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The 15 Most Controversial Video Games (PICTURES)

Huffington Post     First Posted: 05/12/10 06:12 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 04:50 PM ET

Increasingly realistic and widespread, video games have repeatedly become embroiled in hot-button controversies over issues of sex, race, religion, politics, and violence.

Video game critics have decried the more explicit, violent games as everything from "Columbine simulators" to promoters of "religious bigotry and intolerance."

We've taken a look at the most controversial video games ever. Check them out below, and tell us which one you think was the most inappropriate.

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  • Modern Warfare 2

    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 included an optional mission called "No Russian" in which players joined Russian terrorists in an airport massacre. Players could choose to shoot into the crowd or not, or the level could be skipped entirely. Controversy ensued as many thought this was training players to commit mass murder and terrorism while the developers argued that their goal was to evoke the horror of terrorism. A scriptwriter for the game <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controversies_surrounding_Call_of_Duty:_Modern_Warfare_2#.22No_Russian.22_Mission">reportedly said</a> the intent was to make the scene "upsetting, disturbing, but also something people would relate to

  • RapeLay

    RapeLay is a <a href="http://techland.com/2009/12/18/the-most-controversial-video-games-of-the-decade/rapelay/">"realistic sexual simulator"</a>Japanese video game where the player takes on the role of a rapist who stalks and rapes girls in a number of explicit situations, with the ultimate goal of making them his sex slaves. The player's target is a mother and her two daughters. The game is not sold in America and is no longer available on the Japanese developer's website.

  • Resident Evil 5

    Resident Evil 5 is set in a fictional town in Africa, and after the first game footage was released, concerns over racism quickly surfaced. Initial game footage features Chris Redfield, a white male, cutting down scores of African zombies, which critics argued played into colonialist notions of Africans as "savages" that must be controlled by the "white man." Another scene later in the game was seen as having strong rape insinuations as a group of male African zombies are seen dragging a white woman off to be "infected." However, others have disagreed: a senior lecturer at the University of Kent opined that the game had an "anti-colonialist" theme, and the the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) ruled that there was "no issue around racism" in the game.

  • Postal

    "Postal," released in 1997, ostensibly referred to the concept of "going postal," or intense workplace rage. It was one of the first games that gave players the ability to kill innocent bystanders and was one of the first games to focus on kill percentage instead of surviving levels. The game developers were sued by the U.S. Postal Service and many retailers pulled the game from their shelves.

  • Bully

    Bully allows users to play as James "Jimmy" Hopkins, a school trouble maker who must complete a series of "minigames," such as world scrambles. The game was seen by many as a "Grand Theft Auto for kids" that glorified bullying and antisocial behavior in school. Lawyer Jack Thompson went so far as to claim the game was a "Columbine simulator," training kids to exact revenge through violence. Jimmy's ability to sexually harass girls and even kiss a boy only served to increase the furor over the game.

  • Little Big Planet

    Little Big Planet, the all-inclusive global game featuring user-generated content, caused controversy for having included a little too much: community members realized a background song used two lines from the Qur'an. This was deemed potentially offensive to some Muslims and Sony enacted a worldwide recall of all copies of the game before it was shipped to players. For players who had received their copies early, the game received a patch that removed the vocal track.

  • Left Behind: Eternal Forces

    Left Behind, a game based on the evangelical Christian book series, came under fire as many thought it promoted religious warfare given that, in the game, players are charged with "converting" some units and killing nonbelievers. The Christian Alliance for Progress described it as "antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ;" American Atheists called it a "violent Christian video game that promotes religious bigotry and intolerance;" and attorney Jack Thompson decried it as "about killing people for their lack of faith in Jesus." (via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left_Behind:_Eternal_Forces#Reception_and_controversy">Wikipedia</a>) The game was also charged with both sexism and racism as female units in the game had gender-delineated jobs and many enemy units had African or Arabic names.

