Tuning into any news source is generally a great way to find out the daily "worst thing on Earth." Of course, the past several decades, gaming has seen its fair share of the limelight in terms of being scapegoated for all of the world's problems.
Even though video gaming has been a part of the entertainment world for well over thirty years, there are many people out there who still find reasons to hate games. Many people just don't get any entertainment out of games, don't get the draw of the genre of entertainment products overall, and therefore dislike them, but plenty of people just consider video games to be evil in and of themselves.
Like any other genre within the realm of popular entertainment (including fiction literature, television and film, and music), the critics sometimes do have a point, but more often than not, they are searching for a villain and are able to find on in a new, convenient and controversial media outlet. It isn't always on the news. Sometimes gaming is a topic for discussion in parliamentary hearings, at parent-teacher conferences, and around dinner tables. For the most part, those forming the attacks against the gaming industry don't play them and are parroting other self-appointed experts. Here are fifteen notorious gaming scandals and controversies that have been completely blown out of proportion.
15 No Russian
If you're a half-enthusiastic and dedicated gamer, you'll recognize this as one of the most noticeable and notorious levels in the history of the Call of Duty franchise. During this Modern Warfare 2 level, you played as Private Joseph Allen, who was recruited by the CIA to infiltrate a Russian terror cell. In the mission, you are involved in a massacre at a civilian airport. The mission is brutal, absolutely, but there are a number of reasons for which nobody should have been shocked by this, and the media should never have even paid the slightest of attention.
To start off: this is a video game, none of the people are real, and of course, you're playing as a villain at this point. It was essential to the plot of the game. Additionally, there is no requirement for the player to kill a single civilian. You can walk, while your "teammates" do all the killing. Finally, there were numerous warnings before this mission started. Infinity Ward and Activision went out of their way to keep this mission from offending people, and still, hissy-fits were thrown.
14 South Park: The Stick Of Truth - Guilty Of Being...South Park
Sometimes, people with a lot of time on their hands and a penchant for complaining are unable to put two and two together. In this case, that "two and two" was the vulgar, intentionally offensive, and often brilliant, animated show South Park making a video game and making a hilarious, edgy one at that. Anyone who thought that The Stick of Truth would be anything short of racist, sexist, offensive, disgusting, and vulgar needs to have their head examined.
Among the banned scenes were abortion-related content, a scene featuring an alien anal probe (classic South Park throwback to the early seasons) along with some Nazi symbols and, of course, Nazi zombies. We aren't alone in hoping that The Fractured But Whole is far more obscene...if it ever gets released, that is.
13 Wolfenstein 3D - War Imagery
The controversy that surrounded the release of Wolfenstein 3D is a brilliant example of what happens when someone sees one detail about a game and then draws conclusions without doing any digging whatsoever. The playable character is a spy during World War II, who carries out numerous missions against the Nazis while behind enemy lines in Europe. It sounds pretty normal, doesn't it?
Well, because you're playing in Nazi-occupied Europe, and in many cases, have to infiltrate Nazi complexes and bases, there is Nazi paraphernalia all over the walls, and there were some in the media that claimed the game would glorify National Socialism. But let us repeat: the goal of the game is to work for the Allies and kill Nazis. What person playing this game was going to think "wow, I just massacred a castle of Nazis, I should join that team in real life?"
12 Ladies Of The Night In GTA
The inclusion of prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto goes back to its first 3D installment, and the controversy surrounding these magical NPCs still pops up every time a new game comes out. According to some, the games encourage players to pick up, have sex with, and then kill hookers in order to get one's money back. Anyone who has ever played the game can tell you that there is no encouragement going on anywhere, and that the game allows you, if you want, to kill just about anyone in sight whenever you want. Far too often, those who write about this topic make it sound like there are neon signs and ominous voices shouting that the player to waste the girl after they do the deed.
