The 10 Weirdest Video Games Banned By Governments
Video games are art, and art usually has people in power clutching their pearls and trying to blast said art out of sight lest thought invade the inner sanctum of comfortable status quo. Ah, censorship, no matter how many times we patiently explain to our overlords that the surest way to spread an idea virally is to try and cover it up (And it goes double with things like video games), they just keep on keeping on with that iron fist.
The list of games that various administrations have waged war against is massive, and it's usually because of objectionable levels of sex or violence. Then there are stranger reasons, and today we salute them.
10. Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure: Fashion designer Marc Eckō lent his clout to a 2006 video game about a young graffiti artist using tagging to fight against a tyrannical dystopian government. Ironically, that's a fight the designer lost in real life. Until recently, Australia didn't allow the sale of any games deemed too mature for anyone under the age of 15, and the sale of such games carried a fine of a whopping quarter of a million dollars and a decade in jail.
This mostly applied to titles like Postal and Leisure Suit Larry, but Eckō's work was specifically targeted by Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock to refuse the game's appeal for a MA15+ rating and denied the right to distribute because the game promoted and gave instructions on illegal street tagging. Apparently illegal street racing is just fine, though, as Need for Speed: Most Wanted got a G rating three months earlier. Funny how the one that gets shut down happens to be the one dealing with sticking it to uptight government bullies.
9. EverQuest: Brazil is to sensible video game policy what Miley Cyrus is to respectable use of foam fingers policy...never the twain shall meet. Despite being one of the fastest-growing markets for games in the world, they've cracked down real hard on allowing any sort of subversive titles to be sold. This includes the usual suspects like Mortal Kombat, but also targets EverQuest, which is a fairly tame MMOPRG, all things considered.
Passed in 2007, and then enforced in 2009 (A decade after the game's original release), the reason for the ban was that the game can "bring immanent stimulus to the subversion of social order, [and] attack on the democratic state and law and against public security," according to the judge who passed it.
8. Football Manager 2005: I don't understand sports games, but I do understand something about China; never, ever, EVER insinuate in any way that Tibet and Taiwan are separate countries in their hearing. Seriously, it makes them lose it worse than a Houstonian overhearing someone from New England besmirch Whataburger.
Well, Sega forgot, and even though it was making a special China-only version of Football Manager 2005 that included the two countries as part of China, in other international versions, the countries were independent nations. China then banned the game because it "threatened its content harmful to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity ... [that] seriously violates Chinese law and has been strongly protested by our nation's gamers." This sort of thing is par for the course for China, which threatened to break off all international trade with Denmark after that country unthinkably allowed the Tibetan national football team to come play a match against Greenland...which they lost 4-1 because life is not a Disney movie.
Speaking of Denmark...
7. EA Sports MMA: In 2007 three countries in the European Union stood firm against allowing the marketing of energy drinks because of the health risks associated with the sugar-filled and highly caffeinated beverages, France, Norway and Denmark. Denmark was particularly hardcore against the drinks, only recently allowing their sale.
Well, EA Sports MMA has almost as much energy drink advertising in it as it does fighting, and thus violated Denmark's law against the marketing of the drinks. Rather than create a special version of the game replacing the advertisements on the ring and in other areas with generics or other sponsors (something that seems like it would have taken five minutes to do), EA decided that such censorship would impair the integrity of the game...no, really. A spokesman said, "Our game authentically re-creates the sport of MMA in every facet, including energy drink in-game sponsorships on fighter shorts, gear and in fight venues." The Danish release was canceled.
6. KZ Manager: You probably haven't heard of KZ Manager, and if you haven't, congratulations on being a good person. It's a resource-manager game, except instead of building a city or something similar, you run a concentration camp. Really. Voted IGN's Most Unnecessary Game of the Year in 2001, it has you drive Turks, Jews and Gypsies as slave labor to pay for the Zyklon B you use to gas them in public executions that build public opinion.
Germany won't even let Wolfenstein be sold within its borders because of Nazi imagery, and you're actually blowing the bastards away in that game. What chance did this horrific joke of a title stand? Surprisingly, this is not the worst game on this list.
Piece continues on next page.
5. God of War: When it comes to game censorship, Saudi Arabia is like that parent who talks a big talk, but lifts your grounding after a day because he's really a big softy. There's nominally a ban on many violent and more sexual titles, but the government is not really invested in enforcing it. Getting caught buying one entails a fine that is less than a traffic ticket, and buying a black market copy is ridiculously easy.
The God of War series has plenty of boobs and blood to earn it a spot on the government's no-no list, but that's not the only reason stated. Apparently, having the word "God" in the title was the final straw. Just for a fun moment, imagine what would happen in America if we banned a game for that reason, then continue reading when ironic giggles subside.
4. Pokémon Trading Card Game: Still in Saudi Arabia, you also can't play Pokémon Trading Card there legally, which is weird because if there is any company that has hardcore stuck to their guns in not offending any people at all, it's Nintendo. The Saudi government's beef is that the card game is a type of gambling, which is an arguable point, but the main argument is that the games promote Zionism.
Many of the Pokémon cards bear what the Saudi government considers to be the Star of David, and as it's a Jewish symbol, they've issued a widespread ban on both the cards and the game adaptation. They don't seem to understand that it's not actually a Star of David but an identical Japanese symbol called a Kagome crest that is popular in games and anime and dates back to the 5th century.
3. Mass Effect: Mass Effect allows you to control either a male or a female version of the main character, Sheppard. It also allows you to make choices that end up with you boinking other characters. Singapore was fine when it was a big strapping dude, but the second it saw footage of the female Sheppard getting down with an Asari (a long-lived all-female race), the government swept into action and banned the game. Singapore eventually lifted the ban after absolutely zero other countries joined in the hatefest. Interestingly enough, in 2007 Singapore legalized oral sex for lesbians...the same year the ban was lifted.
2. Grand Theft Auto: It's not unreasonable that Grand Theft Auto would be banned in a country. It's banned in at least five nations with stricter laws regarding violent content. What's interesting about the ban in Venezuela is the result. After seeing images from the game, the legislature, under the urging of president Hugo Chavez, not only banned it but passed the Act to Ban Warlike Video Games and Toys, which essentially made every single game that involved shooting people illegal. Games and war toys were rounded up and crushed with steamrollers.
Many people felt that Chavez was looking for a scapegoat in order to draw attention away from the violent-crime rate in Venezuela, and instituted a public education campaign on the dangers of bloody video games...a danger that has not at all been proven. Chavez, always a master of understatement, called such games "the road to hell."
Rapelay: Finally, there is Rapelay, a rape simulator that has sparked bans and controversy all over the world. When I say rape simulator, I mean just that. You play a character who systematically and repeatedly rapes a mother and her two daughters over the course of play. It sounds, and is, horrible.
So horrible in fact that it actually made countries that don't ban games freakin' start. Argentina, which has never before banned a video game, did so with Rapelay. Justice Minister Juio Alak said the game is "a clear apology for sexual abuse, violation of sexual integrity, torture, discrimination against women and child abuse." Australia also banned the game, and even considered banning searching for the game in search engines. It's even hard to find in its home country of Japan now since the Ethics Organization of Computer Software rating board there cracked down after it realized that the whole thing made that country look very, very bad. Are you getting it? This is the Japanese pop culture contribution that made them finally say, "A bit much?"
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events