Like them or not, video games have been on a massive upward swing for a while now. This is as much due to our technological headway as it is to our love affair with screens. But the real reason why video games are so popular is because they allow us to escape physical and environmental limits by projecting ourselves into a completely different world. It’s actually a small miracle. When we play Super Mario, we become a fat plumber navigating a psychedelic dimension, jumping on and over evil mushrooms to save our princess; when we play Pokemon, we are completely focused on one thing – catching and training adorable mythical creatures. Silly things like shelter and nourishment become a trivial afterthought.
On the other hand, when we play Grand Theft Auto, we’re shooting innocent strangers on the street; when we play Mortal Kombat, we’re throwing a kunai into someone’s sternum and getting them over here. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – we all have a dark side, and sometimes that dark side wants to pull a dude’s spine out of his body. But certain governments, presumably in fear of our virtual antics in these games leaking onto the real world, decide to ban them.
Sometimes these bans could be understood (depending on your view on censorship) but sometimes they’re just downright weird.
Everquest holds a significant place in video game lore as being the second MMORPG ever made – quite the honour considering how popular the genre is today. What isn’t honourable, according to Brazilian Judge Carlos Alberto Simoes, is the game’s attack on the “democratic state and the law against public security.” The attack was presumably lead by elves. The judge goes on to observe that Everquest tends to ask users to choose between doing good and bad things, which may lead the user to experience psychological issues. So thank you, Judge Simoes, for protecting fragile Brazilian psyches from the burden of choosing between a mythril vest or dragonhide boots.
13. EA Sports MMA
Energy drinks were banned in Denmark, which isn’t as weird as it sounds considering how recently they’ve been on the market and how relatively little we know about their long-term effects. Concerned about the promotion of energy drinks in their country, Denmark set their ban sticks on EA Sports MMA. Aside from the fighting, the game features several companies’ logos, some of which belong to energy drinks. “Our game authentically recreates the sport of MMA in every facet, including energy drink in-game sponsorships on fighter shorts, gear, and in fight venues,” says a representative for EA Sports. After an earnest game tester failed in his endeavor to ask the virtual MMA fighters to please change their shorts, EA Sports opted to take their game elsewhere.
In case you didn’t know, Germany had this thing a while ago where they tried to rule the world and kill all the Jews. Since then the country’s been on its best behaviour, but every so often it gets a little spastic when someone mentions that holocaust-toned blemish on its CV. Wolfenstein, a game set in a world where the Nazis won the war and are up to all sorts of no good, was not greeted well by Germany. Developers were made to censor the game, changing all uses of the term “Nazis” to “The Regime”. That’s an affront to free speech, Germany. Remember what happened last time you did that? Bad Germany. Bad.
11. South Park: The Stick of Truth
South Park as a TV show has had more than its share of controversy, so it’s no big surprise that the same would follow the series into gaming. Several scenes in South Park: The Stick of Truth were censored in Europe by Ubisoft, the game’s own publisher. Some of the sequences that were cut include two abortions and one alien probe scene. One might find the probe scene to be particularly dynamic, mostly due to the squelching sounds. When probed (sorry) about the censorship, Ubisoft spokespeople responded by saying that this was a “marketing decision made by Ubisoft EMEA.” Oh, so that’s why they did it.
10. God of War
In God of War you play as Kratos, a pissed-off, screwed-over Spartan warrior who sets off to kick all sorts of Greek god ass. But somewhere along his blazing path of vengeance, Kratos manages to shun Islam, according to United Arab Emirates national Khalid Bin Deemas. “I was shocked to see how much it contradicted Islamic values,” Deemas said. And so Kratos’ war trail was cut short, in the UAE at least. But gamers all over the country still managed to obtain black market copies of the popular game, effectively thumbing their noses at the ban police.
Game media titan IGN once said, “When you look at the history of first-person shooters, it all breaks down pretty cleanly into pre-Half-Life and post-Half-Life eras.” But such promise of quality was not enough for the Singapore ban police to let the game be. In January 2000, government officials raided several gaming centers across the country, confiscating all copies of Half-Life they could find. The reason for the ban was the game’s excessive violence, something that is obviously unacceptable in a first-person shooter. In a wonderful showing of democracy, gamers all aross the country petitioned against the ruling. And they won. The ban was lifted a week later.
