Governments from all over the world have banned games from nearly every decade. Germany alone has banned or censored 124 games as of the time of writing this article.
With bans and censors there come the obvious and well-known titles such as Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto, but then there are other titles that get banned such as Football Manager in Germany because it recognised Bavaria as an independent country, or Football Manager 2005 in China for recognizing Taiwan and Tibet as independent countries also. Other big names have seen bans like the entire God of War franchise in several countries and The Last of Us Part II, which was banned in Saudi Arabia due to homosexual-related content.
This edition of Console Yourself looks at the most controversial games, the strangest bans and censorships and some of the oddities of international perceptions across the video game market. Prepare to witness The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Warning – some games within this list are heavily controversial and may cause offence. Please read no further unless you are aware that the nature of some of these titles contain violence, sexual violence and heavily controversial imagery.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Animal Crossing: New Horizons saw a ban in the People’s Republic of China in April 2020. It was pulled from online stores as players had created anti-government messages with the in-game creation tool. It was possible that the ban came from Taobao, the online store, or the People’s Republic of China but neither have been confirmed. The game is still available on the Chinese grey market!
ROBLOX made the list as it was banned in the United Arab Emirates. The reason for the ban, from UAE Attorney General Dr Hamad Al Shamsi, was because of user-generated content that included swearing and sexually explicit material.
EA Sports MMA
During 2007 France, Norway and Denmark stopped allowing marketing of energy drinks within their countries, with Denmark also banning their sales. EA Sports MMA was unfortunately a game that contains a lot of energy drink marketing, much like the real sport. Denmark stood firm against the game, looking at a ban. Instead of EA Games patching the game they removed it from the market.
Pokémon Trading Card Game
If there is one video game company in the world that causes the least offence to anyone, it is Nintendo. Unfortunately it wasn’t the case in regards to Pokémon Trading Card Game. In Saudi Arabia the physical cards are banned mostly due to their argument that it is promoting a type of gambling. The other augment for the ban was that is promotes Zionism.
This argument comes as some of the cards contain what the Saudi government considers the Star of David. However it is actually a Japanese symbol called Kagome which has been popular in video games and dates back to the 5th century.
God of War
A video game can be banned in Germany if it is confiscated by court order because it violates a section of the Strafgesetzbuch (criminal code). Originally God of War was banned because of its high-impact gory violence. The ban was lifted because of the basis that the characters are from Greek mythology and the gameplay is largely a game revolving around puzzle-solving. the same ban was seen in Brazil with a subsequent lift. Saudia Arabia has banned the entire franchise due to nudity and sexual content, as well as the United Arab Emirates. However in 2018 the original God of War game was legally approved for release in U.A.E.
China vs. Plague Inc.
We may as well start with something topical in 2020. On 27th February this year the developer behind Plague Inc., Ndemic Creations, announced that their game had been deemed illegal in China by the Cyberspace Administration of China. It was subsequently removed from the China App Store and on 2nd March the game was also removed from Steam in China. The reason behind the mass ban was unknown but it surely cannot be coincidental that China had just announced a worldwide pandemic possibility and saw a novel virus spreading to other countries.
It’s not clear to us if this removal is linked to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that China is facing. However, Plague Inc.’s educational importance has been repeatedly recognised by organisations like the CDC and we are currently working with major global health organisations to determine how we can best support their efforts to contain and control COVID-19.NDemic, 27th February 2020
Plague Inc. has become a huge hit since it was launched eight years ago. It now has 130 million players worldwide and soared in popularity in China amid the coronavirus outbreak, becoming the bestselling app in the country in January.
Bully was initially banned in Brazil in April 2008 after a Brazilian judge prohibited the commerce and import of the game. The plan to ban the game came from findings by the state psychology society. They stated that the game could be potentially harmful to teenagers as well as adults. The game has since been overturned and offically released in July 2016.
British Labour MP Keith Vaz asked that Bully be banned or reclassified as rated 18 in the UK before its publication. After it was released as a 15 rated game, Curry’s and PC World in the UK said they did not want to sell Bully because it is “not appropriate for Currys’ family-friendly image”. The statement lists what Currys believes is “the explicit link between violence and children” as the reason behind the ban. Other UK retailers continued to sell the game regardless.
EverQuest is a 3D fantasy themed MMORPG which is rather tame compared to some of the titles in this article. It was the first commercially successful MMORPG to use a 3D game engine and it’s success was unprecedented. However the game has seen several controversies, including the sale of in-game items on eBay, the developers Verent banning a player for creating fan fiction, the finding of Online Gamers Anonymous because of a recorded suicide that was linked to the addictive qualities of the game and more.
Brazil was one country to ban the game. The ban came into effect in 2009, a decade after the game launched. The reason however is rather obscure and explains 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. Who knew?
I played Homefront in it’s first week of launching and I can completely understand the issues around this game being banned and the reasons why. At the time of playing it I questioned how THQ were able to “get away with” the content therein. The game was ultimately banned in South Korea because it depicts a unified Korea that is ruled by North Korea. Not only this but it represents Korea as a rather dark picture. The game launched in the wake of the ROKS Cheonan sinking and the North Korean artillery strike on Yeonpyeong Island. THQ denied that the game was developed to piggyback off tensions within the Korean peninsula stating that it was a “work of speculative fiction”. Unfortunately the game launched with really bad timing.
Secondary warning – some games within this list are heavily controversial and may cause offence. Please read no further unless you are aware that the nature of some of these titles contain violence, sexual violence and heavily controversial imagery.
These games makes the previous games look like My Horse and Me. Ethnic Cleansing follows the story of the protagonist who has to kill African Americans, Latino’s and Jewish people. It was developed as part of a Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement by Resistance Records.
It is not surprising in the slightest that this game was heavily banned in many countries (unfortunately not every country). The game actually saw a sequel, White Law, which was supposed to help their franchise grow. What a truly sickening game by a group of sickening people.
Rapelay is a 3D eroge video game which was made by Illusion and released in April 2006 in Japan. The game came under heavy fire due to the controversy around it’s content. The game revolves around a protagonist who rapes a mother and her two female children. not only is the story shocking but the manner of these events is worse. The player can choose the locations, positions and even monitor their ejaculation quantities to estimate the likelihood of impregnation.
The game has seen heavy bans in several countries.
The United states Senate held a hearing in December of 1993. The subject – video game violence. Major newspapers around America covered the narrative which was led by Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl. Two games in particular were scrutinized along the way. These were Mortal Kombat and Night Trap. Lieberman stated Night Trap showed gratuitous violence and was a means of promoting sexual aggression to women.
Because of the negative publicity Night Trap sold 50,000 copies the following week, but two weeks before Christmas Toys “R” Us and Kay-Bee Toys (the two largest toy stores) removed all stock from their shelves. This came from what was later believed to be an organized telephone campaign. However, both stores continued to sell Mortal Kombat.
In January of 1994 Sega fully withdrew Night Trap from the market.
There are hundreds of games that could be discussed. From games such as Hatred, which show intense violence, to the 1989 game Sex Vixens from Space which was seized by British Customs and destroyed in order to “protect the youth of today.” It is apparent that each country has their own perception on what is considered safe, and what is considered bad. Some of these rulings are outright ridiculous, and some are completely justified. But come on, Football Manager?
Do you know of any other strange bans or censorships? Join the conversation below!