will perish” and “every soul shall have the taste of death.” Bleak, sure, but they’re not exactly “kill the infidels”or anything — plus the song, sung by a devout Muslim, had been freely available on iTunes since 2006. Why background music is so much more offensive than say killing hookers in GTA is anyone’s guess.
7) Left Behind: Eternal Forces
Yup, even goody-goody Christian video games can offend milquetoast players. This 2006 RTS, based on the evangelical novels, allowed folks to take control of the Tribulation Force, who must convert neutral and government-allied civilians — sometimes using lethal force. Some reviewers who clearly have never heard of The Crusades found it upsetting that killing those who don’t believe in Christianity was even an option. Activist and disbarred attorney Jack Thompson, who is often outspoken against videogames, told the Washington Post that “the game is about killing people for their lack of faith in Jesus… The Gospel is not about killing people in the name of the Lord, and Jesus made that very clear.” (The game’s developer made fruitless legal threats against sites posting “misleading” reviews touching on this.) How about you crack a couple of history books, here, gumshoe, because one man’s devout is another’s terrorist. And that’s nothing new at all.
6) Mind Quiz
The DS pops up again here, once again for cultural insensitivity. Similar to Brain Age, Mind Quiz was intended to improve people’s brain sizes (make it bigger, smaller, whatever you desire), but mainly it activated the rage centers of a UK woman known only as Nicola because it called her a “spastic” after failing one of the game’s tests. Across the pond, “spastic” is considered an offensive way of referring to people who have cerebral palsy. She phoned into a BBC radio program to complain — she was playing it in the hospital after giving birth to her second son in 2007 — and Ubisoft reacted swiftly by recalling the game (Mario Party 8 ran into similar problems over the same word years later).
5) The Sims 2
(WARNING: This video is NSFW and incredibly sad.) Similar to the “hot coffee” mod, The Sims 2 was criticized for the same exact reason: Its players modified the game to unlock content that offended people too lazy to even do all that hard work and unable to haphazardly Google “boobs.” In this case, it was the boxes that blurred out the Sims’ naughty bits whenever they’d be gallivanting about nude when not needing to go to the bathroom or seek fulfillment from their careers. Thompson — told you he’d pop back up — wrote a nasty public letter to EA that admonished the company for doing “absolutely nothing to crack down on this apparent infringement.” Which is, really, akin to tracking down Scott Adams and shrieking at him because some sad individual was lonely enough to write Dilbert hentai.
4) Baby Pals
Remember how we left Britain to evade religious persecution? We’ve come so far now: A mother bought her this 2007 DS game for her daughter as a reward for great grades, but alerted the media as soon as she swears she heard one of the game’s toddlers coo “Islam is the light.” Really, it’s just nonsensical baby-talk gibberish, but the mom took the game away from her daughter. It’s worth noting that the woman also heard the exact same pro-Islam message from one of her daughter’s dolls, the terrifying Cuddle n’ Coo. Thank goodness this woman is so attuned to discovering the hidden subliminal threats in toddler toys and entertainment that everyone else in the world has seemingly missed.
3) Mass Effect
The sci-fi trilogy’s first entry has an optional romantic subplot where, if you’re really horny, you’ll be disappointed because all you’ll see, maybe, is a blue side-boob and tons of fast-cuts that obscure any nudity whatsoever (the New York Times described the offending content as “no more risqu?… than evening network television”). But that didn’t stop evangelical blogger Kevin McCullough or Fox News from saying the game contained “rape and sodomy” and “full graphic sex.” Where was all this alien-breast outrage when Total Recall came out?
2) We Dare
It’s surprising how often Nintendo pops up on this list, but the silliest instance of the company causing a big shock is with this game, which was released only in sexually progressive Europe. But even over there, this couples-oriented mini-game collection sparked a controversy. Some of the diversions involve shoving the Wii-Remote down your pants, nibbling on the Wii-Remote seductively, or just spanking your partner with the Wii-Remote. Anyway, it was rated PEGI 12 overseas, which means it’s suitable for kids ages 12 and older. This upset many parents overseas, who want kids to wait until they’re at least 13 before getting and getting to third base.