Video games are clearly gaining mass popularity, and what used to be a hobby for few has now escalated into a mainstream occurrence for many people.
Like all forms of mass media, video games have been gaining plenty of controversy that seems to stem from almost anywhere. This current generation of consoles has spewed forth countless titles which have been hit with heavy threats, lawsuits, and huge media attention. Narrowing down the list to just 10 was difficult but all of these games struck raw nerves in people the world over.
Just as a reminder; all games are current-gen games and not the most controversial games ever created. We are just looking at what has been going on starting with the release of the Xbox 360 up until this very point.
10) Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
The Metal Gear Solid franchise is well known and loved – with its creator, Hideo Kojima, possibly being loved even more. So it came to no surprise the large amount of backlash that came when Hideo Kojima announced he would be stepping down from directing and allowing Shuyo Murata to take his place. The backlash that followed was both immediate and harsh, with Murata receiving many angry outbursts from fans that even extended to death threats.
In the end Kojima came back to co-direct alongside Murata, quickly ending the dispute. Let’s hope that the director of Rising doesn’t receive a similar treatment.
9) Mass Effect
There’s no denying that Mass Effect was a great game, and furthermore a great RPG experience. However when there’s something great, there’s always someone who has to spoil the party and be negative about it. Enter the New York Times which published an article wrongly depicting the scene.
Next up came Kevin McCullough, a conservative blogger who blogged false and exaggerated claims against Mass Effect including that you can sodomize whenever you wanted. A national news report on Fox later continued the false reports.
So what happened? Mass Effect was released and it turned out that the wild sexual encounter with many sodomizing partners was false. Some journalists took back their claims while others still hold them too this day. Mass Effect is the perfect example of people judging something before they actually have time to try it.
8) Resistance: Fall of Man
Imagine if you will: an intense fire-fight, dozens upon dozens of crawlers leaping towards you while your comrades are being picked off all around you. And suddenly your ambushed by Howler’s and Chimera – and then imagine that all this is taking place within an abandoned field hospital inside a destroyed cathedral that just so happens to be in Manchester.
Sounds pretty sweet right? Well it wasn’t a warm reception from the Manchester Cathedral. The Church claimed that Sony’s depiction of the desecration of the Cathedral was copyright infringement. Manchester is a city with a gun problem and they thought that the use of guns in and around the cathedral was irresponsible of Sony.
Sony’s rebuttal was simple, stating that the game was set in a fictional universe, and not in reality. Though the company later apologised and after sometime the once controversial topic faded. Fall of Man was one of the few controversies that didn’t last long but caught much attention.
7) Crysis 2
Oh Crytek. We all love your games. The first Crysis was a phenomenal game and a sequel couldn’t make us happier, but it managed to make a certain a certain demographic rather angry – that being almost anyone who owned a PlayStation 3.
Leading up to the launch of Crysis 2, Crytek was hyping it up as a Killzone killer in terms of graphics. Though IGN put up an article starting that the PlayStation 3 version of the game was inferior to it’s counterparts on other platforms. This was quickly spurred on by the release of the multiplayer beta, allowing players to get a taste of it themselves, though it wasn’t a positive reception.
Many comparison sites such as Lens of Truth showed that the PS3 version contained blurry textures, bad connection issues, and frame rates that would drop consistently. Crytek tried to soothe the flames in the worst way possible by calling out these sites rather than providing proof that the demo was an old build. On March 18, three days after the release, Crytek yanked the demo from PSN saying they needed to work on its connection issues. The whole game world blew up with this, but hey the game just released and it turns out Crytek were correct – both the PS3 and 360 versions are pretty much identical. Still though, this was a horrible way to handle such a crisis such as this.
6) Final Fantasy XIII
There isn’t anything controversial about the content in Final Fantasy XIII. It’s Square Enix’s poor handling of the game. The controversy is NOT the Xbox 360 version of the game, and is instead the company’s poor handling of the marketing.
It all started shortly before release when Square dropped the bombshell announcement that over 30 hours of content was cut from the game. Bashing ensued with PS3 owners criticizing 360 owners and Square Enix for stripping down the PS3 version. Events continued to unfold when they aired a commercial for Final Fantasy XIII in the United Kingdom that showed footage captured from the PS3 version but labelled it as for 360 only. After some intense backlash and comments from gamers the UK’s advertising authority banned the commercial.
Things later intensified beyond belief when the International Edition was released in Japan as a 360 exclusive despite Square’s statements that it would instead be a PS3 exclusive. Wada received immediate death threats and even harsher reactions then Shuyo Murata. Final Fantasy XIII is the perfect example of how to not market a game.
5) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
“No Russian,” was a massacre. Not only for the digital unarmed people that were being shot at, but also for the general public. After a leak (rather it was intentional or not remains to be seen) showing off the level, the world exploded – with the US, Russia, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom condemning the game’s scene.
Russia went as far as to remove the entire mission from all retail versions; while Japan and Germany had the game issue a “game over” screen should the player fire on a civilian. Though the topic soon hit new heights of controversy when the localization on the Japanese version changed Makarov’s line from “Remember, No Russian” to “Kill them; they are Russians.”
The American version of the game perhaps handled the game best by simply placing a disclaimer allowing the player to skip the mission if they so wished. It isn’t as bad as other games on this list, but Modern Warfare 2 caused much controversy that helped it sell more units then it probably would have without it.
4) Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto wouldn’t be Grand Theft Auto if each game didn’t come with a slew of controversies. And Rockstar sure did deliver the goods with Grand Theft Auto IV as numerous controversies arouse. Jack Thompson and Glenn Beck held multiple smear campaigns to ban the sale of the game to minors due to it “de-sensitizing” young minds to violence.
Though it wasn’t just the effect the game had on younger audiences – with New York officials seemily being displeased that Liberty City, the fictional city in which the game is set, bore so many resemblances to that of New York City.
Though heavily edited versions of the game were released in Australia and New Zealand, all other versions remained the same. This led to outcries from Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) as the game allowed the player to drive while intoxicated. Criminals blamed many of their crimes on the game therefore doubling the efforts of organizations to take down the game.
Despite all it had going against it, Grand Theft Auto sold like crazy and the controversial nature of the game simply helped to shift even more units – not that it wouldn’t have sold like hot cakes without it anyway.
3) Resident Evil 5
Oh Resident Evil 5 what have you done to provoke people? Well it seems that you touched some people’s nerves when the Caucasian lead kills many Africans.
The world blew up with many criticisms of racism levied at Capcom. Things became so widespread that Capcom did everything in its power to stave off. The first move they made was to add more diversity to the crowds by adding Caucasians, Hispanics, and Asians, but that was thrown away by later levels in villages which feature all African tribes in tribal gear and shouting at you in their native language.
The second attempt they made was to introduce Sheva, Chris’s Partner and also African. Did this appease the crowds? Nope. Her light skin tone only helped to create more controversy along with her thin African accent.
Various rating boards including the British Board of Film Classification later declared it as not racist, but that didn’t stop the allegations. Resident Evil 5 was controversial for racism and Capcom only managed to dig the hole deeper – at least the game still sold well.
2) Medal of Honor
The popular franchise that had been dormant for far too long finally saw a reboot in 2010. And rather than sticking to its World War II descent, developer Danger Close decided to bring everything into the modern.
Gone were Nazi’s, replaced by the Taliban. Good idea right? Not so much. The multiplayer was divided into the Americans and the Taliban – and this is where the controversy stemmed from. Army officials, politicians, and grieving family members attacked Medal of Honor for allowing players to kill American troops – and Canada and England even went as far to criticize EA’s choice of putting in the Taliban as a playable faction.
EA did respond with a reasonable statement saying that, “someone has to play the bad guy,” and compared the game to cops and robbers. This didn’t sit well with anyone and further allegations were thrown at EA.
It was later announced that the sale of Medal of Honor would be banned on the premise of all US Army bases (though soldiers would still be able to buy it off base). In the end EA caved in and changed the name of the Taliban to “Opposing Force”. The amount of controversy the game received maked it a strong contender for number one, but it was still allowed to hit the shelves worldwide and sold more than 5 million copies in the process – a benchmark which the next game didn’t quite reach.
1) Six Days in Fallujah
The granddaddy of all controversial games this generation falls on Six Days of Fallujah. The game was set to tell the tale of the brave soldiers who fought and died in the Fallujah battles. However, the public didn’t quite share the same thoughts as its developer.
And after some extremely harsh criticism, Konami backed out leaving the game without the publisher. Its developer, Atomic Games said they would still develop the game, and seek another means of publishing it. Even after over ¾ of the staff have been cut the game was reportedly done in May 2010 according to IGN. However since then it’s all gone quiet, effectively putting the game in a comatose state.
The huge amount of controversy surrounding this game caused it to lose its publisher, with many people losing their jobs, and could possibly stop the release of the game altogether. No other game’s controversy brought crippling effects other than free publicity, and this is why Six Days in Fallujah is the most controversial game of this generation.
When it comes down to it, is controversy always good for a game? When it comes to people losing their jobs, or chunks of a game being cut from its release in certain territories it’s clear that it doesn’t always work in a publisher, or developers favour. Should people perhaps be more open to new experiences and things they don’t understand or do games really have an effect on younger, more immature minds? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.