originally published March 12, 2012
Those who know me know that I am not easily shocked or offended. Perhaps this is because I’ve been desensitized by our permissive culture. Maybe it’s because I am more offensive than most anyone I know (I often tell jokes in which the punchline features the word ‘poop’, so yeah, it’s hard to get edgier than that). Maybe if I lived somewhere else.
Controversy in the world of video games isn’t new; I’m sure by the mid-70s someone was hard at work trying to make a version of Pong where the dot is shaped like a little dink. But a lot of governments around the world don’t want their citizens exposed to the filth and violence and boobies in video games.
Neither Canada nor the US has banned any games outright. We are free and democratic nations who don’t really care if our people are sinus-deep in pretend blood and gore. Just look at what passes for television programming in our part of the world. And we’re worried about a few video games? Forget it, our culture is already festering.
The English still feel they can be saved, however. But due to a legislative mistake back in 1984, there is really no legislation in place to truly ban a video game. They have an age rating system, but the catch is that if your game isn’t rated by that system, it’s illegal to sell, buy or rent it (but not to import or own it). Only three games have been faced with this situation: The Punisher (“high impact interrogation scenes”), Manhunt 2 (excessive violence) and Carmageddon (because it makes mowing down pedestrians so easy and sooooooo much fun).
In Venezuela the government announced in 2009 that it would ban all video games in which the objective was to shoot people. I suppose they figured that the excess of violence in the country should be attributed more to Duke Nukem than to Hugo Chavez’s corrupt government.
That makes Venezuela the first country in the world to completely ban violent video games. Gamers and critics around the world have called this a travesty, but reports are coming in that, since the ban took effect in March 2010, conditions in the nation have improved significantly.
Mexico has never outright banned any video games on a national level, however Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 was banned in the state of Chihuahua, not because of its tediously long title, but because the villains in the game are Mexican rebels, and the authorities believed that the game promoted a bad stereotype of the city of Chihuahua. The good people of Chihuahua will simply not tolerate anything that gives their city a bad name.
There is only one game listed as having been banned by Iran, though given their leaders’ stance against anything western, I’d be surprised if they stopped at banning Battlefield 3 simply because it involves a US invasion into Tehran. Video games need enemies though, and war-based video games (usually put out in the US first) would need some sort of international villain. Battlefield 3 was released a month and a half post-9/11, and while it was clearly completed before that national tragedy, it seems natural that the American enemy in such a game would come out of the mid-east.
Japan, who hasn’t been an actually enemy of the United States in decades, seldom ever bans video games; most of our games actually came from Japan, so the market there is understandably open. This is the country that gave us the utterly horrific game Rape Lay, in which you control a character who stalks and rapes a mother and her two daughters. They let that thing hit the streets, I don’t see what they could ban.
Except for one tiny detail. Fallout 3 features a weapon named Fat Man. Japan has had a bad experience with a weapon by that name, so for their version they renamed it the Nuka Launcher, which sounds more weapon-y anyway.
Malaysia is not the place to go if you want some edgy gaming. They ban most games with excess violence, sex, cruelty or anti-Muslim aspects.
China is also – and this may not surprise you – quite active in banning games they feel would corrupt their people. A few games, such as Command & Conquer: Generals and I.G.I 2 – Covert Strike were banned because they apparently paint China in a negative light, but they also nixed Hearts of Iron for portraying Tibet, Sinkiang and Manchuria as being under Japanese control. Also, Football Manager 2005 was banned (seriously) for acknowledging Tibet as an independent nation. They’re real dicks about that.
Speaking of sports, EA Sports MMA was banned in… Denmark? Yes, Denmark had a problem, not with the bloodshed or the homo-erotic grappling, but because of the in-game plugs for energy drinks. Energy drinks are not allowed to market in Denmark. Wow.
Saudi Arabia has, of course, a huge list of banned games. Some because of violence or a poor representation of Arabs, and some because of sex – though I’ll note that L.A. Noire was banned for nudity, though that nudity consists of a few deceased nude females. Not very sexy. But this is also the nation that completely outlawed all Pokemon cards because they are a form of gambling.
Singapore banned Mass Effect because of a lesbian scene between an alien and a human. Hot.
Germany has a list of banned games also, mostly due to violence, but also most games that have any reference to Nazis or Nazi symbols. This goes all the way back to 1992’s Wolfenstein 3D, a game which was brilliant at the time, but understandably not the image Germany would like its citizens to associate with their homeland.
Brazil’s list is quite lengthy, mostly because of violence and cruelty. However there was also a ban on The Cat In The Hat: The Game. Apparently this is due to a copyright violation, but really I think it was a common-sense reaction to a really bad movie.
Does banning a video game really reduce violence? Do we need to protect people from the images they might see in a context that is, by its very nature detached from reality? That’s a topic for another article, possibly one written by someone else. I’m done. A thousand words in the bank, and I’m off to order my black-market copy of Rape Lay off of eBay.
Not really. That isn’t controversial enough for me. I’m getting really down and dirty tonight with my bootlegged copy of Football Manager 2005. Woohoo!