We all have our own perceptions whether they are ethical, cultural, religious, or more. The reason that disagreements and misunderstandings between different parties happen is because of a clash of beliefs. What you may perceive as right, others may perceive as wrong, and so forth.

Games as a media genre is also form of expression. The developers develop games in mind for the purpose of entertainment, information, or sometimes both. Now, some countries have given their citizens the right to have free speech, but expression in its fullest is not always a privilege in certain parts of the world. A clash of different perspectives may cause strife and leads to acts of barring to prevent influence over one another. Some games were banned in different countries because of such strives.

This list is dedicated to the games that were restricted or banned in different countries for various reasons.

The Chinese government has a policy stating that the nations of Tibet and Taiwan rightfully belong to the PRC. The government is strict enough about the policy to ban a video game for violating it.

Enter Football Manager 2005, a game made by a developer in the United Kingdom named Sports Interactive. In the game the player can manage a Football league from a roster of different countries. When China realized that both Tibet and Taiwan were on the game’s roster as independent countries, the Ministry of Culture slapped a ban on the game in response and proclaimed that it "pose harm to the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The game never made it legally into the Chinese market, but that didn’t stop pirates from distributing it through the internet. The Ministry of Culture enforced the ban on the game and punished the offenders with a heavy fine or by revoking their business licenses for providing the game as well as preventing the users from receiving the game. Sports Interactive eventually released a Chinese version of the game with both Tibet and Taiwan included as being a part of China.

Homefront is a first person shooter game in which players are members of a resistance group that fights against a powerful enemy that’s invading the United States. Who’s the enemy? It was not the usual Russian or the Middle Eastern antagonists this time, but rather North Korea was highlighted as the antagonist for this story.

North Korea has rocky relationships with multiple countries, but mostly with its neighbor down south. Having a game like Homefront created some controversy, especially when people accused it of riding on the tension between the South and North Koreas. The South Korean Game Rating Board blocked the sale of Homefront to its market, like it had previously banned North Korean themed games like “Mercenaries: Playground of destruction”. That didn’t stop it being sold on the black market despite a fine that punished those that sold it. Some of the Koreans that played the game did scoff at the possibility of a North Korean invasion into America.

One interesting note about Homefront was that the original antagonist was supposed to be China, but they decided that the Chinese weren’t as “scary” enough to fulfill the role.

The market for energy drinks is ever expanding as the demand from its consumers rises. The reach of its advertising is almost everywhere and It is hard to avoid them. However, energy drink consumption may not be as infectious there in Denmark due to a law that bans advertising for them. That said law created some trouble for EA when they tried to release an MMA game there.

EA Sports MMA is filled to the brim with advertisements on everything from within the ring to the sports equipment involved. Most importantly for this entry it is worth noting that they are big on energy drink commercials. Denmark just happened to have a law that made advertising for energy drinks illegal, and so it crippled the potential of this game to be sold there

In the aftermath, EA outright said that they weren’t going to sell the game to its Danish consumers to preserve the authenticity of the company’s products and to adhere to the Danish law that is in place. The sponsorship from energy drink companies is too valuable of an asset to be lost to restrictions or bans.

The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center and the Three Gorges Dam are both magnificent works of architecture that are located in China. Both of those structures have a history with the country. You can imagine how irate a country would be if you were to destroy something of value to them, even in a fictional storytelling way. The game, “Command and Conquer: Generals”, managed to push China’s buttons just the wrong way by doing that.

China is one of the three factions in the game. Each faction has a campaign that is dedicated to them and they are told through the viewpoint of the faction involved. Two missions in the Chinese Campaign, one depicting the fictional version of the Three Gorges Dam and the other one depicting the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center respectively, allowed the player to destroy the two structures as part of the story. Not only that, but the enemy faction that is known as the “GLA” Is a terrorist organization that conducting its terrorism acts in China.

The Chinese government outright banned the Generals series altogether because of the campaign which they believed to hurt China’s reputation by depicting them in a bad light. Namely being attacked by terrorists as well as having to destroy its own valued infrastructure.

The Mass Effect series allows your player character to be romantically involved with a storyline character as you build up a romantic sub-plot throughout the story. The romantically involved character can be either male or female depending on how you make your player character. However, this game was shortly banned in Singapore because there is an option to be romantically involved with a certain character.

The player character can be involved with a blue skinned “Asari” alien named Liara. The Asari race is not gender specific, but they look feminine in appearance. The player can start a lesbian relationship with her as a female version of the player character (popularly known as “FemShep”) and eventually there will be a scene where they engage each other sexually provided that the player has achieved a certain level of success in the relationship.

The romantic option was what started the controversy that lead to discussions about nudity and the silly term “Sex-box”. The conservative city-state of Sigapore took a step further and banned the game outright because of the potential to engage in a relationship with Liara as a female and also because Liara is an alien. The ban was the first international ban for the game, and it caused outrage among the local gamers. The ban was soon lifted when Singapore reassigned the game with an “18+” rating.

The Pokemon craze spread wildly throughout the world ever since its inception. The Arabic world first received its infection of the craze in the late 2000’s, and the region became crazy for Pokemon. However, not every country in the Arab World was welcoming the franchise with open arms.

Saudi Arabia caused a controversy to happen when the Grand Mutfi of Saudi Arabia, the highest religious authority in the kingdom, ordered a ban on the Pokemon franchise. His main problem with the franchise was with the trading card game, which he believed that the cards have religious symbols printed on them like the Star of David and were used to promote different religions. The authorities even claimed that Pokemon was Jewish propaganda aimed at converting Muslim children. Pokémon was also banned in general because it was thought to promote gambling between the collectors.

