Jeremy enjoys gaming when not helping manage the college he graduated from.
Since the beginning of gaming, certain titles have been deemed inappropriate or insensitive. Titles as early as Custer's Revenge from 1982, for example, features a character who becomes intimate with a Native American woman, presumably against her will.
Can video games cover such material, or are they taboo in our society? Does it depend on the manner of the depiction? Some would say yes, some no, but regardless of what view you hold, today we'll explore six games that divided players for a myriad of reasons.
6. Pokémon GO
Controversial for: Real-world dangers.
Okay, we're gonna start off with a light-hearted title (trust me, we'll need it, considering what's coming). Pokémon GO allows players to search for and collect Pokémon by actually moving in real life, blurring the line between game and reality.
Pokémon has always garnered controversy from certain religious fanatics; but most people, religious or not, find the series a bright, child-appropriate romp full of cheerful creatures and positive messages.
Pokémon Go certainly carries that same joyful tone, but amasses extra controversy for a few reasons. First, many fans don't find the gameplay as strong as other games in the series, limiting the defenders of the game.
More than that, we've all heard the stories about the perils of the game: inattentive players falling off cliffs, walking onto train tracks, and getting robbed. Parents have even abandoned their children to play the game. Some businesses have been asked to be removed from the game entirely, and Congress itself has pondered how, and if, the game should be regulated.
Pokémon Go's triumphant peak of summer 2016 declines further and further each day, but for those still playing, make sure you do so safely.
5. Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball
Controversial for: The sexualization of women.
For the uninitiated, the Dead or Alive game series features scantily-clad women (and a few dudes) duking it out in various arenas across the globe. From the get-go, some players bemoaned the sexualized depiction of women. Whether you agree or not, at least the DoA entries were solid fighting titles whose enjoyable gameplay could help silence the offended, and many of the promiscuous outfits were merely optional.
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Enter Dead or Alive Xtreme (yes, they spell it like that) Beach Volleyball. You'll still see characters like Kasumi and Ayane competing . . . in sports. At the beach. Is the gameplay bad? No, in fact, the game scored fairly well among critics. But there's just no arguing the sexualization of the girls. Oh, and this isn't just a stand-alone DoA title, it's become its own series now.
Heck, you guys don't want to know how long I had to search to find a picture of the game appropriate for this site. If you think I'm exaggerating, check out the intro to the sequel for yourself (NSFW, obviously).
4. Grand Theft Auto (Series)
Released: 1997 (original game)
Controversial for: Violence, language, racism, sexual content. The whole shebang.
You've heard of the popular Grand Theft Auto games, where players do, well, whatever they feel like. Steal, shoot, visit strip clubs, get attacked by a great white—the list goes on and on. Of course, dealing with such topics has always garnered controversy.
Fans of GTA V likely remember their introduction to unhinged main character Trevor, who shamelessly takes advantage of another man's girlfriend. Later, Trevor (spoiler) tortures another character through various methods, including waterboarding and removing their teeth.
But the most controversial moment arose in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where a mini-game called "Hot Coffee" was scrapped from the game. Hot Coffee would have allowed players to participate in intercourse with their girlfriend. This would forgo implications and subtleties; players would have nothing left to their imagination when doing so. Of course, this upset many, and the content was removed; however, the programming still exists within the game's code, and hackers have modded it back in.
Love it or hate it, GTA, as a series, shows no signs of slowing down. It will no doubt release more risque material in the future.
3. Manhunt 2
Controversial for: Extreme violence and the "AO" rating.
Arguably the most violent video game ever made, Manhunt 2 managed to receive fairly positive reviews for its gameplay. However, it also received attention for its ruthless depictions of violence, so much so that it's one of the very few games to receive the "AO" (adults only) rating.
Since games that receive "AO" typically undersell, developer Rockstar censored some parts of the game and resubmitted it, this time receiving the tamer "M" (mature) rating. Even so, many were upset by the rating change; even our politicians became interested. Then-Senator Hillary Clinton actually wrote a letter requesting the rating be reversed back to AO. Rockstar refused, and still today people debate Manhunt 2's appropriateness in our society.
2. Super Columbine Massacre RPG!
Controversial for: Playing as the killers of the Columbine Massacre.
Most of us know of the tragedy at Columbine, but for those who don't, it was a mass shooting instigated by two male students at Columbine High in April, 1999. The two shooters ultimately took their own lives, but not before slaughtering a dozen people and wounding many more.
Super Columbine Massacre RPG! not only tackles the tragedy, but does so with the player controlling the shooters. This means that in the game, you are the one doing the killing. It's a fairly short title that can be finished in a few hours, but many consider it vulgar and disrespectful to the victims of Columbine. Some defend it as an honest look at the brutality of shootings, an avant-garde, no-punches held video game, while many others shun it as trivializing the lives of the innocent.
School shootings remain a very real problem today, especially in America. Hopefully, we can better arm and prepare ourselves for future crises. I'd rather discuss and improve our system than ignore the tragedies in front of us, but it's hard to defend a game about Columbine that puts "super" and an exclamation mark in its title. Can you imagine the outrage if someone made a game called "Super 9-11 RPG!"?
Controversial For: Playing as a man who rapes three women.
Though not the most well-known game on today's list, RapeLay has certainly rubbed many the wrong way. Developed by a company called Illusion and released in Japan, RapeLay's main character stalks and rapes three women; a mother and her two daughters (one of whom is underage), to be precise. Honestly, I can't tell you much else about the game, because I don't particularly want to play it.
I will at least say that (spoiler alert for the 1% of you who plan to play this) the protagonist gets his just desserts in the end. Even so, I'm not interested in this title and I doubt you are, either. Video games can be wondrous experiences that blend storytelling, art, and music with interactivity—but please be an informed and cautious consumer.
The Future of Gaming
There you have it; six divisive games. Like any media (movies, television, and books), games sometimes explore sensitive subjects. I applaud developers for covering matters that need to be talked about, but at the same time, there are good and bad ways to do so. We should cautiously and respectfully proceed when tackling such issues.
Feel free to vote and share your opinion in the poll or the comments, and I hope to see you at our next countdown!
© 2016 Jeremy Gill
hitmonsam on June 02, 2017:
Super Columbine is an insane concept. Dang, just imagine how people would have reacted if the graphics were realistic instead of cartoony.