5 Extreme Video Game Controversies From The Past
’Mass Effect’ Fox News Sex Scandal
In 2008 Fox News decided they were going to have a warm up lap before they took part in pushing towards full facisism. They’d start by morally panicking over video games. In particular, video game sex scenes. Aside from running an EGREGIOUSLY named segment titled Se”XBOX”?, Fox News accused Mass Effect of showing full digital nudity in a game marketed toward children. There’s definitely not total nudity (unfortunately IMO) and the game’s ‘M’ for mature rating clearly denotes that the game about space genocide is not for kids. Surprise surprise, the
hosts bigots at Fox didn’t love that you could be gay in the game either. They claimed that the sex scenes were desensitizing young people, apparently forgetting that we had had our cultural retinas burnt to a crisp from ‘Two Girls One Cup’ going viral the preceding year.
The claims that sex are treated too casually are also pretty funny, because romancing characters in Mass Effect is work. Needless to say, none of the Fox News “reporters” had played the game. They bleated about the game, clearly trying to cause a moral panic that would result in the game being censored. Pretty funny for a “news” organization that whines about cancel culture every single day. While the game went on to be wildly successful, the segment did have a negative effect on the design of Mass Effect 2. Fox News, you truly are the worst.
Jack Thompson vs. ‘GTA’
The Grand Theft Auto series is undeniably violent. It’s also wacky and cartoonish, just like the now disgraced attorney who brought tons of legal action against the games. Jack Thompson took up a mantle no one asked him to carry and made a (wildly unsuccessful) career of suing video games, accusing them of making people violent. He had a pattern: a violent crime would happen, the perpetrator would be a gamer, and he would blame the game and take publishers and developers to court.
Video games causing violence is an old trope that has been debunked again and again. Oh look, the Attorney General even published a whole report on how untrue it is. In a rare and beautiful example of our legal system actually working, Thompson never won a case and eventually was disbarred.
Underage Nudity in ‘The Guy Game’
This one is pretty cut and dried and blatantly illegal. In 2004’s The Guy Game, answering questions correctly leads to on screen avatars of real women getting progressively more nude. Erotic imagery plus trivia? Sign us up. Except there’s one major flaw: one of the probably tipsy spring breakers they exploited for footage in the game was also 17 at the time the footage was taken. She filed a lawsuit and the game was banned from sale.
Barring ‘Magic: The Gathering” in Schools
It wouldn’t be a bad take gaming list if the good old ‘Satanic Panic’ wasn’t on it. MTG became the center of a national controversy in the mid-90’s when some foolish mortals aka “concerned parents” accused the game of being a tool of the devil. The parents sued a school for letting students play Magic: The Gathering on school property. One parent featured in an LA Times article pointed out that the cards featured “Human sacrifice, devil worship, spells.” Which is objectively rad, but they felt were luring youngsters to satan. Who needs parents when you’ve got games?
Yes, let’s ban the game that teaches kids about math, reading, and how to change a long term strategy in light of new information. They’ll never use those skills. Much better if they watch *checks notes* Saving Private Ryan for the 3rd time.
Roger Ebert: Video Games Can Never Be Art
Quite possibly the world’s most famous movie reviewer also has the absolute worst take on video games saying that “video games can never be art.” He really went there. The famed film critic said, “No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, novelists and poets.” Ebert passed before Red Dead Redemption 2 was released, so he never got to experience the heartbreaking art which was that game. I grieve for you Lenny. Now, and always.
Ebert also wrote about an “...immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story”. But doesn’t all art have rules? Don’t scream during a symphony, don’t spit on the Mona Lisa, don’t throw marbles on stage during a Cirque du Soleil performance.
The gaming industry has enough gatekeeping as it is without folks diving back into the age old debate about what constitutes art. His argument cites the interactivity and competitive nature of games as detractors. Video games are just a new art form, using interactivity to heighten emotional investment and the impact of storytelling.
If you’d like more terrible takes, here are 5 more mind blowingly stupid gaming controversies.