Games have been in and out of the media spotlight and sometimes for all the wrong reasons. Here are five of the most outrageous and amusing controversies in gaming history.
1. Hot Coffeegate
Yeah, baby, yeah! Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, published for Windows by Rockstar games in 2005, was made infamous by the Hot mini game. This little mod was actually disabled in the Windows game but assets were also found on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions.
Hackers soon got their clever paws on it and shared with the world. It shows the main character having sex with his in-game girlfriend and gives the player the controls for his, ahem, pleasure. The name originates from her offer to “come up for a cup of coffee.”
Thanks to considerable outcry from politicians and their ilk, San Andreas was pulled from shelves and had to be given a new ESRB rating of Adult before many outlets would stock it again. As of September 2009, Take Two Interactive, the publisher of the game, has agreed to settle a longstanding class-action shareholder lawsuit to the tune of $20million smackaroos. I bet those grumpy parents, politicians and shareholders are suddenly just fine with the idea of a hot cup of coffee now...
2. The Columbine Shootings
On April 20 1999, two teenage boys went on a murderous rampage at Columbine High school in the United States. It was a hideous day and one that won’t soon be forgotten.
After marching through their school and massacring 13 people and injuring 21 others, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed suicide. It shook the world and anguished people wanted to know why and how it could have happened.
It wasn’t long before the blame was laid squarely at the feet of violent video games. You see, Eric played Doom and had submitted plenty of levels to the net.
Whether the anger those two boys had was funnelled and controlled by games or created by them, we will never know. Certainly Eric had his computer privileges reduced before he committed the attack and some have thought that games may have provided an outlet for his rage.
On the other hand, experts like US psychiatrist, Jerald Block, believed that violent video games, like Doom, were partly to blame and a goodly percentage of Joe Public were in agreement with him. Games rapidly became the black sheep of the entertainment industry and several lawsuits were filed against the video game companies and developers.
They were dismissed.
The AP reported that Judge Danny Boggs, at the ruling from a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, said, "We find that it is simply too far a leap from shooting characters on a video screen (an activity undertaken by millions) to shooting people in a classroom (an activity undertaken by a handful, at most).” (Information courtesy of Gamespot)
3. ESRB is born
The fantastically horrible forms of death and violence in Mortal Kombat were one of the building blocks for the creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
Mortal Kombat bled onto screens in 1992 and is considered one of the most influential titles of all time. However, it was also packed to the hilt with such volumes of violence and gore that parents and other such caring humans started leaping about in horror.
To be fair, there was/is an extensive amount of blood in the game and lots of younger players were seen beheading carcasses and gleefully killing their opponents. In the arcade world, Mortal Kombat certainly stood out as it had more than its fair share of spectators watching l33t players maul their way through the levels.
Which is exactly what the developers wanted in such a competitive market.
In late 1993, the Interactive Digital Software Association formed the ESRB. This was largely due the drama unfolding in congress about violence in video games courtesy of Senators Lieberman and Kohl.
The independent rating system introduced by the ESRB calmed all those uptight souls down and made everybody feel far more comfortable. Now games developers voluntarily submit their games to be assessed and parents can happily buy them knowing which ones are suitable for their kids. Thanks, Mortal Kombat, you did more than drip blood merrily down my arms as I stood victorious over the bodies of my foes.
4. Going Postal
Yeah, we all know about this one. Sidling angrily onto the PC in 1997, Postal caused massive waves in the media and an outcry that can still be heard in outer space. The game didn’t really have the world’s most riveting plot line. All you had to do was kill everything. Er, yeah. That’s it really. Just kill everything.
Ten countries banned the game, one blacklisted it and the US Postal Service filed suit against Running With Scissors, the developer. Apparently the game tarnished their image. Needless to say it wasn’t hugely popular with those in authority...
5. Say “Hello” to the Duke
When this sexist, macho, primal male video game character sauntered onto screens with his armoury and attitude, he was an instant success. Plenty of gamers loved Duke Nukem. In fact, his tongue-in-cheek style, the action-packed scenes and his hilarious comments had gamers of both sexes rolling in the, erm, aisles. His relationship with the world was definitely a love/hate one though. Gamers generally loved him, everybody else hated him.
He was banned in both Australia and Germany for degrading women and being too violent. Brazil followed suit in 1999 but didn’t discriminate exclusively against the Duke, with games like Doom and Mortal Kombat joining him on the naughty step. Unfortunately this banning came about as a result of another shooting rampage. Brazilian, Mateus da Costa Meira, allegedly copying the cinema shooting scenes from the first episode of Duke Nukem 3D, marched into a popular cinema and opened fire. He left three people dead and eight wounded and has been sentenced to 120 years in jail.