  • Ethnic Cleansing

    The video game, released in 2002, was the brainchild of Rsistance Records, a music label that features Neo-Nazi and white supremacist bands. <a href="http://techland.com/2009/12/18/the-most-controversial-video-games-of-the-decade/ethnic-cleansing/#ixzz0hzCDWR4p">Techland</a> explains the concept of the game: "it has players killing blacks, Latinos and Jews until they reach the "Jewish Control Center," where they're tasked with taking out the Israeli prime minister before he executes his plan for a world takeover."

  • Doom

    Described as a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doom_%28video_game%29#cite_note-18"> "mass murder simulator,"</a> Doom has gained notoriety for its graphic imagery, violence, and satanic references. It has also been linked to school shootings, including the Columbine High School shooting wherein the two shooters were cited as avid Doom players. A <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doom_%28video_game%29#cite_note-18">rumor </a> circulated that one of the Columbine shooters had <a href="http://web.archive.org/web/20060223025846/columbine.free2host.net/quotes.html">created a level</a> in Doom that resembled his high school and was populated with characters resembling his teachers and peers in order to prepare for the shooting rampage. However, this was never proven, as the level was never found.

  • Mortal Kombat

    Mortal Kombat was one of the first and most popular ultraviolent fighting games featuring "photorealistic" characters, copious amounts of blood, and highly graphic fatalities. Parents were outraged when they saw their children playing a game that allowed them to rip their opponents heads off in a spray of blood. The violence in Mortal Kombat caused the Senate to launch hearings about violent video games and resulted in the formation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

  • Six Days in Fallujah

    Six Days in Fallujah was a war game based around Operation Iraqi Freedom. The controversy over the Iraq war and recency of the events angered many, including war veterans and peace advocacy organizations. Some war veterans found it offensive and flippant that the game would be based on a war that was not only recent, but still going on.

  • Mass Effect

    An optional "sexual encounter" in Mass Effect sparked outrage: Conservative blogger Kevin McCullough alleged players were allowed to rape and sodomize characters in whatever way they wanted. Fox News picked up the story on a segment called "SE'XBOX" and claimed the scene involved full on pornographic sex. Psychologist and author Cooper Lawrence claimed the game objectified women and allowed the player to be with as many women as he wanted. However, Electronic Arts, the maker of the game, responded saying that Fox's story contained "serious errors," and some who had spoken out against the game later retracted their criticisms. played the game.

  • Custer's Revenge

    Custer's Revenge is an old "pornographic" Atari 2600 game that lacked the graphic realism of later video games, but included sexism, racism and rape. In the game, a Caucasian cowboy dressed in only a cowboy hat, bandanna, and boots (and depicted with an erection) makes his way across the screen to rape a Native American woman. The game was seen to encourage rape as the back of the packaging reads, "she's not about to take it lying down, by George! Help is on the way." The game was widely panned by critics.

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

    The Grand Theft Auto series has sparked controversy, criticism, and even lawsuits for its violence, sexual content, and graphic imagery. The 2008 and 2009 version of the Gamer's Edition of the Guinness World Records listed it the 'most controversial videogame series in history, with over 4,000 articles published about it, which include accusations of glamorizing violence, corrupting gamers, and connection to real life crimes.' The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Coffee_minigame_controversy">Hot Coffee mod</a> (shown here) allowed players of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to engage in a 'minigame' in which the main character and his girlfriend are shown having sexual intercourse.

  • Dante's Inferno

    The PR team for Dante's Inferno launched a "Circles of Hell" PR campaign, but the "lust" concept was by far the most controversial. The poorly-chosen wording was viewed by critics as encouraging convention-goers to harass "booth babes" at Comic Con. Ars Technica <a href="http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2009/07/ea-puts-sexual-bounty-on-the-heads-of-its-own-booth-babes.ars">wrote,</a> "if you commit "an act of lust" with an EA booth babe and take a picture, you could win dinner with said babes, as well as a great big pile of prizes related to the upcoming Dante's Inferno." EA apologized via their Twitter feed, saying they had only meant the wording "tongue-in-cheek."

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