8. The Punisher
Released in 2005, The Punisher is a game where you basically torture whoever is standing near you and get enough information out of them to reach the next level where, yes, you must also apply indiscriminate torture to proceed. One critic said of the game, player “won’t want to miss out on any of the spectacular torture set-pieces.” Turns out the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) isn’t too fond of spectacular torture set-pieces. They initially stamped the game with the ill-famed AO (adults only) rating, which would have severely dampened sales. It was only after making several edits to the gore that the publishers finally got the coveted M rating, under the condition that they include a warning at the game’s introduction reminding players that the game is not suitable for those under 18.
7. All Violent Video Games Ever – Venezuela
Rather than going through the trouble of sifting through games individually, former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (known for decrying Barbie dolls in his country for the danger they pose to the mind) traded his ban stick in for a ban broom and effectively swept all games with any shred of violence out of his country. In 2010, the Venezuelan government put forth a law sentencing those who sell or import violent video games to 3-5 years in prison. Government officials then tried using the ban broom on the real world violence in their country. This resulted in nothing, because the ban broom is a metaphor.
6. Battlefield 4
Despite receiving glowing reviews across the board for its content, Battlefield 4 was bedeviled upon its release by major technical glitches, bugs, and a big, meaty wack from China’s banstick. In the game’s campaign mode, tensions arise as Admiral Chang conspires to overthrow the current Chinese government, which will initiate a war between China and the United States. Unfortunately, real world China felt that this was a legitimate threat to the country’s National Security. China was so scared of this super, super fictional story that they went on to ban all appearances of the Chinese translation of Battlefield 4 on their social media.
5. Mass Effect
Mass Effect takes place in the year 2183, a time when we’d like to believe humanity has effectively wiped off the stigma of homophobia. We’re not quite there yet, at least not in Singapore – back when the game was released in 2007, Singapore’s flaccid video game rating system didn’t know how to process the girl-on-alien-girl action that was going on in one of the game’s optional cut scenes, so they just banned the whole game altogether. This definitely smells like homophobia, but it isn’t quite that – the alien in question, though appearing to be female, did not belong to any specific gender. The ban was met with immediate backlash, and was promptly overturned.
4. Saints Row IV
We all know how much Australia hates alien anal probe weapons and alien superhuman drugs, which is why they were just not having it with Saints Row IV. The previous version of the game included a dildo-shaped baseball bat weapon, and they upped the ante this time with a horrifying, clawed metal contraption that players can use to… well, some things are better left undescribed. The game also incentivizes players to smoke alien narcotics that increase their in-game abilities. Australia wasn’t having any of that. They’ve been an anal probe and alien narcotic free country since ’96, and they aim to keep it that way.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Pakistan banned Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 shortly after its release for giving a bad impression of the country’s army and their connection to terrorism. The real world relation between Al Quaeda and Pakistan will not be approached here with a 10 foot stick, but part of the issue is that the game shows the country’s prime intelligence agency as supporting Al Qaeda and jihadi organizations. Which would be an understandable offense, if this were not a work of fiction. Here, Pakistan is confusing fiction with its polar opposite, non-fiction. This occurs commonly across several countries. It’s on our list of things that need to be fixed. It will be fixed, eventually. Hopefully. Gulp.
2. Injustice: Gods Among Us
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a heaven-sent wet dream for comic book fans all across the world, except for those in the United Arab Emirates, for a moment. The reason for the game’s brief ban is unclear, but it’s thought to be due to the use of ‘Gods’ in the title. The game’s publishers had an alternate title (Injustice: The Mighty Among Us) ready for such a case, but the word ‘Gods’ still appeared during gameplay. The ban was lifted almost immediately after, for equally unknown reasons, and was sold under its original title. Confused? You probably should be.
1. Pokemon Trading Card Game
Yes, Pokemon. According to religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, the Pokemon games promote Zionism – because of course none of us ever threw a Pokeball at a Rattata without advocating on behalf of Israel. The game apparently promotes gambling as well. ”It resembles a game of gambling because of the competition which at times involves sums of money being exchanged between collectors of the cards,” Saudi Arabia’s senior cleric, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, said. One might be tempted to challenge the Sheikh to a Pokemon battle to win the freedom of all Pokemon in Saudi Arabia, but it’s not worth it. Let’s go, Pikachu.