Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Most Controversial Games Ever Made

          After some time away, dealing with some personal issues and finally figuring out what I want to do in my life to be happy, I've decided that it is the time to come back to my blog. Starting today it will be updated on a weekly basis featuring many top game, movie, book, and nerd subjects that I'm sure you will enjoy.

          For my first re-issue I want to talk a bit about the most controversial games ever made and their impact on the industry, our society as well as myself as a gamer.

5. Custers Revenge (Atari 2600, Mystique, 1982)

          One of the very first and most controversial games ever, Custer's Revenge deserves a fate worse than the hell the E.T. (Atari 2600, Atari, 1982) game went to after it was buried in the desert. As a game with almost nothing going for it except its controversy, it really feels like a grain of sand that you just can't get out of your eye. It has no redeeming “gameplay”, other than moving from one side
of the screen to the other, dodging arrows to get your “prize”, the 8-bit rape of a native American girl. I struggle to fathom who green-lit this and said... hey someone will probably buy it? Maybe? Just like the recent craptacular Hatred (Windows, Destructive Creations, 2015)(the angry white guy shooter on TV game) learned that you cannot sell garbage on controversy alone, Custers Revenge did so poorly I'm not sure if anyone still remembers it. Oh yeah. It's because it's such a terrible affront to gaming that it was partially responsible for the gaming crash of 1983. E.T. and a lack of integrity on the part of gaming companies are also to blame. At least it only sold 80,000 copies, but only because of the controversy and media coverage surrounding it. That's only slightly less disturbing than selling 100,000. Eventually it was pulled off the shelves and relegated to top lists of the worst things ever made, hopefully soon forgotten.

Censored for your protection.

4. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (PS3, X360, PC, Infinity Ward, 2009)

Unlike the first entry on this list, COD: MW2 is only controversial for 1 level called “No Russian”. It's controversial content, the killing spree of an entire airport filled with civilians, was simply used to sell copies and to stand out from the previous entries in the franchise. It is understandable that Russia would need a strong reason to start WW3 in the game, but for someone who is Russian this is quite a disturbing scene. I could not bring myself to shoot the civilians at all, even knowing I was just playing a game. On the other hand, COD did handle their controversy in the smart way, letting you skip the level and having no repercussions for not shooting anyone in it. While the level was removed from the Russian version of the game, it still caused a wide division of opinion about the game. Some argued for it as an important part of the story, while others like me think it is simply a ploy for more money. Thanks to this more discussions were established throughout the gaming industry and various publications. Years later most people have forgotten about the controversial level, but no other COD after it had a level as intensely disturbing. Hopefully the series won't need it to succeed again (or to advance a dull plot).
That subtitle is definitely not Russian.

3. Mortal Kombat (Arcade, Midway Games, 1992)

          The original most violent and controversial game that birthed the ESRB, without which this list would not be complete. Without Mortal Kombat and (ugh!) Custers Revenge we would not have a rating system at all. Gaming would've instead been regulated by the government, which would probably entail so much bureaucracy that each developer will have to be renamed Blizzard. As one of the first games to use filmed footage of real actors, it was touted as ultra-realistic and set the nation ablaze in debate. It also unfortunately set the precedent for every violent news event being blamed on video-games. Featuring a “great” combo system that has the the same move for every character except for the specials, its gameplay after 23 years has aged like the fine burger I left in the back of my car last summer. Growing up in Russia, it was the game everyone wanted to play, but could not afford. Damn you Sega, why couldn't you be cheaper?!? Your one friend owning it meant he was the most popular kid in school. Later games in the series unfortunately had to relent to pressure from parental groups and included friendships and babalities. Or it was just sarcasm... I think it was sarcasm. Nothing in the MK games ever made me mad or angry or increased my violent tendencies. It was just a lot of fun with my mates... till we tried beating Shao Kahn. Now there is a level that could cause some violence. “Just kidding” (In Xianguas voice). Still causing controversy today, Mortal Kombat will probably go on to shower us in pixelated blood like it always has... red, black and green depending on character selection.
She has no health, she's already gone.

