If all you have is a banhammer...
If you've been playing video games for more than five minutes, you know they have a tendency to be moral outrage magnets. You name it, games have been blamed for it, so it's not too shocking that game bans have followed in force. For the children, I suppose, though I'm not sure how many children are picking up the Witcher or Command and Conquer.
Game bans brought down by someone somewhere in the world are so numerous it would be impossible to cover them all. Instead, I picked my 18 favorites from the pile, and am going to break down the where, why and how for your enjoyment. And frustration, and some hilarity here and there. There you go! Laugh so you don't cry.
Getting Up banned in Australia for glorifying street art
Apparently some countries can't handle a little rampant vandalism these days. Over in Australia, Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure was refused classification (i.e. the censors wouldn't give it a rating, which is a ban in every way but spelling) based on the idea that it glorified graffiti. And it did, since its entire premise is that a youth from a bad part of town uses the power of street art to take down rival gangs and the corrupt mayor who used an anti-graffiti campaign to cover up the fact that he murdered Trane's father.
As you can probably guess from that description, the plot was a bit silly and kind of outside the realm of believability. Still, Australian censors thought that this game would act as a gateway to the righteous world of tagging, so it was never rated.
Command & Conquer: Generals banned in China for destroying China
Command & Conquer: Generals did not do well in China, for the same reason that kneecapping Lady Liberty would likely flop in the US. Not only does the game's China campaign open on the nuclear obliteration of Beijing (good start!), but the player is directly involved in the destruction of Chinese landmarks like the Hong Kong Convention Center and the Three Gorges Dam. What, was the Great Wall too far away?
Not only did the government of China promptly bring down the ban hammer (which they've done to games for less), but even Chinese gamers who went to the trouble of pirating the title weren't pleased with it. Mostly because you have the option of bombing Tiananmen Square into rubble. Can you say cultural insensitivity?
Fallout 3 banned in Australia for encouraging drug use
You'd think in a dystopian wasteland where danger lurks around every corner and pain is a constant companion, you could get away with taking a few much-needed hits of Vitamin M. Not so, say censors in Australia, who briefly refused classification for Fallout 3 due to the player character's use of morphine. Don't remember that part? That's because the developers changed the game entirely to account for these complaints, taking morphine out for every region and replacing it with Med-X. Which has the exact same effects, of course.
The full report goes into more detail on how the game's use of "chems" pushed it over the hill into ban town because they were just too darn much like real drugs. Ultimately the ban was lifted when the chem system was scaled back and 'morphine' was changed to Med-X. Good thing too, or we'd all want to be like the Lone Wanderer and hang with Sister M. I mean, who wouldn't want that guy's life?
Witcher 2 banned in Australia for using sex as a prize
In its day, Witcher 2 was refused a rating in the land down under for going down under. Haaaaa, not sorry. Specifically, the issue was a scene where sex is used as a reward for Geralt completing a quest, which he can choose whether or not to accept. Chances are this refers to a mission given to him by a succubus, and that's kind of their M.O., but whatever. Message received, sex as a reward for actions is bad.
At least, if he accepts it. Witcher 2 was eventually released after the scene was altered so that Geralt rejects the offer by default. Bewilderingly, everything else about the scene remains the same. I get the objection behind a reward-lay (romantic interaction doesn't follow a three-steps-and-profit scheme), but when the reward is still totally a thing and the main character just refuses to take it? I mean, I guess we know he's a good guy, or something?
Battlefield 3 banned in Iran for inciting international terror
Back in November 2011, the sale of Battlefield 3 was banned in Iran. It was all thanks to a scene where American soldiers lay siege to Tehran and the Grand Bazaar. The announcement was followed by raids on game shops to nab all existing copies, while a petition bearing the signatures of 5,000 Iranians accused the game of drumming up fear of Iran in the international community. Not unexpected, since the relationship between the US and Iran is famously sticky anyway.
There's one wrinkle, though: Battlefield 3 was never officially released in Iran. Publisher EA has no resellers in the country, so all copies available when the ban came down were pirated. Is a "shot yourself in the foot" joke crass here?
Dead Rising 3 banned in Germany for having human-like enemies
Germany wins the blue ribbon for Europe's most intense game restrictions. While changing a human to a zombie can get a game to pass muster in the likes of the UK or France, it'll have no such luck in Deutschland. Given that Dead Rising is all about zombies, its no surprise that this series has seen repeated bans in Germany. Dead Rising 3 is the latest victim, expunged from the Xbox One launch line-up in this country.
This pretty-goddamn-violent zombie thrasher is considered tolerable in many places, since your main target are fantasy legions of undead monsters. However, Germany's Bundeprfstelle fr jugendgefhrende Medien (the gaming police) places heavy restrictions on games where you kill any human or "human-like" enemies, so zombies qualify. Then again, Gears of War 3 was deemed acceptable without edits, so I cant pretend to understand the logic.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter banned in Pakistan for smearing the nation's image
Two for the price of one here. In January 2013, the government of Pakistan banned Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter in one fell swoop, saying they "show the country in a very poor light." Since both of these military shooters essentially equate Pakistan with terrorism, Id say thats a fair comment.
They probably should have tried to convince the country's game retailers to accept the ban, though, or at least told them about it. On the day of the ban, the owner of Islamabad's biggest game store claimed to have not even heard about it, and another anonymous shop-owner said "The nationalists and the religious ones don't like [these games] but I'm not going to stop selling them." Nothing yells louder than green it seems.
Mass Effect banned in Singapore for lesbianism
Finally, a game that wasn't banned over political outrage. Just lesbian sex! Wait, is that better, or worse? Either way, back in 2007 Singapore banned the first Mass Effect because it contains an optional scene of lady Shepard and Liara T'soni gettin bizzah. While in many places this was met with newscaster pearl-clutching and adolescent fist-pumps, the ladies' "kissing and caressing" translated to "gratuitous sex" in Singapore, which barred it from release.
Not that the ban lasted long. Originally, it went through because the nation didn't have a proper video game rating system, making it harder to judge degrees of debauchery. However, when the ban shockingly resulted in backlash, officials used the country's movie rating system instead, dubbing Mass Effect an M18 and lifting the ban only a few days after setting it. Now the people of Singapore can enjoy softcore lady-on-lady action to their heart's content. Freedom.
God of War 2 banned in Saudi Arabia for sexual themes
If Iran and Pakistans examples are any indication, our gaming brethren in the Middle East sure know their way around a game ban. Saudi Arabian gamers are no exception, because even in the face of strict content restrictions and fines for playing banned titles, many manage to sneak prohibited games anyway. One good example is God of War 2, which was banned for sexual content (and possibly the use of the word God in the title) upon release. However, its still very much available for players who know where to look.
Satisfied as the nation's moralizers were with the decision, gamers weren't pleased, and they weren't deterred either. Speaking to Kotaku about ways of circumventing the ban, Saudi Arabian user Alaa A explained that retailers still sell black market copies of the game, just packaged and shrink-wrapped as something else. Congratulations, Alaa, you deserve a go at that fantastical debauchery.