4 Stupidest Moral Panics In Gaming
The term “Moral Panic” conjures images of outrageous headlines, idiot TV pundits getting red in the face, and pearl clutching, misinformed folks being interviewed on the local news. It’s not surprising this pops up again and again in a country founded by folks who left 16th century Europe because it was too liberal. And it seems like there’s one target the conservative, ill-informed masses love to get their panties bunched up about more than any other: video games.
Hot Coffee Mod
Sex in games is always a hot button topic and Grand Theft Auto has always been surrounded by a breathless flurry of controversy. But that peaked in 2005 when an enterprising modder discovered a dirty secret hidden in the game’s code. “Hot Coffee” is a mini-game where players can actively control a character while they have pixelated, clunky sex with your in-game girlfriend. A modder had dug into the game and found this secret in-joke designers put there, but it was never meant to be part of the main game and is only accessible if you’re willing to modify the game. The mod created a flurry of lawsuits, court hearings, and government investigations. This truly stands out as a monument to uninformed stupidity because rampaging around a city running over tourists and murdering sex workers seems morally a lot worse than having consenual intercourse with your girlfriend.
‘MTG’ and ‘D&D’s Satanic Panic
A bunch of kids sitting around in a basement playing a game about wizards doesn’t seem very Satanic, but hordes of parents in the 80’s felt differently. Beloved dork pastimes Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons came under heavy fire during the rumor and cocaine fuelled decade because of alleged Satanic imagery. Parents were worried that fighting goblins and battling witches were leading to actual devil worship. Kids don’t generally love going to church, so it’s pretty outlandish that they would make one up of their own accord. But hundreds of kids had their rare Magic cards thrown away and their Monster Manuals destroyed because of the snowballed, false accusations made by some parents that these games were the tools of the devil.
Gay Marriage and Romance in ‘The Sims’
Nothing screams “I’m a hateful person who can’t mind their own business” like protesting against gay marriage. Of course, telling other people that they’re going to hell is a favorite pastime for many in this country and around the world. The Sims has been a consistently popular game for years, with dedicated fans around the world living out their dreams in the virtual life they craft for themselves. Players tell stories of how the game let them explore sexuality and gender in ways that gave them a better understanding of themselves, which is pretty lofty for a video game also known for cruel pool murders. Queer romances in The Sims have come under fire by various idiots throughout the years. In fact, in Russia, My Marriage Stories, a DLC which centers around two women getting married, wasn’t even released because of the country’s laws against “gay propoganda”. EA should probably just bow out of selling games to bigoted countries at all, because the franchises continued success is actually all because of a gay kiss.
During the games development, the team had originally taken same-sex relationships out of the code. But a new designer, Patrick J. Barrett III, was given an old design document that included the love is love coding. He put it back in the game, despite expectations that EA would remove the option before the game went to market. At E3, the massive yearly gaming expo, stakes were high. Barrett’s interview in The New Yorker sums it up, “We all knew that if we couldn’t generate any interest at E3 that year, then the game would be cancelled for good…” Luckily, that document that had been given to Barrett by mistake, causing him to reinstate same-sex relationships in the game, saved the show. The game demo they presented centered around a wedding and it was full of Sim attendees. During the live demo, two of the Sims, uncontrolled by the developers, took a liking to each other and decided to smooch. The fact that they were both women rocked the conference and created a massive buzz around the game, leading to decades of success for the franchise.
’Fortnite’ Causes Divorce
In 2018, Fortnite caused a moral freak out in the UK when a divorce preparation site DivorceOnline released statistics for why folks were getting unhitched. There had been a big increase in marriages ending for one fig leaf of a reason: Fortnite. The site says this “...received 200 divorce petitions since January 1st, 2018 where addiction to Fortnite and other online games has been cited as one of the reasons for divorce.” While gaming addiction can be a serious problem for some, the majority of people don’t have a gaming addiction. But there’s plenty of people who got married for the wrong reasons, wind up resenting their spouse, and seek the solace of a fun online game they can play with their friends. Don’t bring Meowscles the buff Fortnite cat into this.