11 Romance In Mass Effect
It was going to happen eventually: a video game was going to show a sex scene. It is a part of life after all, and if you want your game to represent life, you may eventually have to show two characters getting down and dirty for the horizontal mambo. While Mass Effect was by no means the first game to feature implied or overt "sexy time" scenes, but BioWare did eat a lot of criticism back in early 2008, a couple of months after release.
In short, Fox News ran a segment that basically implied that the first game in the series, which had been out for a couple of months at the time, featured a great deal of explicit sexual content. For those who don't remember that game, there was one, and it showed nothing particularly exciting or important. In the wake of the atrociously inaccurate report, Fox issued a retraction and one of their "experts" clarified her words. Good ol' Fox News trying to rile up their audience.
10 Hatred, Manhunt, Postal, And Similar "Shock" Games
What do all of the above games have in common? They are all incredibly violent, and all caused the media (and in some cases, political folks) to get their collective panties in a twist. Postal and its sequel were criticized for over the top violence, and that sequel was most definitely the more heinous of the two. The game's tagline was "Remember: it's only as violent as your are," indicating that you could pass levels without causing mayhem. Still, however, the game was heavily criticized for violence, racism and disgusting themes (pissing on people being one of them).
Manhunt and it's sequel received similar scrutiny and were banned in a few countries, given the graphic depiction of brutal murder. Most recently, Hatred allowed gamers to take control of a nameless maniac with intent to murder everyone in his path and hopefully die with them. It caused a massive whirlwind of negative press, and was a pretty disgusting experience, although the shock wears off after about the fifth person you ice while they beg for mercy.
9 Hot Coffee
We already mentioned how stupid it was that people got (and still do get) bent out of shape over scenes of people fooling around in games, but we thought the infamous Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas "hot coffee" mod deserved its own place on our list. The mod, which basically unlocked part of the gaming code, showed a fairly graphic sex scene between the main character CJ, and any one of the six women he can date throughout the game.
Politicians got involved, (including Hillary Clinton) waving fingers and shaking fists, and the game ultimately had to be re-rated to "Adults Only." There were lawsuits, legislation introduced, and while some may say this controversy almost "sunk" Rockstar, they're exaggerating. It was hilarious really, that a game that features killing cops, mass murder (if you wish), drug use, and, of course, driving stolen cars at fast speeds, produced such uproar over a poorly executed consensual sex scene.
Much of what we said here can also be said of the topless characters mod for The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion.
8 LGBTQ Characters
Many people might think that recent games such as the second and third Mass Effect games are the first to include LGBTQ characters, but the inclusion of gay and transgender characters actually dates back to the late 1980s. Of course, back then video gaming was far more of a niche market and with gaming having become mainstream, the inclusion of members of these communities in games has brought some controversy. Other parts of the world including Singapore and the United Arab Emirates banned the Mass Effect trilogy for portraying homosexual relationships. Similarly, some traditional-thinking groups in North America argued that allowing such content into video games was a form of pressing an agenda. Many other games and developers have taken heat for similar characters and themes. No matter what the cause, the controversy was pointless.
What it really comes down to is trying to make video games like real life. Whether you're working at a grocery store, or a spaceship on a mission to save the world, you might meet some people who look like men but identify as women, and you'll likely meet some people who like their own gender. It's just the way society has gone and video games have followed suit.
One of the criticisms that almost any non-gamer parent will often bludgeon their kids with is the idea that video games lead to obesity. Even as adults from time to time, we'll see a detailed description of how "X" percentage of gamers are obese or some other manufactured stat meant to demonize the pastime. This goes without saying, and no matter what your pastime is, if it becomes all you do, your quality of life will be terrible.
When people mention obesity in children, who may not know better than to sit in front of the screen all day, that responsibility lies with their parents. But when those parents (who are too busy with reality TV and prepackaged dinners) see that little Johnny has ballooned up to 200 lbs at age eight, it is far easier for them to blame "the damn games" than their own catastrophically defective parenting techniques.
