Video game controversy

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Video games are often a controversial subject, particularly where children are concerned. Graphic depictions of sex, violence and/or occult themes in popular games are often cited by conservative and liberal groups alike (especially anti-gun and anti-violence groups) as contributing to children engaging in premarital sex or committing horrific acts of violence.


Some argue that Columbine High School mass-murderers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were driven to violence partially because they were fans of violent video games such as Doom and Duke Nukem 3D.[1] Others disagree, pointing out that the only verifiable evidence of this is that the two happened to be fans of the games in question, and arguing that, while video game usage has been increasing in recent years,[2] a similar trend does not appear in violence statistics.[3] Cho Seung Hui, the man responsible for the Virginia Tech shootings, was reported to have played games such as CounterStrike on his computer prior to the shooting, as well, but this was later clarified as being that he was seen occasionally playing the game at a cyber-cafe, whilst he was in high school, and it is not known whether he played the game during the three and a half years he had been at college.[4] In addition, this link was actually first made just hours after the events at Virginia Tech by Jack Thompson in a Fox News broadcast despite the fact that, at the time of the broadcast, it was not even known who had carried out the shootings,[5] and claimed that 'Cho was an obsessive player of the game Counter-Strike', in a later broadcast after his identity became known,[6] despite the fact the original Washington Post article only describes him as a 'fan' of Counter-Strike.[7]

Grand Theft Auto

In June 2005, an independent modder created a hack for the PC version of the popular 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' game. This unlocked a normally inaccessible mini-game of two of the characters having virtual sex in the game as a side-part of the gameplay. This did not actually feature any nudity, at first, but a mod, based on the original hack, replaced the bitmaps of the characters with flesh tones. The mod, named 'Hot Coffee', soon spread throughout the internet and the console versions using 'game enhancing' tools separate from the game.

'Hot Coffee' soon spread through the internet, and came to the attention of critics. Those who were critical of the game soon attacked Rockstar Games (The developers) the ESRB, responsible for rating game content for the inclusion of the mini-game into the main game's code, even though it could not be accessed without subverting the original programming.

At the height of the scandal, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jack Thompson worked to ban GTA: San Andreas, as well as many other games, such as Killer 7 and Bully, going as far as starting investigations upon the ESRB and Rockstar Games. Rockstar Games soon stopped sales of the original GTA:SA, removing the original 'Hot Coffee' coding from the game build, then re-released the 'clean' version after the game was altered. A 'Cold Coffee' patch, released to address various problems in the PC version, also removed the code.

The impact of the scandal also reached past the original title, hampering the production and sale of other controversial games, including Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto 4.

Mass Effect

Main aritcle: Mass Effect

Before its release, Mass Effect was the subject of much controversy at the hands of blogger Kevin McCullough, who claimed that the game was pornographic. Among his claims were such statements as: “Mass Effect can be customized to sodomize whatever, whomever, however, the game player wishes”, which was far from true. In truth, the game allows the player character to form a romantic relationship with a computer-controlled character, and if the player so wishes then he could sleep with him/her (depends on player's gender), before starting the final portion of the game. Doing so triggers a brief scene where the player makes love to the other character, which is less than 10 seconds in length and features no frontal nudity.

Left Behind: Eternal Forces

See: Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

In May 2006, Jonathan Hutson of the "Talk To Action" website began writing a series of scathing articles regarding the then unreleased "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" PC game. In articles with titles such as "the Purpose Driven Life Takers," Hutson made several claims about the game's alleged violent content, which supposedly had players "convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians." Hutson's accusations of "convert or kill" in the game became a hot topic among several liberal media outlets and countless liberal bloggers, all of whom repeated Hutson's claims for months without ever having seen the unreleased game.

Left Behind Games, which created the game, completely denied these claims. When the game was finally released in November 2006, some reviewers mentioned that the claims made about the game's violence were wrong. Even the Anti-Defamation League admitted, "Conversion to Christianity in the game is not depicted as forcible in nature, and violence is not rewarded in the game," while otherwise condemning the game for its exclusionary treatment of non-evangelical Christian religions.

Still, for several months after the game's release, the rumors of the game's content circulated uncritically and were repeated by both major and minor sources. This unrestrained rumormongering resulted in attempts to have the game removed from the shelves at Wal-Mart and caused the Christian pro-troop organization "Operation Straight Up" to remove the game from care packages for troops in Iraq.

Manhunt 2 Ratings

In August 2007, Manhunt 2, a stalk-survival game released by Rockstar Games, was originally set to be released for an Adults Only 18+ [AO 18] label by the ESRB, due to some of the more gruesome torture scenes present in the game. Some compared the game's bloody aesthetic to movies such as the Saw and Hostel series of films, depicting copious amounts of blood, gore, and partial nudity. The game was soon backlashed by retail sellers such as Wal-Mart, Electronics Boutique, and GameStop for the AO rating, which made it prohibited to be sold in retail stores. The game was soon toned down, and after months of edits and changes to the game, it was released with mild fanfare in October 2007.


  7. Original article no longer available, but this one quotes the relevant paragraph

See also

Jack Thompson