2. Manhunt (PS2, Xbox, PSN, Rockstar, 2003)

             An entry from the reigning kings of controversy, Manhunt was hunted down by conservatives and then snuffed out.. I mean banned in several countries around the globe. Due to its graphic nature it is understandable that not everyone would enjoy the subject matter. It even caused some friction in Rockstar itself. Regarded as a murder simulator, it put you in the shoes of James Earl Cash, who was kidnapped from his execution and forced to do the bidding of the “director”. Which mostly involve you stealthily killing baddies in the most brutally violent way possible, while being watched by CCTV cameras. The biggest cause of controversy after it was released was the murder of Stefan Pakeerah. His friend Warren was obsessed with the game. The media attempted to lay the blame on games once again even though the game was advertised as an Adults Only game by Rockstar as it should have been. The police even denied any link between the game and the crime, as a copy of it had been found in Stefans room, not Warrens. Warren also had a drug debt that he wanted to rob Stefan for. The tabloids of course didn't like to focus on that. While his death was tragic, we must logically look at all the facts instead of blaming one thing. The murderer clearly had issues with drugs and, no matter what people say, no game could ever make me want to kill someone. While the horrific violence and the tense nihilistic atmosphere that permeates the game is sometimes overwhelming, I think that is the point. It aims to show that the protagonist is forced to do these things against his will, just like you the player are. Regarded by some as a work of art in both gameplay and its tone, it is an analytical look at our obsession with TV violence and the role surveillance plays in our world and lives. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Manhunt, once again not being influenced by the game even though I was young (even as simple teenager, I knew what was real or not). As we play I hope we can all take a look around us and gain some new insight and appreciation for the world we inhabit.
It's strawberry jelly I swear.

1. GTA Series (Various Systems, Rockstar, 1997-Present)

           The Grand Theft Auto series has been shrouded in and dripping with controversy since almost the first game came out, back in 1997. Rockstar, then DMA Design, hired the famous publicist Max Clifford to make it all happen. Clifford, like many publicists or anyone with a bit of common sense knew that any publicity is good publicity. As evidenced by Mortal Kombat and many games since, the media can build hype & advertising dwarfing any budget. Thankfully this did not influence actual gameplay or levels, unlike a certain level in one of the earlier entries.
Starting with GTA3 (PS2, Windows, 2001) Australia banned the game, later releasing a censored version. While the violence was more real with this 3D sequel (including those poor murdered prostitutes, who would stay murdered), it is never forced on you. Those killing sprees we almost all participated in simply let us vent and do things that we simply cannot and should never do in real life. It in no way, shape, or form influenced me to be more violent. If someone already has those tendencies or is unstable, playing a game won't exacerbate them. People simply love using games as an easy scapegoat to avoid facing the blame or the consequences (including jail-time) of their own actions. This is evident in the many court cases that attempted to cite GTA games as the cause for the crime. Most tried to focus on shifting the blame, instead of focusing on the real causes of like mental health, access to firearms, or bullying.
Ambient occlusion to take your mind off the uzis.

        At this point Rockstar was probably used to their infamy and the headaches it brought. To change things up, the next controversy was caused by gamers themselves. Thanks to Patrick Wildenborg and the console 'hacker' Jay “FNG” the ”Hot Coffee” mod was released for all in GTA: San Andreas (PS2, 2004). This brought out cut and unseen sex scenes that unfortunately for Rockstar were still on the disc. This caused the rating to be revised and the game to be pulled from the shelves until a censored version was released. You could even swap your copy or get a $35 cash payment. Now that is what (really expensive) responsibility looks like.
Next on the chopping block, GTA IV (PS3, Xbox360, 2008) ushered in an era of lawsuits for Rockstar, most of which were either dropped or thrown out of court thanks to free speech. Free speech is a vital part of our life, culture, and video-games, like art and movies, deserve the same protections. These results set the precedent for the newest entry in the franchise.
        These newest lawsuits were all from has been celebrities who simply wanted some of that sweet, sweet cash. With accusations of sexism in the air, I think a lot of people misunderstood GTAV (PS3, Xbox360, Windows, 2013). Women were not the only stereotype in the game. GTAV made fun of almost every stereotype you can think of. Sadly, Australia and Target did not share my opinion and pulled the game off their shelves in 2014. With a history like that you can see why GTA took the top spot.
Guantanamo is taking notes from Rockstar.
          Infamy and controversy may have played a part in how the series began, but thanks to a talented team it did not stay focused on it. The early entries, starting with GTA3, began an analytical mimicry of our pop culture and history. Each entry drew from many famous movies, while providing their own twists and what-if moments. Vice City (PS2, 2002) put us in a Scarface-inspired world and showed us that, in the end, violence simply begets more violence with a betrayal of epic proportions. It also changed how people looked at voice acting in games by hiring the likes of Ray Liotta. Regarded as one of the best in the series, San Andreas focused on the lack of African-Americans in gaming and media. It also put a spotlight on police corruption, gang violence, and the plight of the poor. The newest entry, GTAV expanded its scope and satirized our current celebrity-obsessed, money-hungry, and media-heavy culture. Nothing was taboo, not gamers or water boarding or government corruption. A lot of people think that these games are glorifying violence & crime. Putting the worst issues in the spotlight is the best way for us to raise awareness. Only after we acknowledge our faults can we start paving the road to make positive changes. GTAV also showed us that nothing can truly changes someone who is a psychopath. Deep down all 3 protagonists are violent thieves and criminals. They try to dress it up, but just like the people in court who have tried to blame their crimes on violent games, at the core they are the instrument of their own demise. Hopefully Rockstar will never stop leading the industry in tackling controversial subjects. Oh! and please, no matter what, don't forget my chainsaw this time, or I swear I'll.... uhhh I'll run someone over when I log back into GTA Online.

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