6 Pokémon Go: So Many Stupid Controversies
There have been a few ludicrous theories about this iconic series over the past couple of decades (yes Pokémon was born over twenty years ago, feel old yet?) so we'll stick to some of the most interesting, with a couple of notes about Pokémon Go. The first of the hilarious controversies is that the series promotes Satanism. We have no comment about this. If anything, it promotes pet ownership (but training them to fight in real life is wrong).
With regard to the mobile game, however, there were concerns that the geolocation and augmented reality mechanics within the game were being used to rob and otherwise victimize players. Furthermore, there was some criticism of the game after it was suggested that players were trespassing in order to "catch 'em all."
We kind of covered part of this "controversy" earlier when we discussed obesity, but the potential for a lack of fitness among gamers is not the only unfortunate downside of "gaming addiction." Like alcohol or drugs (sex, gambling, whatever), it is possible to get "addicted" to gaming. Obviously, the specifics are slightly different when comparing something like alcohol and gaming, but the end result can be the same. Realistically, anything that is fun and makes you temporarily forget your problems has some potential for addiction.
Much like the alcohol, tobacco, and gambling industries often get blamed for people's addictions. Like we said in the entry about obesity: self-control is up to each individual. Do not blame Bethesda or Skyrim for being too immersive and taking over someone's life.
2006's Bully has always lived in the shadow of the larger and more renowned Rockstar games, but we consider it wildly underrated. The game puts the player into the shoes of Jimmy, a troubled young man who is placed in a school that is, you guessed it, infested with a bullying problem.
Over the course of the game, Jimmy and a couple of friends have to make their way in the school, confronting the bullies, nerds, preppy kids and of course, the jocks. There are some weapons in the game, but most of them are silly and childish, such as a bag of dog turds and a carton of eggs (among many more). Prior to release, the game was the subject of a great deal of backlash, particularly by Jack Thompson, an anti-fun activist who compared the game to a "Columbine simulator." Anyone who played the game knows you start out as a bullied, unpopular kid, and you essentially take each sect of bullies in the school down a notch.
3 Mass Shooting Influence?
Nearly every time something horrible happens, the talking heads in government and media will discuss desensitization, and other issues they want to attribute to video gaming, while ignoring the more closely tied problems such as inadequate access to mental health care, family problems, and a lack of respect for human life. With regard to video games and mass shootings, they are a very convenient target for criticism, rather than discussing the legitimate and true sources of the kind of discontent and hatred that lead to these events.
Of course, when politicians get involved in this debate, it is interesting to watch them squirm when someone mentions how many people the United States government (and any other government at war for that matter) kills actual people per day. They usually change the subject as fast as they can. Do as we say, not as we do, right?
2 Representation Of Women
There are a couple of reasons developers have been criticized with respect for women in games. The first of these is that parents don't want their kids to see near-nudity in video games. The simple answer to this problem, wait for it, is to take that game away if it is in your home.
The other reason games such as the Tomb Raider series, the Dead or Alive games and well, frankly too many to name, have met controversy is that they used female characters primarily for sex appeal, rather than portraying them in a positive light. This is gradually becoming a reality of the past, as more and more strong, complex and "positive" female characters make their way into games.
1 GTA V's Torture Scene
The infamous torture scene in 2013's Grand Theft Auto V was unpleasant, but it did offer something to the plot of the game. What it offered was some advancement of the plot overall, along with some insight into the mindset of a couple of the bad guys, and some character development for one of the three protagonists: Trevor.
Yes, like we said, the scene was unpleasant, and it was even a little shocking. Still, when all is said and done, if you paid a fraction of a second worth of attention to Trevor's dialogue while driving Mr. K to the airport, you know the scene was in the game to demonstrate how stupid torture is as a method of gaining information. Trevor actually says that, almost word for word: telling his victim that the torture wasn't even carried out to get information but to satisfy those committing the disgusting acts. The entire scene wasn't supposed to be enjoyable, it was supposed to show how counteractive and downright bogus torture is in the real world, with a GTA twist.