It is interesting to note that the Pokemon games continued to be sold normally in Saudi Arabia despite the initial ban. Meanwhile, some of the other Arabic countries allowed the franchise to thrive normally in those regions.

“Going Postal” is an American slang phrase that references the series of postal service incidents that started from 1983. The phrase means to become “suddenly angry” and in turn behave in a violent and dangerous way. This accurately describes the main character of the Postal series, the “Postal Dude”, as he suddenly develops an urge of furor and goes out to kill everyone in town. However violent the original Postal was, the second installment in the series was the installment that garnered intense controversy.

The second game follows Postal Dude as he accomplishes tasks that are given to him on a daily basis in his home at Paradise, Arizona. The players can accomplish these tasks in any way possible, be it as peaceful and civil, or as violent and chaotic. The game makes it especially difficult if the player decides to complete those tasks with as little to no violence as possible. For the violently inclined, Postal Dude has a spectrum of weapons for him to find and use to harm others. Trying to not harm others may be hard because the town is infested with very provocative people that are lewd and uncivilized.

The game was mostly criticized for its violence and its obscene sense of humor. Critics stated that the game strongly urges you to commit extreme violence against people and animals, but the developers countered by stating that the game could be as violent as the player wants. There was another major point of criticism for a particular point where the Postal Dude is allowed the option to urinate on dead bodies. New Zealand fully banned the game, and considered that the distribution, production, purchasing or even possession of it is a legal offense and can have the offender be punished with up to ten years in jail and a fine of $275,000.

The game has a large cult following and even a movie adaptation was produced.

The press just cannot give the Grand Theft Auto series a break from accumulating a sizable collection of controversies. Probably the most infamous collection piece that the series had was the controversy that surrounded the “Hot Coffee” mini-game in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

The “Hot Coffee” mod was a normally inaccessible mini-game that allowed the main character, CJ, and his in game girlfriend to engage in sexual intercourse. Nobody knew about its existence until 2005 when a modification for the Windows port came out revealed it to the public.

Rockstar initially denied that the Hot Coffee mini-game was included within the game’s code, and blamed the determined hackers for making “significant modifications and reverse engineering” the code. Later people found out that Rockstar had intended to insert the mini-game in the first place. The ESRB investigated the situation and changed the rating of the game from “Mature” to “Adults Only”. The rating change caused many retailers to return and order re-modified versions of the game with the mini-game taken out or just not shelf the game at all. Rockstar even made it mandatory for pre-purchased versions of the game to be patched by its owners. The controversy doesn’t stop there with the mandated recall and rating reassignment. People filed lawsuits against the Rockstar and its parent company. Politicians even passed the “Family Entertainment Protection Act” in the aftermath of the reveal.

Despite the controversy surrounding the Hot Coffee mod, San Andreas still sold well in America. Rockstar continued to produce games that referenced San Andreas in the GTA III continuity. Later games after the GTA III timeline even referenced the incident in the form of dialogue and an achievement.

The Manhunt series is a mixture of action, stealth, and psychological horror game genres, but it mostly focuses on the stealth element. The story from both games follows different protagonists as they try to escape the bizarre and dangerous situations that they were inserted into. The protagonists have to kill countless people that impede their progress in an often brutal and grotesque manner.

The series had caused trouble with numerous countries because of its gross depiction of violence. The player can execute the protagonists’ enemies with a variety of weapons. The methods and the intensity of the executions can also be determined by the player in the form of three “levels” with the higher levels giving a more gruesome execution. The game strongly encouraged the player to perform the more gruesome executions for the reward of a higher score at the end of each level.

Rockstar had to dispute with the United Kingdom and Australia about the legality of the game, and the games ended up having to be reassigned another rating. To make matters worse in the UK, there was the murder of Stefan Pakeerah to add to the misery. Germany and New Zealand banned the games altogether, and it was even illegal to possess it in New Zealand. The United States and Canada, however, had little controversy surrounding this game, with Canada even classifying the game as a restricted adult only film.

The games still sold well in the United States and the UK despite the ban.

If you were ever disappointed that a single game was ever restricted or banned in your home country, keep in mind that you’re at least not living in Venezuela where a video game ban that outlaws video games actually exists.

A Venezuelan bill for the prohibition of violent video games and toy weapons was passed swiftly in 2009 without much resistance. The law went into effect in 2010 and effectively banned the distribution and manufacturing of video games that contained "information or images that promote or incite violence and the use of weapons". The punishment for it isn’t too easy to shrug off: the violator will either receive 3 to 5 years of jail sentence for distributing or a heavy fine for simply promoting the purchase and usage of violent games and toy weapons.

Venezuela currently has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. The law banned violent video games and toys because the government believed that they were the source of aggressive behavior in consumers, namely children, and hoped that the law could prevent violent dispositions. Maybe they were also pissed off at the game “Mercenaries 2” because it featured Venezuela in a bad light. I should also mention that Venezuela has no video game ratings board, so even games that are rated “E” by the ESRB could be deemed as violent by the government. That can create some trouble in deciding what is violent or not.

Still, it was not a good day to be a gamer in Venezuela when the law passed. You can ask Venezuelan gamers like Guido Núñez-Mujica on how they felt about the new law.


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Honorable Mentions:

Fallout 3 became restricted in Australia for drug references.
Wolfenstein was banned in Germany for references to Nazis.
Carmageddon was banned in Germany and Brazil for being too violent.
Battlefield 3 was banned in Iran for featuring Iran in its campaign.
All video games were banned for a short time in Greece back in 2002.
Injustice: Gods Among Us was temporarily banned in the UAE and Kuwait for having “God” in the title.
God of War was banned in the Middle East for having “God” in the title.

List by highwind07 (10/01/2013)

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